Backsplash can be a frustrating problem in any kitchen. Not only is it unsightly, but it can also lead to damage and mold growth on your walls over time. Thankfully, there are several effective ways to prevent and stop backsplash from occurring. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the causes of backsplash and provide actionable solutions to keep your kitchen walls clean and dry.
What Causes Backsplash?
Before we dive into solutions, it’s important to understand what causes backsplash in the first place. Here are some of the most common culprits:
Using the Wrong Faucet
Older or improperly installed faucets often allow water to spray beyond the sink basin. Low faucet heights and side sprayers can significantly contribute to backsplash. Upgrading to a new faucet with a high arching design can help keep water where it belongs.
No Backsplash Protection
Backsplash tile, stainless steel, or another water-resistant material should be installed on the wall above a sink. Without this protective barrier, water can easily soak into the drywall or plaster. Tiling small sections prone to backsplash can help enormously.
Improper Sink Installation
If the sink basin sits too far from the wall, there will be a wide gap for water to escape through. Sinks should be installed as close to the backsplash as possible while still allowing faucet clearance. Sealing any gaps with caulk also helps.
Using the Sink Improperly
How you use your sink can also lead to backsplash. Rinsing large items under a shallow stream of water practically guarantees splash out. Filling basins and pans before washing minimizes this. Be careful not to overload or scrub too aggressively.
When drains can’t keep up with the flow of water, it backs up and spills over the sink. Making sure to regularly clear drains of hair, grease, and other gunk prevents clogging and overflow.
Install a Backsplash
Installing a proper backsplash is the single most effective way to prevent backsplash. Water-resistant backsplash materials like tile, metal, glass, and stone all block moisture from penetrating your walls. Just make sure your backsplash is large enough to protect the areas surrounding your faucet and drain.
When choosing materials, keep these tips in mind:
- Ceramic tile – An affordable classic option that comes in endless colors and designs. Use high gloss tile rather than matte, which is more prone to water staining.
- Stainless steel – A sleek, modern look that is easy to clean and durable. Can show water marks over time.
- Glass tile – Gorgeous shimmering tiles that are impervious to water. More expensive than ceramic.
- Stone – Natural stone like granite provides a sophisticated look if installed properly. Sealing is required.
- Metal – Copper, tin, and nickel offer unique rustic or industrial aesthetics. Just clean metal regularly to maintain its look.
- Composite – Affordable, lightweight panels made from resin, quartz or acrylic. Many textures and colors to choose from.
Make sure to seal natural stone materials and use waterproof grout between tiles. Extend the backsplash at least 4-6 inches beyond the edges of your sink and faucet. For a full wall backsplash, go all the way to the underside of your upper cabinets.
Use a Taller Faucet
Installing a taller faucet that arcs over your sink is an easy fix for backsplash. Look for faucets with at least an 8 inch clearance from the base of the spout to the bottom of the sink. Gooseneck and commercial style faucets direct water straight down into the basin.
For dramatic splashing reduction, choose a faucet with a side sprayer rather than a combined aerator/sprayer head. Keep the main faucet stream centered in the sink and use the sprayer cautiously.
Don’t forget to measure the distance from your sink bottom to counter edge before purchasing. Opt for a faucet that just clears the front of your sink to maximize backsplash protection.
Adjust the Water Flow
Sometimes backsplash is caused not by the faucet style but by the water flow itself. Most faucets allow you to adjust water pressure and temper via aerator caps and handles. Here are some tips:
- Remove the aerator cap and make sure all flow restrictors are clear of debris. Soak in vinegar to remove mineral buildup.
- Redirect the angle of the aerator to point straight down or towards the back of the sink.
- Reduce water flow pressure if very high. This prevents violent splashing.
- Avoid fully hot water, which tends to aerate more. Opt for a warm mixed temperature.
- Consider installing a pressure balancing valve to regulate erratic pressure surges.
Adjusting your water flow takes trial and error. Just be sure to use moderate pressure levels and standardized temperatures. This minimizes turbulence.
If your sink basin sits even slightly away from the backsplash, water can drip down and behind it. Applying a thin bead of clear silicone caulk along the seam where the sink meets the wall blocks this gap.
With the sink empty and dry, squeeze out a steady line of caulk along the bottom edge and up the sides. Use a dampened finger to smooth out the caulk for a clean look. Avoid excessive smoothing or you may wipe away too much.
Allow the caulk to fully cure for at least 24 hours before using your sink. Caulk can also be applied along the top border of a backsplash as an added precaution. Reapply every few years or whenever wear is noticed. Proper caulking keeps water where it should be.
Install a Side Splash Guard
For sinks that are prone to backsplash despite your best efforts, a side splash guard can block the majority of wayward water. These clear acrylic or stainless steel panels mount to the wall alongside your sink and prevent side sprays.
Measure the exposed side walls of your sink to find a guard in the right dimensions. Guards usually attach with strong adhesives, but some mechanical fastener options are available too.
