How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain: 4 Easy Methods to Try

by Team eLocal
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There are few things more annoying than a blocked bathtub drain, but you don't have to spend a fortune in plumber's fees to solve the problem.

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Fortunately, most homeowners can unclog a bathtub drain themselves for a fraction of the cost of calling a plumber, and making a few small changes can reduce the chance of the clog recurring. Understanding how and why clogs form and how to stop them can help you get your bathtub drain working properly again.

What Causes a Bathtub Drain Clog?

Most bathtub drain clogs have more than one cause, but the most common is hair. As hair goes down the plughole, it can attach to other deposits, creating a stubborn blockage.

Soap and other detergents can also create scum — the white, sticky stains you need to scrub off your bathtub and shower screen. Soap scum can harden in the bath drainpipe, forming a residue that attracts hair and other debris.

All sorts of other debris can also accumulate in your drains, such as sand and dirt. This is especially likely if you have young children or pets and your shower is a low-flow model. This debris can stick to deposits in the drain and contribute to clogs.

Finally, hard water may be partially to blame for a bathtub drain that clogs frequently. Hard water contains more minerals than soft water, which can gradually accumulate inside your plumbing to form limescale. Limescale deposits can clog a pipe if they get bad enough and create the ideal surface for hair and grime to cling on.

How Do You Unclog a Bathtub Drain?

Generally, it's quick and straightforward to unclog a bathtub drain if the blockage is in the drain basket or at the top of the drainpipe. It's usually best to avoid harsh chemical unblockers. While these can clear a clog fast, repeated use can damage your plumbing and cause bigger issues in the future. Here are some simple, nontoxic methods for unclogging a bathtub drain.

1. Boiling Water

Boiling water won't tackle clogs caused by hair, but it can dissolve soap scum and grease to loosen the blockage. Slowly pour boiling water down the plughole, and try running the water to see if it drains correctly. You can also use this method to make the drain easier to clear with a plunger.

Teenager girl plunging the clogged bathtub with the plunger

2. Plunger

You can use a plunger to clean a minor blockage like you'd use it for a blocked toilet. Run a little water into the bathtub, and then place the plunger over the open plughole. Plunging up and down forcefully can often push the blockage down the pipe. You could also apply a small amount of petroleum jelly around the plunger's rim to create an airtight seal.

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Plumbing issues, occupation in sanitation and handyman contractor concept with plumber repairing drain with plumbers snake (steel spiral that twists through pipes to collect dirt) in residential sink

3. Plumber's Snake

A plumber's snake is a tool plumbers use to remove clogs from pipes. They're relatively inexpensive, and you can purchase one online or from a DIY store. They comprise a long wire with hooks to catch the clog and a rotating handle.

Insert the plumber's snake into the drain until you feel resistance, and then turn the handle to rotate the wire, so it grabs onto the clog. Next, pull the snake out of the drain to remove the blockage. You may need to repeat the process several times until the bathtub drains correctly.

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4. Baking Soda and Vinegar

A mix of baking soda and vinegar is a gentle alternative to commercial drain unblockers, although it's unlikely to work for stubborn clogs. First, pour a cup of baking soda down the plughole and leave it for at least 5 minutes. Next, pour in one cup of white vinegar and allow the solution to fizz for around half an hour to dissolve any built-up scum. Pouring in some boiling water can help clear any remaining debris before you try running the faucet.

How Do You Prevent Bathtub Drain Clogs?

The most effective way to avoid bathtub drain clogs is to minimize the amount of soap you use and clean the drain basket regularly. Removing hair and other debris from the basket can stop it from reaching your pipes and causing a more stubborn blockage.

If you live in a hard-water area, it's worth considering installing a descaler or water softener to prevent limescale buildup. These fixtures reduce the mineral content of your water supply, which means fewer deposits inside your bathtub drain. Another advantage of installing a descaler or water softener is that they can prevent damage to other fixtures, such as washing machines and faucets, and help them work more efficiently.

If you're experiencing regular bathtub drain clogs, it's worth calling a plumber to diagnose the cause. A professional plumber can inspect deep inside your plumbing system to find out why your drains keep clogging.

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