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Cleaning your own tub drains doesn't have to be difficult.Slow draining or clogged bathtubs are a frustrating, odorous plumbing problem that thousands of Americans deal with every year. Often, homeowners will contact professional plumbers in their community to resolve these issues; eliminating the clog is worth the weighty investment into professional services.

What if we told you that you could likely fix the issue on your own, without the need of costly, professional aid? With the right tools and plumbing tips, resolving bathtub clogging and the water pooling that comes with it can be rather simple. Best of all, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars in immediate repair needs, as well as in future DIY plumbing care.

Don’t let clogged bathtub drains send you into a plumbing panic. In this article, we outline simple ways you can fix slow draining bathtubs on your own, and the best tools and techniques to use in doing so.

Chemical-Free DIY Drain Cleaning

While you may be tempted to purchase a commercial drain cleaning formula in a tight plumbing pinch, there are actually better ways to clear your clogged tub drain without these products. Safer, alternative techniques to chemical cleaning are important to keep in mind when dealing with clogged tubs, as overuse of chemical products can actually damage your pipes permanently.

While they work well in an emergency, you should avoid using these cleaners on a regular basis, and instead practice the following steps for removing troublesome clogs from your slow draining bathtub (broken down into category by drain stopper type):

  • Drop stopper: perhaps the most widely used bathtub stopping mechanism is the drop stopper. This is the stopper with a small knob on top for opening and closing drain access, and typically the easiest to remove. Most drop-style drain stoppers can be removed via a screw underneath the stopper cap, in a no-hassle, single-step task.
    • With the stopper removed, there’s a good chance you can even see clogged hair and debris, which accumulate around drainage crossbars a few inches down your pipe. From here, it’s easy to manually remove clogged materials either by flushing or grabbing with a hooked wire.
  • Levered tub stopper: this applies for most older bathtubs, which feature a lever stopping mechanism attached to tub overflow plates. While you can generally clean these drains through the drain screen or grate, as you would for drop stopper drains, there’s often an additional step involved.
    • For deeper clogs (typically formed where the drain pipe connects to the internal stopping mechanism), you may have to unscrew the overflow plate, pull outward to lift the stopper, and clear the drain pipe with a hot water flush. With zero obstructions, residual hair and drain gunk should be cleared easily.
  • Push stopper: these push-and-lock drain stoppers are often the most frustrating to work with, as there’s generally no clear way to remove them. These stoppers cannot be unscrewed and removed, as drop stoppers can. The truth is, these stoppers are screws in and of themselves, and can typically be removed by holding the stopper base and unscrewing the push-and-lock cap.
    • In some cases, you can find and clear the clogged debris just be removing this cap. For deeper clogs, you can remove the base of the stopper in the same fashion, and manually clear or flush your pipes with hot water.

General Cleaning Tools and Techniques

With drain covers and stoppers out of the way, there are a few different ways you can access or remove stubborn debris within your drain pipes. For the best drain cleaning results, we recommend using the following techniques and plumbing tools to resolve bathtub clogging:

  • Bent wire: a simple bent, hooked wire (even an old coat hanger) can be an effective tool for removing clogged debris. With stoppers removed, accessing debris is a straightforward process of insert and pull. Note: try to avoid pushing debris further in your drains, as this can result in clogs deeper in your drains, and much less accessible.
  • Hot water or homemade mixture flush: flushing your drains with chemical cleaning products regularly can corrode and deteriorate your tub drain pipes with ease. Instead, try clearing your drains with hot water, or a DIY vinegar and baking soda mixture. These alternatives are much safer than chemical cleaners, and can clean clogged bathtub drains with equal effect.
  • Professional drain augers: for stubborn bathtub clogs farther down drain pipes, you may be pressed to contact a professional service right away. However, you can typically find the same high-end tools plumbers use to clear tub clogs at your local home improvement store; most notably, professional drain augers, or “snakes.” For a detailed guide to using a drain auger, check out our blog post on the subject.

Topics: Drain Cleaning, Plumbing Tips, Inspection, How To, Preventative