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Why Your Faucet Sputters When It’s First Turned On

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A sputtering faucet is a common problem that periodically disrupts the water supply. Although it’s annoying, it should not usually be a cause for concern. However, if it continually disrupts the water flow, then it is time to find out the underlining cause.

Read on to find out the possible reasons why your faucet sputters when first turned on and when it could be time to address the issue.

What Would Cause My Faucet To Sputter?

There are several reasons why your faucet may sputter when first turned on, and many you can solve without the help of a plumber. Here we will take you through the four most common causes of faucet sputtering.

Clogged Aerator

The Number 1 leading cause of a faucet sputtering when first turned on is a clogged aerator.

Over time it is quite natural that the aerator, which is a small fitting that rests in the tip of the faucet, can become clogged. And that’s not surprising – after all, its job is to filter the water that’s entering your home.

While it’s suggested that an aerator should be cleaned out monthly, many of us are guilty of not doing this, which leads to the problem of them quickly becoming clogged, which in turn can lead to the faucet sputtering.

Many aerators are easy to remove (simply turn them anticlockwise) so you must try to clean each one thoroughly to avoid the situation in the future. Thankfully, the job of cleaning them is relatively quick and painless to do:

  1. Once you have removed the aerator -using pliers if necessary – check for any deposits and debris that may be stuck inside and remove them.
  2. Next, disassemble the aerator, carefully noting how the parts will fit back together afterward.
  3. Clean the aerator carefully, taking care not to miss any sediment.
  4. Using a toothpick, clean any blocked holes.
  5. To eliminate any scale, a good tip is to soak the parts in vinegar, ideally overnight.
  6. Thoroughly rinse each part, and reassemble.

By following these instructions, you will likely have successfully solved the issue of a bothersome sputtering faucet.

Damaged Valve Cartridge

If thoroughly cleaning the aerators hasn’t done the trick of solving the irregular water flow that upsets your water supply, your problem might concern a damaged value cartridge.

Replacing valve cartridges often does the trick, but removing your old cartridge can be tricky, as manufacturer designs are quite often different.

It’s a good idea to check the owner’s manual to see exactly how this is done.

And, while it might seem obvious to check any potential new cartridge against your old one, it’s surprising how many people buy the incorrect one.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to bring the old valve cartridge with you to the hardware store to ensure you choose the valve when the correct measurements.

Malfunctioning Water Heater

Suppose you have tried to solve the problem by cleaning the aerator and replacing the valve, and your faucet is still sputtering and interrupting your water supply.

It may indicate a potentially serious problem with your water heater, namely that your hot water heater could be overheating. In that case, it may be time to consider getting the professionals in.

Try not to worry, however, this would rarely pose a risk to you and your family, but a professional plumber should assess the situation as soon as possible. Overheating tanks have (in rare cases) been known to overheat to the point where they can explode when they haven’t been quickly repaired.

Air In Water Lines

Last but not least, another reason your faucet may be sputtering is due to a build-up of pressure in the water line. This can also cause vibrating pipes. Air in water pipes tends to occur in your home’s water lines in freezing weather, such as winter, and by the high water demand created in the summer months.

Both cold water lines and hot water lines can be affected by trapped air. However, hot water pipes are often more affected by air pockets and the air pressure inside the lines because they have more pressure than cold water pipes.

A simple way to test an issue with your water line is to fill a glass of water. If the water clears from the bottom half of the glass first, your water pipes may have air in them. It is advised that you flush out both your cold tap and hot tap, which often solves the issue of sputtering faucets interrupting your water supply.

What Causes A Faucet To Make Noise When You Turn It On?

Another common problem with faucets is they can sometimes make a noise when they are first turned on, sounding like anything from whining to a loud thumping noise.

An unmaintained, dirty aerator can often cause this, so ensure you try to clean it at least once a month. If this isn’t successful, check the size and quality of the washers on both the hot water tap and the cold water tap. If they are ill-fitting or worn, it’s time to change them.

It’s also worth checking the water pressure, which can often cause noisy water pipes. You can quickly test the pressure using a pressure gauge – a PSI of over 50, and you have excess water pressure. By installing a pressure regulator, the noise will cease and take care of your pipes and any variable water pressure.

However, even the best plumbing doesn’t last. So if you have tried the previous steps and your faucet is still making a noise, you may have to have your pipes replaced as a last resort.

How Do You Fix Sputtering Faucets?

Thankfully, it can often be relatively straightforward to fix your faucet by yourself without the need to call in professional help. Try the tips above, such as dismantling the faucet and cleaning the aerator, or if that doesn’t help, change the valve cartridge and test the water lines. Carrying these out should have your problem solved in no time.

However, if the sputtering occurs in more than one faucet, you may have a break or damage to the plumbing system entering your home. It’s vital that you contact your local water utility to have the main supply pipes coming into your home inspected for air pressure concerns.

Similarly, if you suspect your hot water storage tank or external electrical pressure switch may be the problem, speak to a plumber for expert advice on fixing the issue within your plumbing system.


Why does my faucet shudder?

A shuddering faucet, also known as a water hammer, is a pervasive problem throughout American homes, but thankfully it can easily be fixed. It occurs when compressed air gets trapped within the water pipes when a faucet is turned off. It can often be easily rectified by purchasing a water hammer arrestor, widely available in hardware stores.

How do I stop my faucet from sputtering?

If you want to stop your faucet from sputtering, it’s important to know exactly what is causing the problem. By working your way through our list of possible causes above, you should effectively fix the problem. If this does not solve your faucet’s sputtering, speak to a plumber or engineer to diagnose the problem.

What does a pulsating faucet mean?

A pulsating faucet means there is a throbbing or “pulsating” rhythm to the water exiting the faucet instead of a steady flow. This pulsating water flow can be a common problem for many, and it is sometimes down to the water pressure and not the actual faucet. Although sometimes, it’s a good idea to take apart and inspect the faucet to eliminate it as the primary cause.

How to bleed air from water pipes?

One popular way to bleed air bubbles from water pipes is to turn on all the hot and cold water taps in your home, giving each faucet a half-turn and then allowing the water to run for a few minutes. After this, ensure you flush all toilets. This method often allows all the air trapped to escape from your water plumbing pipes.

Final Thoughts

While faucets sputtering when first turned on are not usually a huge cause for concern, it can be sometimes impractical, not to mention annoying.

As we have explained, you can most likely solve the problem if you clean the aerator, or it may be required that you also change the valve cartridge. If neither of these methods works for you, consider speaking to your plumber who will diagnose the problem, which may be to do with the water pipes.

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