Double bowl kitchen sinks are the best thing since sliced bread. Who doesn’t want the convenience of being able to use two separate sinks for different purposes? You have to agree: two sinks are better than one.
There’s one drawback to owning a dual sink, however: they are more prone to clogs than your regular kitchen sink. Worse, when dual sinks get clogged, your garbage disposal may cause water to overflow from the other side (or cause water to back up into the dishwasher).
On this page:
- What Causes the Sink to Back up into the Other Side?
- How NOT to Unclog a Double Kitchen Sink
- How to Unclog a Double Sink with a Garbage Disposal (And Stop It from Backing up into the Other Sink)
- Use a snake auger to clear the clog
- How to Use the Garbage Disposal in a Way That Prevents Clogs
- Common Myths In The Use of a Garbage Disposal
- Should You Replace Your Garbage Disposal?
- Use Our Site to Get Help from a Pro!
This not only puts a damper on your dishwashing, but it’s also unhygienic.
We understand the struggle, which is why we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide for you. We’ve got all the best practices, tips, and procedures that will prevent your garbage disposal from spitting up water on the other side once and for all.
What Causes the Sink to Back up into the Other Side?
Typically, a double kitchen sink has only one side installed with a garbage disposal unit. This increases the chances of the other side getting clogged up. If left unattended for a long time, all that accumulated food can cause obstructions in the drain line.
There’s a simple explanation for this: while you technically have two sinks, they are still fed into one drain. Now what happens when that main drain gets clogged? Where does the water go when the garbage disposal runs? The answer is obvious: the water backs up into one of the sinks, or both if the clog becomes bad enough.
How NOT to Unclog a Double Kitchen Sink
“Quick fixes” are like detox diets. It can be tempting to give them a try. But in the end, all it amounts to is wasted time and effort (and money).
It can be tempting to resort to quick solutions when we discover a clog in the drain. However, quick or seemingly practical methods will only result in a botched repair job, if not make the problem worse.
Here are “quick fixes” you definitely want to do away with:
Using a chemical drain cleaner
When you have a clogged drain, it sounds simpler to just buy a chemical drain cleaner from the nearest home improvement store, pour some of its contents onto the sink, and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Sorry to break it to you, but we don’t recommend this method. For one thing, chemical drain cleaners won’t only cause damage to your pipes, but they can also damage your garbage disposal’s metal and plastic components.
Below are the most common chemicals found in chemical drain cleaners.
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Hydrochloric acid (otherwise known as Muriatic Acid)
- Sulfuric acid
More importantly, using a drain cleaner can be hazardous to your health. They can cause chemical burns through skin contact, and vision loss if they come in contact with your eyes. Inhaling their fumes can damage your lungs as well. You also want to keep them away from your dishes and food since ingesting a chemical drain cleaner’s contents can potentially cause internal injury or even death.
Using a coat hanger
Many homeowners have been using straightened out coat hangers or wires to fish out clogs in drains for decades. However, this method is not recommended by professionals for one simple reason: they don’t work.
First off, the way towards the clog isn’t a straight line, so your efforts to use a long “stick” to reach into the drain’s depths will only prove futile. In other words, a coat hanger cannot snake its way through the pipes’ curves, making the entire effort a waste.
How to Unclog a Double Sink with a Garbage Disposal (And Stop It from Backing up into the Other Sink)
The typical response (at least by most people) to an obstructed kitchen sink is to use a plunger.
This method, however, will do diddly squat when you’re dealing with a clogged double kitchen sink. Plunging away at one of the sinks will only cause the other side to begin filling up with water. Do the same thing on that side and you’ll end up with another overflow, this time on the other side. It’s a merry-go-round that will give you the same results every time. Obviously, you need a different method.
Believe it or not, unclogging a double sink with a garbage disposal requires a simple solution. Yes, you can still use the plunger, but for it to be effective, you need to plug up one of the drains first.
Here are the steps to stop your garbage disposal from backing up into the other sink:
- Fill the sink (the one not connected to the garbage disposal) with 3 to 4 inches of water—nothing more, nothing less.
- Plug up the other sink (the one connected to the garbage disposal), grab a sink plunger, and then position it over the plug. Make sure that you can feel the vacuum suction tugging at the drain plug before you start plunging away.
- After working the plunger up and down several times, unplug the sink, and then turn the faucet on. Run cold water down the garbage disposal drain. If it’s won’t drain, work the plunger again until it’s unclogged. If you’re not getting favorable results, then that means that the clog is too far deep down the drain for the plunging action to be effective.
Use a snake auger to clear the clog
If plunging away at the clog doesn’t work, it’s time to use a more direct solution. Using a toilet auger, otherwise known as plumber’s snake, is one such solution.
But first, what is a plumber’s snake?
