How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

Standing water in your kitchen sink is a good indicator that your garbage disposal isn’t working normally. How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal with Standing WaterThe most likely causes of standing water is a clog in the garbage disposal or the motor has tripped or malfunctioned.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to unclog a garbage disposal with standing water using step-by-step diagnosis.

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6 Steps for Unclogging a Garbage Disposal with Standing Water

Step #1 – Is the Motor Working?

The first thing to do is to confirm whether the standing water is not as a result of motor failure or trip.

  • If you switch on the garbage disposal and makes a humming sound, then the motor is functional but it’s not rotating. This is an indicator that there’s a clog in the grinding chamber.
  • If you press the ON button and the motor doesn’t turn on, try restarting the unit using the red button located on the underside.
  • If the restart button turns on the garbage disposal but you hear a humming sound, then the motor is not rotating. That means the flywheel is stuck and therefore the drain won’t flush water.
  • Now you know that the motor is functional and that the standing water is a result of a clog in the grinding chamber. So, you need to embark on removing the clog so that the garbage disposal can grind garbage effectively.

Step #2 – Safety

Before you insert your hands or any object in the sink drain ensure the garbage is not powered. The first thing to do is to unplug the garbage disposal from the socket which is usually located underneath the sink.

Step #3 – Initial Plunging

Sometimes the solution to the standing water in your sink could be as simple as initiating suction and pressure using a plunger. During plunging, ensure that the suction cup covers the sink drain completely.

When you pump up and down, water is forced through the grinding chamber by the suction and pressure from the suction cup. As you plunge, manually rotate the flywheel of the garbage disposal using the Allen wrench.

If the flywheel does not rotate, then you’ll need to dislodge the garbage using other means.

Step #4 – Remove the Clog Manually

With the help of a flashlight, you see level of clogging inside the grinding chamber. If the clog is too much, you can even feel it with your hands. Use your hands to remove as much clog as you can. The stubborn clog can be pulled out with the help of a pliers.

Step #5 – Rotate the Flywheel

Once you’ve removed all the visible clog, you can now rotate the flywheel using a bit of force.

  • Insert the Allen wrench in the hex-shaped hole located at bottom of the garbage disposal.
  • Now rotate clockwise and anticlockwise. Knock the Allen wrench a little bit with mallet. This should unjam the flywheel from the remaining clog. Once it gets unjammed, continue rotating back and forth until it moves freely.
  • With the flywheel now rotating freely and P-trap cleaned, the standing water should be gone and garbage disposal able to grind effectively.

Step #6 – Check the P-Trap

Sometimes the P-trap could be blocked and therefore restricting flow of water and garbage further into the drain. So, you need to open the trap to check and drain the trap.

  • First, place a bucket underneath the P-trap. This will keep off spillages from your kitchen floor.
  • Loosen the slip nuts on both sides of the P-trap. You can use a pipe wrench to loosen the slip nuts if they feel tight.
  • Carefully, lower down the P-trap into the bucket while ensuring that the water from the sink and waste pipe does not spill. If the standing water starts trickling down from the garbage disposal outlet, the clog in the P-trap could be one source of problem. However, the clog in the trap could also result from the poor water flow in the garbage disposal due to the blockage.
  • Pull out the clogged material using hooked wire and a brush.
  • Once the P-trap is clean, install it back and tighten the slip nuts snugly.

How to Prevent Recurrent Sink Blockage

You can actually prevent recurrent sink blockages by adhering to simple routines during dishwashing and food preparation. This saves you time involved in unblocking the garbage disposal and the drain pipes. It also keeps the handyman at bay therefore saving you expenses for plumbing services.

Here’re some tips you can use to keep your sink from recurring blockage.

  • Avoid disposing used cooking oil in the sink. When it solidifies, cooking oil will definitely in the drain pipes and the garbage disposal. Too much of this can lead to blockages and therefore hinder movement of garbage and water down the drain. The best way to dispose cooking oils is to put it in a disposable can and throw it the trash after it has solidified.
  • Only certain garbage should be disposed through the garbage disposal. Avoid coffee grounds, eggshells, bones, nuts, fibrous waste, banana peels, tea leaves, and starchy waste.
  • Brush off and clean the grinding chamber at least once a week to loosen accumulated stuff. This should be accompanied by hot water and baking soda-vinegar solution to flush off the loosened debris and grease.
  • Whenever you put stuff in the garbage disposal, be sure to keep the faucet running to aid pushing the debris further into the drain.
  • Grinding vinegar ice cubes in the garbage disposal can have multiple benefits. First it has scouring properties which aid in scrubbing areas you can’t reach. Vinegar has antibacterial properties which help in minimizing odor from the sink.


Most of incidences of standing water in your sink result from a clog in the garbage disposal. Either the motor stopped working or the garbage disposal became overwhelmed by the waste you disposed in the sink.

While it’s possible to resolve issues with standing water, you can avoid their recurrence by adopting some of the above tips.

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