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Why Does My Kitchen Sink Make a Gurgling Sound?

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Gurgling sound coming from kitchen sink drainOf all the drains in your home, the kitchen sink is the most frequently used. If you have a garbage disposal, the kitchen sink drain works even harder. All of that means that the plumbing in the kitchen, the kitchen drain works the hardest. And that can mean that the kitchen plumbing receives a lot of stress throughout the day. Because you use your kitchen sink so often, hearing a gurgling sound as water drains away can be more than just annoying – it can be a sign that you may soon have a bigger plumbing issue on your hands.

There are a lot of reasons that a kitchen sink can gurgle, but two main reasons are the most common causes of this problem. Here’s what you need to know about each:

Clogged Pipes Cause Gurgling

One of the most common problems with kitchen sinks is that food debris is clogging the pipes. Preparing dinner and washing dishes leads to small particles getting stuck inside the pipes, and a build-up of those particles can cause an obstruction. That in turn traps air around the obstruction, which is what you are hearing when you hear that “gurgle” sound. If you notice bubbles coming up from the drain as a sink full of water is drained, this is a good indication that this is precisely what is going on.

Even if it’s just a minor problem at the moment, you should always take care of obstructions quickly. They can develop into full clogs quickly. Garbage disposals have a habit of developing these sorts of clogs, largely because homeowners aren’t aware of what garbage disposals are truly for. If you wouldn’t chew something with your teeth or eat it directly, then it likely shouldn’t go down the disposal. This means bones, egg shells, hot oil, grease, and other similar things should not go down the garbage disposal.

The best way to remove this kind of clog from a drain is to call a professional. Liquid drain cleaner can actually cause more damage than help in many cases.

Blocked Vent Pipes Cause Gurgling

The other most common problem that gurgling sinks have is a blocked vent pipe. There is a vent pipe attached to the drainpipe under your sink that allows sewer gas to escape. These pipes run up to the roof rather than out to the ground, and can become blocked by things coming down the pipe from above – like dirt, nesting materials from birds, leaves, and so on. This can cause sewer gas to then push backwards into the drain pipe, which causes that gurgling noise you are hearing.

With this problem, the only solution is to call a professional to unclog the pipe. It is not wise to troubleshoot or fix this issue on your own, because you’ll need to access the pipe on the roof to take care of the problem.

Understanding Drain Function

To get a better understanding of why clogs cause that gurgling sound, you need to understand how drains function. Whenever water is forced through drains, whether by gravity (such as in the case of kitchen sinks) or a force (such as in the case of a toilet being flushed), the water is moved through the pipe and replaced by air. If this didn’t happen, water would just sit in the pipe and never go anywhere.

Now, normally, a properly functioning pipe has a vent system where air can also move out of the pipe as it is filling the area left by the water. This means that air moves freely in the pipe, outside the pipe, and no suction or vacuum is created. However, if air cannot move freely in the pipe, or if air cannot move out of the pipe, a vacuum is created. This is what causes that gurgling noise. You may also hear this problem in the toilet, the shower, the bathroom sink, the laundry drain, and just about any other drain in your house.

So, the two most important factors for a silent, properly-working sink drain are: a drain that is free of clogs so that air can move through the drain freely; and a vent that is free of clogs so that air can move outside the drain freely.

If you hear your drain making any strange sucking or gurgling noises, your best bet is to call a professional to have an obstruction removed from one of these two places. Commercial cleaners and “uncloggers” are often not as helpful as they seem, and can even cause damage to certain systems. They also don’t tackle the problem of a clogged vent pipe at all, so they could be a waste of your money.

Now that you know what causes this gurgling sound, you can get your kitchen sink back to working order in no time. And if you need help from a professional, be sure to call one of our Five Star Rated plumbers!