A clogged bathtub drain is a very common plumbing issue among homeowners. Besides the kitchen sink, a bathtub drain receives a great deal of abuse. Have you noticed the water is taking much longer to drain than usual after a bath or experience standing water in your shower that’s not going down? These are signs your drain pipe is clogged.
It’s really no surprise how bathtubs become clogged up so frequently when you consider what goes down on a daily basis. Soap and hair care products can leave residue that gradually builds up making hair easily become trapped or tangled up as it goes down restricting water from draining properly. It can be problematic for a number of reasons from pooling water leading to the growth of bacteria. Fortunately there are ways to resolve the issue without running up a huge plumbing bill.
Clogged Bathtub | What to Do?
Methods for Unclogging Your Bathtub Drain
Most clogged bathtub drain problems can be easily solved without the need for calling in professional help. You may even have the right tools on hand to get the job done without the use of any special tools or chemicals. Knowing the source behind the clog can also be helpful in determining the best method for unclogging.
Declogging a drain may be as simple as removing a blockage that’s preventing water from draining. The first step to eliminate the clog should be to inspect the drain to see if you can identify the problem. Often times the problem is hair that can be pulled out by hand or using a household item to extract it such as a screwdriver.
The FlexiSnake Drain Millipede is a handy tool that consists of a hook and loop design throughout the length of the cable to grab hair for fast and easy removal. It’s more effective than using a coat hanger. It’s small and flexible enough to work without having to remove the drain stopper if you have one that’s difficult to remove. Run the FlexiSnake down the pipe to grab and catch hair. Pull it up, clean it off, and repeat until the drain is clear.
For many of the clog removal methods listed here you will need to remove the drain stopper. This will help accessing the clog and extracting much easier and may be necessary to clear the drain pipe depending on the method you’re opting for. These are the most common drain stopper types homeowners have in their tub or shower.
Lift and Turn Drain Stoppers – This type of drain stopper typically has a knob on top to pull up and twist the drain stopper for opening and closing. These stoppers may have a threaded top that can be turned counterclockwise to unscrew and remove it. Many lift and turn stoppers are installed with a center set screw located under the little knob on top. Twist the knob to remove and expose the screw. Use a screwdriver matching the head of the screw to loosen it then lift and twist the stopper to remove it from the drain.
Push and Pull Drain Stopper – These stoppers are very similar in mechanism to the lift and turn drain stoppers. The only difference is they pull up and push down to open and close rather than twist. Locate the set screw beneath the cap on top of the stopper to unscrew it and twist the stopper to loosen and lift it out. If the top doesn’t have a set screw the stopper may simply twist out of the drain pipe.
Toe-Touch Stopper – This type of drain stopper consists of a spring-loaded design to open and close by pressing the top. Mechanically, it is attached to the crossbar of the drain pipe by a screw located underneath the cap of the stopper much like the two former drain stopper types. Push down on the cap to open the stopper, unscrew the cap and loosen the screw to lift and twist the stopper out.
Trip Lever Stopper – This type of drain stopper is a little more tricky to remove. It is operated using a plunger-style mechanism that goes up and down to open and close the drain-pipe. The plunger connects to a trip lever located on the overflow plate that opens and closes the drain stopper. These types of drain stoppers typically have a strainer cover. To remove the stopper, you will have to access it from the overflow tube. Remove the overflow cover plate using a screwdriver to access the overflow tube behind the tub. Use the rod connected to the trip lever to extract the plunger mechanism.
For drain strainers – Some bathtub drains as well as most shower drains have a grated cover. These types of drain covers will need to be removed in order to access a clogged drainpipe and extract the clog. There should be a screw located in the center of the strainer or one on each side. Use a matching screwdriver to loosen the screw and remove the cover.
VIDEO | Unclog Clogged Bathtub Drain with a Plunger
If your bathtub or shower has standing water in it that isn’t draining at all, it will be difficult to identify the source of the clog. In this case you may need to plunge your drain to loosen what’s clogging in and allow the water to drain out. Similarly to a clogged toilet, a plunger works to release a clog using suction power. An important step to make a plunger effective for a clogged bathtub is covering the overflow drain. This is the metal plate located higher up in the tub typically lined up between the main tub drain and the faucet. It feeds to the main drain pipe to drain water if it gets too high in the incident you forget the water running to help prevent the tub from overflowing. This metal plate has an opening at the bottom which will need to be covered with some source such as duct tape to allow proper suction to plunge.
Once this is done, remove the drain stopper accordingly. Place the plunger straight over the drain and press down to seal the entire lip of the plunger against the tub surface. An adequate seal is necessary to ensure suction. While maintaining the seal pump the plunger up and down with quick, short strokes 5 or 6 times. Pull the plunger up to see if the water begins to drain.
Once you open and remove the drain stopper it will most likely have hair and gunky buildup on it. Cleaning off the drain stopper is a quick and easy step to help rid a small contributing factor to clogs. This should be done periodically to regularly maintain your drainpipe in reducing and preventing future clogs.
