A Kohler expert explains why kitchen faucets splash — the causes and solutions.
To explain why kitchen faucets splash — and how to prevent splashing, I turned to Joel Smith, Kohler Faucet’s director of new product engineering, who proved to be the perfect answer man. Some people live with uncontrolled water issues at the kitchen sink while others only experience the phenomenon after replacing an old faucet. Whatever the case it’s annoying and messy! In my post on Making Sense of Kitchen Faucets, I give a logical designer’s solution — lining up the spout with the center of the drain. But that doesn’t explain why some faucets splash. But why choose an expert from a single brand? Kohler’s Vinnata came out as the top Buyer’s Pick in two polls conducted over a five year period. So why not?
According to Smith, one cause of splashing is that “when water hits the sink, it’s displacing what’s there a split second before. It’s a little like someone jumping into a full pool – the existing water needs someplace to go.”
Water hitting something irregular in the sink is another culprit: “The strainer basket can cause splashing,” Smith explains. “Look at the rough-in for the sink and the faucet.” he says, to see where the stream will land when the faucet is installed. That can be the flat floor of the sink or the center of the drain. “The garbage disposal center is fine,” he agrees.
“It also has a lot to do with the velocity of the water,” he says. Water velocity – measured in gallons per minute – should not be underestimated. And here’s a key fact Smith shared: “2.2 gallons per minute is the federal limit for water flow, the maximum allowable from a kitchen faucet. You can retrofit a faucet to 1.5 g.p.m. a rate some manufacturers offer. The main drawback will be filling a pasta pot because the flow rate is slower.”
If you choose a faucet with a sprayer, like the Simplice, opt for a deep sink. Sprayers add air to the water stream and speed it up. And again, “the higher velocity will tend to get more splashing,” Smith explains.
The faucet aerator also can be a factor. These plastic inserts in the spouts “pull air into the water stream – the bubbles are air mixed into the water,” Smith says. And “air makes water travel faster.” So another fix is to reduce the speed by swapping the aerator with a special-order laminar insert — a part that will provide a “laminar stream,” one without air, like your grandma’s old-fashioned kitchen faucet.
Height matters, too. In general, the taller the faucet, the greater chance of splashing particularly when you’re washing vegetables or your hands, Smith confirmed, because this usually takes place in the working space above the sink rim. This suggests a general rule of thumb when selecting a sink and faucet pair: the taller the faucet the deeper the sink. “It’s a reasonable statement,” Smith agrees. “If you have a very shallow sink you don’t want a high arching spout with a 9 to 10-inch height to it.”
But some good news: a sink grid can actually retard splashing.
So which kitchen faucet did a faucet engineer pick for his own kitchen? “I have the Kohler Simplice pull-down faucet,” he says. “I would rather have extra work space and deal with a little bit of splashing then not have the extra work space.”
Joel Smith also gave us some insider’s advice. “A pull down faucet is the most functional, definitely. That’s a candy-cane-shaped spout with a head that pulls down” for easy rinsing. “From a purely functional standpoint you can’t beat that.”
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I have a faucet like this. We had it installed less than a year ago and the pull down part is loosing it’s grip and not staying up in place. I love it but I’m disappointed in this part. I did have a very deep sink installed and the splashing just doesn’t happen.
Thanks for all the info.
Be a sweetie,
Jane F says
Sorry your faucet’s not performing Shelia. They can get tricky. Thanks for stopping by! Jane
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Great info! How to keep a faucet from splashing is one of those topics that shows up on GW a few times a year, but never has there been so comprehensive an answer. Thanks for sharing.
I have this same Kohler Simplice faucet shown in the pictures above and have no problems whatsoever with any splashing. On the contrary, my only issue (just like shelia) is that the pull-down faucet head is no longer staying in place. Otherwise, great faucet. This problem has gotten progressively worse over time and is quite irritating. I don’t know why Kohler doesn’t just redesign the pull-down to use a magnet . . . or something more reliable. Kohler — are you listening?!?
Thanks for this article. I have a faucet like this and a deep sink. I have splashes when hubby uses the spray at full force. Ha! Sheila E
“The faucet aerator also can be a factor. These plastic inserts in the spouts “pull air into the water stream – the bubbles are air mixed into the water,” Smith says. And “air makes water travel faster.”
I am a little confused. I have seen aerators reducing splashing in sinks? I think we have a little bit of miss information going on here.
Ed Byrne says
Velocity = Q/A. In recent years, I have noticed a reduction in the diameter of the aerator. From the formula above, you will note that the smaller area of the aerator, the higher the velocity of the water. If you increase the diameter of the aerator, the velocity goes down along with the splashing.
Jane F says
That’s so interesting Ed. Any specific brands or just in general?
Ed Byrne says
Jane, they are all smaller than they used to be. I had a Delta faucet that constantly made a mess of the counter top. I purchased old style aerator and with some fittings made it much better but it looked ridiculous. Changed to a higher end brand thinking it would be better but just got me back to the mess. I believe they made them smaller in attempt to comply with federal standards on flow rates yet appear to provide a sufficient amount of water. I’m again looking for a solution.
We have a kitchen faucet that is streaming irregularly….what could be the issue with this? is it sediment causing this at the nozzle end?
Jane F says
I would unscrew the aerator on the tip of the faucet and rinse it out. That usually fixes it. If it runs irregularly with the aerator off then it might be a plumbing issue.
Thanks for stopping by! Jane
Loved the article. Who was the genius engineers who decided a smaller diameter was better? Here’s my issue: I installed a new Riobel kitchen faucet. I have the ball valves in the feeder lines turned down, but even so, the water coming out splashes everywhere when I wash my hands or rinse a dish. I could turn the water down even further but then it would take an eternity for the hot water to arrive. My tank is about 22 feet away in terms of actual piping. It’s a no win scenario. The old faucet, a Grohe which wore out, had a much larger diameter and never gave me this grief. I wish engineers would join us smart people in the real world!!!!!!!!