How-To Videos

How to Clean Out a Tub Drain

A slow running or clogged tub drain can be really annoying and turn your bath or shower into a less than idyllic experience. Fortunately, it’s usually a simple problem to fix.

Start by removing the screws on the drain’s overflow escutcheon plate.

Remove the screws from the drain's overflow escutcheon plate.

Next, pull the drain assembly out of the overflow pipe.

Pulling the drain assembly out of the overflow pipe.

Clean any hair and debris from the drain bail.

Cleaning hair and debris from drain bail.

A two-foot long flexible rod with tiny bristles on the end, known as a drain stick, is used to remove any additional gunk from the drain.

Two-foot long flexible rod with tiny bristles on the end, known as a drain stick.

The rod is inserted in the drain, and any remaining trash is fished out.

Inserting the drain stick in the drain.

The drain can be cleaned out even more by removing the drain grate.

Removing the drain grate.

Use the drain stick to clean inside it while flushing it out with water.

Flushing with water.

Once the drain is running freely, reassemble the drain assembly and grate.


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16 Comments on “How to Clean Out a Tub Drain”

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  • barbara Says:
    February 27th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    my tub has an external drain, thsi wont work

  • richard dodge Says:
    December 21st, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    i removed the 2 screws that hold the over flow plate and water drain shut on and off assemble from my tub because it would not work. but i could not pull the parts up and out to replace. i tried every thing i could do but nothing would budge. help help

  • gina Says:
    March 28th, 2015 at 11:08 am

    My tub has a external stopper. The tub won’t drain and i can’t plunge it because i can’t block the long pipe. Help! please!

  • Penny Warner Says:
    October 5th, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Danny,
    Thanks so much for your help!!! I have had a slow drain forever and decided it couldn’t be any worse if I tried to fix it. I watched your video, and had my drain clear in 10 minutes!!! If only I’d tried earlier…I feel more unintelligent for not trying sooner! It was EASY!!!
    Thank you for saving me at least 120 dollars!!!
    Ionia, MO

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    October 26th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Hi Rick,
    The drain on my old tub has a similar set up, with linkage in both the overflow and stopper and only a short spring. When I took it out to clean it, I couldn’t get it back in and was convinced the spring had broken off. But after a bit of looking a similar ones online and playing with it, I managed to get the linkage back in and working.

  • Rick Parker Says:
    October 25th, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    House is 1962. Typical “pink” (peach?) porcelain. After removing the overflow cover, the linkage came out with only a light tension spring (about the physical size of an automotive valve spring) on the end. The linkage and spring total was about 12″ long. I fished down there with some grabbers (18″) but there was nothing else down there. Everything is brass and in great shape for the age. Videos I have seen show a sleeve and o rings that stop the water. What am I missing here? Bathrooms back up to each other with “no access panel”.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    July 9th, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Hi Barbara,
    There are many different designs of tub drains, each with different ways to remove them, so it’s hard to say without looking at it. You might want to check out the website of the company who made it to see if they have installation instructions online or look for similar models at a home center and read the instructions that come with them. Good luck with your project!

  • barbara Says:
    July 8th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    tub drain needs clean t i have 5 girls that live with me how do i get the piug up . tryed to turned it but wont come off

  • Jamie Says:
    October 10th, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    This was very helpful!! We followed the instructions and pulled out a rat sized ball of hair! No joke….It was gross…seriously…yuck!

  • Toronto plumbing Says:
    March 24th, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Thank you for these explanations. Everyone should be able to do that kind of job. And in my opinion, this job should be done once a year.

  • Don Porter Says:
    December 20th, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    December 20 ,2008 tring to replace the overflow stop, it doesn’t want to go all the way back into the drain

  • DIY: Repairing a Bathtub Drain - Danny Lipford Says:
    October 28th, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    […] and Replace a ToiletRepairing a ToiletHow to Repair a Leaking Water Heater Pressure Relief ValveCleaning a Tub DrainRepairing a Leaky Bath FaucetPipe Clamp RackHow to Drain a Water […]

  • Brad Davis Says:
    July 1st, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    If your tub’s WASTE AND OVERFLOW has a “trip” lever then indeed there should have been at the least a cyliner attached to it. If you unscrewed 2 screws and pulled out a danging rod only then I would surmise that the plunger has disconnected from the trip waste linkage thus causing your “some” of your issues. Steve if the Waste and Overflow assembly is greater than 20 years old I would NOT attaempt any band aid repairs or attempts, just replace this assembly AND ITS ASSOCIATED P-TRAP Steve.
    Steve, a waste and overflow, takes a real plumber to install correct. I have made THOUSANDS of dollars repair these items. A W/O is very difficult to install correctly and when complete one should be able to fill the tub to OVER THE OVER FLOW and still have no leaks ANYWHERE therein.
    Steve I always recommend replacing the associated P-Trap w/ the W/O for they used to be installed w/ a very tight pattern’d / radius’d p-trap and the new designs are muuch more “snake” freindly. Old style is difficult AT BEST to cable. Remember to rod out the horizontal pipe extension from the sanitay tee as well! ALWAYS look GOOD inside old drain pipes when you open them and CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN / or replace them, they do NOT last forever.

  • Steve Sunderhaus Says:
    April 19th, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    If I unscrewed the tub drain screws, pulled the section out and it didn’t have the bail on it, how can i get it out? Drains very slow and standing in water during a shower.

  • john bogos Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 2:50 am

    need to replace tub drain and outer ring.

  • chargerplates Says:
    February 29th, 2008 at 2:31 am

    A two-foot long flexible rod with tiny bristles on the end, known as a drain stick, is used to remove any additional gunk from the drain.
    I can’t see the pics??!~

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How to Clean Out a Tub Drain