How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

When your garbage disposal clogs, don’t rush out and call a plumber. There may be simple methods for dealing with the problem.


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You Will Need

  • A flashlight
  • An extraction tool
  • An Allen wrench
  • A broom handle (optional)
  • A wooden spoon (optional)
  • A replacement garbage disposal unit (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Reset the unit

    Locate and press the disposal’s reset button. Often, a disposal that's overloaded will trigger the unit to shut down.

  2. Step 2

    Turn off the power

    Turn off the electrical power to the disposal unit at your main electrical panel. Or, if you can easily access the power source to the disposal, unplug it.

  3. Step 3

    Look for the source of the clogging

    Examine the disposal unit with a flashlight and search for the object that might have caused the unit to clog.

  4. Step 4

    Remove the object

    Remove the object with an extraction tool such as pliers or tweezers.

  5. Step 5

    Use an Allen wrench

    Spin the disposal’s grinding unit with an Allen wrench in the hexagon-shaped slot in the underside of the disposal.

  6. Insert a broom handle or wooden spoon into the disposal chamber and push it back and forth against the grinding arms.

  7. Step 6

    Attempt to run the disposal

    Remove any loose material in the disposal, turn on the power, and attempt to operate the disposal with the water running.

  8. Don’t unbolt the screw in the center of the disposal chamber. The center bolt holds the unit together.

  9. Step 7

    Replace the unit

    If the clogging object cannot be cleared with these techniques, you may have to replace the unit.

  10. Did you know? The first garbage disposal was developed in 1927 by an inventor working in his basement.