My Sink Disposal Is Not Draining

Sink disposal systems, unlike regular sink drains, often include a powered garbage disposal that allows many food wastes to be put directly down the drain. However, some items, such as coffee grounds, bones, hard chunks of food, and even silverware and animal hair, can clog up the disposal. Drain-cleaning chemicals can damage the lining of the disposal and the blades inside the system so other methods should be utilized to free up a clogged sink disposal.

Sinks with disposals can become clogged just like sinks without garbage disposals.
  1. Turn off the disposal and use tongs to reach into the drain opening and remove any large debris, silverware or fabrics.

  2. Run the hot water down the drain to try to break up a clog. If the water continues to back up, try to turn on the garbage disposal. If it does not clear the clog, proceed to Step 3.

  3. Use a plunger to plunge the sink disposal opening. Run the water after, if the clog persists, proceed to Step 4.

  4. Open the cabinet below the sink and locate the disposal unit generally positioned directly under the sink drain. Locate the small "Reset" button on the unit, sometimes on the underside, and press it once. Turn disposal back on. Try the garbage disposal again and run the water. If the problem still persists, proceed to Step 5.

  5. Take an Allen wrench or hex tool (some disposals come with one) and locate the small hex screw on the underside of the disposal on the bottom center.

  6. Insert one side of the wrench or hex tool into the hex screw opening. Begin turning the tool in either direction. You will feel the blade inside the disposal slowly moving. If there is a clog or backup, you may feel some resistance. Continue rotating the hex tool or wrench one direction a few revolutions, and then reverse and move the other way.

  7. Turn on the hot water and allow it to run down the drain once more. Continue turning the tool in the hex screw opening. Stop turning and turn on the disposal power switch and allow it to run for a few seconds until the clog clears. If the clog still exists, the clog may be in the pipe known as the "P-trap," a curved portion of the pipe.

  8. Place a deep plastic pan or dish directly under the "P-trap" pipe. Turn off the water. Loosen the slip nut on either end of the P-trap pipe, where this segment of pipe meets the sink drain pipe and the outgoing pipe. You may need to use a wrench to loosen the nut.

  9. Remove the P-trap pipe and allow excess water to drain into the pan. Inspect the inside of the pipe section and remove and clogs running hot water through the pipe or gently pushing tongs into the pipe.

  10. Replace the P-trap pipe and tighten the slip nuts. Turn water back on. Run the water to ensure the pipe is firmly in place.


  • Never stick your hands into the drain opening as the sharp blades of the disposal can be dangerous.

About the Author

Maxwell Payne has been a freelance writer since 2007. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. He holds a Bachelor of Science in integrated science, business and technology.