Sink only drains when garbage disposal is on

You’re pleased that you’ve finally completed the dishes, but then it happens: the water in your garbage disposal comes back up. To your dismay, water mixed with food is now flowing into your sink, despite the fact that you only recently turned on your disposal, and you’re left pondering how and why this happened.

One of three things is likely to have occurred if you notice water backing up in your kitchen sink:

There is an obstruction.

You’ve been making excessive use of your trash.

Your garbage disposal was not properly fitted.

The most likely of these three possibilities is that you have some type of impediment. A drain blockage is caused by food and other debris that has steadily accumulated over time. You may have noticed that your sink was draining slower than usual before this occurred. Because the water is still draining, most homeowners choose to ignore these early warning signs of a larger issue.

The good news is that you can locate the cause of the clog and fix it yourself with a few household items and some detective work. There are also some precautions you can take to avoid future drainage problems.

How Waste Disposal Works

Although disposals differ, they all share a fundamental design structure. The garbage chute is installed beneath the sink. When the disposal is turned on, the impeller plate, also known as the spinning disc, quickly rotates.

This shreds the food into minuscule fragments small enough to be washed away with water through the holes in the shredding chamber. If the sink will not drain unless the trash disposal is turned on, your disposal is either jammed or clogged.

Troubleshooting: Steps to Diagnosis

The most frequent causes are clogs and improper drainage. If your sink isn’t working correctly, you don’t have to give up and call a plumber right away.

Troubleshooting is the first stage in repairing a clogged sink that won’t drain unless the garbage disposal is turned on. The majority of blockages are caused by seeds and other tough materials. If the garbage disposal sink is not draining, take the following actions. Complete each step before moving on to the next if it is still not functioning.

First, look for obstructions in the waste trap. You’d be surprised at what folks write down. I’ve seen keys, wallets, wedding bands, chopsticks, and anything else you can think of.

Examine the disposal pipe to see if it is lower than the drain coming out of the wall. If so, it should be increased.

  1. Turn on the faucet and the garbage sink several times. The spinning blades produce a vortex, which forces water past the unit and into the drain pipe. This will unclog a small, easy clog.
  2. To spin the flywheel turning wrench hole, use an allen wrench. This is situated at the unit’s base. Check to see if the wrench moves easily in either direction. This is essentially a hand disposal operation.
  3. If your model lacks a wrench hole in the bottom, you can achieve the same effect with the end of a broomstick or a wooden spatula. Insert the broomstick into the drain and forcefully press it against the impellers. Turn backward.
  4. If you see a whirlpool in the water after turning on the disposal, you have a clogged pipe. Check to see if the disposal’s drain pipe is clear and free-flowing. Is the opposite-side faucet draining? If not, you’ll need to use a snake to drain the pipe. If the pipes aren’t clogged, there could be a mechanical problem with the disposal.
  5. In order to meet with housing codes, a dishwasher outlet hose must connect to an inlet pipe on the machine. This is also referred to as an inlet conduit or a vent. If the dishwasher isn’t emptying, the vent may need to be replaced. This is a low-cost component.

Some tips

Waste removal systems can be confusing. When I was a child, I recall how much I enjoyed watching meals go down the drain. After I dropped a fork down the drain in the kitchen, I was also afraid of the thing. Make sure any children you have in the home don’t interpret the term “garbage disposal” literally. Otherwise, you risk using a locksmith more frequently than necessary.

The majority of drainage problems are typically brought on by human error. Be sure to adhere to the Dos and Don’ts listed below to keep the appliance functioning properly and securely.


  1. Do not use any other type of water when running the sink. After it grinds, let the water flow for another 15 seconds.
  2. Put things in the kitchen sink drain gradually.
  3. Run the disposal frequently to get rid of any food leftovers that might be accumulating in the chamber to avoid buildup.
  4. To clear the inside of the disposal, grind some ice.
  5. To stop objects from dropping into the disposal when it is not in use, cover the drain with a lid.
  6. Citrus rinds can be used to refresh the trash. Baking powder is also effective at eliminating odors.
  7. If it jams, turn it off right away to prevent damaging the engine.


  1. Disposal should be used without water.
  2. Allow refuse to accumulate inside the disposal.
  3. Dispose of grease in the sink.
  4. Grind woody components from vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, or carrots.
  5. Dispose of starchy foods like spaghetti, rice, potatoes, and other in the sink.
  6. Grind any hard or pointed objects, including large bones, seeds, and coffee grinds.
  7. Use your fingertips to reach inside and unclog a clog.
  8. Pour strong chemicals or sewer cleaners into the disposal.

You can hire a qualified plumber to quickly assess the situation for you and recommend the best course of action if you want to figure out what precisely is going on.

If you were able to clear your drain on your own using one of the techniques we’ve already covered, you presumably want to avoid finding yourself in this unpleasant situation again.

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