Bathtub with a Clog

How to Unclog that Pesky Tub and Shower Drain

Bathtub with a ClogNine out of ten times a clog in the shower will mean a concentration of hair tangled in the mechanical drain assembly. This mechanism shuts the drain off when it’s down and releases the water when it is lifted up. Usually this is accomplished with a rod connected to a plunger that drops and rises with a lever attachment that protrudes into the tub.

Normally there are two Flathead screws that hold the overflow plate in place. This equipment is located below the spout and above the drain in the bathtub. If you remove the two screws the whole Assembly can be lifted out and cleaned. Remove any hair or soap scum.

Next coat the whole assembly generously with petroleum jelly. This will assure the assembly moves freely and doesn’t jam as it’s operated within the piping. It will also help the brass assembly to retard any corrosion.

Slide the plunger back into the hole it came from and down into the drain and reinstall the two bolts. Hold the plate level as you snug the mounting screws and then snug them down evenly. Make sure the assembly moves up and down freely.

There are models out there that have only one screw in the face plate and some that will not have a mechanism. A different system that employs a toe touch plunger right in the drain to open and close the tub. For these type units the toe touch plate unscrews and a rod will slide out with it so it can be cleaned.

In both cases the pipe that the mechanism was removed from should be determined clear either with a small snake or by testing after you clean any hair out.

Showers will usually just require that you remove a single screw to gain access to the drain. Use a small hand snake if necessary and then replace the plate.

There are several brands of drain cleaner that can be used if your clog is not readily accessible. They are all available at your local home improvement store, or online from places like and other vender’s.

Liquid drain openers should always be used with caution. Spilling this is like getting battery acid on you. It will burn skin and make holes in your clothing. There are several different strengths. Usually the strong stuff will be wrapped in a protective plastic bag. Again, use caution when using any of these products.

Powdered drain cleaners are not recommended. They have a tendency to sludge if they settle in a low spot or trap. Stick to the liquid drain cleaners and avoid this type of issue.

Some clogs can be moved with an ordinary plunger. On a tub you will need to use a large piece of plumbers putty and cover the overflow with it. This will allow you to build pressure with the plunger without the overflow releasing it. All the pressure goes down the drain this way and pushes your clog hopefully down stream where the pipes get larger.

Plumbing companies can charge as much as several hundred dollars to come to your house and unclog that pesky tub And shower drain. With just a little insight, hopefully now you can do this home improvement job yourself but if you are unsure hire a real professional like the plumbers at Inland Cal Plumbing.

Robert is a freelance writer and retired contractor with over forty years experience in the plumbing and heating industry.