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So yesterday someone in my family put some celery stalks (with the hard stems included) down the garbage disposal, after which our drain drained much slower. I tried filling up the sink with water and running the garbage disposal. This forced the water down while the disposal was running, but when power was turned off it all came jetting back out. So now I'm faced with the question how to remedy this problem. I see two ways:

  1. Clear the drain myself
  2. Call a plumber

What tools are required to properly accomplish this task myself and how much will they cost? If they are cheaper (or even close to to the cost of a plumber) and this task won't take a whole day, I'll probably do it myself just to have the tools on hand. Any recommendations on which way to go (me with new tools or the plumber with more powerful tools)? I already have a hand operated pipe snake and some screwdrivers and an AC voltmeter. I assume that I'll need an adjustable wrench that can fit a pipe and I can't think of what else.

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If this happens again, you may have a plumbing problem! Disposals are often connected to existing plumbing that is not sufficient to handle them. The drain should be 2" pipe with limited slope (or vertical) and must be the direct path to the main sewer with any other connections merging into the pipe from above. Otherwise, you get places where the gunk can stick for a moment and have water move back along the other path giving time for the gunk to stick even more until you basically have concrete blocking your pipe. I'll give you 3 guesses as to how I know this...and the first two don't count. –  Brian White Oct 12 '12 at 1:37
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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Have a look at the trap under your sink. Assuming it's PVC with large plastic nuts, all you should need is ChannelLock pliers:

ChannelLock pliers

Unscrew the trap from the wall and disposal, and clean the trap itself, or snake the drain going into the wall, depending on where your clog is. Be sure to have a bucket and towels handy since there will be water backed up before the clog and in the trap.

If you can't find the clog either in the trap or with the snake, and you know it's further down the drain (try running some water through the disposal and into the bucket with the trap out), then I have family that swear by these drain bladders that attach to a garden hose, get inserted into the drain (past the vent) and they swell up to seal your end of the pipe while sending water down until the clog is forced out:

drain bladder

Each one of these will cost around $20 give or take, well less than a visit from a plumber.

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Insert an Allen wrench into a hole at the bottom of the garbage disposal. Turn the wrench slowly to unclog the disposal.

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Look under the sink to know for sure, but you likely need a combination of pipe wrenches (cast iron) or screw drivers (compression fittings) or possibly just your hand (hand-screwed PVC joints).

Be sure to unplug the garbage disposal first.

What has likely happened is that it's your disposal that's clogged rather than the pipe. Disposals can't handle stringy material. So, you're likely going to have to take apart the disposal which I can't say will be easy or hard without knowing more about the disposal.

IMHO, I'd toss the disposal, get a bit of pipe to replace it, and then get a mulch bin. SO much less maintenance. ;)

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Be sure to turn the power off before you unplug the garbage disposal –  Asdfg Oct 12 '11 at 1:16
    
If it's hard-wired certainly make sure the circuit is cold before doing anything. However, if it's a plug-in type, just switch it off first. –  DA01 Oct 12 '11 at 1:31
    
@DA01 - I want a compost pile really bad but we are in a town-home & the community association won't let us –  Joel B Oct 12 '11 at 2:36
    
WHY DOES YOUR HOA HATE THE PLANET!? Oh, that's right HOAs hate EVERYTHING. ;o) Well, you can get in-house compost systems, so that's an option. You may also find community mulch piles as well as those used by restaurants in the area. Worst case, the garbage may still be less of a pain that dealing with a garbage disposal. (I just find them loud, smelly, and always breaking down and needing replacing). –  DA01 Oct 12 '11 at 3:03
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