How To Unclog Bathtub Drain

A clogged shower or bathtub drain can cause major headaches. For one, it can make it impossible to use the tub as it can overflow. Standing water can also be unsanitary, and it can attract insects. Therefore a homeowner needs to know how to unclog bathtub drain with standing water.

If you are dealing with a clogged bathtub drain, there can be numerous reasons for the problem. Some bathtub clogs are easy to clear, while others might need the expertise of a plumber.

Possible Causes For A Clogged Bathtub Drain



Hair Clog

One of the number one reasons why draining problems in tub drains occur is hair clogs. It is normal for hair to end up in the tub after a good scrub. The problem is that the hair will leave with the water down the drain.

If the hair gets caught in the drain and keeps on piling up, it is evident that clogs will occur. At first, you are more likely to experience slower water drainage.

However, if the hair does not get removed, then the problem will get more severe over time. Thus, the drain clog will be evident.

Dirt And Grease Buildup

Dirt and grease buildup in a bathtub drain is not quite common, but it can still occur. Your bathtub drain can accumulate the grease and dirt we wash off from our bodies over time.

Additionally, you might be rinsing dirty clothes in the bathtub, which will add to the accumulation. This grease and dirt buildup will eventually clog your bathtub drain. [1]

Soap Scum

When the fatty acids in a soap bar mix with water minerals, it can cause soap scum. [2] As a result, it will form a white, scummy buildup that does not dissolve. Soap scum can be tough to remove, and it can obstruct water flow.

This can cause the bathtub drain to drain slower. Usually, this process is gradual, and together with a hair clog, the situation can worsen.

Bigger Objects

Sometimes a bathtub drain can become clogged all of a sudden. The reason behind this instant clog is usually due to a large object wedged in the drain line. From toys to jewelry, things like these can cause significant obstructions in the pipes.

 Septic Backup

In the worst-case scenario, a bathtub drain clog can be caused by a septic backup. [3.] This is not something you should ponder over too long. Call a plumber if your unclogging method is not working or the water is backing up in the tub. Septic buildup can be very unhygienic and can cause bigger problems down the line.

How To Unclog Bathtub Drain Naturally?


Bleach and some drain cleaners can be harmful to your bathtub drain. These chemicals can wear the piping down and will kill both the good and bad bacteria. Therefore it is always best to use an Enzyme-based drain cleaner [4.] or try a natural drain cleaning method first.

Boiling Water

The easiest way to combat the gunky buildup that comes from shampoo and soap is with boiling water. You can boil some water and slowly pour it down the drain.

This method might not work for all types of clogs, but it will dissolve soap fairly easily. Since it is the easiest solution, it is the first method you should try. If it does not work, it is time to move on to the next.

Use A Plunger

One of the most popular tools to prevent bathtub clogs is a plunger. However, the nature of the clog and the drain design will determine the success of this method. Before you start plunging, you should add some water to the tub (if standing water is not present already).

Another tip is to add a small amount of petroleum jelly around the plunger’s rim to create a better seal. In most cases, plunging should help lodge out the unwanted clog.

Baking Soda And Vinegar

If you want to avoid using chemicals on a stubborn clog, a homemade natural solution is the next best thing. You can start by pouring one cup of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for about ten minutes. The next step is to pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain and wait for a chemical reaction.

The vinegar and baking soda will activate to dissolve any icky buildup you have in your bathtub drain. You can also finish the process by pouring boiling water down the drain afterward. Hot water will  ensure any leftover grease is dissolved.

Manual Removal

Another simple way to unclog a bathtub drain is to remove the clog by hand. If the clog is at the beginning of the pipe, this method might be all that you need. You can wear a pair of latex or rubber gloves to keep things sanitary.

The first thing you will have to do is to uncover the drain.  See if you can identify the clog. If you notice any drain clogging materials, use your fingers to try and pull out as much as possible.

Use A Plumber’s Snake or AIRSNAKE with a Drain Cleaning Kit

A plumber’s snake can be found at most hardware stores, and it is a handy clog-removing tool to have around. This tool can help to unclog drains where the clog is a bit further down the pipe.

All you need to do is push the plumber’s snake down the drain slowly until you reach the clog. Next, you will turn the snake’s handle until you bring it back up and out of the bathtub drain. A

fterward, you should run some water to test if the drain is free of the clog. If the water still does not drain properly, repeat the process a couple of times until the clog comes loose.

Another option is to use AIRSNAKE. This machine uses pressurized air to remove the variety of cloggs.

A simple clog usually takes 15 minutes with a snake, and only about 2 minutes with AIRSNAKE.

How To Unclog Bathtub Drain Full Of Hair?


Hair in the drain is not something one can dissolve with hot water. Therefore it is best to try and see if the hair can be pulled out by hand first. If the hair is deep down the drain, one can use a plumber’s snake or drain claw.

The baking soda and vinegar method can also be used on clogs caused by hair. If neither of these methods works, then the last resort would be to use an acid or base drain cleaner.

How To Unclog Bathtub Drain Without Removing Stopper?

A clogged bathtub drain is a frustrating situation. What can make matters even more frustrating is if you have a drain with a non-removable stopper.

Many bathtub stoppers are fixed in the drain, such as a toe-touch, push-and-pull, press-flo, a pop-up stopper, etc. It might be easier to try and unclog the drain without removing one of these stoppers.

Stoppers like these make it impossible for one to reach down the drain to pull out the gunk. A drain snake or claw will also be impossible to push past the stopper.

However, you can still try to hold a plunger over the stopper and plunge the clog loose. A natural solution and chemical solution can also be poured into a drain without removing the plug.

However, if you are determined to get the clog out by hand, then you will have to remove the stopper. All of these drain stoppers are removable with the right tools. You will need a screwdriver, or a wrench for the job, depending on the type of drain stopper you have.

To remove a fixed-drain-stopper, you will have to locate the screw keeping the stopper in place. Most of these stoppers will have a screw located on the top under a cap.

Once the screw is loose, you can take the stopper apart and pull it out of the drain. This will give you complete access to the bathtub drain. Now, take out the dirt or object that is clogging your bathtub drain.

What To Do If Your Bathtub Won’t Drain, But It Is Not Clogged?


If all the above unclogging methods have failed, then it is time to call in an expert. A plumber will have the right tools to unblock even the most stubborn clog. However, if the plumber does not find a clog, the problem is most likely due to a vent issue.

If air can not escape the plumbing system, it will not allow the water to drain either. This is called a vent clog. A vent problem is usually noticeable by gurgling sounds coming from the drain or a strong sewage smell.

A clog like this may be near the bathtub drain or in the main plumbing vent. [5] A plumber will locate the vent problem and use the right tools to fix the problem.

Bottom Line

Clogs like these can be very frustrating and might need a lot of patience to resolve. Therefore it is always essential to make sure you remove hair or other materials from the surface of the drain. Bathtub maintenance can help prevent accumulation further down the pipes.

Either way, a drain clog is a common problem in most households and can happen at any time. If you do not have the tools or time to unclog the drain yourself, you can always call a plumber instead.