Skip to content

F My L, F It In the E

July 23, 2013

If you are someone who thinks about me all the time — which I assume you are, as why wouldn’t you? — right about now you are probably wondering what thing in my house is newly in need of repair this week. I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

The new non-working thing is the air gap from my dishwasher, which is this thing:

(Photo ganked from the internet-at-large. I would have photographed my own air gap, but my camera isn’t working either.)

Question and Answer Time

Q: Is it supposed to be spewing water like that?

A: No.

Q: What are you going to do about it?


In fact, I have already done several things.

  1. I said, “Oh, fuck me, the plumber was just here last week. The plumber was here twice last week. Fuck. Fuck. … … … Fuck.”
  2. I also said, “God damn it” a few times.
  3. I Googled “dishwasher overflow thing” to see what it’s really called.
  4. I Googled “dishwasher air gap leaking.”
  5. I watched a YouTube video entitled, “The Diswasher Air gap – how to clean it and why it’s important.”
  6. I wondered if this was the film that all the fifth grade boys were watching while all of the fifth grade girls were watching, “The Story of Menstruation – how to clean it and why it’s important.”
  7. I did the first of three things that Internet Plumber suggested.
  8. And now I have to become Catholic and go to confession.

If you watch the video (and if you’ve landed on this page because you Googled something to the effect of, “why does that martian-looking thing leak water when my dishwasher drains,” then see my update below where I conclude that the video may be performance art*), which I am guessing you won’t because in terms of cinematic entertainment value it’s not exactly Ghostbusters, but if you do, you will see that the first of three things Internet Plumber suggested was to remove the cap from the air gap, place a paper towel roll over the gap, put your mouth over the other end of the tube, and blow.

Oh, so it’s like that, is it, Internet Plumber?

The theory is that it will dislodge any stray corn kernels or coffee beans that have lodged in the smaller tube in the air gap, but since I scrape and rinse all my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher (as should you because you know who says it’s not necessary? People who sell dishwashers, that’s who), I was pretty sure this wasn’t the problem. And it wasn’t, but boy was that ever fun. I can’t remember the last time I got to climb up on my counter, put a paper towel roll that I fished out of the recycle bin on one end of an open drain pipe and then put my mouth on the other end. And because I was worried that I couldn’t get enough air pressure built up in the long tube, I also repeated the procedure using a toilet paper roll, which was even more fun because your face is closer to the drain pipe and also you have your mouth on a toilet paper roll. Oh, what’s that Kate? You just gave birth to the future King of England and now your husband and nation adore you even more than before? Well, I have a corn-free air gap!

So that didn’t work, which means I have to go on to This is a Disgusting Task Part II: The Sliming. I need to go buy a bottle brush and cram it down the air gap, and when that inevitably does nothing but defile my new bottle brush, I will have to actually go under the sink to remove the drain pipe that goes from the dishwasher to the P-trap and clean that out by, I don’t know, putting my mouth on it or something. Incidentally, thanks to last week’s fuckwittery, I now know what a P-trap is; can the Duchess of Cambridge say that? Oh, she can’t? Well, then let me just laugh in a superior way until I break down into sobs of bitter envy. (I don’t actually want to be a princess; I just want to stop looking inside of drain pipes.)

So. Tomorrow is another day. I cannot tell you how excited I am by that fact. I really cannot tell you.

*SUPER EXCITING UPDATE: Well, it’s fixed, and without calling in Real Plumber and His Pleasant But Dense Trainee. But if you’re here because you are looking for instructions on how to clear your air gap, first, may God have mercy on your poor desperate soul. Second, welcome! Third, ignore the video I linked to above. I mean, you can do the paper towel thing, and it might work if you have good lung capacity and your problem is a small bit of food jamming up the works, but if that doesn’t do the trick, don’t shove a brush down the gap. Unless you have a very narrow, 3 foot long brush, it probably won’t work and you might damage the drain hose. It’s much easier and more effective to simply disconnect the drain hose at the bottom end and clear it out with a plumbing snake. If you don’t have a snake, a long stick wrapped in a rag would probably work too. It’s still gross, but it’s effective and relatively safe. After reconnecting the hose and before running your dishwasher again, pour water down the air gap to make sure that the hose doesn’t leak where you reconnected it. You can do it! I believe in you! (But just in case, do it on a weekday morning so that if things go south, you won’t have to pay a plumber overtime. My belief in you has its limits.)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2013 6:53 PM

    The only thing good about plumbing is the joy you feel when water goes when it should, and stops when it should. Other than that, plumbing is a fierce pain in the ass.

