There’s no “best way” to unclog a bathtub drain. That’s because it depends on where the clog is.  Most bathtub clogs are near the top of the drain. Some are in the drain basket crosshairs. And others are in the shoe directly below the drain basket. Hair and soap scum routinely collect in these locations. What can you do to unclog a bathtub drain?

First, Try the Following Methods to Unclog a Bathtub Drain:

  • Try a chemical drain cleaner.  Put on some gloves and follow the instructions on the drain cleaner label carefully.  Flush the drain with cold water afterward.
  • Try baking soda.  Remove the stopper or strainer per instructions below and pour boiling water into the drain. After that, add baking soda and vinegar.  Wait roughly 15 to 20 minutes. Then flush your drain with more hot water.
  • Use a toilet plunger.  Remove the stopper or strainer and any gunk as per instructions below.  Fill the tub with water. Then cover the drain hole with a plunger. Pump the plunger to create suction.

If none of the above work, a little manual labor is maybe all that will be needed to clear out this type of clog.  You can unclog a bathtub drain in a few minutes, without chemicals.

Remove the Strainer

If you’re a woman or tend to lose hair easily, you’ll know how much of it ends up in your bathtub. Its favorite place to hide is underneath the strainer, which is located in or over the drain.  Though many strainers can be removed manually, some also have screws that will need to be removed.  Remove the screws with the properly matched screwdriver.  Turn each screw surrounding the strainer until all are loose. Make sure you keep track of the screws while you unclog the drain.

Remove the Stopper

Some drains have what we call “stoppers” instead of strainers.  These are easier to remove because they don’t utilize screws.  You should be able to remove the stopper by twisting and lifting it. If you have a stopper that is attached with a screw, first lift the stopper and loosen the screw on the shaft slightly.  Then slide the stopper off the shaft.

Remove Excessive Gunk around the Strainer and Stopper

A lot of gunk may have accumulated on the strainer or stopper over time. Clean off any hair or soap scum.

Insert a Drain Stick Cleaner Down the Drain

These can be purchased at Walmart or similar store.  First, remove the hair from the crosshairs in your drain basket.  Insert the stick between the crosshairs. And pull out what doesn’t belong. As you might guess from this process, 80 percent of bathtub clogs begin at the basket.  The problem is usually just a sticky wad of hair that collects on the crossbars. The crossbars are located a few inches under the stopper/strainer. If hair is wrapped around the crossbars, slice it with a utility knife and then grab it with the wire.

Perhaps your clog is deeper. The drain stick can be inserted deep enough to go through the drain basket, the drain shoe, and hit a drain trap. The drain trap is the curved part of the lower drain.  Keep pushing the drain stick through this trap. The stick is flexible and will bend, so don’t worry!

However, if you’re in a pinch, an effective hair-removal tool can be made. Unravel a wire coat hanger or use a stiff wire to start. Bend the end or your wire into a hook with needle-nose pliers.  This makeshift tool can clean out the drain basket and shoe. But it should not be used to press down into the drain trap.  Even a screwdriver could be used to clean out the drain basket.

Pull out the Drain Stick

The claw on the end of the drain stick cleaner has many small interlocking hooks. These hooks will grab hair and allow you to pull gunk out.  Clean the gunk off so you can reuse it in the future. Scum can build up quickly. Therefore, having a drain stick often comes in handy.

Run the Water to Test the Bathtub to See if it is Unclogged

Once the drain basket, shoe and/or trap are cleaned, the drain should be flushed out with hot water.  Water should now go down the drain properly.

Replace the Cover or Stopper

If the drain claw worked, its time to reinsert your stopper. Strainers will need to be screwed back onto the top of the drain.  Stoppers should be put back and twisted into place, or put back onto the shaft with the screw tightened gently.

Deeper clogs in the drain pipe are taken care of differently, and it depends more on the tools that you have available.  If you are not able to clear the clog on your own, Proudfoot Plumbing Heating & Air would be glad to help.  Please give us a call at 1-412-461-2198, or contact us and we’ll be glad to make recommendations for you on a solution for your bathtub drain line clog.

Schedule Service

At Proudfoot Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we are here to help you and are happy to process your scheduling request by email if that is your preference. Please indicate what service area you require in your request, and we will get back to you within one business day of receiving it.

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