Every homeowner dreads that strange, dull, gurgling sound that comes out of your kitchen sink. Not only can it quickly turn irritating and stress-inducing, but it also indicates that there’s a deeper problem going on with your plumbing system. Therefore, knowing how to troubleshoot and fix a gurgling kitchen sink can save you a lot of time, money, and effort in the long run.
Your kitchen sink may be gurgling due to clogged drainage pipes, a broken or clogged P-trap, blocked air vents, or a faulty installation. Possible fixes include clearing the drainpipe and p-trap, removing external waste from the vents, fixing any installation issues, and enlisting professional help.
In this article, I’ll be taking you through each of the possible issues that might be causing your kitchen sink to gurgle. I will also provide some potential fixes that might help you remedy the problem without the need for costly repairs.
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I know that with time, the sound of a gurgling kitchen sink can become maddening. However, you should consider the issue as an invaluable source of information that can help you get to the root of a much deeper problem.
Gurgling sounds in a kitchen sink can be caused by several factors. These include a clogged p-trap or drainage pipe, blocked vents or air admittance valves, or an incorrect installation.
In the following sections, I’ll be expanding on the issues you’ll want to look out for when troubleshooting a gurgling sink:
Clogged drainage pipes are among the most common plumbing-related problems. As we use our sinks to wash dishes, produce, or other household items, it can be hard to acknowledge that not everything that goes into the drainage pipes comes out efficiently.
If you’ve been dumping significant amounts of grease, oil, or other types of similarly harsh substances down your drain, chances are you’re dealing with clogged drainage pipes.
As you pour such heavy liquids, clogs start to form. This leads to the creation of that signature gurgling sound as you continue using the soiled pipes without cleaning them up first.
Alternatively, you could be washing your dishes without effectively disposing of any remaining debris in a separate trash can. In that case, the residue might build up over time, clogging your drainage pipes in a similar fashion.
Clogged drainage pipes are a relatively simple issue to solve. Besides, it generally doesn’t lead to any significant structural damage. However, leaving the problem unattended for an extended stretch of time could potentially affect the whole plumbing system.
Therefore, if you suspect that you’re dealing with clogged drainage pipes, it’s always best to take action as soon as possible. If you feel like your skills and technical knowledge are up to par, you can attempt to fix the issue — follow the instructions in the “Clear the Drainpipe” section of this article. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a professional.
Say you’re always extremely careful when it comes to what you pour down your sink. In that case, the gurgling sound may be caused by a broken p-trap. The p-trap is a component (often plastic) located under your sink. Its purpose is to stop any tough substances or debris from getting into the plumbing system, which would lead to the clogging mentioned above.
Even the best dishwasher or most careful cook can allow a bit of grease or debris to slide down the drain. Usually, this wouldn’t be a cause for concern but the p-trap prevents this waste from entering the plumbing system. Therefore, the issue can deteriorate pretty quickly if the component can no longer function normally due to structural damage.
Sometimes the p-trap itself can get clogged, which would cause it to work far less efficiently than usual.
As such, there are several potential issues you’ll want to be looking out for when inspecting the quality and performance of your p-trap.
P-traps located in kitchen plumbing systems don’t typically sustain as much pressure as, say, those found in your bathroom’s plumbing system. However, they are still prone to structural damage. If this is the case, you’ll most likely have to call in a professional plumber to help you weigh your options and restore the system’s functionality.
That said, if the p-trap is merely clogged, a simple cleaning procedure should suffice. I’ll take you through the process in one of the following sections.
By now, you’re probably noticing a pattern when it comes to the issues that might be causing your kitchen sink to gurgle. The final type of blockage that might be responsible for the problem you’re dealing with is blocked vents.
Vent pipes are attached to the previously mentioned drain pipes, and their purpose is to allow toxic sewer gasses to escape from the plumbing system. As you can probably tell, a blockage or structural damage in this component can lead to much bigger issues than just that annoying sound from your sink.
In most cases, these pipes go up to the roof, as the aim is to release these harmful gasses outside. However, contact with the elements can make the pipes particularly susceptible to damage and blockage caused by small animals, dirt, or debris.
When the vent pipes get blocked, they are unable to release the sewer gasses into the open air. Instead, these harmful fumes return back to the drainage pipes, resulting in the gurgling sound you hear.
Therefore, if you notice that the gurgling sound ensues a few seconds after the water has drained, chances are you’re dealing with a blocked air vent. This issue should be dealt with immediately.
While most experienced homeowners can carry out relatively basic routine cleaning, severe blockage or structural damage needs to be looked at by a professional.
If your plumbing system doesn’t include vent pipes, but you’re still noticing similar symptoms, you might have to take a look at your air admittance valve.
