How to Unclog a Bathtub

April 20th, 2022 | Plumbing


Some days there is nothing more refreshing than taking a shower. You stand under the running water in your Orange, CA, home, allowing it to cascade over you. But then you notice the water is pooling around your ankles. Chemical drain cleaners pop into your mind, but you’re out! 

There’s nothing you can do now, but you know it needs to be fixed before your next shower. 

Of course, the easiest solution is to call an OC plumber, but that’s not always the most cost-effective answer to your problem. 

Instead, you run to your phone to search the web for “how to unclog a bathtub” and likely find thousands of results. Thankfully, you clicked on our link and found a blog with step-by-step instructions from a professional plumber. 

Common Reasons Your Drain Is Clogged 

Think about it: when you’re in the tub of your Orange, CA, home, you are cleaning yourself from top to bottom. Everything on your body is rinsed away down the drain. So here are a few common things your drain might be clogged with: 

  • Strands of hair 
  • Dirt and grease 
  • Soapy buildup 
  • Larger objects, like jewelry 
  • Backflow from a septic system that is backing up 

These are the most common reasons for a blocked drain, and they will need to be taken care of quickly. 

Signs Your Drains Are Getting Clogged 

It’s almost impossible to avoid clogged drains altogether. It happens to all of us at some point. But there are typically warning signs that a blockage will soon take over. 

Signs your drains will soon be clogged include the following:

Strange Smells 

If there is an odor coming from the pipes below, something is stuck inside them. 

Bizarre Sounds 

Although no one trains you to identify the subtle sounds of your plumbing, you can likely tell when something is off. An atypical gurgle or a slow trickling sound indicates that the water is moving around the clog. 

Slow Drainage 

Most people identify this as the first sign there is a problem. You’ll easily notice water gathering in your tub and taking a long time to drain. Or worse, it doesn’t drain at all. 

When you see these warning signs, take immediate action to remove the clog yourself or call in a professional plumber. 

Removing the Clog on Your Own 

We’re here to tell you that there are several ways to unclog a bathtub clog. However, using a cup plunger is one of the best ways. Before you dive right into the standing water, you’ll need to gather a few supplies. 

The following tools will help unblock minor clogs: 

  • A bucket or cup 
  • Screwdriver 
  • Rubber gloves
  • Towels 
  • Cup plunger 
  • Safety glasses 
  • Rubber boots 
  • Plastic apron

Plunging your bathtub can be messy and cause filthy water to splash on you during the process. Wearing safety glasses and a plastic apron will prevent harmful pathogens from getting on your eyes and skin. 

Because you’re dealing with water, the surface can get slippery. Like a professional plumber, wearing plastic boots can give you traction and prevent you falling down. 

How to Unclog a Bathtub 

Start by removing any standing water from the bathtub. Then remove the drain stop, keeping in mind that hair and other debris have likely accumulated on it. Sometimes removing this first layer will get the water moving again. If not, move on to the next step. 

Add Hot Water to the Tub 

Add several inches of water back into your tub. It should be enough to cover the head of the cup plunger once you place it into the basin. This water will help create the necessary pressure and suction to extract the clog from the drain. 

Use the Cup Plunger 

When an OC plumber mentions the word plunger, the one that pops into your mind is likely a cup plunger. This type will fit snugly on the bathtub’s surface surrounding the drain. 

Place the head of the cup plunger under the water and over the drain to form a tight seal. Keep it perpendicular to the surface by holding it at a 90-degree angle. Apply force to the handle to press down and then quickly release to allow the plunger to reset to its original shape. Repeat this process 10 to 15 times or for roughly 30 seconds.    

Check for Debris 

After pumping for 30 seconds, pull up on the plunger to break the seal covering the drain. If the clog has successfully been broken up, you’ll see dirty water or other debris come out after removing the plunger. 

This backflow happens because the force you’ve generated with the cup plunger should pull the clog out of the drain instead of forcing it down or breaking it up.  

Repeat If Necessary 

After the plunger seal is broken, let the debris clear. The water should begin to drain. If it doesn’t, then, unfortunately, you haven’t removed the blockage yet. Repeat the process two or three more times. After several attempts, if you cannot clear the clog, it’s time to call an OC plumber for professional help. 

Call in a Professional Plumber 

Following the steps listed above should help you easily clear away minor bathtub blockages. You might need to take the next step and call in an expert if it doesn’t. Plumbers have a device called an auger or plumber’s snake. This device is a long, flexible cable with a coiled spring at one end and a hand crank at the other. 

The cable is inserted into the drain and cranked until the clogged area is reached. The plumber will push and pull the cord to help it “attach” to the clog. Then it is cranked in the opposite direction to retract the cable out of the drain. If the coil comes up empty, they’ll need to make a second attempt or use the more advanced tools they have.  

Have a Question? We’ll Have the Answer! 

While you’ll likely get the clog removed on your own, Moffett Plumbing & Air is here in the event you cannot. If you need more tips on how to unclog a bathtub, give us a call. We’ll answer your questions or schedule an appointment to have one of our OC plumbers figure out what’s wrong with your drain.

Moffett Plumbing & Air is a full-service, family owned & operated plumbing & HVAC company based out of Orange, CA. Follow our blog for valuable homeowner tips, and updates from your favorite team of plumbing professionals.