How To Unclog A Kitchen Sink & Garbage Disposal

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Clogs in kitchen sinks and garbage disposals are generally caused by solidified grease or inappropriately disposed of food cast-offs. When working to clear a clog in the kitchen, take care not to get too aggressive, either chemically or mechanically.

In this guide we will explore options on how to unclog your kitchen sink and garbage disposal. We will also cover preventative measures. However, to avoid serious personal injury or damage to your sink, pipes or garbage disposal, we recommend contacting your local plumber.​

How To Unclog A Garbage Disposal

Safety first! Do not, under any circumstances:

  1. Put anything down the garbage disposal that you want to keep, like fingers. The disposal will blithely chop whatever you put down there. Use a wooden handled spoon to try to rotate the blades. If the blades rotate freely and the disposal won’t drain, you’ve probably got a food or grease clog.
  2. Put anything down the disposal you don’t want splashed back into your face. Once the disposal is fired back up, it may splash.

SEE ALSO: Can you put eggshells in the garbage disposal?

To get at a clog in a disposal, remove as much water from the sink as you can by bailing and by soaking up water and transferring it with a sponge to get down to the drain.

Per home care experts at DenGarden, you can pour several ounces of degreasing soap into a slugging garbage disposal drain and follow this up with boiling water.

You may need to repeat this process for a week to get the drain flowing freely, but it will save you a plumber’s bill.​

How To Unclog A Kitchen Sink Full Of Water

Depending on how nasty the water is, the weight of it may help you start the draining process. Start with a plunger.

It’s a good plan to keep a dedicated short handled plunger in the kitchen. First off, it avoids contamination from a bathroom plunger, and secondly, standard long handled plungers may not fit easily under your cabinets.

The physics of how to plunge a sink involve creating a vacuum over the drain so you can tug on the mass that’s clogging the pipe.​

  • Make sure there isn’t a stopper in the sink, then place the rubber dome over the drain hole.
  • Press down firmly to create a vacuum under the dome, then pull up hard to draw out or at least adjust the position of whatever’s clogging your sink. It may take some time, but this method will clear many obstructions.
  • Once the drain starts flowing, turn on your disposal. This will chop up any solid particles in the water flow and keep the drain moving.
  • As the sink drains, add plenty of hot water to keep any grease moving through the drain.

If you don’t have a disposal, add a filter basket to the sink to catch food particles before they re-clog your sink.​

How To Use A Drain Snake

If plunging won’t clear the clog, you’ll need to snake the drain. If you’ve never done this before, be aware that

  • Drain snakes are metal and many drain parts are plastic. If you apply too much force to the snake, you can break a drain pipe.
  • Drain snakes are new metal and many old drains are corroded iron. The snake, if forced, may poke a hole through an old drain pipe.
  • You will have to handle anything you’ve already put down the drain, so gloves and goggles are a must.​

Home repair expert Bob Vila recommends using a manual snake to control the speed of cranking. Insert the head of the snake into the drain and slowly feed it with the crank until it stops.

It may take some wiggling to get to this point. Now you can turn the crank harder until you feel the snake head move forward. This movement means the snake has pierced the clog.

Continue cranking until the coil is embedded in the clog, or until the snake moves freely, then start backing the snake out. The clog should come out on the coil, either as a solid mass or in clumps.​

Chronic Slow Drain Fixes

You can speed up or unclog drain with vinegar and baking soda. Per household expert Crunchy Betty you can make a huge difference with hot water, baking soda and vinegar.​

  • Pour at least 2 cups of boiling water down the drain.
  • Add 1/2 cup baking soda to the drain, let it rest for a bit.
  • Mix 1 cup white vinegar with 1 cup hot water and pour this on top of the baking soda. It will fizz! Let it work for 10 minutes.
  • Pour 2 more cups of boiling water to clear away the foaming mixture.

This combination breaks up sludge, muck and goo that hangs out in your drain. Once that is gone, your drain should move much faster.​

A Little Maintenance Goes A Long Way

The best drain cleaner for kitchen sink is common sense. To avoid the frustration and mess when the garbage disposal won’t drain, stay on top of things before you’re dealing with a clog.

Even if you don’t use it often, try to run it daily just to keep the metal components from becoming corroded.

Use natural degreasing agents like lemon juice and hot water to freshen the disposal and clear out hardened grease. When your garbage disposal is under load, you want to apply cold water to keep the blades cool.

Before you run your dishwasher, run the disposal with some hot water so the dishwasher will drain properly.​

Final Thoughts

Clogged drains are messy and can get expensive. With proper disposal “hygiene,” you can avoid most of these bothersome problems. The majority of kitchen clogs can be corrected with a plunger, or a snake as a last resort.​

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.