How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

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Imagine that you’ve just had an enjoyable dinner with your friends at your place.

And now you probably have a host of dirty tableware that you are looking at with half-closed eyes, weary of preparing the meal as well as long social interaction. So while the table is slowly starting to look like a bed in your exhausted mind, you lean over the kitchen sink and begin rinsing the dishes covered with leftovers.

Then, suddenly, a repugnant smell awakens you on time for you to realize that turbid water is about to overflow the sink’s brim! “What a disaster has come my way!” - you might think!

But stop flipping out! And don’t reach out to any chemicals or the phone to call a rescuer, unless it is someone whose help will be free of charge!

You are not even aware of the plentiful solutions to this problem you have at your disposal! Transfer the smelly water with a pitcher to a bucket and then take a look at these options!

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

1. Use DIY Potions

One way is to repeatedly rinse the sink with boiling water. To make that more effective pour half a cup of salt first and let it sit for a while before continuing to flush the drain with hot water.

If that doesn’t help, try pouring baking soda followed by white vinegar in equal amounts and leave them to react behind a sealed drain for approximately 30 minutes.

If you have two basins, pour the ingredients into the other sink as well! Flush the pipes with hot water afterward and don’t be lazy to go through these steps all over again if the clog persists!

The same procedure can be applied using baking soda and salt in the ratio of 2:1 respectively.

In case your disposal is not draining, but it is working properly, you can fill it with ice cubes or uncooked pasta and let it grind while tap water is running! You can also add ½ cup of Kosher salt to the ice to make the hardened grease break more easily!

2. Clean the Blades

If the blades are unable to spin, you will solely hear a humming sound. Here’s what you should do if this happens.

First and foremost – turn off the garbage disposal via a switch or shut off the main circuit breaker as measures of precaution!

Now that is safe for you to dive in with a flashlight and a pair of needle-nose pliers or tongs to mine for any fragments of food that might be obstructing the blades – go for it! But never put your hands inside – the blades could cut you!

If the problem is still sticking in your throat after you have inspected and cleaned the disposal’s - keep calm, there’s another way out! Or, in this case, a way in.

Insert a hex key or a handle of a wooden kitchen spoon into the hole underneath the canister and try rotating the blades manually clockwise. This should break the chunk that has been choking your chewing appliance! When you finish with the impellers, don’t forget to hit the reset button afterwards!

If the wastewater is backing up again despite all your aforesaid efforts and you are as stuck as your disposal, prepare some old clothes, gloves and goggles and check out these messier methods!


3. Push the Clog Out

Most importantly, don’t apply this or any of the succeeding techniques if you have treated your drain with chemicals because they might splash and thus hurt you!

To begin with, use a bar clamp to cut off the drainage through the hose coming from the dishwasher, if you have one, to prevent the filthy water from ending up in the latter or flooding your kitchen floor if the hose pops out of the disposal.

In case of a double sink, plug one of the drains to avoid the frustration of seeing the same murky water reappearing on the other side. The same applies to overflow holes if there are any.

Next, fill the sink with 3 to 4 inches of water to submerge the bell of the plumber’s helper – that should be a toilet plunger or, even better (effectiveness-wise and hygiene-wise), the one intended to be used for kitchen sinks - and put it over the drain opening so that it completely covers it.

Make sure to place it in the following way – holding it obliquely, touch the edge of the drain with one part of the bell’s rim and then close it with a circular motion. Plunge down and back up fiercely several times.

Repeat as many times as needed on both drains! After unsealing all the drains and drain hoses, check whether the standing water is draining and try running the disposal!

If all these attempts come unstuck like your disposal, you’ll need to get down to business! Literally.

Related: How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with a Plunger

4. Clean the Pipes

For starters, remove the standing water from the sink so that it wouldn’t flood your kitchen when you remove the trap where clogs tend to form.

Besides your already acquired protective gear, get yourself a bucket as well as some towels, just in case waste starts falling out of the pipes, and a pair of channel-type pliers

Now go under your sink. There you will find a trap in the shape of a letter “S” or “P” – that’s the one you’re after!


Detach it from the waste tee connecting it to the disposal and the trap arm going into the stub-out in the wall with the help of the aforementioned pliers. Be very careful not to damage the pipes, especially if they are made of plastic.

Cleanse the removed trap by rinsing (but not in the dismantled kitchen drain!) and digging out the scum and the accumulated debris. Be gentle when reconnecting the trap to the pipes.

If the chunk causing all the nuisance isn’t trapped in there, you can tap the pipes softly to determine where the clump might be by the sound – if it resounds, it is empty; if not, Eureka!


Once you have it all taken apart, if you didn’t manage to locate the mischievous slimy elf anywhere inside or around your disposal, it might be hiding deep in the wall. To get it out of there, you’ll need to purchase or rent a drain auger and snake your way into the stub-out to pull it out.

If you are not sure how to perform this a bit tricky operation, it’s better to let a plumbing guru handle it than do more harm than good by drilling recklessly thus risking to damage the pipes adding them to your check!

Safeguarding Against Future Clogs

There are some foods which are more likely to cause clogs, so avoid throwing them in the garbage disposal – fibrous ones such as celery, starchy ones like potatoes and rice and, of course, grease and bones.

And if you often start your day with coffee followed by sunny-side-up eggs for breakfast, bananas for a snack and potatoes for lunch constantly throwing the inedible parts in your disposal – brace yourself for fighting clogs; that’s definitely not the way to avert them!

However, if you include lemonade in your diet, it will contribute to the robust health of both you and your much-cherished disposal!

Your garbage disposal would also be thankful if you regularly made use of the miraculous mixtures described in one of the preceding chapters.


In contrast to chemicals which can gnaw a disposal’s components as well as pipes, these natural mixtures do no harm and can save you the effort of reading this article, getting grubby and wasting time trying to learn how to skilfully wield the tools of plumbers’ trade.

Moreover, water should always be flowing into the drain during grinding as well as for 30 seconds afterwards in order to flush all the food remnants which can get stuck to the pipes’ walls.

Conclusion: How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

Considering all these easy-to-make and easy-to-use concoctions and contrivances which you already have at home, calling in a costly plumbing expert or splurging on bought chemical products actually means that you are pouring money down the drain instead of the clog!

We recommend you follow these steps in the same order because, really, why would you get yourself involved in some nasty ordeal if the trouble can be resolved with a simple elixir?!

On the other hand, if any of the less pleasant procedures didn’t do any good, maybe the best decision is to ask for a professional’s help, nevertheless. Sorry, wallet! You might want to check out the best drain cleaners for garbage disposals first.

So as to duck anything that would break the bank or the disposal, stick to the prevention advice and never let the disposal be squalid! If your teeth need washing after a meal and you take care of what you consume, why would you treat your garbage-eater any worse?