Dealing with a clogged bathtub drain can be really frustrating! But with the right approach, it doesn’t have to become a nightmare. Here is an easy-to-follow guide to unclog your bathtub drain so you can get on with your day and do more exciting things.
- Identify: Start by removing visible obstructions such as hair and soap scum, which you often find near the drain cover or around the stopper.
- Simple Solutions: Utilize boiling water and a natural mixture of baking soda and vinegar to dissolve minor clogs without harsh chemicals.
- Advanced Techniques: For stubborn clogs, use a sink plunger to create pressure or a plumber’s snake to physically remove blockages stuck deep in the drain.
How Do Bathtub Drains Get Clogged?
Let’s first discuss how drains, particularly bathtub drains, get clogged in the first place. Clogged bathtub drains are typically caused by three things:
Whenever we take a shower, we shed our hair. Some of us have particularly long strands that can entangle and form dense masses in the drain. In other words, hair is often the primary culprit for clogs.
The residue from soap, especially bar soaps that contain fatty acids, sticks to the pipes and hair, thickening over time and restricting water flow.
Apart from hair and soap, other things can contribute to a clogged drain too. Small objects, dirt, skin flakes, and mineral buildup from hard water can adhere to the hair and soap scum, further worsening the clog.
So now that you know how clogs form, what do you do? Here’s a general checklist to help prevent clogs in the first place: clean your tub regularly, use a drain protector to catch the hair, and be cautious about the harsh chemical and other extra stuff that goes down the drain.
How To Unclog a Bathtub Drain
Keep in mind that for severe clogs, you may need to hire a professional plumber. In general, however, unclogging a bathtub drain can be straightforward. It just requires a bit of patience and the right technique. Here’s a detailed approach to tackle this common household problem effectively.
Remove Obvious Obstructions
The first step is to simply remove any visible blockages. These often include clumps of hair, soap scum, or small objects that have fallen into the drain. Use needle nose pliers or even a straightened wire coat hanger to reach into the drain if you don’t have pliers.
Sometimes, you’ll need to unscrew the drain cover or lift the tub drain stopper. If it’s an integrated drain stopper, gently wiggle it to gain access. Carefully pull out the debris, and be prepared for some resistance as hair and soap can become tightly entangled.
The Good Old Boiling Water Trick
Boiling water can be surprisingly effective for dissolving soap residue, grease, and oils that contribute to clogs. Bring a pot of water to a boil and then carefully pour it directly down the drain. The heat melts and eventually dislodges the gunk that has built up.
It’s a good idea to pour the boiling water in two or three stages. This allows the hot water to work on the clog in between pours. This method works best for clogs that haven’t gotten too far down the drain pipe and is often a good first step before trying other methods.
Use a Plunger
A plunger can be a handy tool for addressing clogs because it uses air pressure and suction. First, make sure you’re using a sink plunger, which has a flat bottom, as opposed to a toilet plunger. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the bottom of the plunger.
Place it over the drain and pump vigorously several times. The pressure the suction creates can dislodge the clog. It might take a few attempts to clear the drain. Remember, the key is to create a good seal and apply forceful, consistent plunges.
Add Baking Soda and Vinegar
The combination of baking soda and vinegar creates a fizzy chemical reaction that can break down greasy, soapy clogs. First, pour one cup of baking soda directly into the drain. Follow it with one cup of white vinegar.
The mixture will bubble and fizz and start to break down the material clogging the pipe. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then follow up by flushing the drain with hot water. This natural method is safe for your pipes and the environment.
Learn How to Use a Plumber’s Snake
For more stubborn clogs, a plumber’s snake, or drain auger, is an effective tool. You can find these at most hardware stores. Insert the end of the snake into the drain and slowly feed it down the pipe. You may feel resistance when it reaches the clog. at this point, start turning the handle to hook onto the debris.
Continue to turn and push gently until you feel the clog give way. Once you think the clog is cleared, slowly pull the snake out, clean it off, and run water down the drain to test if the clog is completely removed. You can use the snake again if you think there’s more debris to free.
Each of these methods offers a DIY solution to tackle a clogged bathtub drain. Use more than one whenever you need to. Remember to try the simplest methods first and move on to the more advanced techniques if necessary.
When It’s a Good Idea to Call a Professional
Now let’s talk about those really bad clogs. In some situations, calling a professional plumber is the best course of action:
- Persistent Blockages: If DIY methods fail to clear the clog, that could mean it’s far more severe or located deeper in the drain line than you can handle. Professionals have the right tools to effectively diagnose and fix such issues.
- Frequent Clogs: Regular blockages can indicate underlying problems like accumulating sediment or structural issues in your plumbing, which require professional assessment and repair.
- Water Backup or Slow Drainage: When your water backs up in other areas or consistently drains slowly after you tried clearing it up, it may suggest broader plumbing system issues. In such cases, it’s time for some expert intervention.
- Unusual Noises or Odors: Persistent bad odors or strange noises from your drain can signal major clogs or sewer line issues. Call a professional plumber who can diagnose and resolve the issues without causing further damage.
Unclogging a bathtub drain can often be done with simple tools and methods. Remember to wear gloves and take safety precautions when dealing with drain clogs. However, for stubborn or frequent clogs, don’t hesitate to contact City Base Plumbing, where our expert team is ready to help with all your plumbing needs.