    True, but I really only feel joy for a couple of hours after it’s started working properly. The rest of the time I take it for granted, which I presume is why all my plumbing has become sentient and is now torturing me.

  2. July 24, 2013 7:16 AM

    Hmm. I don’t seem to have one of those air gaps. I’m with you on pre-rinsing dishes before they go into the dishwasher, primarily because I run the thing about once a week (to exercise the gaskets). I have relied on Internet Plumber before, which is probably why all the joints under my kitchen sink are wrapped in plastic tape. Since you actually like your real life plumber, maybe you should give him a call before you put your mouth where it does not belong.

    I’m going to try breaking the thing completely before I call the plumber. As long as he’s here, he might as well earn his money.

    Your air gap might be located under the sink, although that’s not a good place for it from what I’ve heard from Internet Plumber’s friends, Internet Trainees. Most but not all building codes require them now because they prevent dirty water from backing up into the dishwasher. If you only use your dishwasher occasionally, it’s probably not worth having one put in.

  3. Lynne permalink
    July 24, 2013 10:55 AM

    I don’t have one of those things. It seems the only plumbing problems I have are the ones where they have to rip out a wall to fix the pipe.

    Plumber suggested I do that for the main pipe leading away from the kitchen sink because it’s original to the house and therefore ancient. The annoying thing is that that I remodeled the kitchen 11 years ago, and the contractor didn’t say anything about it, even though we replaced the walls as well, so it would have been an ideal time to repipe it. Pretty sure it was because it hadn’t occurred to him when he drew up the estimate, so he kept quiet figuring by the time it caused a problem he’d be long gone.

  4. Marius permalink
    July 24, 2013 10:58 AM

    Goddamit! I keep trying to be supportive in your time of trial here, but all I can think of are tasteless jokes about fellating appliances.

    I’m a bad man.

    That’s okay. After I climbed off the counter, leaving the kitchen did feel like a Walk of Shame. I was wearing the same clothes and everything.

  5. July 24, 2013 5:20 PM

    Oh, that’s awful! There is nothing worse than seeing the back of a repairman’s uniform, only to have the sinking knowledge that he will be coming back soon when you turn on your next appliance.

    I actually don’t own a dishwasher and your ordeal sounds so horrific I think I may buy rubber gloves and pan scouring pads in bulk.

    I loved your comment about scraping–”people who sell dishwashers”–I am fanatical about things not falling down the drain for that reason but somehow my sinks seem to get clogged very easily, given how anal I am. My house is very old and after time stuff just builds up, effectively narrowing the pipes.

    Grease and soap I understand, but it’s the black sludge that gives me the jitters. I assume it’s just decomposed gunk, but it’s gross. When Real Plumber was here a couple of years ago, he told me about an enzyme that you can put in your drains that eats that stuff, and he said it’s not the same as the useless enzyme cleaners you can buy at Home Depot. I meant to ask him where I could buy it when he was here but I forgot. Although he’ll probably be here again in a few days so I can ask him then. Oh, my headache just came back.

  6. July 24, 2013 5:44 PM

    You are right. the air gap is under the sink. I will pretend to be ignorant about it, though. Denial is a wonderful thing.

    I don’t know how it works when it’s under the sink, but I’d put a bucket underneath it just in case.

  7. Bex permalink
    July 25, 2013 11:06 AM

    Pardon my naivete..but what’s E? I usually just say F it in the A!

    Ear. I don’t know why.

  8. Lynne permalink
    July 26, 2013 3:02 PM

    I just had a thought about your doodad thingy for your dishwasher (that’s plumber speak for air-gap)

    If you just ate ice cream all the time then you shouldn’t have to worry about food particles jamming things up. Something to consider.

    True, but then I’d have to worry about ice cream particles jamming up my arteries. Although according to my doctor, that’s already happened, but never mind that part.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s