Cleaning a Drain Stopper May Cure a Clog

Bath plug
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When a drain gets clogged or is slow to drain, the culprit we normally look for is a clog in the drain trap or drain pipes. Sometimes, though, the clog is much closer than that. A buildup of hair or debris around the pop-drain stopper mechanism very often makes a drain slow to drain or can even clog it entirely. 

A clogged pop-up drain linkage is most common in bathtub drains because this is where hair is most likely to get flushed into the drain.


You might think this is an easy fix, but in a surprising number of cases, professional plumbers get called in to handle this fix. The reason is that the pop-up drain stopper mechanism is sometimes a little tricky to extract from the drain opening. There are several different configurations of pop-drain mechanisms, and each has a slightly different procedure for removing it and reinserting it in the drain opening after cleaning. 

Trip-Lever Pop-Up Drain Stoppers

With pop-up drains operated by a toggle lever on the overflow cover, sometimes the rocker arm linkage attached to the stopper will simply pull from the drain opening with a bit of gentle wiggling. If so, removing it will just take a little gentle maneuvering. Once free, clean the metal arm, then gently reinsert the metal arm into the drain opening until the stopper is seated. Sometimes you may need to play with the drain lever in order to get the far end of the stopper arm to insert into the drain opening fully.


Toe-Touch Stoppers

For spring-loaded toe-touch stoppers, you need to remove the outer cap of the stopper, usually by simply unscrewing the stopper cap from the body of the stopper. Beneath the cap, you will see a large screw head that can simply be unscrewed to remove the stopper body from the drain.

Clean out any hair you find, and reattach the stopper and the cap. This is also a good time to examine the spring action and replace the stopper if it is not working smoothly, 

Twist-and-Turn Stoppers

Twist-and-turn pop-up stoppers usually have a small center knob at the top of the stopper, which you use to turn it and open and close the drain. To remove the stopper, pull the stopper as far up as it will go, then grip the body of the stopper with a pair of large channel-type pliers While holding it in place, use another pair of pliers to unscrew the small center knob on top of the stopper. Now,  lift off the entire cap to expose a mounting screw underneath the cap. Simply unscrew this brass screw to free the stopper body. Clean out whatever hair and debris you find, then reassemble the stopper.  

Note: Some twist-and-turn pop-up drain stoppers are held in place with a small set-screw found beneath the lip of the stopper. A small hex wrench can be used to loosen the set-screw and free the stopper.