The panels should sit flush with the front of your sink basin. If needed, trim panels to size before adhering them for a custom fit. Make sure to thoroughly clean the mounting area first. Silicone caulk behind guards adds extra insurance against water sneaking through.
Control Sink Usage
How you operate your sink plays a big role in backsplash. With the right techniques, you can prevent excessive splashing even if you have an older sink and faucet. Here are some tips:
- Avoid stacking dishes too high or scrubbing vigorously with stiff brushes. This directs water outside the sink.
- Fill pots and pans with water before washing to mute the stream. Consider a deep basin sink.
- Rinse produce in a colander or bowl in the sink rather than directly under running water.
- Hand wash gently using moderate water pressure. Let soapy water do the work.
- Soak burnt pans to loosen debris rather than blasting with high pressure.
- Set the drain stopper and fill the sink to wash and rinse. Drain fully between uses.
- Angle dishes toward the back of the sink as you wash. Keep water directed into the basin.
- Dry dishes, hands, and surrounding surfaces after washing to prevent drips and leaks.
Being mindful of splashing as you work helps enormously. Combine this with some of the other solutions for maximum backsplash protection.
Upgrade Your Garbage Disposal
It may not seem directly related, but a lower quality garbage disposal can lead to backsplash issues in two ways:
Clogs – Overloaded disposals can jam and water can back up quickly, spilling into the sink basin as a result.
Leaking – Leaks between the disposal unit and sink drain lead to standing water and uncontrolled splashing.
Installing a newer, more powerful disposal minimizes these risks. Look for at least 1 HP motors with stainless steel grinding components. Continuous feed disposals maintain water flow while grinding to prevent jams.
Be sure your new disposal will properly fit your existing mounting assembly and drain connections. An experienced plumber can ensure full compatibility and a leak-proof installation. Maintain the disposal by avoiding fibrous foods and running plenty of water during use.
Keep Drains Clear
Clogged drains are another common source of backsplash. When drains can’t keep up with the water flow, it overflows the lowest point – your sink. Here are some tips for keeping drains clear and free-flowing:
Remove drain screens – Lift out the drain basket or crossbar and clean frequently. Catch debris before it plugs the pipe.
Snaking – Use a zip-it style cleaning tool or plastic drain snake monthly to remove accumulated gunk.
Baking soda and vinegar – This combination can break up organics and dissolve buildup. Flush with boiling water after letting it sit.
Chemical cleaner – Monthly use an enzyme or lye-based cleaner made for drains. Caustic cleaners work quickly but ventilate fumes.
Prevention – Reduce future buildup by avoiding grease and using drain strainers. Limit use of garbage disposal.
For stubborn clogs, a professional plumber can snake your drains with an industrial strength powered auger to restore full flow. But keeping on top of light drain maintenance prevents severe clogging.
Frequently Asked Questions About Stopping Backsplash
Backsplash in the kitchen can be frustrating, but is usually solvable with some simple upgrades. Here are answers to some common questions about backsplash prevention:
What is the fastest way to stop backsplash?
Installing a backsplash is the single best way to immediately stop backsplash. Pre-made tile, metal, or acrylic backsplash panels can be installed in just a few hours. Caulking around sinks also works quickly to seal gaps.
Does putting a cutting board in the sink help?
Resting a cutting board or dish rack inside your sink can mildly reduce backsplash by damping some water movement. However, it’s not enough protection on its own and can actually worsen water pooling. Proper backsplash solutions are still needed.
What countertop material is most backsplash resistant?
Solid surface materials like quartz are highly water-resistant and non-porous, making backsplash less likely. However, no standard countertop material will fully prevent backsplash without a proper backsplash wall installation.
Can I just use a tall faucet without a backsplash?
A tall faucet by itself is not enough. The water still needs somewhere to go. Without a backsplash to block moisture, backsplash will still occur even from a high arc faucet. Install both for maximum protection.
How do I stop backsplash from a kitchen island sink?
For island sinks, install the tallest faucets that clear your sink and have side sprayers. Also use sink inserts or cutting boards to help obstruct splash on all open sides. Water-resistant lacquer on the base cabinets also helps.
Where should backsplash tile start and stop?
Backsplashes should extend from the top edge of the counter down to at least 4-6 inches below the bottom lip of the faucet. For a full wall, go all the way down to the counter top’s edge. Finish at the underside of upper cabinets.
While backsplash may be unavoidable with an older sink setup, there are many ways you can stop and prevent it with some simple upgrades. Installing a full height backsplash offers the best protection for your kitchen walls. Combine this with a faucet upgrade, proper caulking, and mindful sink usage for a backsplash-free space.
With a range of material options for backsplashes and faucets, you can find solutions that fit within nearly any kitchen decor and budget. No need to tolerate a messy, water-spotted kitchen. A few strategic improvements can let you stop doing so much damage control and start enjoying your ideal kitchen space.