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How Do I Unclog a Bathtub?

Unclog a Bathtub

To unclog a bathtub try the easiest, least expensive options first.

  1. Sink, Bath, and Shower Plunger First, try an high-efficiency accordion style plunger.
    • Look for a plunger that's designed just for tubs, sinks and showers, with a broad circular base to seal against the drain opening. Accordion style plungers can be purchased online and in hardware stores for around $10.
    • Check to make sure the bottom of the plunger seals tightly against the drain opening. You might need to remove a mechanical stopper if one is present at the bathtub drain opening.
    • Use extra caution and wear fluid resistant gloves and eye protection if you believe that chemical drain cleaners may have been used.
    • Note: if several plumbing fixtures in different rooms are all clogged, see our tips to unclog a main sewer drain.
  2. Handheld Drum AugerNext try a handheld drum auger to unclog the bathtub if the plunger doesn't work.
    • A 25 foot handheld drum auger can be purchased for around $30.
    • This is a good next choice, since the auger can break through many clogs that are further from the drain opening, and its spiral tip can often pass through the small-diameter elbows and transitions in the lateral drain lines that run from a bathtub to the main drain. And, if the clog contains hair or fibrous material the spiral tip might pull out some of the residue.
    • To clean a clogged bathtub with a handheld drum auger:
    • Read and follow the drum auger safety instructions, then put on work gloves and eye protection.
    • It's usually possible to clean the bathtub drain through the opening behind the bathtub overflow plate. Start by removing the overflow plate, using care not to damage any linkage and stopper assembly underneath. Note: it is usually not possible to clean a bathtub drain through the opening at the bottom of the tub.Remove the Bathtub Overflow Plate
    • With the overflow plate removed, feed the auger into the drain by locking the cable, turning the drum in a clockwise direction, and then unlocking and feeding the cable as needed to pass the auger tip through elbows and obstructions.
    • After you have inserted the drum auger its full length into the drain, pull out the auger cable as you feed it back into the drum. It may take several attempts before the sink is unclogged.
    • Replace the stopper and overflow plate and check for smooth operation of the linkage.
    • Use extra caution when working on any plumbing fixture where chemical drain cleaners may have been used to avoid splashing liquid on yourself and surrounding areas.
  3. Needle Nose Drain CleanerTry using a sewer jetter if the clog keeps coming back.
    • A Needle Nose™ drain cleaner is a sewer jetter with a tougher, braided steel jacket and a special compact nozzle tip that allows it to pass through almost as many drain elbows and transitions as a hand-held auger.
    • Important: you should try a sewer jetter only if you were able to insert the drum auger its full 25 foot length into the bathtub drain. And, you should have an alternate, clogged drain opening available that's upstream of the bathtub in case the sewer jetter can't pass through the drain opening behind the bathtub overflow plate.
    • Needle Nose Sewer Jetter VideoUnlike a mechanical auger, a sewer jetter scrubs the sides of dirty pipes and flushes out greasy residue so fewer clogs come back. You can see the differences between a mechanical auger and the sewer jetter as they both take on a greasy clog in this 2 minute video.
    • Needle Nose Drain CleanerTo clean a clogged bathtub drain with the Needle Nose drain cleaner:
    • Put on fluid resistant work gloves and eye protection. Be extra careful if you believe the drain might contain drain cleaning chemicals.
    • Carefully remove the bathtub overflow plate, using caution not to damage any linkage and stopper assembly underneath.
    • Make sure the work area is well ventilated. And, if you're using a gas-powered pressure washer, only operate it outdoors.
    • Connect the drain cleaner to the pressure washer trigger gun. To avoid getting water on indoor floors, check your trigger gun and supply hoses for leaks while still outside.
    • Start your pressure washer, and with the bathtub stopper plate removed guide the nozzle at least a foot into the drain opening before squeezing the trigger to start the flow of water.
    • After you have finished cleaning the drain, pull the drain cleaner out. Use care to release the trigger to stop the flow of water before the nozzle reaches the drain opening.
    • Replace the stopper and overflow plate and check for smooth operation of the linkage.
  4. Licensed PlumberIf you're not comfortable performing any of these steps, you can save a lot of money in the long run by hiring a good, licensed plumber. To find a good plumber in your area:
    • Start by asking family, friends and co-workers to recommend a licensed plumber who has performed similar services for them.
    • If you are unable to find a recommendation from someone you know, search local directories like Google Maps, Yelp and CitySearch for licensed plumbers nearby who have good online reviews. Don't always trust reviews from individuals who published very few other reviews, or from people who give only positive reviews to everyone. Be aware that good service providers sometimes get a small number of negative reviews for reasons that might not be relevant to your situation. Look for a company with several reviews that tell a positive, believable story about repairs that are similar to yours.
    • After you find one or more licensed plumbers who seem to have a good reputation, search online for the company name and the names of individuals at the company, if known. Take into account both the positive and negative information that you find about the company.
    • Be aware that good plumbers sometimes have a backlog of several days during peak times when there are low temperatures, heavy rainfall or holidays. Sometimes heavy demand can be a sign of a company with lots of repeat customers.

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