We’ve all experienced taking a shower and having the water start to rise up over our feet and ankles instead of easily flowing down the drain. Often, our first go to is a chemical drain cleaner or a call to the plumber.
It’s understandable that you don’t want to call in the plumber at the first sign of a blockage – it’s expensive after all – but you don’t need to wait till you have a tub full of standing water to take action. So here’s how to unclog a bathtub drain by yourself.
Steps You Can Take to Unclog it Yourself
There are a number of DIY options to unclog your drain before calling a plumber.
These techniques can be used on pretty much any type of bathtub drain including: tub/shower combos, free-standing bathtubs, walk-in bathtubs, corner soak tubs etc. Work through them in order – and if you still haven’t managed to unclog your drain, it probably means it’s time to call in a professional.
1. Clean the strainers and stoppers
The first thing to try if your drain is showing signs of being blocked is to clean this cover.
Remove whatever strainer or stopper your drain has and clean off any build-up of hair. If the cover is not screwed down, simply lift it off and give it a clean. If it is held in place by a screw, unscrew it and do the same.
Replace it and run some water to test it. If the water drains away as it it should, you have solved the problem. If not, move on to the second technique.
2. Use a Drain claw
This is an inexpensive tool consisting of a stick covered in small hooks that is designed for unblocking bathtub drains. You can buy these at your local hardware store. They also have more heavy duty ones you can rent. Further, there are even disposable plastic drain claws you can buy online.
Remove the strainer or stopper as before and push the drain claw into the drain. Push it in as far as you can and then slowly pull it out again. The hooks on the stick will grab hold of any clumps of hair, allowing you to pull them out with the stick.
You can repeat the process a few times until you are no longer pulling out clumps of hair and gunk. When you are ready, refit the stopper or strainer and run some water to see if the blockage has been resolved. If not, you can move on to the third technique.
3. Baking soda and vinegar
Boil a full kettle of water and pour the entire amount into the drain. Sometimes, the boiling water alone will be enough to shift the blockage.
If not, pour half a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar into the drain and wait for 15 – 20 minutes for the mixture to act.
Boil another full kettle of water and pour it into the hole and wait for the water to drain away. Run some water to see if it has worked. Repeat this process two or three times before moving onto the next technique.
4. Use a plunger
Fill the bathtub to a couple of inches deep with hot water. Place the plunger over the hole and push it down and pull it up hard several times.
If it’s working, clumps of hair and other grime will start to be sucked up out of the hole. When this happens, scoop them up out of the tub so they don’t go back into the hole and block it up again.
Repeat this several times. It will probably be quite obvious if you are succeeding because you will see the clumps of hair being sucked up out of the hole and into the tub. If it works, once you have removed the blockage, the water will drain away normally.
If it seems to work partially, you may think about trying the baking soda and vinegar again, and then the plunger again several times.
If this doesn’t work, move on to the last option.
5. Use Store Bought Chemical Products
The last step before calling a plumber, is trying a chemical drain cleaner. The reason this should be a last resort rather than a first attempt is because they contain strong chemicals that are bad for the environment and that will also weaken your bathtub’s drainage system.
Choose a product that is specifically made for bathtubs and follow the instructions carefully. Allow water to drain as much as possible before beginning. Pour the product directly into the drain and wait for the specified time on the bottle to elapse. Then, flush the product with hot water and see if it drains away. If so, you are in luck, and the drain is unclogged; but, if not, it is now time to call a professional plumber.
You should always attempt these DIY tips the moment you notice your drain beginning to clog. The quicker you act, the more likely you will be able to unclog the drain yourself.