How to Remove 6 Different Kinds of Drain Stoppers

Clean or replace drain stoppers to clear clogs and update the bathroom.

Bath plug
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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 2 hrs, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $100

Bathtubs and sinks commonly use drain stoppers to effectively plug the drain and keep water, soap, and other common substances from flowing down the drain. These innovative devices take the place of traditional plugs that are prone to tearing, warping, and even getting lost if they aren't kept securely fastened to the tub or sink. However, while drain stoppers may be an improvement, they still have some shortcomings that need to be monitored and addressed by users.

Drain stoppers are made to sit inside the drain, so most products actually reduce the flow of water through the drain as soon as they are installed, though this reduction in water flow is rarely noticed as long as the drain stopper does not become clogged with dirt, hair, and other debris. Unfortunately, the size, shape, and mechanism of drain stoppers often increase the likelihood that they will catch this loose debris, so it's important to regularly remove the stopper for cleaning.

Another reason for removing the drain stopper is to fix or replace it. If a piece of the drain stopper mechanism becomes worn out or broken, then you lose the ability to properly close and open the stopper. At this point, it's necessary to take the drain stopper out and either replace the broken part or replace the entire stopper. Though, it's important to understand exactly how the various types of drain stoppers are installed and how to remove them before attempting to undertake any repair projects.

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Watch Now: How to Remove and Clean Different Types of Tub Drain Stoppers

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers (as needed)
  • Replacement drain stopper

Materials

  • Bathroom cleaner

Instructions

There are several different types of drain stoppers, including lift-and-turn, push-and-pull, toe-touch, flip-it, trip-lever, and pop-up. While many models have a similar removal method, it's a good idea to learn the specific process for the type that is installed in your tub or sink to avoid damaging the drain stopper and the surrounding plumbing.

How to Remove a Lift-and-Turn Drain Stopper

A lift-and-turn drain stopper can usually be identified by a small, threaded knob on the top of the stopper. This style of drain stopper is similar to a push-and-pull stopper, except the knob on a push-and-pull stopper is fixed in place in order for the user to push the stopper down or pull the stopper up. The knob on a lift-and-turn drain stopper rotates to the left and right. Typically, turning the knob to the left (clockwise) will close the drain, and turning it to the right (counterclockwise) while lifting will open the drain, though differences can exist from product to product.

  1. Remove the Drain Stopper Knob

    Rotating the knob on the top of the drain stopper to the right (counterclockwise) will typically open the drain. Continue to turn the knob in the same direction until it fully unthreads from the bolt in the center of the drain stopper.

    Some knobs cannot be detached from the drain stopper lid, so the entire lid will need to turned in order to access the drain stopper bolt. Keep in mind that while most products have a threaded connection to the bolt, there are other drain stoppers that use simple twist locks to hold the drain stopper in place. If you encounter one of these products, just rotate the drain stopper lid until it is properly aligned, then pull the lid up to remove it.

  2. Unscrew the Drain Stopper Bolt

    Use a screwdriver or set of pliers to unscrew the drain stopper bolt from the threaded hole in the center of the drain crossbar and the entire drain stopper will lift out of the drain.

  3. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    With the drain stopper out of the drain, you can inspect it for any signs of damage, like a torn plug, rusted threads, or a cracked lid. If there is any visible damage it's advised to replace the drain stopper. However, if the drain stopper is in good working order, take this opportunity to clean the drain and the stopper with a bathroom cleaner and remove any hair, soap scum, or other debris before reinstalling the drain stopper.

How to Remove a Push-and-Pull Drain Stopper

As mentioned above, push-and-pull drain stoppers are very similar to lift-and-turn stoppers in both function and in appearance, though the knob on the top of a push-and-pull drain stopper is typically wider and smoother than the knob used on a lift-and-turn drain stopper. Push-and-pull drain stoppers are easy to identify because they have a very simple operating mechanism. Just push the plug down to close the drain and pull the knob up to open the drain.

