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How to Deal with Common Kitchen Plumbing Problems

Here’s how to fix leaks and clear clogs in your kitchen sink.

Sometimes your kitchen sink simply doesn’t want to cooperate. Here are some tried-and-true ways to resolve several common kitchen plumbing issues.

Leaky Faucets

Photo by Craig Raine

A leaking faucet is a surefire way to soak your front while standing at the sink. For a leak coming from the base of all types of faucets, a common cause is a worn O-ring seal.

After cutting off the water to the sink, remove the coupling nut from the base of the faucet and gently pull the spout from the socket. A degraded O-ring may appear frayed, cracked, discolored, or misshapen. Always replace the O-ring in your faucet’s given size—this is a crucial step to ensure you achieve a proper seal.

Depending on the type of faucet, other damaged hardware may be the source of the leak. For example, compression faucets typically need a new stem washer to resolve persistent dripping, while a cartridge faucet may require a new valve cartridge to fully stop water flow. If replacing the degraded hardware in your faucet doesn’t resolve the issue, it may be time to replace the entire unit with the help of a qualified professional.

Clogged Garbage Disposal

Photo by Courtesy of InSinkErator

Despite the promising name, your garbage disposal is not made to dispose of all kitchen scraps. Certain foods like coffee grounds, eggshells, chicken bones, and fibrous fruits and vegetables can stop up the motor. To address a clog yourself, always begin by turning off the breaker that powers the disposal.

Next, shine a flashlight into the drain to see if you can spot the clogging culprit. Remove any visible objects with a pair of long-handled pliers or tongs—never with your hands—then test the disposal by running hot water through the drain with the blade running.

Some blockages are caused by leftovers that have not fully washed down the drainpipe. For this type of clog, do not use a corrosive drain cleaner. These products can damage the plastic components of your disposal. Instead, cover the drain with a cup plunger and fill the basin with an inch of water.

After plunging the drain, the water should clear if the blockage has been resolved. If not, pour one parts baking soda to two parts white vinegar into the disabled disposal. The resulting chemical reaction can unclog a drain without damaging your plumbing.

Sputtering Water

Photo by Geoffrey Gross

Uneven water flow commonly comes from one of three issues: a clogged aerator, faulty valve cartridge, or air in the water lines. As water passes through the aerator fixed to the faucet opening, mineral deposits can build up and inhibit proper flow.

To remedy this, simply twist off the aerator in a counterclockwise motion, give it a good scrub, and reattach it. If this does not resolve the issue, your next step is to investigate the valve cartridge located in your faucet.

To replace a valve cartridge, shut off your water, gently pry off the sink handle, and remove the hardware underneath—including retaining nuts, clips, and the O-ring. Cartridges vary widely between manufacturers and models, so bring the old cartridge with you to the hardware store to ensure you select the correct model.

If the cartridge is undamaged and the aerator is clear, the most likely issue is air caught in the lines. This can come from simple temperature fluctuations, or more seriously, a breach in the main water supply lines. To clear air from the lines, run cold water from the faucet for five minutes.

If this does not resolve the issue, consult a professional plumber to find the source of air intake within your pipes.