Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to unclog a garbage disposal or sink drain

I'm only slightly amused that I planned to write a post with tips for using the garbage disposal right before I completely clogged ours! So much for all my fabulous garbage disposal success stories, right? :) Well, I hopefully my tips will still be helpful despite my sink being clogged last week. ;)

I love having a garbage disposal. It makes it so easy to scrape plates after meals (we do clean our plates, but there are often things like fruit peelings or seeds). I also like using the disposal-side of the sink for food prep. I can let peelings or egg shells drop into the sink as I work.

I took a picture of all my leftovers! Beans, rice, pasta -- all waiting to be turned into other meals (especially freezer burritos)! :)

Our current garbage disposal works really well, and over the past year of living here, I've gradually tried putting more and more things down it. In fact, there's probably not much that I haven't been able to feed into it, although I haven't tried avocado pits or watermelon rinds or corn cobs.

That said, it has still gotten clogged a few times for me. I know, what can I expect when I put in potato peelings, onion skin, lettuce trimmings, carrot peelings, banana peels, and everything else? Probably not the greatest idea ever. ;)

If you're "adventurous" in the kitchen like I am, or just have a garbage disposal that likes to clog, here are my tips for getting it unclogged!

If the clog is in the garbage disposal unit (blade area):

1.  Unplug the unit (or turn off the breaker for power to it).

2. Use a flashlight to look down the drain. Sometimes you can see what's in there that shouldn't be.

3. Use a large tweezers -- or do what I do, which is use my hand (but remember the unit is unplugged!!!!) -- and carefully reach inside and pull out whatever shouldn't be in there. I've had baby spoons fall down there, and I've had to pull out mostly-pulverized banana peels. :|

Bonus tip: If your garbage disposal suddenly turns itself off, look on the unit for a little button that says "reset" and press it to turn it back on. Mine shut down one time and I wondered if I had broken it or something until I discovered that button! :)

If the clog is in the drain pipe, the garbage disposal blades will run, but the water won't drain out of your sink:

1. Try not to get it clogged in the first place. Put things down slowly, while running cold water. Putting too much in too quickly will clog it up fast. And really, banana peels don't do very well in the garbage disposal. ;) Don't assume that just because "it went down last time!" you can put whatever you want in the garbage disposal and it'll just go through.

2. If the garbage disposal gets clogged, keep running cold water and turn the disposal off and then back on to see if it will push the clog through. This works for small clogs.

3. A plunger works great for unclogging the garbage disposal. Plug the other side of the sink (if you have a double-basin sink), and the use the plunger on the disposal side. This has saved my sink from several pretty good clogs. If plunging on the clogged side isn't working, you can also try filling the other side of the sink with water and the plunging it through to help loosen things.

4. Drano (or Liquid-Plumr) really does work. Last week, I really, really clogged the garbage disposal. I tried plunging and nothing was moving. I mean NOTHING. Thankfully, the other side of the sink was still moving fine. I wanted to unscrew the pipe and clean it out, but Joshua got nervous when I started talking about messing with the plumbing, and got some Liquid-Plumr Gel at Costco. I was very skeptical. I mean, if my strong arm muscles and the plunger hadn't worked (and I'd tried several times over the course of several days...), I doubted that Liquid-Plumr would work. But, in less than 24 hours, it had completely cleared the clog! Tip: Scoop all of the standing water out of the sink, so the Drano can go in full-strength. (I know homeowners who don't like to use Drano, but for renters like us, it's an easy fix for slow-moving drains or clogs.)

5. If you don't want to use Drano (or don't think it will work), look under the sink and find the spot in the pipes where you believe the clog is located. If you have plastic pipes, you should be able to unscrew them and unclog the area. I found directions for doing this at (Be sure to scoop as much water as possible out of the sink before taking apart pipes, and have a big bucket ready to catch everything below!)

But as I mentioned above, we didn't end up needing to take apart any pipes. Another resource to try is a plumbing snake, which we used one time at our house in Ohio (before I got banned from using the garbage disposal after plugging up the pipes for the 3rd time...). ;)

To help maintain clean drains and pipes naturally:

Remove hair from drains (if you can see it/reach it).

Sprinkle baking soda in drains and then pour in some vinegar.

Flush drains with boiling water.

