Bathroomer is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
If you use your bathtub with any regularity, then there’s no way it would not get clogged in the long run. The only authentic detail that would be of any surprise to a plumber called in to fix a clogged drain or a slow draining tub would cause the clog. There are also familiar culprits for that crime, with hair a big menace.
It’s always quite hard to determine the exact cause of a slow or clogged drain but calling a plumber is an unnecessary cost that can be avoided by simply knowing how to fix a slow draining bathtub yourself. The cause of your clog or blockage could be just a regular build-up of dirt from usage. The reason for the blockage could also be a serious one that requires the services of the plumber eventually, but why don’t you get your hands dirty trying to fix it before committing any dollars.
This is not the cleanest chore in the house, and it is most likely to get messy the deeper you go. You would do well to get old clothes or work clothes to wear. Also, towels might come in handy to soak up spilled water and provide a less slippery place to stand or rest your knees.
The most important precaution is, however, a pair of rubber gloves. The inside of your drain isn’t exactly sanitary, which is somewhat ironic, seeing as your soaps, shampoo, and water make up the bulk of the waste going down the bathtub drain. Rather than risk the germs, cover up and dive in.
You would also need whatever tool you intend to use to facilitate the unclogging of the drain. This could be a clothing hanger or bent wire, a plunger, a drain auger or plumber’s snake, cleaning chemicals, etc.
Mechanical ways of clearing the bathtub drain
Before you get down to the business of clearing the drain, the little things like removing your drain stopper need to be taken care of first. There are many types of drain stoppers, and not all of them would be removed the same way. Of what use is trying to be handy to save costs if you break the drain stopper and need to spend after all. Here are the types of stoppers and how to best remove them:
A drop stopper. This is common in most tubs, including some of the best luxury bathtubs, and it usually comes with a knob on top that allows for the opening and closing of the drain. If this is the type of stopper employed in your bathtub, all you have to do is take off the cap and unscrew the stopper. This would grant you access to underneath the stopper and whatever debris might be hiding there. Once cleared, check to see if there’s any improvement in the flow through the drain.
Levered bathtub stopper. This type of stopper is quite old and usually consists of an overflowing plate that might need to be removed before the stopper proper can be accessed. Due to the difficulty in getting this stopper off, a good way of clearing the debris underneath is with a hot water flush. To achieve this, pour boiling water straight down the drain to wash any debris that might not have been cleared down the drain.
Push stopper. This might be a frustrating stopper to remove. However, you can remove it by holding the base while unscrewing the stopper. It might not be as easy as unscrewing a drop stopper, but this should get it off. Once the stopper is off, the debris underneath can be cleared with ease.
In many cases, getting the drain off and clearing the immediate mass of debris underneath might not be enough to take care of the slow draining, and if this is the case, there are still more tools and more steps that can be taken.
Using a bent wire. A stiff wire, bent at the end, might prove helpful. A clothe hanger could always be repurposed for this function. The hook or bent end can be thrust into the drain and used to pull out the cause of the clogging. Care should, however, be taken not to push the debris deeper into the pipe.
Toilet plunger. This is already present in your home, but rather than utilizing it on your toilet, why not use the suction to take care of your clog. It would require more effort and may be more disgusting. To make the process as efficient as possible, you could add some petroleum jelly to the edges of the suction pad and run water into the bathtub to submerge the plunger pad. However, if the clog is very deep, the effectiveness of the plunger might be reduced.
Drain auger. This is particularly risky as not knowing how to properly use one could be as damaging, if not more so, than the clog itself. However, if you are well versed in the act of snaking a pipe, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. The method is more effective as you reach deeper into the drain and, as such, can remove much deeper debris. A highly recommended auger or plumber’s snake is the Forlivese Snake Cleaner.
Hot water flushes. An alternative, simpler method to first try out when dealing with a clogged drain is a hot water flush. You could just run the hot water and allow it to flow, or better still, get the hot water in a pail or bucket and pour it directly into the drain hole. The second system would allow you to flush with more force down the drain. Like most methods of clearing the drain, it would be more effective when combined with other complementary strategies.