For Deeper Bathtub Drain Clogs
Have you ever looked underneath a sink and noticed the ‘U’ shape of the drainage pipe? This curved section is known as the drainpipe trap and most all drain pipes have one. In a bathtub or shower drain, it’s typically curved in the shape of a P, often referred to as a the ‘P’ Trap. The purpose is to trap a small amount of water in the pipeline to block sewer gases from entering your home. It’s a design you’re certain to be thankful for given the alternative effects without it; however it can also lead to a clogged drain when other things get trapped like hair and soap scum.
A clog occurring from the drainpipe trap will be a little trickier to tackle since it’s deeper into the pipe. Here are some possible solutions that can help loosen a tough deep-rooted clogged bathtub.
Home remedies with natural DIY solutions are often preferred over harsh chemicals for removing tough clogs for various reasons. Most professional plumbers recommend not using chemical drain openers as they can have damaging properties on pipes in the long-run leading to bigger, much more expensive problems. If plunging your drain hasn’t resolved the clog you may need to try other natural alternatives.
Hot water, vinegar and baking soda – It may sound more like a science experiment but this tried and true method can prove to be a safe and effective method for clogged drains. This method is best done on a drain pipe that is free from standing water. You will need really hot water for this method to dissolve soap scum and residue that could be clogging the drain pipe so start by boiling 3-4 cups of water. Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain pipe followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Slowly pour the hot water and allow the solution to bubble down the drain. If this doesn’t resolve the clog it may be time for a more invasive approach.
Drain Snake – This is a tool professionals often use to help clear clogs from drains. It is designed specifically to fit down a bathtub drain with flexibility to reach the trap for loosening up and removing clogs. A plumber’s snake can be purchased from most hardware stores or retailers and vary by design and price. A drain snake such as a General Pipe Cleaners R-25SM Spin Thru Auger is simple to use and works on 1 ¼” to 2-inch diameter drain pipes. It consists of an auger-type device with a spring design on the end that twists to grab and wrap up hair and muck that’s clogging the pipe.
VIDEO | How to Use A Drain Snake
To snake your clogged bathtub you will need to remove the drain stopper first to run it down the pipe and extract the clog. Run the cable of the snake down the pipe by turning the knob on top until you feel resistance. Keep some tension in the cable as you run it down so there isn’t too much slack. You want to have some force on the cable to effectively ‘screw’ up the clog. Once you feel some resistance on the snake and feel you’ve reached the clog rotate the cable a few times to grab the clog then pull it out. Clean off the cable and discard the mess. You might want to repeat this step 2-3 more times getting further into the drain to ensure all or most of the clog is removed. Most clogs won’t be more than a few feet as they generally get stuck in the P trap.
If natural methods haven’t resolved your issue or you just don’t like the idea of getting your hands dirty tackling a stubborn clog you might want to opt for liquid drain cleaners to eradicate the problem. Enzyme drain cleaners contain live cultures of enzymes that eat away organic matter. These products like Earth Enzymes can be used as a greener alternative to chemicals to help clear and maintain drain pipes. They’re biodegradable and safe for use in septic tanks and cesspools. Use as directed according to the directions on the product.
Drano and Liquid Plumr are two popular brand drain cleaners formulated to dissolve and eradicate even the toughest clogs quickly and effectively. There are various formulas on the market ranging from gels to foams and specific formulas for tackling the hairiest of clogs. Liquid-Plumbr has been highly reviewed as an economical choice over Drano and contains active cultures to open drains in a biodegradable formula. Use it as directed for optimal performance.
When to Call a Plumber?
If you have exhausted all measures and still having problems with a clogged bathtub it may be time to call in the big guns. The problem may be bigger than simply hair and soap scum in the drain. If you are experiencing clogged drains in other areas throughout your home in addition to the shower or tub the problem is most likely in the main drainage. This is definitely where a professional should step in to diagnose and treat the problem effectively.
Preventing Drain Clogs
Clogged up drains are inevitable in a household, especially when there are people with long hair or pets. Frequent clogs, however, could wreak havoc on drain pipes over time leading to corrosion among other problems. Regularly cleaning out the drain pipe is a must to help maintain water flow for proper drainage.
Use a strainer for showers – If you or someone in your household has long hair or have a pet you frequently bathe indoors a strainer can help eliminate hair from going down the drain and leading to a clog. Your tub or shower may have a strainer plate already as a drain cover, but these are often designed with holes large enough to allow hair and fur to pass through. Purchase a hair strainer that fits over the drain pipe to catch hair, fur and shavings from going down the drain while showering.
A tubshroom is an easy to use tool that catches hair around it to allow water flow while catching hair before it goes down the pipe. To use a tubshroom you simply remove the drain stopper depending on the type you have and insert it into your drain as directed. Tubshrooms come in sizes for standard sinks, tubs and showers so be sure to get one that’s right for the drain you’ll need it for.
Clean your tub or shower after using bath products – Bath products such as bath bombs and shower bombs have become increasingly popular. While these may provide a nice and relaxing bath, they could also be potential factors that leave buildup in your drain pipe over time leading to future clogs. Run hot water down your drain periodically to help loosen and dissolve residue that could be left behind from using these products.