How to Unclog a Bathtub Full of Water

How to Unclog a Bathtub Full of Water

No doubt about it: having to unclog a bathtub drain is unpleasant and inconvenient, especially if you are rushing to get somewhere and need to wash. This is particularly true if you have no experience fixing issues around the house. Home repairs may not be your strong point, and it also costs time and money to sort out these types of repairs.

But don’t worry, most of the ways to fix a clogged drain are inexpensive. Even though this is not a fun problem to have, you can rest assured that there are loads of easy ways to sort out this problem yourself.

Many of these tactics for unclogging a bathtub involve products you may already have it home, or things you will find readily available at your local store. You can use a plunger, drain claw, chemical cleaners, bicarbonate of soda, the cold water flush method, and many more. The trick is to take action early before the problem gets out of hand.

If you notice water running more slowly than usual, don’t wait for it to stop altogether before you clean your drain. Even better, try to remember to clean out your drains once a month or so to prevent any build-up, thereby avoiding a blockage altogether.

For even the most devastating clog, we have put together a comprehensive guide for beginner to unclog a bathtub drain. If all else fails, call in a plumbing professional to help.




Things to Know Before Your DIY

How do I know my bathtub drain is clogged?

Very simply, you will know you have a blockage if water will not go down the drain easily, or at all. This means something or more than one thing is blocking the water’s passage down the drain.

You may also notice an unpleasant small coming from the drain. This is caused by:

  • Dead skin cells
  • Hair
  • Body oils
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Residue

Any of these substances can get stuck in your drain easily and build up over time.

Read more: How to fix a squeaky faucet handle

What are the hazards of having a blocked drain?

Beyond being inconvenient, a blocked drain can pose a health risk:

  • If you have standing water in the tub for some hours or even days, this will attract all sorts of insects.These bugs include flies and mosquitoes, among others, which are known to carry many diseases that are dangerous to both you and your pets. These insects can also bring with them organisms such as tapeworms and heart-worms.
  • The standing water can also encourage mildew or mold, which produces spores which are dangerous to the lungs if inhaled.

As you can see it is important not to leave a bathtub blockage unattended, but rather deal with the issue as soon as you notice it. It won’t take long for pesky creatures and mold to create a bigger mess!

Tools you may need for all unclogging methods:

  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • A knife
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scoop and bucket
  • Cloth or sponge for wiping up mess

Read more: How to get rid of stagnant water

1) Clean your Stoppers or Strainers to Unclog your Bathtub

The easiest way to unclog a bathtub drain is to check your stopper or strainer. This may just have become blocked up with hair, soap scum, and other gunk, which means you will solve the problem by simply cleaning the area out.

You will also need to clean the strainer before you embark on in-depth drain cleaning methods if this proves not to be the issue.

Here’s what to do:

  • Most of the time the stopper or strainer is not held in with any screws or other devices, so you just need to lift it. You can use a screwdriver or similar tool to release it from its slot. Some do have screws, keep safe while you work, and then replace when you are done.
  • If your stopper or strainer does not fit this bill you may need to look up how to undo it. Some have a push action or even a lever. Asking at your local hardware center is probably you best bet.
  • Clean any residue like soap scum out of the stopper or strainer with a cloth, your fingers, or dunk it in a dish of water. Make sure it is squeaky clean before you replace it. It may need to be scrubbed, depending on how grimy it is. You must also clean around the drain itself.
  • Replace the stopper or strainer securely once you have finished. Don’t forget to tighten all the screws properly if your stopper or strainer has these.

2) Clear Naturally: Unclog your Bathtub with a Drain Claw or Stick

If you have cleaned your stopper or strainer and the standing water in your tub has still not drained away, you may need to take it a step further.

One way is to use a drain claw or stick. The claw is a reasonably-priced gadget with hooks on it that grasp any obstructions. You could also even use a coat hanger that you can bend into a hook.

