A small clog in a garbage disposal is a problem that can usually be handled by the homeowner. Clogged garbage disposals are typically a result of over-stuffing it, running it without enough water, or putting items down there that don’t belong. The first step in fixing the issue is finding the cause of your clog.

The Cause of the Clog

In order to unclog the unit, you need to figure out what the root of the clog is. If objects other than food are clogging the garbage disposal, including silverware, plastic, or valuable jewelry, a different method will be required than if it is just food. If the clog is food, however, your goal is to break up the food and run the garbage disposal with plenty of water.

Safety First

In either case, using a long-handled tool to remove the object or break up the food is the best way to go. You should never stick your bare hand down the garbage disposal. The blades are sharp, and your hand could get stuck, not to mention there could be broken glass or other potentially dangerous items down there. Before you begin working on the garbage disposal, turn off the water and electrical supply; turn them on only as needed to test the results and only when your hands are clear of the drain.

Don’t Treat it Like a Clogged Sink

This is a common mistake, but since sinks and garbage disposals operate differently, drain cleaners won’t solve the problem. In fact, the chemicals in these products can also damage the parts of the disposal unit.

Give the Motor Time to Rest

Another common mistake is to try running the disposal over and over again, thinking that the blades are breaking up the clog and it will eventually clear out and solve itself. The problem with this theory is that the food is likely preventing the blade from moving at all. By repeatedly pushing the button to engage the blades, you risk burning out the motor. It’s better to wait about 15 minutes between uses to allow the motor to rest.

Preventing Future Clogs

Maintaining your garbage disposal is important for preventing clogs and extending its life. Be careful what you put down the disposal. Always rescue silverware and non-food items that fall down the drain immediately. Do not run the unit with the objects inside. When it comes to food, don’t overdo it. Add small amounts of food at a time and save foods like apple peels and potato peels for the garbage can, as these can easily clog the garbage disposal.

Remember to only use cold water to rinse food down the disposal. Leave the water running while it is on and for about a minute afterward. Adding half a lemon to the disposal once a month to freshen it up can also prevent future clogs. The acidity of the lemon also helps break down the food stuck in the unit, preventing buildups along the walls.

While small clogs and preventative maintenance are issues most homeowners can tackle, stubborn clogs and mechanical issues deeper within the unit may require the help of a trained professional.

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