How To Fix & Unclog A Bathtub Drain (With Standing Water)

Published On: March 27, 20220 Comments on How To Fix & Unclog A Bathtub Drain (With Standing Water)Tags: , Last Updated: January 24, 202411.7 min read

Could it be that your bathtub struggles and is not draining? But what to do when the tub clogs? It happens to everyone. A clogged tub full of water that barely drains is always an annoying and frustrating chore to tackle. More than a mere source of discomfort, clogged drains bring health and home safety dangers. If left unattended it can become a nightmare especially when you want to replace or move.

clogged Bathtub Drain

From a small water puddle to a few-inches tub pond, standing water can be a harmful magnet for pests.

Learn: Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Main Water Line

And also a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and a ton of diseases. Clogged drainage pipes also cause reduced water flow in the building and plumbing troubles down the road. Not to mention the unpleasant odors!

At, we aim to guide you on the best way to unclog a tub with standing water to help you fix stubborn scenarios! For all DIY enthusiasts looking for advice on how to tackle it yourself, then look no further.

But First: Why Standing Water Won’t Drain From Your Bathtub

Understanding why a tub full of water lays still is the first essential step to fix a slow drainage issue. You could also pre-empt damage before it happens.

drain from bathtub

So, most often, the classic bathtub-clogging culprits are:

You Have Weak Water Spout

Clogged bathtubs are an ever more widespread problem because of issues in water supply. Drainage problems arise if a small amount of water passes through the tub hardware, comments Handyman Express. Ongoing water helps grime and hair solidify within the drain. Thus, you have a situation where the water barely drains and standing water stays still, experts add.


Foul Tub-shower Stopper

Built-in stoppers, like most things in life, are subject to wear and tear. If an old tub stopper sticks in a closed position, water will struggle to run down your drain.

A simple way to pull the stopper out is to

  • Wrap a rag around it.
  • Use pliers or lubricant.
  • Wiggle it from the drain body.
  • Check if a ball of hair tangled around the part and caused the slow drainage.

Read: Should You Replace Your Bathtub with a Shower?

Soap Scum

Just because soap is liquid, this doesn’t mean it wouldn’t wreak havoc in your drainage system. Soap scum is not harmful, but when t talc, wax, and grease with hard water minerals mix, it marks pipes with your classic hard residue.

Falling Hair

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, hair falls, be it naturally or because of hair damage. The problem is that hair doesn’t dissolve in water. It tangles around the flowing stuff and leaves mountains of drainage problems.

Water with High Mineral Deposits

Tap water in some areas may have a higher mineral content. It doesn’t pose a threat to your health, though. But with time, higher pH levels and mineral content form a sludge on the pipe walls.


Tiny Objects Stuck In The Drain

Bathtub drains can collect just about anything. So any small objects like shampoo caps, kids’ toys, and little accessories could drop in the drain if you left the opening unprotected.

Damaged Pipes

Older properties are prone to plumbing troubles. All forms of pipe damage contribute to the tub getting clogged and pipes keeping water standing, which can ultimately cause a lot of trouble, notes Damp Hero. That’s why regular inspection is a must!


Tools & Supplies: What to Use to Unclog Your Bathtub Drain

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, pick up all necessary tools and supplies from your closest DIY store.

tools and supplies for fixing drains

Gear to use to unclog a bathtub:

  • Buckets;
  • Cloth/rag;
  • Screwdriver;
  • Plumber’s snake;
  • Plunger;
  • A pair of rubber gloves;
  • Baking Soda;
  • Distilled white vinegar;
  • Salt;
  • Chemical detergent.

Before you start, wear a pair of gloves to avoid scum water interacting with your skin. Also, put on clothes that can get dirty. Things can get messy!

How to Unclog Your Bathtub Drain & Standing Water, Naturally?

Before you begin, do what it takes to drain the tub and remove any accumulated blockage. You have to try without using a plunger.

