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Problems with Garbage Disposals

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Recently we told you about things you shouldn’t flush down the drain because they can cause problems with your septic system, clog pipes, etc. Having a garbage disposal doesn’t necessarily solve those problems, there are still rules that need to be followed, and you can run into problems with the disposal itself. Either way, the Pipe Doctor is happy to give you advice.  

Problems that require the repair of garbage disposers or disposals are the following: Your disposal can jam up when objects bind the impeller blades inside the appliance. The drain fittings can loosen and cause leaking beneath the sink. Or, the drain connecting the garbage disposal to the rest of the sink’s drain trap assembly can become clogged and cause water to back up into the sink basin where the disposer is installed. 

In a double-basin sink, when it’s only the disposer basin that backs up with water, the drain fitting on the disposer is likely clogged. If you are unsure what causes the backup, just give us a call, and we’ll find the source of the problem. 

Now why does it clog in the first place?  

Disposal is built to grind food waste and typically has no issues, but it’s what happens after the grinding that can cause a clog. This often has to do with how ground food waste reacts to water after the disposal unit grinds it up and sends it toward the drain line. There can be too little or too much water depending on what you ground, so you should not throw different types of waste in there simultaneously. When a garbage disposer clogs, you will often find the problem in the drain trap assembly located on the waste discharge side of the disposal. 

As we explained before, grease in pipes (and there will always be a little bit you can’t avoid) causes a sticky coat that other particles get stuck on over time. Disposals eventually back up because the waste line or trap gets coated and obstructed with food waste. If your garbage disposal is draining very slowly or not at all, the problem is most likely in the drain trap—the U-shaped plumbing fitting located downstream of the disposal discharge pipe. We’re happy o solve that problem for you, and you might want to get it checked before you start some major Holiday cooking. 

In general, garbage disposers can clog for either one (or more) of the following reasons:  

  • Potato peels: Ironically, even though that’s what most people use their disposal for, they are notorious clog makers and should not be put in a garbage disposal. Once ground up, they form a starchy paste similar to mashed potatoes that will quickly clog the drain. It’s almost like pouring glue down the drain. 
  • Flushing water: Not putting enough water down the disposal when grinding is a sure way to get a clog. The waste can’t be flushed through the pipes without sufficient water and will quickly build up. Once a full blockage occurs, water can’t flow at all. 
  • Eggshells and coffee grounds: Food items like eggshells or coffee grounds are a bigger problem than you might imagine. When ground up by disposal, eggshells and coffee grounds create tiny granular waste that will stick to any sludge found in the pipes, quickly becoming a clog. Eggshells mainly consist of calcium; it’s like you’re purposefully calcifying your pipes. It may be granular, but it doesn’t just dissolve.  
  • Banana peels: These are a similar problem to potato peels, except they add stringy fibers to the mix – another source of stickiness that other objects can attach to.  

Whatever the origin of the clog may be though – stay calm. We are here to help you! Contact the Pipe Doctor

Give us a call at 508-775-6670

or email cmurphy@plumberscapecod.com

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