How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain

When you find that the bathtub drain is not flowing smoothly, it's likely that the drainage pipe is blocked, if left untreated, this can lead to foul odors emanating from the pipes and attract insects. Fortunately, you can resolve this issue with some common household tools and simple methods. The purpose of this guide is to assist you in tackling these drainage challenges confidently, starting from understanding the causes of bathtub drain clogs and guiding you through the unclogging process with additional tips along the way.

Causes of Bathtub Drain Clog

Before delving into the in-depth study of bathtub drain unclogging solutions, it is crucial to understand the root causes of clog. Typically, hair, soap scum, and minerals are the culprits, gradually accumulating in the drain over time and progressively restricting water flow until a complete clog occurs.


    If you enjoy washing your hair in the bathtub, this is most likely to cause drain clog. According to statistics, adults shed approximately 50 to 100 hairs per day, which accumulate at the trap of the drain and combine with soap scum and other debris, forming stubborn clogs. Therefore, it is not advisable to wash your hair in the bathtub. If you do so, it's best to regularly clean the drain filter.

    Soap Scum

      Some users prefer using soap during bathing, and when soap combines with water, it forms soap scum. These can accumulate within the pipes and adhere to the pipe walls, narrowing the passage for water flow and eventually causing clog. Unlike foreign object blockages, bathtub clogs caused by soap scum accumulation often occur over time. Therefore, regular maintenance of your bathtub is recommended to mitigate this issue.


        This is perhaps the most difficult to avoid, as bathwater contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium in dissolved form. When water is heated or evaporates, the dissolved minerals become supersaturated, exceeding the water's capacity to hold them, and eventually begin to precipitate onto the pipe surfaces, gradually forming hard water deposits inside the pipes, ultimately leading to clog.

        Foreign Objects

          Accidentally dropping items like jewelry, bottle caps, or small toys into the bathtub drain can easily cause clogs. Therefore, it is advisable to check for foreign objects after bathing, then open the drain cover to allow drainage. After drainage is completed, promptly close the drain cover to prevent foreign objects from accidentally falling into the pipes.

          Tools and Materials You May Need to Unclog a Bathtub Drain

          • Plunger: A standard cup plunger is effective for dislodging minor clogs.
          • Plumbing Snake: This tool is handy for removing more stubborn blockages deep within the drain pipe.
          • Bucket: To collect water and debris.
          • Rubber Gloves: Protect your hands from dirt and grime.
          • White Vinegar and Baking Soda: A natural and effective alternative to harsh chemicals.
          • Boiling Water: Helps dissolve greasy substances.

          Unclogging a Bathtub Drain Step-by-Step Process

          1. Remove Excess Water

          Begin by eliminating any standing water from the bathtub using a bucket. This initial step prevents splashing and provides better access to the drain.

          1. Try the Plunger

          For surface-level clogs, a plunger can be remarkably effective. Place the plunger over the drain, ensuring a tight seal, and vigorously plunge up and down for approximately one minute. Repeat the process several times if necessary.

          1. Use a Plumbing Snake

          If plunging doesn't resolve the issue, a plumbing snake can reach deeper into the drain pipe. Insert the snake into the drain and turn the handle clockwise to navigate through the clog. When encountering resistance, rotate the snake to dislodge the obstruction. Withdraw the snake and dispose of any debris it brings up.

          1. Vinegar and Baking Soda

          For organic clogs like hair and soap scum, a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda can be highly effective. Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Allow the mixture to fizz and penetrate the clog for approximately 30 minutes. Then, flush the drain with hot water.

          1. Boiling Water

          To dissolve greasy clogs, boiling water can be a simple yet effective solution. Carefully pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain in stages, allowing it to work for a few minutes between pours.

          1. Clean the Drain Cover

          Remove the drain cover and thoroughly clean it. Use a brush or cloth to remove any hair, soap residue, or debris clinging to the cover.

          1. Prevention

          To prevent future clogs, utilize a drain strainer or stopper to capture hair and other debris before they enter the drain. Regularly clean the drain cover and perform maintenance treatments using vinegar and baking soda.

          Additional Tips for Bathtub Drain Maintenance

          Chemical Drain Cleaners

          While chemical drain cleaners are readily available, they can be harsh on your pipes and may not effectively clear all types of clogs. Additionally, mishandling these chemicals can be harmful. Consider trying natural alternatives like vinegar and baking soda first.

          DIY Drain Cleaning Solutions

          Besides vinegar and baking soda, there are other homemade solutions worth trying. For example, a mixture of salt and baking soda can break down grease and grime. Alternatively, pouring a combination of dish soap and hot water down the drain can help loosen clogs.

          Regular Maintenance

          Incorporating regular maintenance into your cleaning routine can prevent clogs from occurring. Use a drain strainer or hair catcher to trap debris, and clean it out after each use. This simple step can significantly reduce the likelihood of major clogs.

          Avoiding Certain Items

          Be mindful of what goes down your bathtub drain. Avoid pouring grease, oils, coffee grounds, and large food particles down the drain, as they can contribute to clogs over time. Dispose of these items properly in the trash.

          Professional Inspection

          If you experience frequent or persistent clogs despite your efforts, it may indicate a more serious issue with your plumbing system. In such cases, hiring a professional plumber to conduct a thorough inspection can identify underlying problems and prevent further damage.

          Protective Gear

          When working on unclogging a drain, especially when using chemicals or handling dirty water, wear protective gear such as gloves and eye protection. This helps prevent skin irritation and exposure to potentially harmful substances.


          Unclogging a bathtub drain doesn't have to feel overwhelming. Armed with the right tools and techniques, you can effectively tackle most clogs and restore proper drainage to your bathtub. Moreover, by incorporating regular maintenance and preventative measures, you can minimize future clogging issues and keep your plumbing system in optimal condition.