A plumber’s snake is a slender, long, and flexible auger made for dislodging clogs in drain pipes. Unlike the aforementioned coat hanger, a plumber’s snake has the mechanisms required that allow you to snake your way through the pipe’s curves and reach deeper into the main drain line.
That goes to show why many homeowners and professionals resort to using a snake auger if a plunger is not enough to do the job.
The plumber’s snake comes with a long metal tube that is slightly bent at one end. That end is tipped by an auger tip, which can be threaded through blockages so that you can pull the debris back out. It also comes with a handle that you can rotate to make the auger tip turn, allowing the snake’s “business end” to work its way through clogs.
Before using the snake auger, make sure that you clear everything from under the sink and place the bucket under the sink drain. This grants you a better view of the garbage disposal as well as let you catch any leaking water from under the sink.
Here are the steps to unclog your kitchen sink with a snake auger.
- Unscrew the threaded plug attached to the trap using the pliers or the adjustable wrench. Once the plug has been removed, put it in a safe spot where you can retrieve it later.
- Push the auger bit into the drain mouth.
- Turn the handle on the drum auger to uncoil the snake.
- Keep pushing the snake down the drain until you encounter some resistance.
- Once you’ve hit the clog, rotate the snake so that the blockage will attach itself around the auger tip. If there’s too much resistance, you can remove some of the debris by pulling the auger out.
- Turn on the faucet and let the water run for a few minutes to flush the remaining clog down the drain.
How to Use the Garbage Disposal in a Way That Prevents Clogs
While every garbage disposal is different, there are common rules or best practices on how to properly use one. Sure, your garbage disposal may be durable enough to break down bones or ground coffee, but allowing your unit to become subjected to such abuse over a long period of time is one good way to shorten its lifespan. Besides, a compromised garbage disposal is more likely to get clogged up—and you don’t want that.
But before we go over the procedures, bear in mind that you must always refer to the instruction manual that came with the product. As already mentioned, every disposal is different, and what works for most disposals might not work for yours.
So without further ado, here’s how to use a garbage disposal in a way that prevents clogs from happening.
- Start running a steady stream of cold water into the kitchen sink (cold water allows fats, grease, and oil to maintain their solid form, thus preventing the formation of clogs).
- Turn the garbage disposal unit on.
- Gradually dump food waste into the disposal unit (don’t shove large amounts of food waste all at once).
- Let the disposal do its work until all the food waste has been broken down (or apart).
- Turn the garbage disposal off.
- Flush the drain pipe out by letting water run for another 10 seconds.
Following the above procedures on a regular basis will keep your garbage disposal in tip-top shape. Keep at it and you won’t have to replace your garbage disposal unit for a long time.
Common Myths In The Use of a Garbage Disposal
Too many myths on how to properly use a garbage disposal have been going around since time out of mind. Some have been passed down from generation to generation, and despite evidence to the contrary, many homeowners still believe them to be true.
But as is the case with any utility appliance or tool, being able to separate fact from fiction is essential to proper maintenance. Same goes with garbage disposal units.
Let’s go over these myths one by one and discuss briefly why you’re better off abandoning them.
Myth #1: Garbage disposals can handle any food waste
Garbage disposals are made for breaking down soft food items. Sure, there are disposal units made for grinding up hard food (such as chicken bones, corn cobs, and coffee grounds), but they can only do that to a certain extent.
Here’s one golden rule when using a garbage disposal: don’t dump food items in there that you wouldn’t chew yourself.
You also want to avoid feeding high-fiber foods (potato peels, corn husks, nuts, legumes, and celery) into the drain. Why? Because foods rich in fiber are likely to wrap themselves around the garbage disposal’s blades, causing the motor to jam or shut down.
Myth #2: Garbage disposals are not eco-friendly
There’s this rumor going around that garbage disposals are bad for the environment. This couldn’t be more false. In fact, you’re doing the environment a big favor when you’re dumping your food waste into the garbage disposal as opposed to throwing them in the trash.
When food waste goes through the garbage disposal, they eventually get dumped into a wastewater facility for treatment. By undergoing wastewater treatment, water is purified and cleared of contaminants until it’s sent back to the environment or discharged for reuse.
Conversely, when food waste is thrown into the trash, they eventually end up in landfills, where they undergo decomposition without the presence of oxygen. This causes them to emit harmful greenhouse gases into the air.
Myth #3: Lemons help clean up the garbage disposal
The belief that lemons help clean up garbage disposals is common in American homes. In reality, dumping lemons in the kitchen drain only makes the garbage disposal smell better… at least for a while.
This is actually bad because the citrus scene only masks foul odors, which if undetected can lead to more serious problems.
So, is the disposal any cleaner after dumping lemons down the drain? Not really. For one thing, citric acid isn’t strong enough to disinfect the collected food gunk from the disposal. It even makes things worse since citric acid can potentially corrode the disposal’s metal components.
