unclog a bathtub drain

How To Unclog A Bathtub Drain

A clogged bathtub drain can be a huge pain. This issue often isn’t as easy to rectify as a simple sink clog, and you might be overwhelmed by figuring out where to start.

But there are several simple DIY solutions that you can use to unclog the drain.

6 Ways To Unclog A Bathtub Drain

We’ve taken a look at six different ways to unclog a bathtub drain. These range from DIY mixtures to plumber’s tools to calling for backup.

It’s best to start with the easy measures first, and then to work up to the more complicated ones.

One vital note is that none of these solutions involve chemical drain cleaners. Though chemical drain cleaners claim to break down clogs, they’re also too corrosive for your pipes.

They can do more damage than good, especially if they aren’t washed out properly or are overused.

1. Boiling Water

boiling water

Boiling water is one of the first options that you should try, especially if you aren’t sure what has caused the clog. You can heat a pot of water on your stove and then send it down the bathtub drain.

If it seems like this has improved the clog, repeat the action until your tub is draining smoothly again.

This method works well for soap and shampoo. Soap scum can build up in layers over time, which in turn can cause clogs.

In addition, soap scum might build up around small amounts of hair and clog your drain.

Boiling water won’t dissolve matted clumps of hair, so it’s not the best option for hair-based clogs. But if the clog is mostly soap-related, it can sometimes dissolve enough of the mass for the hair to wash down the drain unimpeded.

2. Fixing A Clogged Bathtub Drain Using A Plunger

using a plunger

Plungers are a staple of every bathroom. They’re a vital tool if you want to deal with drain clogs.

You’re probably most familiar with toilet plungers, but did you know that these tools can also be used for bathtub and sink clogs?

Keep in mind that plungers might not be as successful with your bathtub as with your toilet. The plunging motion is more likely to dislodge a clog that’s not too deep in the pipes.

Follow these steps:

  • Add water to the tub
  • Put some petroleum jelly around the plunger ‘s rim to seal it to the tub
  • Place the plunger over the drain
  • Rapidly push the handle up and down to create forceful suction, which will hopefully dislodge the clog

You will know that the effort was successful when the water in the tub starts to drain normally.

It’s helpful to invest in a plunger that you use specifically for your bathtub and sink. In addition to being shaped differently, toilet plungers often aren’t sanitary enough to use in other bathroom drains.

3. Baking Soda and Vinegar


Baking soda and vinegar is a tried-and-true mixture that you can use to cleanse your pipes. It has many of the same dissolving properties as chemical cleaners, but it doesn’t have the same corrosive properties.

Don’t mix the components together yourself. Do you remember the clay volcanoes that students would build in high school?

Those used baking soda and vinegar for their eruption. You’ll end up with a big mess!

Instead, pour a single cup of baking soda down your drain. Allow it to settle for about ten minutes.

Then pour vinegar down after it. The two components will mix together, creating a bubbling froth that strips away the grime in your pipes.

At the end, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to wash the residue away.

This method is most effective when you’re dealing with minor clogs. It’s unlikely to dissolve or dislodge mats of hair.

4. Manual Removal

manual removal

You definitely never want to remove a toilet clog by hand, but manual removal is an option for a bathtub clog. Keep in mind that your drain is probably grimy, so you should wear gloves to protect your hand and forearm.

The first step here is to remove your drain cover by unscrewing it. Then shine a flashlight into the pipe.

Do you see any hair, objects, or other blockages? Reach into the drain and pull up as much of the clog as you can.

Once you’ve done this, you can replace the drain cover and run some water through the bathtub to see if it’s draining properly.

5. Use A Plumber’s Snake

plumbers snake

Despite the name, plumber’s snakes don’t need to be used exclusively by plumbers. You can pick them up at a hardware store.

Don’t get a plastic drain snake — while this may work for a clogged sink, it won’t bend well to the curve of your tub’s plumbing. Instead look for a motorized snake.

The snake will often come with instructions from the manufacturer for use. These are the basic guidelines to follow:

  • Protect the bottom of your tub by using a drop cloth. This will keep the snake from accidentally scratching it
  • Take the overflow plate out by unscrewing it
  • Slide the drain snake into the opening of the overflow drain
  • Push it to whatever distance you’re able to, then lock it
  • Activate the motor to start removing the clog
  • The snake will take care of the rest of the work for you

You should never try to feed a drain snake into the hole at the bottom of your tub. Since the bend is so sharp, the snake won’t be able to navigate it.

You could seriously damage your pipes.

You’ll feel resistance once the snake reaches the clog. If you feel that you’ve removed the clog, you should run water through the tub.

Keep doing this until the water drains normally.

6. Call A Plumber

call a plumber

If you’ve tried all of the DIY solutions and basic plumbing tools, and you’re still not having any luck, it’s time to call a plumber. Don’t be tempted to invest in chemical cleaners. They aren’t worth the damage they can cause.

A plumber will be able to evaluate your pipes, determine what is causing the clog, and use their tools to remove it. If you’re uncomfortable using a motorized drain snake, they can do that step for you.

It’s a good idea to call in a professional whenever a DIY home project is outside your scope of expertise. That helps you prevent potential accidents and damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Way To Unclog A Bathtub?

The best way to unclog your tub will vary depending on the location and the type of clog.

For example, for clogs close to the surface, it might be easiest to simply scoop the grime and debris out of the pipe.

For clogs made by built-up soap scum, boiling water is a good first resource. It can loosen and dissolve soap scum.

When that doesn’t work, you can get a more intense clean by combining baking soda with vinegar inside the pipes.

If the clog really isn’t budging, you might need a motorized snake. This tool will move through the pipes and penetrate the clog, pulling it out.

How Do You Unclog A Tub With Standing Water?

Standing water can turn a clog problem from a nuisance to something urgent. You’re most likely to get standing water in your tub if you ignore a clog for a long time, leading to an eventual complete blockage of your pipes.

In addition to being unpleasant to stand in, standing water can grow mold and mildew.

You might be wondering how you can pour boiling water or vinegar down your drain when there’s water in the way. The answer is simple: You need to drain the water.

Obviously you can’t use the actual drain for this, so try scooping it out with buckets and cups, and then soak up whatever remains with a towel.

Once you’ve done this, you can follow the other unclogging methods outlined in this article.

What Home Remedy Can I Use To Unclog My Bathtub?

There are a few home remedies that you can use for a clogged bathtub drain.

The first is boiling water. It’s easy enough to boil water in a kettle or a pot, and then to pour it slowly through your drain.

If the boiling water doesn’t work to break up the clog, the next solution is a combination of baking soda and vinegar. After this mixture cleans the pipes, you’ll pour some more boiling water down the drain to wash the substances away.


Unclogging a bathtub drain can be difficult, but it really depends on what type of clog you’re dealing with. Certain clogs, like surface ones and soap scum, are fairly easy to remove.

Others might require the use of professionals or tools like a motorized drain snake to remove.