Fix a clogged tub drain quickly and easily by removing the stopper and fishing out the hair and gunk that causes the problem 80 percent of the time. We show you how to open most common types of drains.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine:November 2008
A drop stopper has a prominent knob that you lift and turn to open the drain.
About 80 percent of the time, you can fix slow-draining or clogged
tub drains in five minutes, without chemicals and without a $100
plumber bill. In most cases, you'll only need a screwdriver and a stiff
wire or a bent coat hanger. The problem is usually just a sticky wad of
hair that collects on the crossbars, a few inches under the stopper. All
you need to do is figure out how to remove the stopper (that's almost
always easy) and fish out the gunk. Bend a little hook on the end of the
stiff wire with a needle-nose pliers and shove it through the clog—you'll nearly always extract the entire ugly mess. If hair is wrapped
around the crossbars, slice through it with a utility knife and then grab
it with the wire.
Follow our series of photos to determine which type of stopper you
have and how to remove it.
The most common type, a drop stopper, has a setscrew located under the cap.
Push down on the stopper to release it and open the drain.
These stoppers lock and seal when
you press them down and release
when you push down a second
time. The way to remove them isn't
so obvious. In most cases you have
to hold the stem while unscrewing
the cap as shown. With the cap off,
you can sometimes fish out the hair
from the crossbars. Otherwise simply
remove the entire shaft by
unscrewing it. You may have to
adjust the screw tension on the stem
when you reinstall everything to get
a good seal.
Hold the stopper shaft tightly with a
finger and unscrew the top.
The stopper lever is part of the overflow plate.
Remove the screw to remove the drain screen and expose the clog.
Many tubs, certainly most older
ones, have a stopper located inside
the drain and overflow tube. Most
of these have a lever on the overflow
plate and a screen over the
drain. The screen keeps most hair
out of the drain, but some gets
through and eventually forms a
clog at the crossbars. Simply
unscrew the screen for easy access
to this clog and remove it as before.
If the drain has an internal stopper,
simply unscrew the overflow plate
and pull the linkage and stopper up
and out. Then clean the linkage and
stopper and run water down the
drain to flush it out.
Occasionally the linkage is out of
adjustment and the stopper doesn't
open far enough from its seat to
allow a good flow. Adjust it, reinsert
it and test it. Run water into the
tub. If it leaks out, lengthen the
stopper linkage to seal the drain
better. If the drain doesn't open to
let the water out, shorten the stopper
First remove the screen and clean the
crossbars. Then unscrew the overflow
plate, pull out the linkage, clean the
stopper and linkage, and rinse the
drainpipes. Readjust the linkage if
necessary. Reinstall the assembly.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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