The hassle-free way to remove hair and gunk is to take out any standing water.

  • Remove the tub cover.
  • Open up your drain.
  • Wait a few minutes for water to make its way down the tub.

If the water is still standing:

  • Use a cup or bucket.
  • Remove as much as possible.
  • Run your hand close to the drain.
  • Use your fingers.
  • Remove the hair or grime that clogs the tub.
  • Clear out everything this way.

But if the issue is more complicated, proceed to the next step.

Use Boiling Water to Flush & Unclog Your Stubborn Tub Drain

The easiest way to resolve a small blockage is to pour boiling water and try flushing the drain. Remember! Most PVC and CPVC pipes may not withstand high water temperatures. But, if your tub connects to iron, copper, or galvanized steel metal pipes, it’s safe to try this tub-unclogging technique. Another concern is boiling water. It may melt or soften the rubber or plastic joints in piping. Sooner or later, the latter may damage. To be on the safe side, it’s worth trying to unclog the drain with boiled hot water. If water remains in the tub, you probably deal with grease build-up, a massive hairball, or another common physical blockage.

Can Bleach Unclog A Bathtub Drain

While it could assist some other remedies, bleach will not unclog a stuck drain. Next, plunge your drain!

Unclog Tub with a Plunger

Provided that you already have a cup plunger, the unclogging process is straightforward.

Here’s what to do:

  • Assure clear access to the bottom (main) tub drain.
  • Remove the overflow cover (the vent on the front of the tub) with a screwdriver.
  • Turn the cover back and forth while pulling.
  • Remember to check the coil first for blockages;

Before you plunge,

  • Prepare a rag.
  • Stick it tightly to the overflow vent to keep air from going out.
  • Position the bottom of the plunger over the tub drain until there is a tight seal between the cup and tub surface.
  • Enhance the suction when the plunger is in action.
  • Press the plunger up and down vigorously.
  • Repeat the plunges until you see dirty water, hair, or debris coming off the drain. A little whirlpool water is a good indicator that the drainage works as it should.

Home and interior experts note an important safety tip: Never use the plunging method after pouring toxic detergents down the drain. The plunger tool can pull and splash the chemicals around the bathtub, or eventually on your skin. With the proper plunging action, you can loosen most types of drain clogs. But, if you still suspect that drainage is slow, switch to the plumber’s snake (drain auger) method.

freestanding bathtub

Snake Your Bathtub Drain Via the Overflow Plate

Snakes are handy tools as they are long enough to reach any solidified trash. Thankfully, drain auger is an affordable and useful tool to have around the house, comment experts Rubbish Removal London. So it’s worth the investment if you have to tackle clogs regularly. When shopping, avoid heavy cables as they can damage the pipes. Snake it with a 5/16 to 1/4 inch cable.

Here’s what you can do to snake the bathtub the professional way:

  • Unscrew the metal overflow plate (it’s usually under your tub faucet).
  • Inspect its condition when taken out.
  • Disassemble.
  • Clean grime, deposits, and hair.
  • Run the tap to check the speed of drainage.

Eventually, this might be the problematic clog.

If you still have a blocked tub drain:

  • Access the overflow.
  • Drain with the snake.

This is the right route to snake the tub, as the problem usually lays down the trap area.

  • Don’t snake through the bottom opening.
  • Doing so, you risk breaking the pipes.
  • You want to force the clog downwards.

To do so,

  • Run the snake with your most active hand.
  • Hold the cable with the other one.
  • Keep the snake handle as close as possible to the overflow drain opening.
  • Remember not to snake too hefty. You can damage a pipe or drain entrance.


  • Pull the cable back if you feel tension, hear scraping sounds or the machine kink.
  • When that happens, slow your moves down even more.
  • Rotate the snake’s head back-and-forth/up-and-down. You might stumble upon a massive ball of trash.
  • Keep on snaking until you no longer feel the tension and the plumber’s snake uncoils fully.
  • When ready with the unclogging procedure, re-assemble the parts you unscrewed.
  • Finally, test your handiwork with the tap.

