A clogged air gap sink with utensils.

How to Unclog an Air Gap

An air gap is a crucial part of a plumbing system that prevents contaminated water from backing up into the dishwasher. Over time, debris can build up and clog the air gap, causing drainage issues. Unclogging a clogged air gap is an easy DIY job that can be done in a few simple steps.

What is an Air Gap?

An air gap is a small device installed on the top or side of a kitchen sink that connects the dishwasher drainage hose to the sink drain pipe. It provides a physical “air gap” break between the dishwasher and the drain to prevent waste water from backing up from the sewer system.

The air gap allows waste water to flow out of the dishwasher hose and fall into the sink drain, making it impossible for contaminated water to flow backwards. It’s an important plumbing code requirement in most areas.

Signs of a Clogged Air Gap

Some signs your air gap may be clogged include:

  • Water pooling in the bottom of the dishwasher
  • Dishes not getting fully cleaned
  • Drainage problems during the wash cycle
  • Strange gurgling noises from the dishwasher area

If you notice any of these issues, your air gap likely needs to be cleaned.

How to Unclog an Air Gap

Unclogging a blocked air gap is a quick and easy process. Here are the steps:

1. Locate the Air Gap

  • Look on top of the sink or on the side of the countertop near the dishwasher for a small plastic or metal cylinder.
  • This is the air gap.

2. Disconnect the Dishwasher Hose

  • Trace the dishwasher hose from the air gap into the cabinet.
  • Disconnect it from the air gap so it can drain.

3. Clean Out Debris

  • Use a paper clip or small brush to loosen and clean out any food particles, grease, or debris clogging the air gap.
  • Flush with warm water to clear out the remaining gunk.

4. Reconnect the Hose

  • Once fully cleaned, securely reconnect the dishwasher hose to the air gap.

5. Test Dishwasher Drainage

  • Run the dishwasher on a short cycle to confirm water drains properly through the newly cleaned air gap.

And that’s it! A clean, debris-free air gap will allow your dishwasher to drain properly once again.

When to Call a Plumber

If water still pools in your dishwasher after thoroughly cleaning the air gap, there may be a larger drainage issue or a problem with the dishwasher itself. Some signs it’s time to call in a professional include:

  • Standing water won’t drain even after multiple attempts at unclogging the air gap.
  • You notice cracks or damage to the plastic air gap housing.
  • The issue seems to be internal to the dishwasher system.

Many plumbers can diagnose and fix tricky dishwasher drainage problems. They have the tools and expertise to fully clear clogs, check for leaks, and ensure proper water flow.

For more dishwasher troubleshooting tips, check out this helpful resource: Why Won’t My Whirlpool Dishwasher Run a Cycle?.

Hopefully a quick air gap cleaning does the trick. Just follow these simple steps to get your dishwasher drainage back on track. Let us know if you have any other plumbing questions!