Cook, wash, eat, sleep, repeat. The kitchen really is the heart of the home; and our plumbing dutifully keeps water pumping through our pipes and appliances, keeping us fed, washed and clothed every day.
However, daily use quickly turns into wear and tear and we inevitably get a few hiccups from time to time. So, this is your guide to the top 5 kitchen plumbing problems, what causes them and most importantly how to fix things yourself.
1. Dishwasher drain issues
We’ve all been there. You open the dishwasher door expecting to see sparklingly clean dishes, but instead you’re confronted with a puddle of stinky grey water and clogged-up bits of food. It’s pretty gross, but don’t worry. Hold your nose and troubleshoot the cause in our list below and you’ll be able to clean up asap.
Is my dishwasher filter dirty?
The first thing you should do if your dishwasher won’t drain is check your filter. The filter is one of the most important parts of your dishwasher – it traps soggy food particles and stops them from flying around your dishwasher and landing back on your plates.
You need to regularly empty and clean your dishwasher filter
We recommend that you clean your dishwasher filter at least once every two weeks to avoid dirty plates, plus it helps make sure your dishwasher drains correctly.
How to clean your dishwasher filter
1. Open the main door fully and find your filter. It’s usually a cylindrical item at the very bottom of your dishwasher towards the front.
2. Remove the filter by twisting it anticlockwise until you can pull it out.
3. Now lift the metal mesh filter plate underneath where the filter was.
4. Check the sump, which is the hole underneath, for large food particles or blockages and get rid of them.
5. To clean the filter and mesh, run them under the hot tap to rinse away any bits of food or grease. You might need to use hot soapy water and an old toothbrush for any stubborn grime.
6. Now replace the filter and mesh then you’re good for another 2 weeks.
For more information on how to clean dishwasher give our article a read.
Is my drain hose blocked?
If you’ve cleaned your filters and your dishwasher drain still isn’t doing its job, it’s time to check your drain hose.
The drain hose carries the dirty water away from the dishwasher after a cycle. It usually drains away in the same pipe as your kitchen sink so you may have caused a clog by letting all kinds of food particles go down there (see How to unclog a grease-clogged drain for a step by step guide on this).
If the clog is further up inside your dishwasher drain hose, you’ll need to remove it from the system and flush it out.
Is the drain pump damaged?
Just the same as your washing machine, your dishwasher’s filter is its first line of defence against any debris getting into the drain hose and the drain pump.
So if you’ve checked your filter and your drain hose, your next port of call is the drain pump. You may have a build-up of junk, grease and even a small chip of broken glass here, stopping the pump’s rotary impeller from turning and this could be the cause of your standing water.
How to check your dishwasher drain pump:
1. Unplug your dishwasher from the mains electricity
2. Isolate your dishwasher from the water supply if you have an isolation valve, or just turn off your stop tap.
3. Disconnect your dishwasher inlet hose.
4. Remove the base plate at the bottom of the dishwasher.
5. Check the pump impeller for loose debris.
6. If there’s debris, clear it out and then give the dishwasher a test run.
7. If there’s no debris in the pump, call a professional at this stage. They’ll be able to use a multimeter to test whether the pump is functioning correctly. This is beyond the scope of a beginner DIYer because it involves isolating components and knowing the correct ranges of ohms, so if in doubt, call an expert.
Has my dishwasher got a faulty part?
Like any appliance, mechanical dishwasher parts experience wear and tear, and eventually reach the end of their working life. If you’ve tried the above fixes and are still having issues, call a professional plumbing technician to fix it for you. Kitchen appliance insurance can help cover you in the event of any unexpected faults or necessary repairs.
Be aware that if your appliance is still under warranty, you may need to check your warranty terms and choose a specific repair company for repairs so you don’t risk voiding the warranty.
2. Fridge-freezer leaking water
When you walk into the kitchen to find a puddle under your fridge, you’ll first need to investigate to make sure someone hasn’t knocked the settings and your fridge-freezer isn’t defrosting. Once that possibility is eliminated, there are a few common reasons why your fridge-feezer may be leaking water:
Is my fridge drain hole blocked?
