Ultimate Advice: How to Unclog a Slow Draining Bathtub

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From a relaxing shower to standing in dirty water that doesn’t drain is nothing even close to your imagination. You should probably just let it drain over time. Right? Wrong! Don’t even entertain the thought! With all the abuse from dirt, hair, soap, and hair care products, the tub drain is no stranger to stubborn clogs. Unfortunately, that water is not going away, and the clog will worsen if not dealt with. Fortunately, we’ve got relief for you! To help you avoid a plumber’s expense and save a pretty penny, we’ll show you a few quick tricks in this guide. Follow along to learn how the pros remove nasty clogs using some affordable methods and tools you probably have and get back to enjoying a soothing bath experience.

Table of Contents

A Few Things Before You Get Started

  1. Standing water is unhygienic, so you’ll be best off protecting your hands from germs with a pair of rubber gloves. Speaking of protection, you might want to change your clothes and put on old ones when it comes to plumbing as it is messy work. Cover your working area by laying down some old towels to soak up any water spills.
  2. There are a bunch of commercial drain cleaners on the market that can be cost-effective. While they’re generally useful, you should take care of the environment and protect your pipes from corrosion by mixing your own cleaners to get the job done the right way.
  3. Understanding how the drain is put together sure does help answer the question ‘how overflow drain works’. The overflow drain consists of the overflow drain and the overflow trap. At the bottom of your bathtub is where the main drain is typically located. In contrast, the overflow component is placed under the rim. The two drains run from the bathtub by connecting to individual lines and ultimately unite into one central pipe. You may have noticed that the main drain has a plug stopper used to regulate water flow, while an overflow drain is without a stopper. 

Essential Tools and Materials You’ll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Paper towels
  • Cloth/Old Towels
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Drain snake
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plunger with a cup
  • Duct tape

So How Do You Unclog a Slow Draining Tub? 

There are several methods! We’ll work through them in order on a difficulty scale with designated tools and specialized products to resolve the issue no matter how severe it is. The method and tools you’ll use depend on where the clog is located. If the blockage is near the strainer, it can easily be removed without breaking a sweat. But, if the clog is further into the drain or piping system, you’ll need specific tools. So, let’s get to it!

1. Cleaning the Strainer and Stopper

Quite often, you may realize that your bathtub drain gets clogged up and doesn’t drain well. Bathtub drains often get clogged where the cover comes up that prevents large objects from disappearing in the drain hole while providing free water flow down the drain. The problem comes up when debris and hair get caught up around the strainer or stopper. It can be challenging to get them off once they get tangled up, which blocks the water from passing.

  • If you’ve noticed that the water is backing up and it isn’t properly draining, the first step would be to remove the strainer or stopper. 
  • Remove any buildup of debris and hair. You might need to grab a screwdriver to take it off or simply untwist it counterclockwise and pull it up to give it a good scrub.
  • Once you’ve removed all the gunk, refit the strainer or stopper and perform a drainage test. Turn on the water and let it run for a few minutes. 
  • If the water drains typically, congratulations, you’ve successfully cleared your bathtub drain blockage. This method works for small clogs. If you’re dealing with a severe clog, move on to the next method.

2. Using a Home Remedy Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

This method, if not the most, is one of the most popular home remedies! Nothing wrong with that, though, especially if you’re just like us and prefer not to use potentially dangerous chemicals. The baking soda and vinegar combination creates a powerful carbon dioxide gas reaction that cleanses almost any minor clog. For extra grazing power, table salt can be thrown in the mix.

  • If you find hair and soap residue underneath the strainer or stopper, give it a good wipe down. Then remove the screws if applicable that hold the strainer down or remove the stopper with a twisting motion as you lift it up. Additionally, you can scrub off any gunk with an old toothbrush or sponge.
  • Bring a kettle to the boil, fill it to the top. Let the water come to a boiling point. Cautiously pour the boiling water as it could burn you. Run the water to test the drainage, as this could shift the blockage.
  • If boiling water didn’t unclog the drain, follow it up with ½ cup of baking soda and ½ cup of white vinegar. Allow the mixture to work on dissolving the blockage and let it sit for about fifteen minutes. 
  • Boil some more water and pour it down the drain. The water will give the reaction of baking soda and vinegar an extra push to clear the blockage. Test the drain and see if the water is draining as it should. If it hasn’t been restored to normal, move to the next method. 

3. Using a Drain Claw Method

To clear the bathtub from hair and soap, you’ll need to remove the strainer, located in or over the drain. Many strainers are screwless and, as a result, can be removed manually. If screws hold down yours, you’ll need to remove them with a screwdriver to take off the strainer.