If you want to know how to properly clean a garbage disposal, this amazing instruction video by InSinkErator should help.
Myth #4: Dumping ice (or egg shells) can sharpen the disposal’s blades
Let’s get one thing straight: garbage disposals don’t have blades, they are simply called that because they are similar in appearance. What disposals do have are blunt-tipped impellers that break down food the same way a cheese grater does. As such, feeding the ice cubes down the kitchen drain will only harm the system.
And if you’ve entertained the notion of dumping egg shells down the disposal—don’t do that, either. Egg shells are covered with a membrane that’s likely to wrap itself around the disposal’s impellers, causing them to jam.
Should You Replace Your Garbage Disposal?
Your garbage disposal can make your life easier in a lot of ways. However, all good things must come to an end, and your garbage disposal is no exception.
According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), garbage disposals can last for up to 12 years. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a few more years to yours.
You want to prolong your garbage disposal’s lifespan? The answer is just as you’d expect: perform proper maintenance and do the necessary repairs as they’re needed.
Sooner or later your garbage disposal will start to show its age. Maybe—and that’s a big maybe—you can carry out repairs to make it operational again. But if it requires more repairs than usual, then it might be time to replace your disposal with a new one.
Here are the signs your garbage disposal needs to be replaced.
1. Your disposal’s getting clogged up more often
There are two probable reasons why your garbage disposal’s getting clogged up more often: it’s either the disposal’s blades are getting duller or you need a larger disposal.
Let’s talk a bit about the first cause: when your disposal’s blades have become dull due to prolonged use, it’s going to have a more difficult time breaking apart food particles, which increases the likelihood of clogs.
If nothing’s wrong with the blades, it might be because your disposal is too small to keep up with the amount of food waste your household keeps dumping into it.
If you’re unsure whether your disposal has the right size for your household, refer to the sizing guidelines below (as suggested by DisposalSuggest.com) :
- Small Household of 2 people: 1/3 Horsepower
- Medium Household of 4 people: ½ Horsepower
- Big Household with more than 5 people: ¾ Horsepower / 1 Horsepower
2. You’re pressing the RESET button more frequently than usual
The reset button is the small red button located at the bottom of the disposal unit. That’s what you need to press if your garbage disposal’s motor has overloaded or overheated. If you’ve been using your disposal long enough, chances are you’ve pressed that button a few times.
If you find that you’ve been pressing the reset button more frequently than before, chances are the disposal’s motor has burned out, in which case it needs to be replaced.
3. You can’t get rid of the bad smell
There’s plenty of reasons why a garbage disposal may stink. Usually, you can get rid of the unpleasant smell by unclogging the disposal. You can also pour some baking soda and vinegar down the drain.
But if no amount of cleaning is able to get rid of the smell, then it’s possible that food gunk was trapped in the unit’s innermost crevices. At this juncture, the best course of action is to replace the unit altogether.
4. It’s got a “bad” leak
Leaks are bound to happen when you own a garbage disposal unit. But there are certain types of leaks that require costly repairs before the garbage disposal becomes fully operational again. Fixing a damaged sink flange, for example, requires you to go through a lot of hoops before you can stop it from leaking. In this case, buying a new garbage disposal is the cheaper option.
5. You hear strange noises every time you run the garbage disposal unit
Is your garbage disposal making rattling or screeching noises? Those are your unit’s internal components begging you to put them out of their misery. Possible causes include a damaged motor or misaligned grates. While you have the option to have these fixed, replacing the unit is usually the cheaper option.
Use Our Site to Get Help from a Pro!
Fixing a garbage disposal or a kitchen sink that backs up water into the other side is usually a simple task. As a homeowner, you have two options: to go the DIY route or to get help from a professional.
If you choose the former, we hope that this comprehensive guide has helped you with your DIY project. But if you’d rather seek help from a professional plumber, we’d be happy to help with that too.
As a client, it’s in your best interests to seek a professional plumber who can do the job well and who will charge you a fair rate.
To do that, you must do a localized search via Google to find the best contractors in your area. How do you pick the best candidates? Well, you can start by looking for reviews from unbiased sources.
Another excellent way to find skilled contractors is to ask for referrals from friends, relatives, or colleagues. Of course, it goes without saying that you should ask only those whom you trust. After all, a real friend will think twice before recommending someone who’d do a crappy job.
If you want to find a contractor who understands your needs and knows how to address them, then following our suggestions will steer you in the right direction.
But I don’t have the time to do all that, you might be asking.
Well, that’s okay, too. In fact, we just have the thing that can expedite the process for you.
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By using our free service, you can at least take the first big step in having your garbage disposal or kitchen sink fixed. It’s not going to fix itself, after all.
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