Next to garbage disposal, the most common clog that you can find in a house is the bathtub drain. Starting from hair to oil, everything gets into the drain and it would eventually get clogged. Soap residue has the tendency to attract more hair and other waste together. This would cause a large chunk of waste getting deposited over time. This chunk would grow in size and eventually blocks the water from draining.
The top 10 best methods to unclog a bathtub drain:
- Using bent wire or Coat Hanger
- Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution
- Chemical drain cleaner
- Bio drain cleaner
- Drain Claw
- Drain Stick
- Power Auger
- Water Hose
- Wet Vacuum
These are the 10 best methods to unclog your bathtub drain. Continue reading below to know about each method in details and other must know information for removing the bathtub clog.
Types of Bathtub Drain
There are usually two drains in the bathtub. One is found on the bottom of the bathtub and one is found on the sides.
The one found on the bottom is the main drain where clogs usually appear.
The one of the side walls of the bathtub is called as the overflow drain. It also drains water into the same pipe, as that of the main drain. Though it is as much as any other drain that you can find in your house, the overflow drain on the walls of the bathtub would hinder with all methods that involves vacuum in it.
The job of this overflow drain is to collect water and send it right to the drain, when there is a tremendous increase in the water level. This will help you by preventing water overflowing from the bathtub and flooding the bathroom.
This article focuses on presenting all possible methods used for unclogging a bathtub drain. You are free to try one method after another till one of them works. If none of them works, you can always call professional service providers.
Why does a method not work always?
The effectiveness of a method depends on the type of the clog, location of the clog, size of the clog and many other factors. Before we get into the methods of unclogging the bathtub drain, we should talk a little more about the drain. The bottom drain in the bathtub is the main drain which has P shaped or U shaped pipe. This structure promotes a small amount of water being stagnated inside the curve in the pipe always. This water will help to prevent sewer gas from entering the house. This is the place were clog gets accumulated, mostly.
The overflow drain is a straight pipe that connects to the main drain. There is very less chance of clog getting accumulated in the overflow drain. Even when the bottom drain is clogged, the water tends to drain through the overflow drain. If the water does not drain through the overflow drain too, the clog is near sewer line and you need professional help. This should be your very first step. Determine whether the clog is in the P-structure of the bottom drain or near the sewer line by checking the draining speed of the overflow drain.
1. If the clog is very close
If you could see the clog with your eyes, you can use a bent wire coat hanger to remove the clog. Hangers are not always the best solution. In many cases, hangers get stuck in the pipe. You either have to pull it out, which may cause serious plumbing problems or have to call professional help to remove the wire.
On the other hand, a pair of tweezers or chop sticks would also do the magic if the clog is very close by. While doing so, make sure to have gloves on. Needle nose plier or any small equipment can be used. What should you do if the clog is not seen with naked eye? You have a lot of other options to try. Even if you could not see anything, try this method to remove any small gunk or even a couple of hair. This would make the other methods, a little easier.
Vinegar is a mild acid and baking soda is a base. When an acid reacts with base, it creates salts and large of carbon-di-oxide. This reaction is called neutralization reaction. This reaction will help to dissolve soap residue and a simple organic wastes.
The first step is to boil water. You would need at least a liter of water. Pour the boiling water into the drain. Check whether the water is getting drained faster. If so, just boiling water has done the magic. Hot water can easily dissolve the soap. The soap is the main adhesive agent here. When the soap is dissolved, the other wastes would flow along with the water and thereby breaking the clog ultimately.
Alternatively, wait for the water to drain completely or remove it with a mug. Add ¼ of a cup of baking soda on the drain. Add a cup of any type of vinegar over the baking soda. Let this solution stay for 15 to 20 minutes. Flush it out with boiling water again. Check whether the water gets drained faster. If needed, repeat it as many times as wanted.
This is also an effective preventive measure. If your bathtub drain gets clogged every now and then, you can use this method once in a while to remove clog before they get accumulated and block the water. Since the solution is harmless and does not affect the pipes, you can use this solution as many times as needed.
3. Chemical drain cleaner for bathtub drain clog
There are separate drain cleaners which are marketed for bathtub drain. Buy a drain cleaner of any brand, which you are comfortable with. There are numerous brands that are marketed for each type of clog and with many characteristics. You are welcomed to try any of the brand or take up trial and error method, until you come across a good product. Each brand and type of chemical drain cleaner has a different set of instructions to follow.
First, remove any standing water inside the bathtub. Pour the chemical, only as directed. Excess amount of chemical drain cleaner can cause damage to the plumbing or might cause excessive fumes which might cause discomfort. You should always wear gloves and keep your face at a safe distance, while using it. Wait for 15-30 minutes before flushing with cold or lukewarm water. While using this method,
- Do not use another type of drain cleaner or baking soda vinegar solution immediately.
- Do not mix any two types of drain cleaners.
- Do not use hot water to flush out.
- The chemical drain cleaners might take many hours to work on the clog. So, use them overnight and clean them by morning before using the bathtub.
- The chemicals are irritants and would cause problems when it comes in contact with our skin. Thus, clean the bathtub completely before using it.
- If the drain is not unclogged even after using chemical drain openers, it is better not to try out any other method other than snake or drain stick. Or, call professional help and show them the brand of chemical that you used in your drain.