  1. Unscrew the Drain Stopper Knob

    The knob on a push-and-pull drain stopper is usually attached to the stopper lid, but in some cases, the knob is a separate piece. If your drain stopper knob is a separate piece, then it should be removed from the stopper in order to access the fastening bolt.

    Grip the drain stopper knob tightly and turn it to the right (counterclockwise) to unthread it from the stopper lid and reveal the fastening bolt.

  2. Remove the Drain Stopper

    If the push-and-pull drain stopper has a separate stopper knob and lid, then the bolt should now be exposed. Unthread the bolt from the drain crossbar with a screwdriver or set of pliers and lift the stopper out of the drain.

    However, most push-and-pull drain stoppers have a solid body instead of a separate lid and knob. The entire body is attached to the threaded hole in the center of the drain crossbar with a fastening bolt. This makes installation and removal incredibly easy. Just turn the entire drain stopper to the right (counterclockwise) to unthread the bolt from the crossbar and lift out the drain stopper.

  3. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    Clean off any loose hair and debris in order to properly inspect the drain stopper for any damage. Look for clear signs of tears, rusting, or advanced wear and replace the drain stopper if necessary.

    For drain stoppers that are in good condition, use a bathroom cleaner to quickly scrub away any soap scum or grime that has accumulated in the drain or on the stopper, then reinstall the stopper.

How to Remove a Toe-Touch Drain Stopper

A toe-touch drain stopper consists of a drain assembly that sits inside the drain and a toe-touch mechanism that is operated by simply pushing down on the drain stopper. One push will close the drain and a second push will open the drain. These drain stoppers usually have a circular shape and a flat lid that may be completely smooth or have the word 'push' engraved on the lid.

  1. Open the Drain Stopper

    If the toe-touch drain stopper is not currently in the open position, then push it down to open it. Attempting to remove the drain stopper when it's in the closed position doesn't usually work, and there is a good chance that the drain lid could be scratched in the process.

  2. Twist the Drain Stopper Lid

    With the drain lid in the open position, grasp it firmly, twist it to the right (counterclockwise), and apply a small amount of vertical force to unthread the lid to access the fastening screw.

  3. Unscrew the Fastening Screw

    Use a screwdriver or a set of pliers to unscrew the fastening screw from the drain crossbar and lift the drain stopper out of the drain.

  4. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    The drain stopper can now be inspected for any damage, like a warped plug, rusted fastening screw, or cracked lid. Replace the drain stopper if there is any visible damage, but if the stopper is in good condition then clean dirt, hair, grime, and other debris out of the drain and off of the drain stopper with a bathroom cleaning solution. When the drain and stopper are free of hair, soap scum, and other clog-creating materials, reinstall the drain stopper.

How to Remove a Flip-It Drain Stopper

Flip-it drain stoppers are a style of stopper that uses a flip lever to expand or contract a gasket that sits inside the drain. When the flip lever is in the open position the gasket is contracted, allowing water to flow into the drain, but when the flip lever is in the closed position, the gasket is squeezed, expanding to fill the drain and create a seal in the tub or sink. These drain stoppers are only secured by an O-ring that sits inside the drain at the base of the device, so they are fairly simple to remove.

  1. Open and Remove the Drain Stopper

    No tools are needed for this simple style of drain stopper. Just flip the lever to open the drain, then get a good grasp on the flip-it drain stopper lever. Firmly twist and pull the entire assembly up and out of the drain.

  2. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    Remove any hair, soap scum, toothpaste, grime, and any other substances that may have accumulated in the drain or on the drain stopper, then take some time to inspect the stopper for signs of excessive wear or damage. Check for a worn, misshapen, or cracker gasket and O-ring. Also, inspect the drain stopper for cracks, chips, or rust. Replace the flip-it drain stopper if necessary, or, if the stopper is found to be in good condition, clean the drain and the stopper with a bathroom cleaning solution then reinstall it.