This is how to use it:

  • After you remove and clean your strainer or stopper put the claw into the drain aperture. Keep pushing it down. It may stick a bit when it hits a curve in the drain, but keep going as the claw is flexible so will be able to keep following the pipe.
  • Once you have gone far enough, begin to pull the stick back. It has hooks all along it, and so it will hold onto anything that may have been clogging the drain as you pull it back up. Clean the claw so you can reuse it another time. You can repeat this until nothing more comes up.
  • A coat hanger won’t have the extra hooks, but it will still be able to grab any major obstructions.
  • Run a tap to see if the water runs through easily now. If not, you may need to try something else.

3) Clear Naturally: Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar to Flush the Drain

Using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar is also a fairly natural way to unclog a bathtub drain. It is a very user-friendly method as well. It works best for minor blockages.

You will need to use about a quarter cup of baking soda and one full cup of white vinegar.

  • First, clean the stopper or strainer.
  • Then use a full kettle for boiling water, and tip it all down the drain once it has boiled. This alone may clear your bathtub drain.
  • If it has not cleared, follow on with the bicarb followed by the cup of vinegar, pouring slowly. Put them directly down into plug hole. You may notice some fizzing as you work – don’t panic because this means the bicarb is starting to work. If this happens, cover the plughole until the fizzing stops.
  • Wait about 15, 20 minutes.
  • Then boil more water and flush the drain with it. The water, the bicarb of soda, and the vinegar will then work on the blockage.
  • Rinse fresh water down the drain to see if it runs down easily. You may have a bigger problem if the method has not worked, and you may need to try something else.

Use a Plunger

The last non-chemical method you can try to unclog a bathtub drain is the traditional plunger. These are usually very effective, but don’t work for all types of clogs. It may be more severe and you’ll have to try another tactic on the list or call in a professional.

  • Make sure there is some water in the bathtub. You will need to immerse the plunger in the water for it to work.
  • Place the mouth of the plunger over the drain, feeling like it has sucked onto the area.
  • Then use some strength to push and pull the plunger. This will create a suction that will remove any impediments in the drain.
  • Try using a bit more power if the method is not working.
  • Keep going until the standing water rushes down the drain.
  • If 10 to 30 minutes of effort lead to no result, you may need to try another method.

4) Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

You may have tried to clear your drain naturally, which is more ideal, but if it hasn’t worked you may need to get a chemical drain cleaner. These have a high success rate in clearing blockages.

  • To unclog a bathtub drain with chemical products, you need to make sure to follow the instructions of the drain cleaner you have selected.
  • You should also just stick to one product. Be sure not to use more than one chemical agent, as they may react with each other, cancel each other out, or just make more of a mess.
  • The active ingredients in these chemical drain cleaners include harmful substances like sulfuric acid, potassium, and hydroxide, so you should always wear gloves when using them. You may need protective eyewear as well.

This is how to use chemical drain cleaners:

  • First, make sure to buy the correct kind of cleaner for your set up. Make sure it is compatible with the pipes you have, and be sure to get a cleaner especially made for bathtubs. Chemicals can damage your piping if not used properly. If you are not sure of anything, so be sure to ask a store assistant.
  • Read the instructions on the brand you have purchased and follow the directions step by step. Each product will have its own guidelines, so make sure not to skip this step.
  • Take out the standing water from your bathtub. You may need a scoop to do this and a bucket or plastic tub to put the standing water in.
  • Once you have put on protective wear, tip the recommended quantity of drain cleaner into the drain, as per the directives on the packaging. Be careful not to spill any, and wipe up any spillage right away.
  • Allow the recommended time to pass for the product to work. This typical time 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Rinse out the drain with cold water once the activation time is up. If the blockage has cleared, the water will slip down the drain again easily. Hopefully now you are able to unclog the bathtub!


So there you have it: the best ways to quickly and easily unclog a bathtub drain. As you can see, most of these methods are pretty easy to perform and won’t cost you a lot of money.

However, if you have given it your best shot and you still have not managed to clear the matter, you may need then to call a professional like All Dry USA at 1-866-313-0458. We’re open 24 hours a day and we’re happy to help you with any drain clog you might have.

How to Unclog a Bathtub Full of Water
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