Admittance valves play a similar role to vents. Even though they might be less likely to malfunction, it still doesn’t hurt to check regularly whether they’re in good condition or operating efficiently.
If your admittance valves turn out to be the problem and you’ve only been using them for a few years, the malfunction might indicate a severe problem with your plumbing system. Admittance valves are meant to be durable and long-lasting (think at least 20 years). Therefore, if yours break down after a couple of years, it’s a sign that the components aren’t working properly.
At times, no matter how careful you are or how often you care for and maintain your plumbing system, you might still find yourself dealing with the dreaded gurgling kitchen sink.
A slight error in installation can lead to two or more components not fitting properly. As a result, air will inevitably get inside the system, causing it to produce the gurgling issue.
Fortunately, a faulty installation is easy to fix. However, depending on the type of installation error that occured, your system might need some components replaced in order to start working efficiently again.
So, if you suspect the gurgling sound you’re hearing is caused by a faulty installation, I’d suggest you start by inspecting whether all the necessary components are included in the system.
Sometimes, due to incompetence or if distracted, some plumbers might forgo some crucial components (like the p-trap) altogether. If this is the case, the gurgling noise should be accompanied by a pungent, unpleasant smell that’s hard to miss. Only when you’re certain the system is set up correctly can you proceed to redo some of the fittings until the issue gets sorted.
I’ll take you through how to fix installation problems in more detail in the next section. However, be prepared to call in a plumber to help you with this one.
How to Fix a Gurgling Kitchen Sink
As long as you spot the issue and troubleshoot it in good time, chances are, you’ll be able to remedy it yourself. Having some experience and technical skills can help you get through the following approaches quicker and more efficiently Still, those trying their hand at plumbing for the very first time can still give these methods a go.
That said, don’t push beyond what you’re absolutely certain you can do, and never hesitate to call a professional to help you at the first sign of trouble.
If you’ve concluded that a clogged drainpipe is the cause of your gurgling kitchen sink, resist the urge to run to your nearest store to buy a drain cleaner. Over time, the chemicals contained in these solutions can corrode your pipes and cause structural damage. When it comes to chemical-based cleaning, it’s best to leave the process to professionals.
That said, there’s no reason why you can’t physically remove some of the blockages and debris hindering the functioning of your pipes.
An excellent way to do so is to use the water, baking soda, and vinegar approach. All you need to do is pour some hot water down your drainage pipes, followed by some baking soda, and vinegar. Estimate the ratios you’ll need depending on the size and strength of your blockage.
Afterward, cover the drain with a plug and let it sit for half an hour. Follow this by rinsing out any residue, and your pipes should start working as new again.
Cleaning the p-trap is a process that you’d regularly include in your plumbing system maintenance regime — regardless of whether you’re worried there might be a blockage forming or not.
However, if you’re confident that a clogged p-trap is causing your kitchen sink to gurgle, you need to move faster to resolve the issue. Luckily, there’s no shortage of household items you can use to aid you throughout the process.
First, you’ll want to disassemble the p-trap using pliers to remove the coupling nuts that keep it attached to the rest of the system. Then, using a nylon bottle brush or a straightened-out wire coat hanger, you can start cleaning away any debris or residue that might be causing the blockage.
As mentioned, air vents are exposed to a wide range of external waste that can cause blockages or structural damage. Therefore, if you suspect the trapped sewer gasses are causing the gurgling sound coming out of your sink, it might be time to tend to the excessive buildup inside these vents.
Luckily, the process is neither time-consuming nor difficult, meaning most homeowners should have no problem dealing with it themselves. All you need to do is flush the opening vent with some high-pressure water. When deciding on what level of “high pressure” to go with, consider how stubborn the blockage can be to move.
If the issue stems from installation issues, you can try to refit the plumbing system’s components in an effort to prevent any air from entering the pipes. For example, if the drainage pipe measures 1.5 inches (3.81 cm), place the air vent at a distance of 3.5 feet (~1 m) away from the lowest part of the trap.
The gurgling sound should stop as soon as the components are properly sealed. However, if there’s a more severe installation issue, the job might be beyond your scope of capabilities.
Suppose you’ve spent several hours trying to get to the root of or fix the issue, and you still haven’t made any headway. In that case, it might be time to throw in the towel (literally) and enlist the help of a professional.
At the end of the day, you only want to do what you’re confident you can do. Besides, a wrong step could cost you hundreds of dollars in damages.
There are several issues that might be causing your kitchen sink to gurgle. Fortunately, most homeowners can fix most of them regardless of their previous knowledge and technical abilities. Nonetheless, if a repair seems too far out of your comfort zone, always enlist the help of a professional.
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