Doing that usually keeps our bathroom drains running great! :)

Our bath tubs in the last 2 rental places have had the push-down, push-up plugs and I finally figured out how to clean them: Unscrew the plug until it comes off (it takes a lot of unscrewing), and then you can reach the drain to pull out any hair. I have long hair so hair in the shower drains is something I have to keep on top of! :)

Do you have any drain or clog tips to add? I'd love to hear them! (Unfortunately I don't think this is the last time I will ever clog a drain...) :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Tip for rolling out pie crust (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. Tips for homemade breadcrumbs (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
3. 5 tips for substituting sweeteners (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
4. Baking tip and garbage disposal tip (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
5. Single-serving freezer soups (Anna at The Joyful Wife)
6. Clean and re-use cheesecloth (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
7. Chicken parmesan breading tips (Robin at Happily Home After)
8. Tips for spices (Georgia at Georgia's Cookie Jar)
9. Bread machine stand (Living So Abundantly)
10. Saving money on milk (Katy at Purposely Frugal)
11. Freezing smoothies (Michele at Simply Scaife Family Farm)
12. Substitute for double boiler (Amy at Amy's Finer Things)
13. Homemade bread tips (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
14. Cake tip and cooked corn tip (Kolfinna's Korner)
15. Salad in a jar tip (Newlyweds Blog)


Hello Tammy!

I've put together some tips for Substituting Sweeteners in Cooking & Baking.

Enjoy and Blessings!

Hi Tammy, THANK YOU for the tips on how to unclog a garbage disposal!!! The clog was deep in the pipe. I did everything you listed and used a wet vac to suck out the rest of the clog. Thank goodness I didn't have use liquid plumber. My recipe for garbage disposal disaster (on Thanksgiving Eve):

A full quart of week old Chinese rice combined with a half quart of lo mein.

Than you again. a safe and Happy Holiday to you and yours


I just used my plunger on my garbage disposal. Here I was thinking I was going to have to take apart my disposal to unclog it. Thank you sooooooooooooo much for your great tips! I'm bookmarking this page. :-)


Don't EVER use Drano where there is a disposal. Only certain drain cleaners are safe for disposal's, Liquid Plumber being one. Drano will corrode the metal in the disposal.

Today I'm linking up a collection of links to help you make your own apron. From apron clubs to my favorite fabric stores to free downloadable patterns. A little holiday inspiration.

Baking tip and bonus tip about the garbage disposal:



My kitchen tip involves dividing leftovers into single serving sized portions that will be frozen and later re-heated according to the amount needed.



I love my disposal too.....and I'm keeping a mental list of things that won't go down it - like a whole potato. Oops?

Here's my tip for the week: how to clean and reuse cheesecloth instead of throwing it out!

~Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents

Hi Tammy,

My recipe contribution this week is Chicken Parmesan, with updated ingredients and quick preparation for today's lifestyle.

There are multiple tips in my recipe, but the one that can apply to other recipes as well is a tip for an alternative "breading" / coating ... simple flake cereal (corn flakes, wheat flakes, oat flakes, etc.).

Hope everyone enjoys this recipe as much as we do!
~ Robin from

I have also had lots of "fun" times with the garbage disposal!! When I lived at our apartment we always had to call the maintenance guy to unclog the disposal when I had to much fun. He carried in his tool bag a bottle of liquid dish soap and he would squirt some of that into the running disposal with hot water and alot of time it got it unclogged without having to do much else!

Here is my tip about Spices

I will have to pin this so i know where to find it if my disposal ever takes a dump! haha

here is my link

Bread Machine Stand

Great tips. I didn't know to use baking soda and vinegar or boiling water to keep drains clear. I use the baking soda and vinegar combination to clean my husband's thermos and it works great. I will remember to try it on my drains.

I have long hair too, so the bathroom is my bigger problem. I finally bought a drain cover last year that fits our tub drain. It is a rubber one that raises in the middle. This has helped catch the hair so I don't have to unscrew and clean out the drain as often.


My kitchen tip is about saving money on milk:

My kitchen tip is how to freeze smoothies for easy and quick use.


For all those who, like me, survive without a double boiler:

I don't know however, if I could survive without my garbage disposal. ;)

With all that talk on last week's post about how to store homemade bread, I decided to post about my solution!

Thanks for hosting, Tammy!

have you thought about composting your veggie waste? Much better for the environment. :-)
I've never had a garbage disposal, and have always composted my food wastes. Egg shells can be dried and crunched up and put out for the birds.

Today I posted a couple of old stand by kitchen tips.

Ihanks for sharing about using the eggs shells for the birds.

I microwave my egg shells then crunch them & throw in the compost pile

I was told they need to be cooked otherwise the pile may attract raccoons & such critters

I used to use a separate toilet plunger for when I would clog my garbage disposal (brussels sprouts scraps dont dispose well!) and it worked amazing, not chemicals involved!

You really shouldn't put egg shells in the garbage disposal. They take a really long time to degrade.

