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The best ways to unclog a bathtub drain
Do you have a slow draining bathtub? Have you begun to notice that the water in your bathtub isn’t draining as fast as it used to be? OR maybe you have noticed that the water started to cover your feet in the shower? This means that you have a clogged drain, and you need to unclog it before things get worse.
Here are the steps you need to follow to know how to unclog a bathtub drain.
What causes a bathtub or shower to become clogged?
As a little bit of background, owning a house means you are going to deal with clogged showers and slow draining bathtubs. The reason this happens is that over time everything that goes down your drain can start to leave residue and build up. Bit by bit a clump of soap, hair, and dirt starts to build and prevents the water from flowing normally down the drain. This makes for a slowly draining shower (or tub) and if you don’t unclog it eventually little to no water will be able to pass through.
Before You Begin to Fix Your Bathtub Drain
Make sure you have the right tools for unclogging drains. Each of these ways to unclog a slow bathtub drain will need its own tools. Here is what you will need:
- Blanket or towel
- Old clothes (no point in getting good clothes dirty)
- Tweezers or needle-nose pliers
- Snake, claw, or coat hanger
We will go through the different ways you can unclog drains from easiest to most difficult. That way, you know you are taking the right steps at the right time. These are pretty easy things you can do to fix a slow bathtub drain, and most people have luck with one or all of these.
Let’s fix this clogged drain!
Use hot water to unclog your bath drain
You will be surprised how often this works. Of course, most people will skip to the next one, but this is surprisingly effective and removing bathtub clogs.
- Remove the bathtub drain stopper and see if there is any visible blockage (clumps of hair). There may be clumps of hair and other gunk like soap scum blocking the pipe, and a simple pipe cleaner like this one, or some kind of hooks, may be able to go in and remove the blockage.
- Fill a kettle with water and set it to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, pour the water down the drain of your bathtub. Be mindful that you are holding scalding hot water and that any splashback could burn you.
- Turn on the water and see if your drain is draining any faster.
This method can dissolve any of the soap scum and build-up that might be in your pipes. Before doing anything else, it’s always a good idea to give this a try, as it works fairly often.
If that doesn’t fix your bathtub clog, move on to the next step.
How to unclog a bathtub drain using baking soda and vinegar (without harsh chemicals)
Before you go using harsh chemicals on your drain, you can use this home remedy to unclog your bathtub or shower drain; this method is easy. With the stopper and strainer out, take the following steps to unclog your drain naturally without chemicals.
- Remove the stopper to gain access to the drain and see if there is any visible blockage.
- Pour 4-6 cups of boiling water down the drain. This is to remove any items that may be loosened with boiling water.
- Pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain, and then pour 1 cup of distilled white vinegar down the drain on top of the baking soda.
- Give the baking soda and vinegar solution 5 minutes to work its magic. While you’re waiting, set a kettle to boil.
- Pour the boiling water into the drain. This will react with the white vinegar and baking soda, getting rid of any clog and debris that is in your clogged drain.
If this doesn’t remove the bathtub clog, move on to the next method for unclogging a drain.
How to unclog a bathtub drain with standing water using a plunger
If you can’t get any water down the drain because the bathtub is clogged so badly no water is getting through, it’s time to use some force.
Your next step will be to use a plunger to try to suck out and dislodge any clog in your bathtub. There are specific sink plungers you can use on sinks and bathtubs, which are smaller than a toilet plunger.
This is a good one because the size of the mouth will fit over most drains, and the accordion-style of the plunger is better for unclogging sinks and for unclogging a shower drain.
- Fill the bathtub with water up to a few inches. You will need to do this so that the plunger can get proper suction on the drain.
- Plug the overflow hole. To do this, you may need to unscrew the overflow plate and set it aside. Next, the overflow hole needs to be plugged up or covered up with a towel to keep the air pressure tight.
- Use the plunger on the drain cover. Spend some time plunging the drain but beware that if something does get dislodged, it may come up and into the bathtub. Give it a few plunges (10-15 times) and see if anything comes out.
- If nothing is coming out of the bathtub, apply a little more force to see if anything can be dislodged.
