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How To Unclog a Bath Tub

A bathtub has a drain with a strainer and either a stopper at the bottom or a drain control lever above the drain at the overflow outlet. The strainer blocks large objects from going down the drain. However, small objects and especially hair can end up in the drain. The strainer tends to snag hair and is often the cause of a slow or gurgling drain. Cleaning out the strainer and removing the accumulation of hair will resolve many slow or clogged drains.

Clogs can also occur below the strainer. You might be able to see a clog by simply shining a flashlight into the drain. To get at a clog a short distance down the drain, remove the strainer. Typically the strainer is held in place with a single screw. Be careful, it is easy to drop the screw down the drain. Covering the drain with a couple pieces of tape can help guard against loosing the screw. If the bath tub has a built-in stopper, it may be a twist and lift or it may have to be unscrewed to remove it (unscrew it counter-clockwise).

Caution, if you have added any chemical uncloggers, wear gloves, long sleeves and eye protection, and flood the drain with water before attempting to clear the drain.

We don't ordinarily endorse specific products, but in this case, a long plastic strip with barbs done the side happens to be very effective at removing hairy clogs in situations like this. There is just such a tool and it is called Zip-It. It sells for about $4 and is reusable (despite what it says on the package). However, you can also get the clog out with a wire coat hanger (use the twisty end).

What ever the tool you choose, stick it down into and through the clog. Twist the tool repeatedly, like winding spaghetti onto a fork, and then pull it out. Repeat as necessary.

If your tub has a lever control up above the drain and instead of a strainer, it has a pop-up style plug, the mechanism inside the drain tends to snag hair. Removing and cleaning it may help. Simply pull up on the drain plug and jiggle it while pulling it gently up and out of the drain. The entire mechanism is about 6 to eight inches long. Clean all the gunk off of it and put it back into the drain. To put it back, just insertthe tip into the drain and jiggle it back into place. Be sure to orient in the same position it was in when it came out.

Now if you still have a clogged bathtub, you might be thinking of using chemicals - Don't. Some chemicals can damage pipes, the environment or you if you get splashed. If you have to work on a drain after a chemical has been added, it makes the work harder and more hazardous. Additionally, most chemical drain cleaners don't work that well. Running hot water through cleardrains is the best way to keep them clear. Skip the chemicals.

If that doesn't do it, you can try using a plunger. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the drain and place the plunger cup over the drain. Quickly press and release the plunger for twenty seconds. If the water in the tub starts draining normally, then the clog has been pushed out. If instead you hear air, or gurgling coming from the overflow when you press the plunger, then the clog is probably deeper in the drain and will require a drain snake or blow bag to clear.

A drain snake can be inserted down the tub drain in some cases, but it is better to go down through the overflow outlet. Remove the cover to the overflow, and pull out the drain linkage if you have a lever control. Now insert the snake into the overflow opening an extend it into the drain. Crank the snake to clear the clog and then retract the snake. Run some water to make sure the drain is clear and reinstall the linkage and overflow cover.

The last method, our favorite because it has worked so well for us in the past, is the blow bag. Imagine a heavy duty balloon that screws onto the end of a hose. Imagine the balloon has holes on the other end and that it is small enough to fit into a pipe. open the overflow cover as described above and slide the blow bag as far as you can into the overflow drain and turn on the hose. The first thing the bag does is inflate with water until it is securely wedged in the pipe. Now water starts spurting out the other end to blast away at the clog. Leave it on for a while and the force of the water will push the clog all the way out to the branch or main sewer line.




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