The most effective way to unclog a bathtub drain is to use a cup plunger to force the blockage out. Remove your tub’s strainer and stopper, fill the tub with a few inches of water, and plunge forcefully and continuously until the blockage comes up out of the drain.
There are several effective means of unclogging bathtub clogs. You may even be able to unclog some small tub problems simply by cleaning the strainer or stopper! For deep, significant clogs, however, we recommend applying a cup plunger. This is the process our experts follow to plunge clogged bathtubs, step by step:
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By following these expert plumbing tips, you should be able to fix the problem with little trouble.
Prepare for Success
To unclog your bathtub’s drain, you will need each of the following tools:
- A bucket or cup (for bailing water)
- A screwdriver
- Rubber gloves
- Towels or old rags
- A cup plunger
We also recommend putting on each of the following before you get started:
- Protective eyewear
- Rubber boots
- A plastic apron or clothing you don’t mind getting wet
Bail out any standing water
If there’s any standing water in your bathtub, bail it out before you get started. Use a cup or bucket to remove the water and pour it down a nearby drain.
Remove the strainer and stopper
Most bathtub drains have strainers and/or stoppers to block hair and other debris from falling down the drain. In order to unclog the bathtub’s drain properly, you’ll have to get these out of the way. You may be able to take out a stopper manually, but most strainers are attached to the drain hole with a single screw. Remove this screw to take the strainer straight out of the drain.
Add a few inches of hot water to the tub
If your bathtub doesn’t drain after removing the strainer, then the drain really is clogged. Before you start unclogging, use the bathtub faucet to add several inches of hot water to the tub. Add enough water that you can submerge the head of the cup plunger you’ll use when you place it over the drain. This water will help generate the pressure and suction required to pull the clog out of your bathtub’s drain.
NOTE: plunging a bathtub is a messy process, and you may splash yourself with dirty water during the process. We recommend putting on gripping plastic boots, proper protective eyewear, and a plastic apron before you get started.
Use a cup plunger on the drain
Cup plungers are the “conventional” plungers you probably picture when you think of plungers. Make sure the plunger you use does not contain a flange and therefore can fit snugly on the flat surface of the tub surrounding the drain.
Place the head of the cup plunger under the water and over the drain to form a snug seal. Hold the plunger at a 90 degree angle perpendicular to the drain. Use the handle to press the head of the plunger down forcefully, then pull back up so that the head “resets” into its original shape. Repeat this process quickly and repeatedly for 10-15 pumps, or around 30 seconds.
Check for debris
After 10 to 15 pumps, break the seal you’ve created over the drain by pulling the plunger out. If you’re successfully breaking up the clog, you should see dirty water or other debris rise out of the drain when you remove the plunger. This is because the force you’re generating with the cup plunger is actually meant to pull the clog in your bathtub drain up and out of the drain, rather than forcing it through or breaking it up (which is how toilet plunging works).
Repeat 2-3 times as necessary
After you break the seal and let the debris clear, the water in your tub should start draining normally. If it doesn’t, then you haven’t cleared the clog yet. Try repeating this process two or three times until you’ve seen results. If you try several times and can’t seem to clear the clog, it’s time to move on to other methods.
Following this process should help you clear out all but the toughest of bathtub clogs. If plunging doesn’t work for you, try using vinegar and baking soda or reaching inside the drain with a plunger’s snake or claw tool. If nothing seems to work, you could have a bigger problem than a simple clog.
Don’t worry: even if you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to get your tub drain flowing properly, you have your local plumbing experts at Garden City Plumbing. We’re happy to help!