- If you dislodge the blockage, the dirty water will begin to drain.
- Run some water down the drain to make sure it is flushing properly.
- Replace the overflow plate.
- If this doesn’t work, move on to the next method.
At this point, it’s looking like whatever is clogging your bathtub is in there pretty good, so we will need to use some more tools to see if we can get the blockage out.
How to unclog the bathtub drains using a drain claw or a plumber snake
If you have a stubborn clog in your drain, using a claw or a snake can help you. These items are fairly inexpensive, and you can buy them at any hardware store or on Amazon. The drain claw tends to work better as it is easier to use in this situation. However, it is always good to have a plumbing snake as a household tool. You can use a coat hanger, but it’s not near as good or easy.
Here are the steps to unclog a drain using a drain claw.
- Removed the tub drain stopper and the strainer to get access to the pipes.
- Insert the drain claw as far down into the drain as possible. Remember that your drain pipes will bend, and there will be a drain trap in the curve. So you will need to push through the resistance.
- Keep pushing through the trap to ensure you get a thorough clean.
- Once you have successfully pushed the claw through the trap, you can start to extract the claw from the drain, and it will grab any blockages that may have happened with its hooks.
- Once you have removed the debris, make sure to clean the snake or the claw thoroughly; otherwise, it may not work for you next time.
- Test the drain by running water down it to see if the water is draining faster. If the water is draining smoothly, you are done.
- If the water is not draining any faster, keep reading.
How to unclog a bathtub drain using chemical cleaners
Since you have now tried a natural way, and the physical way, to remove the bathtub drain clog, the next step is to purchase a chemical drain cleaner to try and dissolve the blockage.
*Warning: When using chemicals, like chemical drain cleaner, it’s important not to mix different types together as they could cause an unwanted chemical reaction. These chemicals can release toxic fumes into your house, so please make sure to follow the guidance of the manufacturer.
Step 1: Put on your protective gear.
You should be wearing protective goggles and gloves and even a mask. Inhaling these chemical drain cleaners can cause you to choke, speaking from experience. Since this is going to be causing a chemical reaction, it’s a good idea to keep the room properly ventilated by opening windows in the area to get airflow.
Step 2: Read the instructions for the product.
When purchasing a chemical product for your plumbing, it’s good to know what type of plumbing you have. For example, is it plastic piping, copper piping, or something else? Make sure that the chemical cleaner you were using is the right one for your types of pipes otherwise; you could cause damage and have a bigger issue on your hands.
Step 3: Follow the instructions
Assuming you’ve already removed any standing water (make sure to do that first!), follow the instructions on your chemical cleaner using the right amount of product in the drain. Do not assume that using more is better or by using less will give you more chances to do it. You want to make sure you are following the instructions of the manufacturer to a tee because you are working with harsh chemicals, and it’s important to get it right.
Step 4: Wait
Once you put the chemicals in the drain, it’s important to leave it for the amount of time suggested. You need to make sure you are giving enough time for the chemicals to do their job. Giving it less time than the manufacturer’s suggestion can prevent it from having the right effect.
Step 5: Flush the drain
When the wait time is finished, you will want to run cold water down the drain (unless the product specifies otherwise in the instructions) and take note of how fast the water is draining out of the tub. If there has been no significant improvement in the water draining, there could be a bigger issue, and it’s time to move to the last step.
Call a professional plumber
If you’ve tried all the ideas above and nothing has gotten rid of your bathtub drain issue, it’s time to call in a professional plumber. You did your best, and you should be proud. Of course, calling a plumber is the last resort, but if none of these ideas worked to remove your stubborn clogs, then it’s time to call a pro.
Use the link below to find a reputable plumber in your area to come and assess what has happened.
Slow leaking sink? Here’s how to unclog a sink.
Final Thoughts on Unclogging a Bathtub Drain
There are a lot of ways you can go about unclogging your bathtub. The best thing to do is start at the beginning and work your way through.
Once you have tried all the options, if there is still no movement of water, then it’s time to call in the professional. But by trying these methods, it’s usually solved 90% of the time. Good luck!