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Dish soap can stop the sound of your dripping sink. In theory, anyway.


Does the sound of a leaky faucet drive you nuts? Dish soap might save you, scientists claim.

Until this week, no one understood how dripping water makes that infuriating "plink." In a paper published Friday, scientists solved the century-old mystery by describing how a tiny air bubble formed after impact thrums the surface of the water like a drum. Slackening the water surface with dish soap breaks the bubble's drum.

Since a splashing drop was first photographed in 1908, scientists have tried to find out when, exactly, the plink happens. They guessed that it was from either the impact on the water, from the bowl created when a drop hits the surface or from underwater vibrations.

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The University of Cambridge, England team focused a high-speed camera and hypersensitive microphones above and below water on a dripping faucet to prove that the sound happened when the tiny air bubble shakes the water and slams the surface from below.

Blame this tiny air bubble for the infuriating sound of a dripping faucet. Researchers captured it with a high-speed underwater camera for a study published Friday. University of Cambridge England

If you can stop the air bubble, you can stop the sound. Adding dish soap changes the surface tension of the water, so the air bubble can’t drum, according to the team.

Still, in a test, we still heard the plink.

“There are lots of other things effecting the surface tension,” wrote Sam Phillips, one of the study authors, when we emailed him for help. “For example the temperature of the water has a big effect, as well as how clean it is and things like that. The only tip I can give is to have another go with some fresh water, and try and use small drips if possible as that will hopefully improve the chances of the technique working.”

If you want a less experimental fix, tie a string or towel to your faucet so the drops move down the fabric instead of splashing in the sink. Or put a sponge or washcloth under the drip.

This story was originally published June 22, 2018 6:00 PM.

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