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How do I Fix a Clogged Bathtub?

Bathtubs are more difficult to unclog than a sink or toilet.
A plunger is a basic tool to help dislodge blockages in a drain.
Rubber gloves should be worn when fixing a clogged bathtub.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 April 2014
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A clogged bathtub may be a little higher on the difficulty scale than a clogged kitchen drain or toilet, but most homeowners should be able to fix this problem using basic repair tools and commercially available chemical drain openers. Before attempting any clogged bathtub repair, however, you may want to first make sure that you have all of these tools and chemicals on the premises. This could mean a trip to a local hardware store to buy a plunger or plumber's helper, a drain snake, an adjustable pipe wrench and a chemical drain opener.

One of the first ways to fix a clogged bathtub is to visually inspect the drain for obvious blockages. Sometimes, a small bar of soap or a child's toy becomes wedged in the bathtub drain and it becomes a simple matter of pulling the blockage out. The object may be stuck a short way down the drain, so careful prodding might dislodge it. Clumps of hair can also accumulate behind the plate covering the water controls, so it might help to remove that plate by removing a few screws and manually cleaning out the opening.

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If the clog cannot be removed easily by hand, then use a plunger or plumber's helper. A plunger is a simple tool consisting of a rubber cup and a wooden handle. The cup should be placed squarely over the hole in order to get a good seal, then you press down on the cup with the stick until it is fully compressed over the drain. Sometimes, this initial burst of pressure will dislodge the clog, but many times the plunger will need to be pulled up and pressed down repeatedly. After several strong compressions, check for any signs of draining water.

If physical plunging does not remove the clog from the bathtub drain, it may be time for more aggressive chemical action. The instructions on most chemical drain openers call for the users to put on protective clothing, including goggles and rubber gloves. The drain opener may be poured into standing water, but some manufacturers may recommend removing as much excess water as possible. Once the drain opener has been poured into the bathtub drain, it must be given enough time to work. After a specified amount of time has elapsed, the drain should be checked for any signs of restored water flow.

The last resort to fix a clogged bathtub is to either run a plumbing snake through the drain system or remove the actual drain pipe for a thorough inspection and cleaning. This kind of work is generally reserved for professional plumbers, but a motivated amateur handyman should be able to maneuver a flexible pipe snake through a drain without causing significant damage. If this attempt should fail to produce any results, however, the next step may be to call in a professional plumber, since the clog may be located far from the bathtub itself.

Sometimes, the best defense against a clogged bathtub is a good offense, so it pays to use a properly fitted screen or filter over the open drain to prevent larger objects from falling in, and to keep an eye on any accumulations of hair or other detritus around the drain and behind the control face plate.

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Discuss this Article

anon312941
Post 21

Thanks for the article. I have to give fair warning to everyone who thinks that they can solve all of the plumbing problems themselves. Let me be the first to tell you that nothing can prepare you for having to pull out hair from a old drain in a old house. It is probably one of the worst smells ever.

anon312918
Post 20

Chemical drain cleaners eat apart your pipes over time. They're a cheap solution in the short game, and a potentially very expensive long term.

You can use a cup or wet rag to seal off the overflow and plunge the drain. That will remove most clogs. Another method is similar, but instead of plunging down, use the suction and pull the clog up. You'll have to clean the tub, but the drain will work again.

If that fails, almost every house anywhere will have clean outs built into the plumbing. More and more state are requiring them in their plumbing codes. So, open the clean out(s) and use a plumbing snake to clean the pipes out. Problem solved.

anon298874
Post 19

You guys have a lot more creative ideas than I do. I would just call plumbing in Colorado Springs. I have never heard of the coke trick before, but if this ever happens to me I want to give it a try!

anon221727
Post 16

I just tried the above (clorox) in my tub and sink and it worked great! Super cheap way to unclog the drains!

anon94651
Post 15

Most people won't have access to this but one of the absolute best ways to clear a really stubborn pipe is to use a compressed air tank with a rubber hose attached. A scuba tank, or home beer keg tank will do the trick.

Just stick the hose in the drain. Then wrap a wet towel around the hose tip and drain and hold down firmly to create a seal. If you're doing the sink, make sure to plug that air hole along the top edge as well.

Then. while holding the wet towel and hose firmly in place, gradually turn the air on. Don't overdo it because you'll make a huge mess, but if you gradually build up enough pressure, it'll blow just about anything that's blocking the drain clear.

As I said above, most people obviously don't have a compressed air tank lying around the house, but if you can get your hands on one, it's a great tool to have. We actually keep one in our garage with a hose attached for just this purpose. It's much easier than a snake and it's also great for blowing dust from the back of your TV and computer.

We refill ours at a beverage distributor, but there's plenty of places to get them refilled. They will last a long time between refills, so it's really not an inconvenience.

anon90039
Post 14

If you use a plunger you have to plug up the overflow outlet by pressing a towel over it at the same time you are plunging. When you plunge, the air will go out the overflow outlet instead of down into the drain if you don't plug it up somehow. I feel this is the best method for opening a clogged tub drain. My daughter has long hair, and we wash our golden retriever in that tub.

anon59260
Post 13

I've used coke to clear out the toilet as well as sink and bath tub drains -- always with great success.

anon58888
Post 12

@anon32577: I have that same type of metal twisting stopper, and it can be removed. Mine is secured with a phillips head screw that you can't really see unless you get down into the top at eye level with the drain, and pull the stopper up a little. You may have to twist the stopper around until it comes back to you. Then it can be loosened with a simple screwdriver.

anon32577
Post 11

My tub has been severely clogged, and Draino no longer works for us.

Also, my tub has a built in stopper thingy; one of the metal ones that you just twist. So I can't actually look into the drain, or see in it at least. Also, I am concerned that this may prevent me from using a drain snake. Can this be removed (Particularly by me or my husband)? Please help!

anon26272
Post 10

If you live in the country and have a septic tank sewer system, do *not* use any chemicals. Like Louiei114 said, it will damage your piping. Even worse it will kill all the bacteria in the septic tank. It will cause the tank to need pumping very soon.-Plumbob

louiei114
Post 9

Do not use any chemicals. It will rust and surely damage your drain pipe and will result in an overall repair; thus costly.

anon26268
Post 8

Using chemicals will rust/damage your drain pipe. It will be more expensive in repair works in the long run.

slok98
Post 7

I just pour a can or bottle of real coke in the drain and let it set over night, then rinse it down in the morning. Amount of coke determined by amount of water in tub.

anon26228
Post 6

If my toilet gets clogged up, I'll push the plunger down, step off to the side, then pull it up hard (now you see why I stand to the side). I'll do that several times until the clog breaks free. That seems to work with bathtubs as well. *But*, the one detail they didn't mention with tubs is that you have to cover the overflow drain (that's that second opening near the top of the tub. If you don't, none of the plunging will do a thing--the pressure will just leak out through that second opening.

DonBales
Post 5

I just mix the Wham in some water as advised on the can and pour it in the drain. Leave it a long time-few hours.vacs

DonBales
Post 4

I use Wham. It seems to help with sink drains and bathtub drains. It does have a strong smell and is rather expensive.

louiei114
Post 3

how do you get to the drain pipe? how and where to open it?

anon26203
Post 1

Much easier way...if it is just a regular hair/soap clog just add 16 oz of Clorox, then 20 minutes later run lots of hot water...repeat 24 hours later...it will be wide open and draining like new...then every 30 days repeat with just 8 oz of Clorox...slow or clogged bathroom drains are a thing of the past...works for bathtub, shower, and basin.

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