  • Use a screwdriver with the proper size and shape to easily fit its head into the screw. Once you’ve loosened all of the screws that hold the strainer, take them off to a safe location as you work on unclogging the drain.
  • As a substitution to the strainer, some drains have tub stoppers located in the drain. You’ll need to remove the stopper, which is an easy task as no screws are holding it down. Start twisting the stopper and lift it to remove it.
  • Strainers and stoppers are a hot spot for gunk. With a paper towel, get rid of any excessive hair and soap scum accumulated over time. If your strainer or stopper is covered in dirt, you might need to give it a good scrub.
  • Next, you’ll want to insert the drain stick down the drain deep enough to hit the drain trap. Move the claw in a back and forth motion. With its bending ability and flexibility, push it beyond the drain’s curved part, also known as the trap. 
  • Once you’ve gone all the way down, you’ll want to slowly pull out all the substances which have gathered on the claw’s multiple interlocking hooks. Have a trash bag handy to clean the gunk off the stick so that you can use it again in a few months.
  • Then you’ll want to test the bathtub and ensure that the water is draining normally. You might want to let the water run for a few minutes to be sure that the method has successfully worked.
  • Suppose the drain has been successfully unclogged. Refit the strainer or stopper back in its place. Don’t forget to secure the strainer if you’re dealing with one by screwing it around onto the drain.

4. Using a Plunger Method

There are different ways that a blockage can be addressed depending on its nature and the way your drain is designed. Plunging is one of them which has been proved to be a highly effective method in dislodging clogs.

  • First things first, remove the strainer or stopper as applicable. You may need to unscrew it or twist it as you pull it up. Clear any excess hair or soap scum with a paper towel or rag accumulated around the strainer or the stopper.
  • You’re going to want to completely cover up the overflow opening by wedging a rag in there or using duct tape, so the air doesn’t just push back out, which will push the water out.
  • Before you begin plunging, it’s crucial to aim for a good seal, which can be achieved by adding petroleum jelly to the suction’s cup edge.
  • Add sufficient amounts of hot water in the bathtub, enough to submerge the plunger’s cup to get a proper suction essential to loosen the clog with the plunger’s action.
  • Start by plunging the hole of the bathtub’s drain with a quick stiff back and forth intervals to suction out the blockage. The more vigorous you plunge, the more effective it will be as you’re trying to clear the blockage with the force of the suction.
  • After about ten plunges, you might need to repeat the process as needed if the plunging doesn’t result in any gunk and dirty water gushing out of the drain.
  • If there aren’t any obstructions coming out of the drain, although you’ve applied more force, consider using a different method.

5. Using a Drain Snake Method

The plumbing snake is another inexpensive tool with a high unclogging success rate. It can be bought for around fifteen to twenty dollars to fix your slow draining bathtub

  • If your tub is made out of porcelain, or perhaps you have an acrylic bathtub, place old towels or cloths on the bottom of the tub. Doing so will cover it from the snake’s metal cable, which can easily scratch it or even damage it.
  • Before you start snaking, you’ll need to remove the cover from the overflow located above the drain.
  • Wear gloves as you hold the cable and simultaneously use the other hand to run the snake. Start by feeding it down the drain from the overflow until you feel resistance, which is likely the clog.
  • Once you get to a spot that kinks up, turn the set screw to lock it and flop the snake in place by turning the handle to get past the blockage. Keep pushing it down as far as you can to dislodge the clog before bringing it back up.
  • If you’ve successfully unclogged the drain, all the standing water will start to go down the drain. Extract the snake by running the snake’s cable in reverse. Twist it as you slowly pull up the snake.
  • Ensure that the clog is completely gone by running the water on full blast and observing if it’s draining normally.
  • That’s how you save on a plumber’s call, and remember to keep doing it yourself!


Is Your Bathtub Still Draining Slow?

If you are still experiencing a clogged and slow bathtub drain after you’ve tried most of the methods above, that might signify a serious problem such as a broken sewer line. You will need to call a plumber in such an instance, especially if you’re unwilling to take your drain apart and have a toilet and sink with the same diagnosis. Obviously, calling a professional might be the last resort, but it’ll be the least trouble on the positive side.

How to Get Rid of Smelling Bathtub Drain?

When it comes to bathtub drain odors, the main culprit is soap scum, which you obviously can’t ban for usage. Rather than not using it, you can prevent it from building up by merely pouring boiling water a little at a time down the drain at least once a week. Additionally, you can try mixing some vinegar and baking soda to get rid of your drain’s odor. Pour baking soda and top it off with a half cup of vinegar. Once the foam starts, it’ll help clean and deodorize while breaking down the growth of mildew. Allow the foam to work in the drain for at least half an hour before pouring boiling water in intervals down the drain.

Will Bleach Unclog a Clogged Drain?

Bleach will unclog your drain as long as the clog is organic such as hair. However, it’s not sufficient for non-organic blockages such as small plastic items or child’s toys. Note that chemicals should be used with caution as most drains are made from plastic PVC, which can easily be damaged by excessive chemicals. When using chemicals, be sure to protect yourself by wearing gloves and always have a window open or run the fan to get rid of fumes.