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Why Are My Drains Gurgling?

You’re washing your hands at the kitchen sink and suddenly hear a gurgling sound.

You’re wondering if it’s a Gremlin stuck in your drain. Most likely not – but if it’s not a beloved 80s movie creature, what is it?

What Causes Gurgling?

Gurgling is caused when something is preventing water or air from flowing through your drains. As the water slowly travels through your drains, air bubbles begin to form and create a gurgling sound.

Whether it’s your sink, toilet or shower, all can make that gurgling sound. The real question is – what’s causing the blockages that create the gurgling?

1. Blocked Drain

The primary cause for a gurgling drain is a complete or partial clog. There are differences and it’s important to know how to differentiate between the two.

Partially Blocked

When your drain is partially blocked, a complete clog isn’t far behind. The water will be draining slower than usual and the gurgling would have begun.

Once you start noticing a slower drain, immediately clean your drains with drain cleaner. Out of This World provides an effective drain cleaner called BioOne, an environment-friendly product that achieved the EPA’s “Safer Choice” rating.

Completely Blocked

If you don’t attend to your partially blocked drain, your drain will eventually evolve into a completely blocked drain. 

A completely blocked drain is when water begins to rise in your sink or bathtub instead of fully draining.

Some reasons for a complete drain clog are:

  • Dirt
  • Hair
  • Dead skin
  • Soap residue
  • Toilet paper build-up
  • Oils or grease

If multiple drains are experiencing blockage, then you’re sewer line is blocked. In this case, call a professional into “Scope” or use a camera to inspect the blockage.

2. Blocked Sewer Line

The sewer line is a large single pipe that carries all the wastewater from every drain in your house out to the main sewer line (or septic tank) in your street or yard. If your sewer line is clogged, all the drains in your house will be affected. A sure sign that your sewer line is blocked is if you flush the toilet upstairs, sewage starts to overflow from any basement drains.

The three main obstructions for sewer lines are:

  • Tree roots (most common) 
  • Bathroom products
  • Broken pipes

With tree roots, their main source of nutrients is water. With sewer lines being underground, tree roots can aggressively grow into older lines in search of water. As a result, your sewer lines will get choked with roots and even break, leading to an expensive repair.

Bathroom products are also a huge cause of clogged sewer lines in Ottawa. You may not think of it, but there are plenty of products that are strong enough to cause clogs in your pipes.

According to the City of Ottawa, here are some bathroom products you shouldn’t be flushing down the toilet are:

  • Female hygiene products
  • Baby wipes
  • Diapers
  • Q-Tips
  • Dental floss
  • Paper towel
  • Tissues

3. Blocked Vent System

The plumbing vent allows air to pass through drains, without disrupting the flow of the water. Sewer or drain vents are connected to every single fixture in your house exiting through the roof. It works by putting air behind the water flow, similar to how if you tried to pour water out of a bottle too quickly you get a “glug, glug” sound. If your vent pipe is blocked, your plumbing system won’t function. 

Three ways to discover whether your vent system is blocked is by 

  • Listening for drain gurgling
  • Observing the speed that your water drains
  • Smelling for bad odours coming from your drain. 

The odours are due to air and gases being trapped in the pipe and in turn, creating a foul smell.

4. Damaged or Blocked P-TrapP-Trap_operation

The P-Trap’s function is to protect your house from odours by creating a water seal that prevents sewer gas from coming up and out of your drains. Take a look under any sink in your house and you will see the trap – it is simply a piece of curved pipe that holds a small amount of water – effectively sealing off the drain from sewer gas.  

When your P-Trap is damaged or incorrectly installed, sniff out any odours when flushing the toilet or when water is flowing down your shower or sink drain. If you can smell sewage, it’s time to replace your P-trap.

Here are a few step-by-step videos about replacing and fixing your P-traps:

  1. How to Replace a PVC Sink Trap
  2. How to Repair a Kitchen Sink Drain Trap
  3. How to Replace a Bathtub Drum Trap
  4. How to Replace a Whole-House Plumbing Trap 

If your P-Trap is found underground or in your wall, please contact a professional.

Time to Fix the Gurgling

While attempting to fix your plumbing system, if you run into any problems or questions it is often the best solution to call a professional.

Whether you’re interested in drain camera inspection or a drain clean, Out of This World has you covered. 

We’ve also created a list of DIY solutions that can help clean and maintain your drains.

Book an appointment with Out of This World and learn why our service is above and beyond.

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