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Troubleshooting An Overflowing Garbage Disposal

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What do you do when your garbage disposal is backing up? Garbage disposals can be difficult to troubleshoot, especially because they can be dangerous to operate. Nevertheless, there are a few things that you can try before you call in the professionals.

Press the Reset Button

The reset button is almost always located at the very base of the garbage disposal itself. This reset button can trigger if something happens to the disposal -- and the disposal may simply refuse to turn on if the reset button hasn't been pressed. Simply press the button and then hold it down for ten seconds. If it immediately pops back out, there's still an issue with the disposal. If it remains depressed, you should be able to safely try the disposal again. 

Check the Pipes

A garbage disposal nearly always connects directly to your dishwasher. If you have a dishwasher, this could actually be the problem -- food could have gotten stuck between the dishwasher and the disposal and could have plugged up the pipes. Luckily, this is a fairly easy fix. Simply turn off the water to your sink and then undo the pipes that attach to the disposal. You should be able to see the clog once you have taken the pipes apart. Always turn off the water first or you could flood the kitchen!

Fill the Other Sink

If there's a second sink, it will usually be to the left of the sink that your disposal is in. Though you shouldn't put anything down the sink disposal, you may be able to resolve the problem by filling the second sink. Fill the second sink with a couple of inches of hot or warm water and allow it to sit until it has completely drained. Do not use any type of gel or cleaning fluid down the sink; use warm water only.

Use a Sink Plunger

If you don't want to dismantle your sink -- and it's certainly a chore -- you can use a sink plunger on the sink to try to force any clogs out. Note that a sink plunger is very different from a toilet plunger. A toilet plunger could damage your sink. Only use a sink plunger and use it very gently.

If you can't get your garbage disposal working again, it's best to call a plumber before you continue trying to operate it. If there's something stuck within the grinding mechanism, you're likely just doing more damage to it by trying to get it working. If your disposal is five years old or older, it may actually need to be replaced altogether.