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How to Clear a Blockage in a Sink Faucet

Updated on November 2, 2011

Sediment Blockage

It is very common to lose pressure at a sink faucet and this can happen for a number of reasons. It could have something to do with the water pressure in your whole house or it could be something blocking the water flow at one faucet.

If you are concerned with low water pressure at a specific faucet the first thing you should do is walk around the house testing other faucets. If the water pressure is low at other points in your home then you likely have an issue with your whole water system. If however you only have an issue at one faucet then you know that is the point of the issue.

That is exactly the issue I had this week. My kitchen faucet pressure all of the sudden dropped to just a dribble. All of the other faucets in the house had full pressure. I searched online and most article just mention to check the aerator.

Checking your Aerator

The aerator is the little screen at the end of the faucet where that water comes out. This screen is there to catch debris and does it's job well. Sometimes sediment will build up there or some other debris will get in your water and eventually this screen will get full enough to affect the water flow. It is a very easy fix. Just unscrew that end piece of the faucet where the screen is and clean it out. If this is the issue, when you put it back on your pressure should be back to full.

What to do When the Blockage Isn't the Aerator Screen

So if you check the screen and it was clean or you clean it and you still have low pressure then you know the blockage is someplace else. The next thing to do is start testing to find out where the blockage is, there are still a few options left.

First you should unscrew the flexible supply lines going up to the faucet where they connect to the faucet (these are usually braided grey or white in color). Make sure to shut off both the hot and cold lines before you do this. Once you have them off, point the lines into a bucket and slowly turn on the water again. If you have good pressure going into the bucket then you know the blockage is in the faucet. If you don't have good pressure then you know the blockage is in the pipes leading to your kitchen.

If the Blockage is in Your Faucet

The good news you know the blockage is in your faucet. The bad news is you now need to tear apart the faucet. If you still have the direction that came with the faucet they may be helpful there. If not you might be able to find them online. Even without them you can usually figure everything out. The next thing you need to do is check the faucet cartridge. There will be one cartridge for each level of your faucet. So if you have a single lever faucet then there will be one in the main part of the faucet. If you have a double level (one for hot and one for cold) faucet then there will be two, once in each lever. There is usually a decorative cap that needs to be removed and a screw under it. Remove the screw and then the cartridge should pull out. Typically they are stuck in there pretty good, so be careful but be prepared to pull pretty hard to get them out.

Once you have the cartridges out inspect them. If they are cakes up with greenish white sediment, this likely the reason for reduced flow. You can purchase new cartridges at your local home improvement store for less then $10-$15. Just replace them and you should be back in business. The washers can wear down over time and cause dripping even when the faucet is off too. So if you have all ready done the work to tear down the faucet it is usually worth the small expense to replace them either way.

What to do if the Cartridges Look Clean

For me I got to this point and surprisingly the cartridges still looked brand new. Now I knew the blockage was actually in the piping of the faucet itself. The next thing I did was to blow air through the faucet with a compressor. I was barely getting any air out the other side. I was pretty sure the culprit at this point was sediment that had built up and blocked the inner working of the faucet.

At this point vinegar is your friend. I filled a shallow container with vinegar and submersed the entire faucet and left it to soak overnight. It worked like a charm. Even the exposed threads of the pipes leading into the faucet looked brand new in the morning. I blew air with the compressor again and was getting good flow so I knew I had it figured out.

Now you just need to put everything back together and give it a try. I did and have great pressure at the kitchen sink again. My wife is happy, and I was proud I saved the money of a new faucet!


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