This is a simple one. Fridges get piled with stuff and, over time, food can block up the drain hole. The drain hole is at the back of your fridge at the bottom of a V shape – it acts as guttering for the condensation running down the back wall of your fridge.
How to unblock your drain hole:
1. Get a pipe cleaner or another bendable tool. Don’t use a sharp knife – you don’t want to poke a hole in the fridge’s insulation or hurt yourself in the process.
2. Carefully insert the pipe cleaner into your blocked drain hole.
3. Now pour a small amount of a disinfectant or sterilising liquid like Dettol down the hole and you should be good to go.
Is my fridge door seal clogged or damaged?
Another common cause of a leak is a faulty door seal (sometimes called a gasket). If your door seal gets food or dirt stuck in it, it can build up and stop your door from closing completely. This will cause your fridge-freezer to work harder to keep everything cool and extra condensation will build up, which can cause leaks.
How to clean, fix or replace your door seal:
1. Check your door seal. It must make a tight seal between the door and the fridge body all the way around for the fridge to do its job properly.
2. Check that your fridge-freezer is level with a spirit level. If your fridge is tilting forward, it might create an imbalance that means the doors don’t seal properly. You can adjust the rubber feet underneath the fridge to make sure it’s level.
3. If your door seal is in any way damaged, you’ll need to order a new one to replace it.
Is my fridge-freezer drain hose damaged?
Your fridge-freezer drainage hose removes the collected condensation from the drain hole and takes it into a water tray at the back of the appliance. If the drain hose is damaged, that water will leak onto the floor instead.
How to check your fridge-freezer drain hose for damage:
1. IMPORTANT: Disconnect your fridge-freezer from the mains electricity before you do anything else.
2. Pull the appliance away from the wall so you can see the back of it.
3. You’ll find the drain hose at the back, behind the metal coils.
4. Be careful not to damage the condenser pipework while you move it gently to one side – it’s an expensive bit of kit!
5. Check the hose for visible signs of damage or cracks – if you see some, you’ll need to order a new one and replace it as soon as possible.
Top tip: While you’re there, clean the water tray. You can also use a soft brush and vacuum to clean the condenser coils – this will help make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Is my water dispenser or ice maker supply blocked?
If you’ve got a water dispenser or ice maker in your fridge-freezer, the water supply line needs to stay clean. If it gets clogged, you’ll likely spring a leak somewhere. It’s best to call an appliance repair technician if it’s still in warranty, or an experienced plumber will also be able to replace or unclog the line.
Appliance peace of mind
Kitchen appliances are so heavily relied upon, they can present problems when you least expect it. Appliance insurance not only covers you for the cost of repairs, but also ensures an expert will be on their way to help you get your appliance back up and running in no time.
A dripping tap seems like a minor complaint, really, but you’d be surprised how energy inefficient just one dripping tap can make your home. One drop per second equates to several gallons of water wasted per day – and over one thousand gallons wasted in a year. When the fix is so simple (especially for a plumber), there’s no excuse not to sort it.
How to find out what’s causing your dripping tap
This is a quick guide to how to investigate your dripping tap. Go to our dedicated guide to How to fix your dripping tap if you’d like more detailed advice and tips.
Is the tap leaking from the base of the spout?
If so, the leak is probably caused by a worn O-ring seal. The O-ring is a loop of rubber (usually black) with a round cross-section. It’s designed to be placed in a groove and squashed between two or more parts to create a seal. In this case the O-ring creates a watertight seal between your spout and the sink.
How to replace a worn O-ring seal, washer or cartridge
1. Shut off your water at the stop tap (usually under the sink)
2. Remove the coupling nut and gently coax the spout from its socket
3. Now you can inspect the O-ring. If it’s worn in any way – frayed, cracked, discoloured or misshapen, replace it with a new one – but be sure to get the correct size or it won’t give you a watertight seal
4. Now check the other components of the tap. For example, a compression tap might need a new stem washer to stop the dripping, while a cartridge tap may need a new valve cartridge to fully solve the problem.
