pink bathtub(Updated Sept. 1, 2022)

Unclogging a bathtub drain is one of those tasks requiring a little bit of ingenuity and a little bit of elbow grease. The good news is that the ingenuity has already been taken care of; people have been unclogging tub drains for as long as there have been tub drains. The solutions are pretty tried-and-true. (You just need to supply the elbow grease.)

Better news: Anybody can learn how to unclog a tub drain — and they should. It’s one of the basic functions of modern living — like knowing how to change a tire. So if you need to address a slow draining tub or clog, removing the obstruction should be job number one.

What Causes A Tub Drain To Clog?

Tubs are susceptible to getting backed up due to the sheer amount of material that gets flushed into the drain every day. If you find yourself calf-deep in dirty water that drains slowly, then the problem is apparent. The solution, however, may not be.

Tub drains usually get blocked by a combination of long-haired clumps, soap scum, and dirt. However, they can also get backed up due to an accumulation of shampoo, sand, outdoor debris, and hard water deposits. If you have an old tub attached to an aging plumbing system, it’s possible the system itself is no longer equipped to handle drainage.

This is especially true for plumbing systems that haven’t been updated in many years — if ever. System problems require deeper analysis and more extensive and intensive plumbing fixes. If that’s the case with your plumbing, some of the remedies outlined below may not solve your standing water or slow-drainage problem.

Top Methods for Unclogging A Bathtub Drain

You can’t go wrong using these traditional methods to unclog a bathtub drain. They may take a little work and a little time, but your bathtub drain will be flowing free once again. If not, it may be time to give Meticulous Plumbing a call.

  • Plunger: This should be the first thing you try. Plunging a clogged drain can often loosen the material mucking up the works. Run water to fill the tub enough to cover the plunger, then simply remove the drain opening cover, place the plunger over the drain and move it rhythmically up and down for 15-20 seconds.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: Yup — the same concoction that creates the illusion of smoke in a science project volcano. Try mixing white vinegar with a cup of baking soda and then pour the fizzy mixture and some hot water down the drain. Some folks swear by the ol’ boiling water trick without the vinegar and baking soda. We cover this method in a blog post here.
  • Chemical drain cleaners: Most people are familiar with chemical drain cleaners. They work by generating heat and dissolving the organic material in the pipe. Some people are hesitant to use them, however. They can burn skin and eyes, so be sure to read all the precautions on the label, and don’t forget rubber gloves!
  • Plumber’s snake: Sometimes called a toilet jack, insert the snake into the clogged tub drain to help loosen the material trapped inside. We don’t recommend a wire coat hanger because it could damage the pipes.

We often take our plumbing for granted–we expect it to do what it’s supposed to do. Having a clogged bathroom drain can be a real pain in the neck when you’re trying to get ready for work or getting ready for bed. But with the above suggestions, you should be able to get that water flowing once again in no time.

There are ways to help prevent bathtub clogs so you don’t have to deal with them at all. After every shower or bath, remove any hair that’s caught at the drain cover. Also, use the bathing area just for bathing–don’t clean shoes, paint brushes, or other items that can prove problematic in the future.

Call a Pro to Unclog a Bathtub Drain

If you’d rather call a plumber in Portland to unclog your bathtub drain, then Meticulous is the way to go. We’re your hometown, painless, professional plumber! If you have any questions about this or any other plumbing-related task, get in touch with Meticulous Plumbing in Portland. We’re happy to help and offer solutions.

We can diagnose and solve any plumbing problem you may have, including those involving:

Water Heaters
Home Repiping
Main Water Lines
Kitchen Remodeling
Dripping Faucets
Leak Repairs

Meticulous Plumbing is locally owned and operated, and we serve most of the Portland metro area. Give us a call for any problems that crop up with your plumbing. You can email us at, or give us a call at 503-208-2812.

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