A garbage disposal that's taken well care of could last you about fifteen years or more. However, clogs that aren't taken care of can tax the system, back up your drain and sink, and cause the need for repairs. If your garbage disposal is clogged, here are a few tips to fix the issue and prevent future re-occurrences.
Examine the Clog
Turn off the power to the garbage disposal before sticking anything down there — you don't want to accidentally turn it on and hurt yourself. Glove up your hands, and use a flashlight to look down the drain. Some clogs can be seen if you manually turn the blades to loosen debris. You could also use a socket wrench set to unbolt the blades and clear any debris.
If you discover that the clog is due to something valuable, like a wedding ring that slipped off while doing the dishes, it's best to call a plumber so he or she can safely retrieve it.
Use At-Home Ingredients to Clear the Clog
If you cannot see the clog, you can still try to remove it with at-home ingredients, such as salt, water, and/or baking soda.
First, pour about a half cup of table salt down the drain, and then slowly pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. Let the mix set for a few minutes, then rinse the drain out with warm or hot water for drain cleaning. Turn on your disposal to see if it is running better. If you don't have salt on hand, you can try a mix of baking soda and vinegar. First, pour about a half cup to a cup of baking soda in the drain, and then pour the same amount of white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) down the drain. Let this mix fizz for about fifteen minutes before flushing the drain with hot water.
If these at-home ingredients aren't working, contact a plumber ASAP. You don't want to use heavy chemicals from the store, as these can damage the disposal and its pipes. A plumber is your best bet since they can safely remove clogs that are really bad.
Avoid Drain-Clogging Debris
Some homeowners use their garbage disposal like they would their garbage can. A good rule of thumb is to make the disposal the last line of defense for food debris. Foods that are particularly bad for the garbage disposal are:
- Fibrous Veggies: These often include things like onion skins, potato skins, lettuce, or celery. Instead of washing down the drain, these things tend to wrap tightly around the garbage disposal blades.
- Pastas: Any leftover pasta should go in the garbage. Pasta is incredibly absorbent, so if you flush it down the disposal, it can actually soak up the water and expand, thus clogging the drain.
- Egg shells: There is a myth out there that egg shells sharpen the disposal blades. If you need to sharpen the blades, it's best to have a plumber do that task. Eggs contain a thin membrane on the inside of their shells, and if these membranes aren't washed away, they can lodge around the impeller or clog the drain.
- Cooking oils and grease: While oils may be in liquid form while you cook, they will congeal and stick to the inside of pipes. Be sure to dump any oils in a spare can when you are done cooking.
If you avoid these drain-clogging items, your garbage disposal will be in better shape. Again, contact a plumber for help if you have a serious clog.