Chemical methods of unclogging a slow bathtub drain
Method #1: Baking soda and vinegar
This is a chemical method of cleaning the drain, but it is a more natural chemical method. If you are an environmentally conscious individual, this should appeal to your sense of sustainability than most cleaning chemicals available. However, this method might not be very convenient for clearing really bad clogs. Anyways, to clear a bathtub drain using the homemade solution of baking soda and vinegar, follow the steps below.
Remove the drain stopper for better access to the drain
Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain opening
Follow up the baking soda with a cup of white vinegar
Allow both ingredients to foam and mix for five minutes
Then, run the hot water and allow it to wash the combined ingredients down the drain together
Assess the flow through the bathtub drain to determine whether or not the procedure was effective.
As earlier stated, the method is unsuitable for more serious blockages. Still, it also has advantages because it causes minor damage to plastic pipes than conventional cleaning chemicals, and it is environmentally friendly.
It should also be noted that the method doesn’t have to be used on its own but can also be combined with one or more mechanical methods to improve the efficiency of the process. For instance, consider clearing some of the surface debris mechanically to reduce the seriousness of the blockage and potentially increase the effectiveness of the baking soda-vinegar cleaning mixture.
Method #2: Chemical clog remover
This is the more common type of chemical unclogging agent. They are widely available at supermarkets and are designed to clear blocked drains. They can be used safely and effectively by following these steps:
The amount of the chemical product to be used for clearing drains would be indicated on the packaging and checked to avoid using too much.
Before using the chemicals, protect yourself with your rubber gloves, goggles, and even a nose mask to better help you cope with potential fumes.
Ignore the urge to mix two or more chemicals if you have such. The chemicals’ constituents are numerous, and attempting to raise their effectiveness by combining more than one cleaning product could cause more damage than good both o your health and the pipes of your drain.
Remove the drain stopper and pour the recommended volume of chemicals down the drain.
There is a reason why this particular method was brought up last. Firstly, it is by far the most dangerous method to use. The danger doesn’t stop at just a personal level as the chemicals can also be damaging to your drain pipes, especially if they are used regularly or repeatedly.
The major advantages to using such chemicals are they are fast, easy to use, and are most consistently successful. Still, they are also dangerous to the environment if you needed more reasons not to use them regularly, if at all. If a chemical cleaner is absolutely necessary, a product recommended by many online reviews is the Rooto Professional Drain Opener.
Minimizing the risk of future blockages and clogs
The best way to avoid the potential plumbing cost or the generally disgusting nature of having to dig up knotted, unhygienic debris is to clean your freestanding or alcove bathtub drain regularly enough to prevent a clog. It could also be beneficial to reduce the number of potential clogs that are introduced into the drain. Possible clogging materials are:
Dirt. It wouldn’t be too unexpected if a build-up of dirt causes a clog in the drain. It can’t be helped as the very process of washing up requires we send some quantity of dirt down the drain. Over time, this can build up, create a blockage and slow the flow of water down the drain, but this is a relatively easy kind of blockage to deal with.
Soap. Soaps are made from fat, and as such, they have greasy components that can combine with hair, dirt, and even minerals in the water to form materials that can clog up the drains.
Underground roots. In the vent that a pipe was to crack underneath the ground, the water leaking might attract and stimulate the growth of underground roots that can cause a serious blockage of the pipes and cause big problems.
Hair. In the name of grooming, we can block our pipes and drains ourselves. Sure, the shaver might be branded best electric shaver around, but that doesn’t make the hair; it removes any less dangerous water flow through the drain. Thus, it is best to try alternate means of disposing of shaved hair.
Having talked extensively about the causes of a clogged drain and the difficulty that may be faced in cleaning it up, certain steps can be taken to prevent the reoccurrence of a clog. One of these is investing in a good drain protector.
There are many drain protectors around, and the choice would also depend on the type of drain stopper you are using. However, you could always try changing the drain stopper to fit a more effective drain protector though this would be more difficult and expensive than the latter.
This is one of the more disgusting things you get to do around the house in the name of cutting costs and being helpful. Still, truth be told, if you work at preventing any major clogs by regularly cleaning the drains, the problem will not occur as much, and the regular cleaning would be way less disgusting.
Figuring out how to fix a slow-draining bathtub is thus not the problem; the real issue is getting over all the barriers to doing it. As a result, many people do not show much interest in getting their hands dirty trying to handle this particular task.
If you can do it but using chemicals or getting dirty is not you, call the plumber.