How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink with a Garbage Disposal

Having a kitchen sink with a garbage disposal lets you dispose of food products down the sink instead of throwing them in the trash. That works well right up until the water begins to rise and you realize the sink is clogged. Your first instinct might be to pour harsh chemicals or boiling water down the drain. Neither one of these is necessary. Save time by manually unclogging it with a few quick steps.

  1. Turn the garbage disposal off at the switch. Make sure nothing is near the switch. You don't want to proceed and have something bump the switch, turning on the garbage disposal.

  2. Reach your hand into the sink carefully. Remove any dirty dishes, taking care not to cut yourself on any sharp objects. You want to be especially careful if you suspect there may be any shards of glass or broken porcelain in the sink or in the disposal itself. Swish your hand around gently to remove all objects from the sink.

  3. Turn on the faucet and then flip the switch to turn on the garbage disposal for just a moment; then quickly turn it off. Quickly turn it on and off again. Ideally, running the garbage disposal for a moment once or twice will be enough to allow the sink to drain properly. Then, with the water still flowing from the faucet, run the disposal long enough for the contents to finish grinding while running the water.

    Do not stand over the disposal when it is engaged--you don't want to be hit by any objects that might shoot out of the disposal. Be prepared to shut it off quickly if you hear any abnormal grinding sounds.

  4. Turn the garbage disposal off if you hear a humming noise but the disposal does not move. Carefully reach into the disposal. Grab any objects you can feel around the edges and remove them. Try moving the inside plate to the left or the right with your fingers, releasing the water and allowing it to drain. If moving the plate by hand doesn't work, remove your hand and try turning on the garbage disposal again.

  5. Get the toilet plunger if the disposal is still clogged. Place the plunger over the top of the drain, making sure it has a tight seal, and plunge the sink, the same way you plunge the toilet. This should release the clog.

  6. Call a plumber if you are not successful using these ideas.


  • If you suspect any broken glass is clogging the disposal, consider either using safety gloves made especially for protecting against cuts and punctures to reach into the disposal, or call a plumber. Do not continue to operate the garbage disposal if you hear abnormal grinding noises.

About the Author

Misty S. Bledsoe has been writing since 1995. She specializes in writing about religion, technology and solar concepts, and her articles appear on various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Science in information technology from American Intercontinental University.