Unclogging A Bathtub Drain With a PlungerThe tub drain, along with the kitchen sink, garbage disposal, and toilet drains, receives the most abuse of any drain in the home. We fill it with hair, soap, hair care products, and shampoo bottle caps. The drain slowly clogs over time until you’re standing in the tub taking a shower with several inches of dirty water lapping at your ankles.

A standard cup-style plunger will unclog your bathtub drain, but you must seal the overflow drain. Tubs have two types of drains: There’s the well-known one at the bottom of the tub, which you’re close to filling it with water. But there’s a higher one on the front wall, in line with the faucet spout and the bottom drain.

Before Beginning

You may have missed the overflow drain because it resembles a solid metal disc rather than a perforated drain cover. If you look beneath the disc’s bottom edge, you’ll notice an opening. This is a hidden passageway where water can escape if you accidentally overfill the tub. Overflow drains may have visible holes, but they all perform the same function.

Water that enters the overflow drain flows into a pipe that connects to the main tub drain. This causes a problem when it comes time to plunge the tub. Plungers use suction power, and the overflow drain (which, for obvious reasons, does not close) acts as a large air filter that kills the suction. Therefore, you must seal the overflow opening before getting to work with the plunger. The best way to seal an overflow is by covering it with duct tape.

What You’ll Need

  • Cup-style plunger
  • Duct tape


Prepare the Bathtub

Tear off a piece or two of regular duct tape and completely cover the overflow opening, making sure to seal the tape’s edges against the tub’s surface. Remove the bottom (main) tub drain stopper. It may be necessary to unscrew it or turn it back and forth while pulling up.

Fill the bathtub with 1 to 2 inches of hot water (not cold). Hot water aids in the dissolution of soap in clogs.

Plunger Placement

Place the cup plunger over the drain so that the entire cup lip seals against the tub surface. The cup seal is critical because it is what creates suction and loosens the clog with the plunger’s action.

Plunge The Dain

Push the plunger down with quick, forceful strokes, then pull up five to six times. Maintain the cup seal for the first five or six strokes, then pull the cup all the way up and away from the drain with the final stroke. Pumping the plunger forces water down the pipe before sucking it back up, forcing the clog up and down with the drain water and eventually breaking it up.

Repeat as necessary until the drain begins to flow freely.

Remove the Tape

Remove the duct tape from the overflow and replace the drain stopper.

Hiring Experts

If plunging does not clear the clog several times, remove the stopper assembly (as needed) and snake the drain through the overflow drain opening. If your bathtub is still clogged, it’s time to bring in the experts; call (951) 475-6521 to speak to a Top Tier Plumbing and Rooter team member today. We are here to do the dirty work for you.