How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal That Is Full of Gravel

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Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight

  • Kitchen tongs or bent wire coat hanger

  • Rolling bin or short broom handle

  • 1/4-inch Allen wrench

Garbage disposals are effective in grinding up vegetable peelings.

Garbage disposals are a convenient appliance in the kitchen sink. Scraping your dinner plate remains and vegetable scraps into the hopper or cylinder is an effective way to keep food out of your trash can and prevent it from stinking. Hard objects, such as gravel or bones from meat, may get into your disposal and not grind totally. The objects get stuck in the disposal and can cause damage if you do not remove them. Removing the gravel or other debris prevents a costly plumbing repair.


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Step 1

Turn off the garbage disposal on the wall switch and at the main electrical service panel. Doing this prevents injuries while removing the gravel.

Step 2

Turn the wall switch on to make sure you turned the disposer off correctly in the service panel. Also, press the reset button on the bottom of your garbage disposal and attempt to turn it on again to ensure there is no power to the unit before beginning.

Step 3

Remove any loose gravel from the garbage disposal with the aid of a flashlight and pair of kitchen tongs or a bent wire coat hanger. Get as much gravel out as possible. There may be rocks that are stuck in the flywheel that you cannot remove with the tongs.


Step 4

Stick a rolling pin or a short broom handle down into the hopper, or cylinder, of the garbage disposal, and try to force the flywheel to turn. There will be vertical pieces of metal -- the impellers -- that you can push against with the broom handle. This may require a lot of force. You can push the impellers in either direction to loosen the rocks.

Step 5

Remove any gravel you have successfully loosened with the tongs. Try pushing on the impellers once again with the rolling pin or broom handle. You may feel the flywheel -- a round metal disc -- break free or be able to push them more easily.


Step 6

Turn the power back on at the service panel and the wall switch once you feel the flywheel break free.

Step 7

Press the reset button underneath the unit. Turn on the water and the wall switch two or three times in quick bursts. The flywheel should now spin and allow any stuck gravel to pass through the drain. If not, repeat the method.


Run cold water down your disposer when grinding food. Hot water causes fats to melt, thus increasing the chance of a clog. Check to see if your garbage disposal has a center port underneath the unit. Many newer models have a place to insert an Allen wrench. Wiggling the wrench back and forth moves the masher plate inside the disposal. This is often all that is necessary to loosen any remaining gravel.


Soak up excess grease from your skillets with paper towels before washing them in the sink. Heavy grease buildup can clog your garbage disposal.



Chelsea Fitzgerald

Chelsea Fitzgerald covers topics related to family, health, green living and travel. Before her writing career, she worked in the medical field for 21 years. Fitzgerald studied education at the University of Arkansas and University of Memphis.