This is a relatively new type of drain cleaner. This is an eco-friendly drain cleaner that uses bacteria to dissolve organic products like body waste and hair. The vinegar and washing soda might not be the right solution always. The caustic drain cleaners are all not safe. Moreover, if you have a child or pet at home, it becomes more dangerous to have some kind of concentrated corrosive liquid at home. Moreover, it is not good for the aquatic life as all chemicals are flushed down to the sea.
These bio drain cleaners when added to the drain would activate the bacterial enzymes which feed on the organic waste and multiply. With more enzymes, more organic waste is consumed and this cycle goes on for a considerable amount of time till the clog is completely removed. While the bacteria are under work, no other drain cleaners or hot water should be used as they would kill the bacteria.
5. Drain claw
The first step in this method is to remove the strainer. The strainer is the metal perforated surface that you see as the drain on the bottom of the bathtub.
There will be a screw in the middle of the strainer. Use any type of screwdriver that would suit the screw head and remove it. Secure the screws as you would need them to put back the strainer. Some types of bathtub drain have stopper instead of strainer and they are very easy to remove as you just have to plug it out. In some cases, the stopper will have a small round middle part that can be removed.
Once removed, a small rod is seen out. Pull the rod and the stopper gets released and you would be able to see the strainer. Remove any gunk you find around or under the strainer. This would include hair and soap mostly. The drain claw is very similar to a plumber snake. You can use smaller size snake too.
The claw would have many interlocking hooks, while the snake has only a couple. Push the claw into the middle hole and push it slowly, till you feel resistance. The resistance is the spot of clog. Slowly rotate the claw so that the hooks get attached to the clog and pull it out. While pulling it out, use a rotational movement so that you would collect all gunk on the way out. Moreover, this movement will insert less pressure on the sides of the pipes, thereby reducing or avoiding damages to the plumbing.
6. Drain stick
Drain stick is very similar to that of a snake. It is a long barbed stick, which is a little flexible. Most of the clog are collected very close to the stopper. Insert the stick into the drain and rotate it. The hair will get tangled with the stick. Since most of the clog in a bathtub drain is hair, it would effectively remove the clog.
Pull it out and clean the drain stick for the next use. It is very cheap than most of the chemical solutions for drain unclogging. There is no chance of damaging the pipes as it is very flexible. The only disadvantage is that the stick cannot touch the clogs which are very far away from the stopper. If the clog is not mainly of hair, this method will not be as effective as stated above.
- Read: How To Use A Drain Snake?
Remove the strainer and let the water flow into the bathtub from the faucet. Now, place a toilet plunger over the bathtub drain. The standing water is essential as it creates the suction for the plunger. Press the plunger down to create a vacuum and pull it over slowly and create a pressure. Repeat it as many times as needed. Dirty water and clog might rush up into the bathtub. Keep repeating it till the standing water gets drained immediately.
Personally speaking, there wouldn’t be much of a need for a power plunger. Since the clog has more of soap residue and hair, a normal plunger would do the magic most of the time. In certain cases, where the clog had been in its place for several years and have gotten hardened, a power plunger might be a good solution. If you are using a power plunger, you are using a greater force and pressure on the pipes which might lead to damage in the main drain pipes. So, be a little patient while using power plungers.
8. Power auger
Usually, the clog in a bathtub drain is very simple to break as it contains mostly of hair and soap residue. In certain cases, when there is no result with any of the above mentioned methods, it is better to get to a stronger equipment like power auger. Power auger is a mechanical snake in which you are using electrical power to snake the drain. This is also used for clogs that are very deep in the drain.
If you are using a power auger, you should know that you can easily damage the pipes. Damaged pipes would lead to more problems and repairing them would be a very expensive task. It is better to leave it to the professionals. If not, read the manual first. Keep the power to low and insert the wire slowly. When there is a resistance, slowly start the motor and pull it out. If there is a resistance to pull, do not use your pressure. Instead, rotate it slowly as you pull it out.
9. Water hose
The water entering the tub drain will be slow in speed. This slow moving water will not have the power to break down the clog. On the other hand, if you are able to push in water at greater speed into the drain, the water will break the clog and makes it easier for other methods to be effective.
If you have a garden hose, it will be very handy in this method. Bring your garden hose to your bathroom and feed very high speed water into the bathtub drain hole as you close the overflow drain. This will help to break the clog.
10. Wet vacuum
Remove the drain cover of the main drain and overflow drain. Cover the over flow drain with a duct tape. Switch on the wet vacuum and place the hose over the drain such that the hose completely covers the drain opening. Place a palm over the overflow drain and then start the machine. Since clog is made up of hair and lighter objects, it would be easily pulled up by the vacuum.
If you are sure that the pipes are dry, you can use a normal vacuum too. Professional drain unclogging machines would not be usually required for this type of drains. If you think that your vacuum did not work, leave it to professionals. They know the type of professional equipment to use which would suit your pipes. Since the wet vacuum that you use is of low power, it would not damage the pipes.
What if none of the above stated method works?
There are professional plumbers who have refined experience in providing this service. Moreover, clog is not always the reason for blockage of water. Only when water draining speed reduces and you end up taking a shower in ankle deep soapy water, you would think about unclogging the bathtub drain. Reduced draining speed can be due to problems in the pipes, improper installation of pipes and so on.
If the clog is between your bathtub and the sewer line, your equipment cannot reach that distance. If there is a metal object or accumulated rust in the bathtub drain, it cannot be easily dissolved with chemicals or bacteria. Get professional help if the basic methods did not work.