How to Remove a Trip-Lever Drain Stopper

Not all drain stoppers have an easy-to-remove assembly, like flip-it stoppers, and the trip-lever drain stopper is one such product. These drain stoppers have a lever that is located on the overflow faceplate. This lever is connected to a rod assembly that drops down vertically through the overflow drain and operates a plunger. By tripping the lever, or sometimes by rotating the lever, the plunger will move up or down.

When the plunger is up, water will flow into the drainage system, but when the plunger is down it forms a seal inside the drainpipe to stop the flow of water. Due to the complex assembly, these drain stoppers are prone to clogging and they can be troublesome to remove and replace.

  1. Open the Drain

    If the lever is not already in the open position, then flip the lever or rotate it to fully open the drain. Attempting to remove the trip-lever drain stopper while it's in the closed position could cause the stopper to become stuck.

  2. Remove the Overflow Grate

    Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws on the overflow grate and remove the grate from the tub or sink in order to access the trip-level drain stopper assembly. Make sure to put the screws in a safe location for reinstallation.

  3. Pull out Trip-Lever Drain Stopper Assembly

    Carefully lift the trip-lever drain stopper assembly out of the overflow drainpipe. The entire assembly, including the trip lever, the rods, and the plunger needs to be pulled out without breaking any pieces, so you may want to spray the assembly with a lubricant to free a stuck plunger.

  4. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    With the entire assembly removed from the overflow pipe, you can inspect each piece for signs of excessive wear or damage, like rust, cracks, or irregularity. Replace any pieces that show signs of damage to avoid future problems, like having to remove the entire overflow drain to access a broken plunger.

How to Remove a Pop-Up Drain Stopper

Similar to trip-lever stoppers, a pop-up stopper has a complicated assembly that is threaded through the overflow drain. These drain stoppers also have a lever on the overflow faceplate that is connected to a rod assembly and drops down vertically through the overflow drain. However, instead of connecting to a plunger, the rod assembly is connected to a spring that sits on top of a horizontal rocker arm. The rocker arm runs through the tub or sink drainpipe and controls the movement of a pop-up plug.

When the lever is in the open position, the spring is compressed, pushing down on the rocker arm and popping up the plug. In the closed position, the spring is relaxed, allowing the rocker arm to pivot up, which causes the plug to be pulled down, sealing the drain. Pop-up drain stoppers are prone to clogging due to the complex rocker arm and rod assembly.

  1. Open the Drain

    Flip the lever on the overflow faceplate so that the plug is popped up in the open position. This is so that it's easy to access the plug and drain in order to remove the rocker arm assembly.

  2. Remove the Drain Stopper Plug and Rocker Arm

    Use your hands or a set of pliers to squeeze the sides of the drain stopper and pull straight up and out of the drain. Be careful not to pull too hard because you want to pull the plug, stopper, and rocker arm out at the same time.

  3. Unscrew the Overflow Faceplate

    Remove the screws from the overflow faceplate with a screwdriver and make sure to set them aside in a safe place for reinstallation. Take off the overflow faceplate to access the lever and rod assembly.

  4. Remove the Rod Assembly

    Carefully pull the rod assembly out of the overflow drainpipe, ensuring that each piece comes out without breaking, including the lever, rods, and spring. If the assembly becomes stuck, try using a lubricant to loosen the spring and rods.

  5. Inspect, Clean, or Replace

    Check each piece of the pop-up drain stopper including the stopper, rocker arm, spring, rods, and trip lever. Any pieces of the stopper that show signs of excessive wear or damage, such as rust, cracking, or warping, should be replaced before reinstallation to avoid future problems. If the stopper is in good condition, then clean the drain and stopper with a bathroom cleaning solution to remove hair, soap scum, dirt, grime, and other debris.

    Start the reinstallation process by inserting the rocker arm into the drain. Thread it through the drainpipe until the stopper plug can be pushed down into the drain opening.

    With the rocker arm in place, insert the spring and rod assembly into the overflow drain. The spring should make contact with the rocker arm and cause the plug to pop up when it's in the right position. Then, secure the overflow faceplate with the screws that you had set aside and test the drain stopper with the lever to ensure that it is working correctly.