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How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain

Most homeowners can take care of a bathtub drain clog in a few simple steps.

If the drain clog is either, near the drain or the pipes directly under the tub, most of the time the clog can be fixed by following these steps. 

Please Flush Only Pee, Poo & Toilet Paper (The Three P's)

Why does a bathtub drain get clogged?

Bathtub and shower drains are the most common drain to become clogged. 

There is good news and bad news when it comes to bathtub clogs. 

Bad news: We attribute 90% of drain clogs to bathtub or shower clogs. 

Good news: Most homeowners can take care of a bathtub drain clog in a few simple steps.

Where in the drain is the clog?

The bathtub drain is going to be clogged in at least one of three places within the drain line; 

  1. at the top where we can see the drain,
  2.  in the piping directly under the tub 
  3. or in the piping further down the drain line. 

If the drain clog is either, near the drain or the pipes directly under the tub, most of the time the clog can be fixed by following these steps. 

What are some ways to unclog a bathtub drain and the steps to do it?

Often when a bathtub drain is clogged homeowners resort to caustic chemical drain killers. These are often not effective and are harmful to your plumbing system. 

A clogged bathtub drain is most often clogged with hair and other soap scum, and debris that get trapped in the hair.  The best solution is to remove the clog manually rather than trying to break it down with chemicals. 

If the clog is at the top where we can see the drain, or in the piping directly under the tub most homeowners can likely remove the clog by themselves without calling a plumber. 

If the clog is further down the drain line, we recommend scheduling a service call to remove the clog.

Follow the steps below to try to remove the clog on your own. Pay close attention to the “pro tips” that will save you headaches as you remove the clog. 

Step 1

Remove the drain plug. If you have a pop-up drain or a mechanical bathtub plug, always remove it first.

In most cases in your bathtub drain, the top little knob you pull up on to drain the tub actually screws off. Underneath you will find a screw that holds the plug in place. 

To remove the nob take two sets of pliers and with one hold the bottom part of the drain plug and with the other set of pliers turn the knob counterclockwise and screw it off.

Pro tip: use a rag in between the plyer’s teeth and the plug so you don’t damage the finish!

Step 2

Under the knob you just took off you will find a screw with a flat head top. Unscrew it counterclockwise and the drain plug should come off. 

At this point, if that was successful, you now have access to the drain.

 Look down the drain and investigate if there is a clog. If you see a hair clog, most likely this is probably where your problem is.

Step 3

Now, use a pair of needle nose pliers and pull out all the hair.

Pro tip: this is going to be a nasty clog, so prepare yourself and have a garbage bag nearby to put the hair clog in.

Step 4

If the clog was located directly underneath the drain, put the plug back together the way it came apart. 

Test the tub by running water and if drains properly, you did it!

If not proceed to step 5.

 

Step 5

Try to identify a small plate about 4 inches across in your bathtub directly above your drain. Notice, there is a screw in the middle of it. Unscrew that screw counterclockwise and the plate should come off.

Pro tip: plug the bathtub drain so when you are taking things apart a screw does not drop accidentally and goes down the drain.

Step 6

After removing the plate, you have access to the overflow drain. The overflow drain gives you straight access to the trap below. 

Take a metal coat hanger and straighten it out. Put a little hook on the end.

Step 7

Put the coat hanger down the drain where you just took off the plate as far as you can until it stops.

Step 8

Spin the coat hanger to try to hook onto any hair that is down the pipe. When you feel you may have hooked onto something pull it up. 

Again it can be pretty nasty so prepare yourself and have garbage nearby.

Step 9

Test the drain and see if the water is draining properly. If so, you did it!

Put the plate back together the way it came off. 

If the tub continues to drain slowly, it may be time to call in a professional. Most likely the drain is further down the line, and more skills and equipment are needed to free the line of clogs.

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