How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain

  • 01 of 03

    How to Unclog a Clogged Bath Tub Drain

    Clawfoot bathtub in custom designed bathroom.
    David Papazian / Getty Images


    Next to kitchen /garbage disposal drains and toilet drains the tub drain gets the most abuse of any drain in the home. We put hair and hair care products through it along with the occasional razor blade cartridge. Over time the drain can slowly get clogged until you are standing in the tub taking a shower with 2 inches of slow draining water around your feet. Yuck.


    The challenge with fixing a bath tub drain with a plunger is that tubs have what are called “overflows” used to prevent tubs from...MORE flooding. The overflow’s job is to take water in the bath tub that exceeds the overflow height and dump it right back into the drain so your tub does not overfill. Problem is, this little guy prevents a plunger from working effectively because it creates a vacuum and pressure leak in the drain system and a plunger depends upon vacuum and pressure to function properly.


    You’ll see how to fix this problem using a cool trick on the next page.


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  • 02 of 03

    Seal Tub Overflow Drain with Duct Tape

    Female foot in the bath
    Image Source / Getty Images


    A plunger functions by creating pressure (when you depress the plunger) in the drain line to loosen and move clogs, and by creating a vacuum (when you pull up on the plunger) to move the clogged material the opposite direction and sometimes to the surface.


    A tub overflow drain is a second tub drain above the one in the tub floor. Since it is another drain designed to allow water to flow into it when the tub water level reaches a certain point, it is also air gap in the plumbing drain line. Its...MORE presence significantly reduces the plunger’s ability to create pressure and vacuum.


    To prevent the tub overflow drain from creating a vacuum and pressure leak in the plumbing drain system, cover and seal the overflow with duct tape. Make sure you seal the edges and openings in the tub overflow drain.


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  • 03 of 03

    Fill Drain and Bottom of Tub with Water and Use Plunger

    High Angle View Of Toilet Plunger On Floor In Bathroom
    Stephan Kaps / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Once the tub overflow is firmly sealed with duct tape you are ready to clear the clogged drain. Proceed as follows:
    • Remove the tub drain stopper. You may have to turn it back and forth a little while pulling up.
    • Once the stopper is removed open the hot water faucet (not cold) and let the water run until it is hot.
    • Once there is about 1” to 2” of water in the tub bottom, place the cup plunger over the drain and using firm pressure, quickly press the plunger down and pull up 5 to 6 times.
    • You will see...MORE the duct tape over the overflow move back and forth as the drain line changes from a pressured to vacuum state.
    • Lift the plunger to allow the clog debris to rise and remove any clumps of hair or other things that have come up.
    • Repeat the procedure of placing the plunger over the drain and rapidly moving the plunger up and down.
    • Repeat this process until the drain starts to flow freely.
    • Remove the duct tape and replace the drain stopper.