How to Unclog a Tub Drain

Tips for Unclogging a Bathtub Drain

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have a bathtub that is draining slowly and gurgles when the water goes down, simply put you’ve got a clogged tub drain. To unclog a tub drain there are a number of off-the-shelf chemical solutions that you can use, however before resorting to them or calling a plumber, it’s best for your drain pipes and your wallet to first attempt yourself to unclog the tub drain manually.

First remove the tub stopper, or drain cover plate at the base of the tub. In addition, on the front side of the tub, remove the overflow plate cover that sits just underneath the tub spout.

Next, pull the tub drain linkage out via the overflow hole, and inspect the tub drain linkage for hair and soap build up. If you see any, remove it and rinse the linkage clean in a bucket of water.

If you have a hand-snake, or drain auger, close by run it down the overflow hole to remove any additional hair or soap build up that may still be stuck in the tub drain. If you do not have a drain auger you may alternatively be able to use a length of coat-hanger to function similarly to a hand-snake.

As you push the hand-snake down into the overflow hole pay attention for resistance. If you feel resistance, twist the hand-snake a bit to try to catch onto the hair and soap build up and then remove the hand-snake. Repeat this process a few times.

With the hand-snake removed, reinsert the tub drain linkage and reattach the tub drain and overflow cover plates.

Then turn on the bathtub faucet with the tub drain held in the open position, and allow the water to run for a bit to clear out any small debris that may still be in the tub drain pipe.

How to Unclog a Tub Drain

After running the water for a couple of minutes, and not seeing water accumulate in the bathtub, close the tub drain so that water can collect in the tub.

After a couple of inches of water are in the tub, turn off the water and then open the tub drain. With any luck you’ve successfully unclogged the tub drain.

If you still have a clogged tub drain, then try a chemical tub drainer cleaner. However make sure to follow its directions precisely as drain cleaners are very caustic to both you and the environment.

If the chemical tub drain cleaner does not work, then call the plumber. It is possible the tub drain clog is further down the drainage pipe and beyond where you were reaching with your hand-snake.

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