Garbage Disposal Backed Up: Why It Happens & How to Prevent

October 15, 2023

Food,Waste,Left,In,A,Sink.,CloseupYour garbage disposal is a convenient kitchen appliance that helps you get rid of food scraps, but it’s not immune to issues. One common problem that homeowners face is a backed-up or clogged garbage disposal. When this happens, it can be frustrating and inconvenient. In this article, we will explore the reasons why garbage disposals get backed up, offer tips on preventing clogs, and provide solutions if your garbage disposal is already clogged.

Why Do Garbage Disposals Get Backed Up?

Understanding the reasons behind garbage disposal clogs is the first step in preventing them. Here are some common causes of garbage disposal backups:

1. Food Particles: The primary function of a garbage disposal is to break down food particles into smaller bits. However, some food scraps are more challenging to grind, such as potato peels, bones, and eggshells. These items can accumulate and cause a blockage.

2. Grease and Fat: Pouring grease or fat down your disposal might seem like an easy solution, but when it cools and solidifies, it can create a sticky barrier that traps other debris and causes a clog.

3. Lack of Water: A garbage disposal needs a sufficient amount of water to function correctly. Without enough water, it can’t effectively flush away food particles, leading to clogs.

4. Non-Food Items: Foreign objects accidentally making their way into the disposal, like utensils or small kitchen tools, can jam the blades and cause a backup.

5. Overloading: Overloading the disposal with too much food at once can overwhelm it, causing it to become jammed or clogged.

How to Prevent Garbage Disposal Backups

Preventing garbage disposal backups is easier and less frustrating than dealing with them after they occur. Here are some tips to help you avoid clogs:

1. Run Cold Water: Always run cold water while using the garbage disposal and for about 20 seconds afterward. The water helps flush away debris and prevents it from accumulating in the pipes.

2. Cut Food Scraps into Smaller Pieces: Before putting food scraps in the disposal, cut them into smaller pieces. This reduces the strain on the disposal’s blades and prevents clogs.

3. Avoid Hard or Stringy Items: Avoid putting hard items like bones or stringy items like celery or corn husks into the disposal. They can jam the blades and cause clogs.

4. Regular Maintenance: Every once in a while, grind ice cubes in your disposal. This helps clean the blades and dislodge any trapped debris.

5. Dispose of Grease Properly: Instead of pouring grease down the disposal, let it cool and then throw it in the trash. You can also use a can or container to collect grease and dispose of it when it’s full.

6. Use a Drain Strainer: Install a drain strainer to catch larger food particles and prevent them from entering the disposal.

Solutions for a Backed-Up Garbage Disposal

Despite your best efforts to prevent clogs, your garbage disposal may still get backed up. If that happens, don’t worry; there are steps you can take to unclog it:

1. Turn It Off: First and foremost, ensure that the disposal is turned off. Never attempt to clear a clog while the unit is still running.

2. Use a Plunger: If you suspect a clog, you can use a plunger designed for sinks. Fill the sink with enough water to cover the rubber part of the plunger, then place it over the drain and pump it up and down. This can create enough pressure to dislodge the clog.

3. Allen Wrench: Most garbage disposals come with an Allen wrench. Insert it into the hole at the bottom of the disposal and turn it clockwise and counterclockwise to manually move the blades and free the clog.

4. Reset the Disposal: If the unit has a built-in overload protector, pressing the reset button on the disposal may help if it has become jammed.

5. Chemical Cleaners: Be cautious with chemical cleaners, as they can damage your disposal over time. However, using an enzyme-based cleaner can help break down food particles and reduce odors.

6. Professional Help: If all else fails and the clog is severe, it’s best to call a professional plumber or a technician experienced in garbage disposal repair. They can assess the situation and make the necessary repairs or replacements.


A backed-up garbage disposal can be a nuisance, but with proper care and maintenance, you can minimize the risk of clogs. By understanding why garbage disposals get backed up and following preventive measures, you can keep your kitchen running smoothly. If a clog does occur, don’t hesitate to use the solutions provided to get your disposal back in working order. A well-maintained garbage disposal will make your kitchen chores a breeze and save you from unnecessary headaches.

Got Questions About Your Garbage Disposal? Let Us Help!

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