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In my experience is that it's always worth trying to avoid the expense of employing a plumber if you can help it, and fixing a slow-draining bathtub yourself often isn’t anywhere near as challenging as many people think. Most clogged bath drain issues can be resolved by using some easy, affordable, and straightforward tools and methods.
Once you have fixed the bathtub drain, you should work on preventing or reducing the chances of it happening again—see my suggestions at the bottom of the page.
I will go into each of the above methods in detail below. Generally speaking, the list starts with the easier, less-involved, and cheaper methods and progresses to more-involved and expensive methods. So if in doubt, start with #1, and work your way down through the list.
In my experience, clearing a clogged bathtub drain can often requires a combination of more than one of these methods.
Plumbing is messy work. Put on some old clothes before you start. You may want to put down some old towels around the work area to soak up any water that spills. Stagnant water is unsanitary, wearing a pair of rubber gloves will protect your hands from germs.
A more natural solution than using cleaning chemicals, this method will clear moderate blockages.
Note: The two main advantages of this method are that it is ecologically preferable, and won't cause damage to plastic pipes. It is not that effective on serious blockages, however, and you may still end up having to resort to chemicals.
Widely available at hardware stores and supermarkets, strong chemical cleaners are designed to unblock drains. Follow the instructions on the label or box carefully.
Note: Chemicals should not be used lightly. They can cause damage to your drainage pipes, especially if used repeatedly. Using chemicals is typically a fast, straightforward, and affordable method with a fairly high success rate in my experience. You can reduce the need for chemicals, however, by minimizing future blockages occurring (see the bottom of page)!
Rooto Professional Drain Opener
Instant Power Hair & Grease Drain Opener
Drainbo Drain Cleaner
Unique Super Digest-It Safe Drain Opener
No, but it will still make you ill if you drink it.
Clean Earth Earthworm Family Safe Drain Cleaner
No, but it will still make you ill if you drink it.
Plunging can be successful, though it depends on the nature of the blockage, the location of the clog, and the design of your drain. The plunger requires suction to work. So if the clog is deep and made of mainly hair, for instance, this method may not be effective.
Note: If using one plunger doesn't work, try using the two plunger method. Put one plunger over the overflow panel, so that the cup seals it off and hopefully gives you better suction, and simultaneously plunge the drain opening using the other plunger. As a method, plunging is always worth a try, as the time and costs involved are relatively small.
If you've tried the above methods and none of them have worked, it's time to get down and dirty. You need to unscrew and take off the overflow plate, then remove the stopper.
The stopper works by lifting and dropping a plunger to open and close the drain. It is operated by a small lever. If the stopper is not working correctly, it can be stuck in a semi-closed position, restricting water flow. The positioning of the plunger can be easily adjusted with the lock nuts that hold the plunger to the threaded rod.
If the stopper works okay, then the problem is likely to be a clog, and you will need to use a plumbers' snake. You can use the overflow for access.
Note: Hair and soap can often accumulate underneath the drainage strainer too. So I would recommend removing that too for inspection and access. Some strainers can be removed manually, while others have screws that need to be removed first.
This is another inexpensive method for fixing a slow bathtub drain. The success rate is high if the issue your dealing with is a clog.
Note: Clogs caused by invasive roots will require more than a plumbers' snake to fix.
If you are unwilling to take your drain apart and don't feel comfortable with using chemicals (or they simply don't work), then you will have to call out a professional plumber. It’s obviously the last resort if you are looking to save money.
That said, it is also the least trouble.
Typically the cause of a slow-draining bathtub is a clog that is restricting water flow. Clogs are usually made up of knotted hair, dirt, grease, and/or soap. They can be difficult to remove because hair can wrap around parts of the drain.
Clogs happen more frequently in homes where one or more of the bathtub users has long hair, as short hair is much less likely to get caught in the drain system.
|Cause||How It Happens|
Hair can combine with soap and dirt and clump together to form clogs. It can also attach to drains and pipes, making it difficult to remove.
Traditional soap bars are made with grease or fat. The fat combines with minerals in water and leaves a hard residue that clogs pipes. Soap can also combine with hair and dirt.
Dirt can build up and cause problems. The very nature of bathing means that we are constantly sending dirt down the drain.
If the stopper hasn't been fitted correctly or is out of position, it may become stuck in a semi-closed position, and the plunger may restrict drainage.
Older underground pipes can crack or leak, attracting root growth. Once inside your pipes, roots grow larger, blocking water flow and causing pipe damage.
Mineral build up
Minerals dissolved in water can build up over time and create insoluble masses that will block your drains.
Slow draining means that the water stays in the tub for much longer than it should after you have pulled the plug, only draining very slowly. The problem can develop gradually over a period of time and may not be identified straightaway. Many people disregard the problem until the issue has become serious.
Unfortunately, once the drainage problems have begun, they will usually only get worse over time without action being taken. This is because any clogs will tend to gather more and more debris such as hair, dirt, and soap over time and become bigger. The sooner that you deal with the problem, the easier it can be to resolve.
Prevention is almost always better than cure, of course. So once your drainage problems are resolved, don't forget to minimize the possibility of your bathtub drain getting clogged again. Below are two things to try.
There are lots of great products out there that will do the job effectively. Bear in mind that there are different types of bathtub drain stopper and the protector you buy will have to take this into account.
Common types of bathtub drain stopper include:
If you want me to make a general suggestion for a protector that works with the majority of bathtub drains, I would recommend the OXO Good Grips - this provides a great barrier for catching small debris without slowing down water drainage and it works with both pop-up and regular drains. It's better than most of its rivals as it has a bit of weight to it and so doesn't have the tendency to float up and away like some of the cheaper protectors do. It's also affordable and easy to clean.
The other bathtub drain protector that I am a particular fan of is the Tubshroom. This protector actually fits inside the drain, rather than sitting on top, and is particularly good at catching hair. If your tub is the type where you flip a switch, then you can just leave the tubshroom in. If it's the type that has a removable stopper, then you put the tubshroom in when the tub is draining. Some people complain that it is awkward to clean, but I've not had much trouble.
© 2018 Paul Goodman