Is Your Drain Gurgling? How It Can Be a Sign of A Major Problem & What to Do

Drains gurgling in your kitchen, bathroom, or washroom?

If so, you may have a serious problem with your drain system.

In this post, we reveal how to identify the cause of the problem, how to fix it, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Why a Gurgling Sound May Be a Sign of a Major Drain Problem

Can you hear a gurgling sound coming from your drains? Do strange odors make it unpleasant to be in certain parts of your home? Does water drain from your bathroom sink at a snail’s pace?

Gurgling drains could be a sign of a major plumbing problem

If you find a drain gurgling in your home, it could be a sign of a serious plumbing problem. There are, however, a few easy fixes that will get your drains functioning as they should in next to no time.

In this post, we’ll explain why gurgling drains occur, how to prevent or stop it, and where to look for help if the steps listed don’t work. Read on for more information about fixing your gurgling drain issues.

Gurgling Drain: Key Takeaways

  • Several Potential Causes – Can be caused by blockages in the pipes, air pressure build-up, problems with the vent system, septic system issues, or sagging pipes.
  • Can Be a Sign of a Severe Problem – Gurgling pipes can be a sign of a serious issue such as a blockage or damage to the main sewer line.
  • Determine the Cause – Different issues require different solutions, so you will need to determine the cause.
  • Call a Plumber – If you can’t fix the problem yourself, we strongly recommend hiring someone to examine your system.

What Causes Drain Gurgling?

Gurgling drains can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Blocked P-Trap or Drain Pipes: Accumulated drain gunk such as soap residue, dead skin or hair, and grease can cause a partially or completely clogged drain line.
  • Clogged Vent Pipe: The vent system is designed to allow air to flow in and out of the pipes, which helps to maintain proper water flow. If you develop a clog in your air ventilation pipes, then air pressure will increase, resulting in your drains gurgling.
  • Septic System or Main Sewer Line Issues: If there is a blockage in the sewer line or septic tank, or your septic tank is overflowing.
  • Sagging or Broken Pipes: A broken drain pipe, or incorrectly installed pipes, can also be the culprit.

To have any hope of eliminating these noises, it is crucial to determine the root cause so you can implement the correct solution. As the gurgling noise can signify a major plumbing issue, it is also essential to address it promptly.

How to Diagnose & Eliminate Gurgling 

To diagnose the cause, you will first need to identify the source of the gurgling sound. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Are the gurgles restricted to one sink drain or are they occurring in multiple drains?
  • Are any sinks backing up (sign of a complete blockage) or the water drains slowly (partially blocked drain)?
  • Can you smell sewage or sewer gas coming from your sink, toilet, or shower drain?
  • Are there air bubbles, suggesting trapped air in the drain lines?

Fully or Partially Clogged Drain or Damaged P-Trap

unhooking pipe from plumbing trap
A clog in your p-trap is an easy thing to fix yourself

If the gurgling is restricted to one place, such as your bathroom or kitchen sink, then the most likely cause is a full or partial clog. The good news is that this usually only requires some simple drain cleaning.

If water flows down the drain but does so slowly, then it’s a partial clog. This can be easily dealt with by either using baking soda and vinegar, hot water and dish soap, or a store-bought drain cleaner.

If you’ve got a completely blocked drain on your hands, then in addition to the above you may also need to use a plunger or a plumbing snake to clear the clog.

If it doesn’t appear to be a partial or complete clog, then you need to check your P-trap for damage. A P-trap is the curved pipe found under kitchen or bathroom sinks, and uses a water seal to prevent sewer gasses from the main line entering your home. An empty or partially filled P-trap might be the cause.

If you don’t see any visible damage, try to pour water into your sink and check for leaks. 

Clogged Drain Vents

plumbing vent stack surrounded by snow
Check around your vent pipes for debris build-up

If you appear to be having an issue with all the drains in your house, then the issue might be a clogged vent system. If your vent pipe is blocked, then gasses from the sewer lines are unable to escape your plumbing system.

The ventilation pipe will normally be found on the roof of your home and, like your gutters, can become blocked by leaf debris, dirt, and other items.

Issue In The Main Sewer Line or Septic System

tree roots in main sewer line
Blockages to your sewer main or septic tank are serious issues that are best dealt with by a professional

If you have gotten to this point and your tearing your hair out trying to find a solution, then the issue could be a blockage in the main sewer line or your septic system. There are numerous ways for this to become blocked, from tree roots to non-biodegradable items like nappies, baby wipes, sanitary towels, etc, being flushed down the toilet.

If you believe it to be a blockage or you’re still unsure as to the exact location of your main line, then it’s best to call in a professional plumber. They will be able to diagnose the problem and provide a solution to fix it.

Tips for Preventing the Gurgling Noise

Here are some tips to prevent gurgling in your pipes:

  • Avoid pouring grease and oil down your drains
  • Clean the drains regularly
  • Be mindful of what is flushed down the toilet (toilet paper only!)
  • Maintain your vent system
  • If you have a septic system, make sure to not let it overflow or clog
  • Find and fix leaks ASAP

By taking these steps to prevent gurgling sounds, you can help ensure that your home stays smelling fresh and your plumbing system functions properly.


In conclusion, gurgling drains are an issue not to be ignored. Beyond making an unpleasant sound, they can also indicate a blockage in the pipes or a problem with the vent system. If left untreated, these issues can cause water backups, unpleasant odors, health hazards, and/or a heinous repair bill somewhere down the line.

By following the advice we’ve given above to diagnose, eliminate, and prevent gurgling sounds, you’ll be better equipped to keep those drains flowing smoothly and your home smelling sweet!

We hope you enjoyed the article, and if you have any questions or suggestions please write in the comments below. And if you’d like to share it with your friends, please do!

About the author

An accomplished plumber with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, David "Fitz" Fitzgerald began as an apprentice and steadily worked his way up to become a fully licensed and certified master plumber.

With extensive training in all aspects of plumbing. David is well-versed in the installation, repair, and maintenance of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and is able to troubleshoot and solve even the most complex plumbing issues.

He loves to share his wealth of knowledge and looks forward to engaging with the community here on No Hassle Plumbing.

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