Bathtub buildup can get pretty yucky and put a damper on what should be a fun and pampering experience (bath time!). All of a sudden, your warm shower or nice, relaxing bath is interrupted by a drain that just won’t drain, and you find yourself wading in several inches of water, wondering how to fix it. If your bathtub is clogged, read on for a few ways to unclog it and get back to your relaxing shower.
1. Use a Chemical Drain Cleaner
This is perhaps the easiest and least labor-intensive method to unclog a bathtub drain. Chemical drain cleaners usually use sulfuric acid or potassium hydroxide to clear drains. Be warned: these chemicals are highly toxic and can cause great damage, so you need to read all directions very carefully before you start, and keep out of the reach of children. In order to avoid damage to your pipes, you should also read the product description carefully to make sure you’re using the right product intended for your drainage system. As a basic, you must buy a product specifically intended for bathtubs (rather than, say, toilets). If necessary, ask someone at the store to help you select the right product.
Once you’ve purchased the correct product, read the directions carefully and make sure you use any protective gear such as goggles and/or gloves to avoid injury. You should also make sure there is no standing water in the tub before you begin (use a bucket to remove standing water). Make sure you use no more than the required amount and be patient. Most of these products take 15-30 minutes to work. Once you’re done, turn on the cold water in the tub to flush out the product. If you’ve successfully unclogged the drain, the water should drain swiftly.
2. Use a Toilet Plunger
If the idea of heavy chemicals makes you uneasy, one trick is to use a toilet plunger. Make sure it’s a new one since you likely don’t want to put a used plunger into the tub where you’re planning to bathe. The first step is to use a screwdriver (if necessary) to remove the strainer or stopper from the tub. Clean the strainer or stopper to get rid of any hair or soap residue. Second, fill the bathtub with a few inches of water, enough for the plunger to be submerged. Then use the plunger as you would in a toilet. You may need to plunge as many as 10 times before you clear the drain. If after 10 plunges the water still isn’t draining, you will need to explore a different method.
3. Clean the Strainer or Stopper
Sometimes just cleaning the strainer or stopper will do the trick. You’ll know if this simpler method is likely to work if your tub is simply a little slow to drain rather than completely clogged up, in which case it likely doesn’t drain at all. The first step is to secure the proper screwdriver in order to remove the screws around the strainer. If your tub has a stopper instead of a strainer, there are no screws, and you won’t need a screwdriver. Once you’ve removed the screws, twist and lift the stopper. The next step is to thoroughly clean the stopper or strainer to remove any hair or soap/shampoo/conditioner residue that has accumulated on it. You should make sure to scrub it clean. Next, replace the strainer/stopper back into the drain. If you unscrewed it, you would need to screw it back in. Now run some water and see if the clog has cleared. If it hasn’t, you have a more serious clog in the pipes and will need to try a different method.
4. Use a Drain Claw
A drain claw also foregoes heavy chemicals. The first part of the process is similar to using a toilet plunger or cleaning the strainer/stopper. First you’ll have to remove the strainer or stopper and use a screwdriver if necessary. Once you’ve done that, insert the claw into the drain until it hits the drain claw. Then pull it out — it will draw out trapped hair and gunk. Now run some water and see if the clog has cleared.
5. Call a Plumber
If none of the methods above work, it may be time to call a plumber.