I do use my garbage disposal a lot. I scrape the crumbs off and into the disposal, too, before I rinse off and put in the dishwasher. One thing that I like to do is when we have citrus fruit, I save the peelings and run hot water over them in the garbage disposal before turning it on. It makes for a good smelling disposal. I also have a dish mop that I use to clean the disposal. Gunk gets stuck under the black plastic thing in the disposal side. I use antibacterial spray on the mop before use and then after I am finished, I spray it again.

This is my favorite lunch food tip, make several of these on Sunday night using leftovers, salad mixing and whatever you have. And eat through out the week and they last for 4 days in the fridge, easy to shake and serve.

Put a dozen or so ice cubes down the diposal (while running) occasionally to help really clean out the blades and groves.

I went back to get this link just for you, hehe. We don't usually get clogs, but apparently getting large things like cups stuck isn't all that uncommon. Oops!

I am massively behind in reading my rss feeds so I am late to the clog party. :-) I have waist length hair and even the best attempt at keeping the drains hair free doesn't always succeed. After reading several blog posts about the Zip-It tooI I decided to try it and it really works great on hair clogs and no chemicals needed. Most hardware stores or discount stores seem to carry it now and for only $2-4.

This is what it looks like:


I just wanted to say thank you because I had never thought of using a plunger before on my clogged garbage disposal. It worked! Thank you!

OMG thank you! I was a half hour away from calling the plumber!

I have been struggling with what I thought was a clogged kitchen sink/drain & "broken" disposal for months! Dishes were definitely piling up, and I had to be very "creative" in washing my dishes....a task that became even more dreaded than usual! After reading your blog (particularly about finding that "reset" button), I found the button, pushed it, and now it's again working like a charm. No "clog" or "broken" disposal!!!!


Clogged my disposal this morning and found your site! Your advice saved me...I had to touch on each tip, but it got the job done! Except for the kitchen (and me) looking like the sink vomited all over us it worked like a charm! THANKS!!

You say:
" (I know homeowners who don't like to use Drano, but for renters like us, it's an easy fix for slow-moving drains or clogs.)"

--So what you mean is, home owners don't like to destroy their stuff, but since you rent, it just hurts the land lord, and who cares about them.

It's attitudes like that that make it difficult for landlords to be "the good guy". They're just trying to make a living too.

Depending on the landlord, they may prefer the tenant to use a Drano-type solution rather than call for a repair. :)

One of our landlords supplied such a product for us (purchased it and brought it to us, asking us to use it monthly on a particular drain). :)

So some homeowners/landlords don't mind; I'm sure others do. :) If in doubt, you could ask your landlord how they prefer a clog to be handled! :)

I guess when I put some bad ham down the disposal it was to much at one time and I payed the price. It clogged my disposal so bad it wasnt funny. I tried everything and nothing was working. I found this page and was always told never to use a plunger on a garbage disposal. Well at wits end I said I am going to try that since nothing else worked. OMG!! In less than a minute the clog was gone. I am so happy I found this page and have it bookmarked in case it happens again. Thank you for sharing all the wonderful ideas and saving me money a few days before Christmas! Happy Holidays to All!!

I had peeled potatoes over the disposal before but this last time was a doozy. Oi!!! I tried running the disposal a few times, letting it slowly drain after each run and then trying again. At my wits end, I looked online on "how to unclog a garbage disposal." I went to the first page that looked promising and they were very clear and step by step instructions, starting with using an allan wrench to turn the blade to loosen the "clog" but then when there was no resistance in that process, I realized it must be the pipes. I was pretty discouraged because I thought for sure that I'd have to call the landlord and therefore be here for a plumber. I came back online to see what else I could find and I found this page. I thought "what could a recipe site have that would help me clear the pipes????" I also never would have thought that a draino type product would do the trick since it was the garbage disposal. I bought a new product that works in 7 minutes, so it claims but I left it in a little longer. Just to make sure cuz this clog had been sitting overnight and I wanted to give the chemicals enough time to do their job. I go to turn the disposal on and running water and it looked hopeless and after about 30 seconds, sink was almost 1/4 full. I thought that maybe another plunge night push it through. WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Success. I plunged for about 7 seconds and BAM! Water drained incredibly fast and I turned on the water and disposal and I breathed a sigh of relief. =) Thank you sooooo much for your suggestions. It was a lifesaver! =)

I really didn't want to call the maintenance guy when i clogged the disposal today... so i tried your "plunger" recommendation and it worked perfectly! Thank you so so much! i would have never ever ever thought of that!

Great suggestion with the plunger. My wife put zucchini and squash peels down there last night and this morning I went to rinse dishes and the water wasn't going anywhere. I checked the disposal and that was working and clear. Since we have a double sink and the clog happened after the Y the water was pushing itself over to the other sink. I screwed the other strainer down in the sink opposite the disposal and then used the plunger 6-7 times before the clog had worked itself loose. Thanks again!

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