5. Now reassemble the tap by reversing step 2
6. Turn on your water supply and check that the tap has stopped leaking between the spout and the sink
7. If replacing the O-ring and washer or cartridge doesn’t resolve the issue, it may be time to replace the entire unit with the help of a qualified professional.
4. Leak under the kitchen sink
Underneath your kitchen sink, you have a P-shaped pipe (called a P-trap or U-bend) – it’s shaped that way to keep sewer gases and smells from entering your home through your sink drain. The way it works is that gravity pulls water into the curved section of the pipe to block out the gases.
What can also collect in the P-trap are food particles, grease and soap scum, eventually blocking the flow of water, which can cause a leak somewhere else in the system. Sometimes an under-sink leak is so obvious you can’t miss it. Other times it’s difficult to work out where the water’s coming from.
How to check the P-trap for blockages
1. First, shut off your water supply at the stop tap (under the kitchen sink)
2. Make some room in the cupboard under the sink to investigate – you may need to get right in there!)
3. Put down a towel and bowl or bucket on top of it to catch water and/or gunk
4. The P-trap has slip nuts at each end of it. Use some adjustable pliers to loosen the slip nuts and gently lower and remove the trap.
5. Empty the P-trap into your bowl. You may find some seriously nasty gunk in there.
6. Wash the P-trap thoroughly in some hot soapy water – you may need to reserve a bowl ready for this in advance as your water is shut off! You may also need an old toothbrush to clean off any scum.
7. If you found quite a lot of gunk in there, you can bet this was causing your issue. Reassemble the P-trap, being careful not to overtighten the slip nuts, reconnect the water supply and check for your leak now.
8. If there’s still a leak, you probably need to call a professional plumber. There could be multiple causes that aren’t within the remit of the average DIY-er, and you want to get this solved sooner rather than later to save water and cash. .
Go to our article on How to unblock your kitchen sink if this is the issue you need the most help with.
5. Kitchen sink clogged with grease
The funny thing about accidentally getting your kitchen sink drain clogged with grease or gunk is that it’s always those ‘other people’ in your household who are the culprits. It’s never you (is it?)!
It’s very easy to cause a build-up of grease over time in the kitchen sink because everyone’s so busy making meals and washing dirty dishes and pouring coffee and scraping toast, etc.. Even if you’ve promised yourself that you’ll always pour leftover frying pan oil or grease into the rubbish bin, someone else in your household might thoughtlessly be doing it and cancelling out your good habits.
Don’t pour down harsh chemicals yet!
These harsh specialist sink unblocking chemicals can actually do more harm than good, especially if you have plastic pipes underneath the sink. If you do suspect your sink has a clogged drain, there are a number of methods you can try detailed in our How to unblock a kitchen sink article, that can solve your problem quickly and easily, without resorting to harsh chemicals that harm our environment and could seriously damage your pipes.
The top 5 of many!
So those were the top 5 most common kitchen plumbing problems, although unfortunately there are many more that can arise. If you’re a homeowner or landlord who’d like to arm yourself with more protection against such unexpected problems, our plumbing and drainage cover could help solve more than a few – and send out the professionals who know just how to fix them. Or, check out Appliance Insurance for even more peace of mind.
What are the most common plumbing problems?
1. Dishwasher drain issues
2. Fridge freezer leaking water
3. Dripping tap
4. Leak under the kitchen sink
5. Kitchen sink clogged with grease
How do you stop kitchen drainage problems?
Prevention is better than a cure, so:
1. Make sure you never pour oil or grease down your kitchen drain
2. Don’t let food particles or coffee grounds down the drain
3. Buy a special drain cover to make sure it catches anything anyone else in your household allows to circle down the drain
How do you unblock a kitchen drain?
You probably have a blockage in your P-trap (section of piping underneath the sink). Here’s how to check it for gunk and blockages:
1. Unscrew the P-trap’s slip nuts
2. Empty the P-trap into a bowl
3. Thoroughly unblock and clean inside the P-trap with hot, soapy water
4. Reassemble and check again