Toilet mainline connects with tub drains in less than 10 ft. Therefore, if the clog was not taken care of after running over 10 feet of cable, it may have traveled up the vent line after colliding with the trap.

Home Remedy For Clogged Drain With Standing Water

Use a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar & boiling water. When the clog doesn’t entirely stop the water flow, a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar, and boiling water produces fantastic results. Yet, all warnings for damaged pipes from boiled water are valid for PVC pipes.

Note: Please be cautious when you are dealing with these types of pipes.

So, what can you do to unclog your bathtub with a homemade solution?

  • First, pour a 1/2 cup full baking soda into your drain.
  • Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Slowly pour a mixture of half a cup of distilled white vinegar into the drain.
  • Wait for the ‘fizzing’ sound coming out from the reaction in the waste.
  • Cover the drain to keep the reaction inside the pipes,
  • Wait half an hour until you stop hearing a noise from the inside.
  • Use the time gap to boil the water
  • Flush the boiling water down your drain.

If the cleaning attempt is unsuccessful, repeat the steps. But if the method cleaned the grimy sludge out, turn on the faucet and check the water flow.

Use Salt, Baking Soda & Boiling Water

Soaps can have the finest ingredients and smell lovely, but when they mix with messy substances in your tub drain, expect foul odor and blockages. If you are scarce of vinegar, salt, and baking soda may also help you unclog.

So, follow these steps to unleash the cleansing power of “salt + baking soda + boiling water” combination:

  • Pour ½ or a whole cup of baking soda into the drain.
  • Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Prepare a mixture of salt and baking soda.
  • Pour down your drain.
  • Let the substance stay in the pipes overnight without running the faucet.
  • Boil a kettle full of water.
  • Gently pour it down the drain.
  • Rinse it under warm running water to make sure that there is no residual left.

Clean Out Bathtub Drain With Chemicals

Chemical solutions replace hard manual work in just a couple of minutes. But they can also damage the surface of your fixture/drain, and even push already formed blockage deeply. Not to mention, they dissolve only some sources of clog (ex. hair). So, they should be your last resort. When you shop for a clog buster, make sure you choose a detergent suitable for your pipes. Search for a high-quality detergent that is made for bathtubs only.

bubbles in the drain

Read: Things To Consider When Buying The Right Drain Cleaners

Then, you need only to remove the standing water, pour the chemical into the drain and wait for some time specified in the product instructions. Unlike the other methods, a cold-water flush will ensure the best cleaning results.

How to Prevent Your Bathtub Drain From Blocking Again

The best way to keep your tub drain in top-notch shape is to handle issues in the early stage. It’s always good to have a skilled pro before the plumbing issue turns into a significant hassle.

clogging drain prevention

But here’s what you can do in advance:

  • Refrain from using traditional oil-based soap.
  • If not an option, clean your drain from hair and debris after use (or at least once a week).
  • Install a water softener if limescale accumulates on the bath fixtures.
  • Use a strainer or hair catcher to protect the drainage pipes.
  • Avoid oil-based bath products to pre-empt preventable tub clogs.
  • Rinse after their use with a strong spout of hot water.
  • Pour boiled water once a month or as the drain slows down.
  • Use natural solutions and homemade remedies to clean the tub surface, dissolve minor clogs, and remove unpleasant smells.

Call a Plumber To Unclog A Bathtub Drain With Standing Water

If you have already tried to unclog the drain, but the drainage is still slow, take extra action. The problem could be an improper unclogging technique or even worse: a corroded drain, an old or unprofessional pipe installation. And the list goes on. To leave the hassle and buy yourself peace of mind, call a plumber. The right expert rings a full arsenal of high-grade tools and should be able to unclog your bathtub drain in less than a day.

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