What’s That Gurgling Noise in my Sink?

roof vent "What is making that gurgling sound?"

If your drains make a strange gurgling noise whenever you turn on the water, you’re probably concerned. What does that noise mean? Is it a bad sign? Are my pipes working correctly? Is there anything I can do about it?

Annoying as it may be, the gurgling can actually be a blessing in disguise. By identifying and fixing the problem early, you can prevent a much more severe problem in the future. Here’s why your drains gurgle, how you can figure out what’s causing it, and how you can solve the problem.


Where is the sound coming from?

First, identify which specific drain or drains are gurgling. The source of the sound differs depending on several factors. What kind of appliance’s drain is gurgling? Where the drain? How many different drains gurgle? Does the gurgling only happen when the drain is in use, or does it happen whenever any water is used?

Answering each of these questions will help us troubleshoot where the sound is coming from and what to do about it.


What is the gurgle?

Drain gurgling happens for several reasons. If the drain isn’t properly vented, air will fill the vacuum created by water entering the pipe. The gurgling noise is the sound of air rushing past the P-trap’s water to fill in the vacuum. A vent prevents this by letting air in to fill the vacuum from a designated opening so that it doesn’t have to squeeze past water.

Gurgling also happens in partially clogged drains. As water struggles to get past the blockage, bubbles flow out to the nearest available vent. The gurgle is the sound the bubbles make as they move out of the vents.


gurgling drain

Is the sound coming from one drain or several?

Gurgles coming from multiple drains generally happen for different reasons than single-drain gurgles, so figuring out which you have will help tell you what the problem is.


If the gurgling only comes from one drain:

Either that appliance’s drain is partially clogged or blocked, or that appliance’s vent isn’t working properly.

Vents won’t work if they’re too far away from the P-trap. Your drain may also have an air admittance valve instead of a vent, which you should check. If the drain doesn’t have venting of any form, you’ve found the problem.


If the gurgling comes from multiple drains or all drains:

Either your plumbing main vent is blocked with something, or the main sewer line is clogged. In either case, gurgling happens for the same reasons it would in a single appliance, but on a home-wide scale.


What can you do?

If you catch it early enough, chances are you’ll be able to deal with drain gurgling easily and effectively on your own. Here’s how.


Plastic and metal P-pipe under sink

If the problem is with one drain:


Clear clog

First, use a sink cup plunger to attempt to clear away a clog in the sink. Run the sink and see if the sound is gone. If it isn’t, consider using an auger or Bio Ben (not a chemical cleaner). Remember, you can always call our drain clearing service.


Clear or Install Venting

Every drain’s trap should have a vent to prevent vacuums. If they don’t, your p-trap could overflow and fill your house with a gross sewer smell. Clean out your sink’s p-trap and look for venting.

If the drain doesn’t have a vent, consider having some installed right away. When you find the vent, clean it out and make sure it’s effective. If the drain has a water admittance valve, make sure it isn’t stuck.


Multiple drains:


Clear and Clean Vent

Your home’s plumbing system has a main vent to let air into your pipes. This vent is a single long, vertical pipe with an opening on your roof. If this opening gets blocked by something like a bird’s nest, the vent won’t be able to let air into the plumbing.

Without air from the vent, you’ll get the telltale gurgle. Make sure your plumbing system’s vent is clear and clean. Consider calling a professional to help you with this particular project; climbing around on the rooftop can be dangerous.


sewer pipes

Clear Sewer Pipe

If you’re sure your plumbing vent is clear and operating correctly, then the problem is probably a clog or block in your sewer pipe. Your home’s sewer pipe runs below your home and yard at a downward slope. It’s responsible for carrying all wastewater out of your home and into either a septic tank or the municipal sewer system.

If the sewer pipe clogs, it can create all kinds of problems, including the aforementioned gurgle. A professional can use a plumber’s snake or hydro jetting to thoroughly clean out your sewer line. That should solve both the gurgle problem, and any associated clogging issues.


Gurgling drains don’t seem like a big deal, so it can be tempting to ignore them. If you leave them alone for too long, however, a small problem can turn into a big one. Instead, be proactive by following these steps and giving Ben Franklin a call today. We can figure out where your gurgle is coming from, why it happened, and how to fix it.

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3 Responses to “What’s That Gurgling Noise in my Sink?”

  1. James J. Payne

    Nice! Keep on posting this helpful stuff.

  2. Laura Vitto

    Your summaries are always top-notch. Thanks for
    keeping us apprised. I’m reading every word here.

  3. Leviticus Bennett

    Now I know that gurgling can happen when drains are partially clogged. My mom washes her dishes by hand and her sink always gurgles once she drains the sink. The sound has been getting louder each week. I think it’s time that she checked with a plumber to get her pipes inspected.


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