Bathtub drain cleaning is one of those tasks that can be really simple, or very, very difficult.  This is due to the fact that the bathtub drain set-up is very different from other drains in your home.  It is probably best if we start by laying out how it is different.

The Anatomy of a Bathtub Drain

What really makes bathtub drain cleaning different from any other fixture is what is called the “waste/overflow”.  A waste/overflow is a waste pipe set-up that connects the drain and the overflow of your tub to the p-trap underneath.  It also often has the mechanism that allows you to lower the plug that allows you to fill up the tub.

There are a few basic styles of waste/overflow, with different stopper configurations that we won’t get into here, but the concepts work the same for most of them.  The biggest problem is that if you mess with them at all (and you kind of have to to clear the blockage) many times they will leak.  There is usually no way to know they are leaking unless you crawl under your house to look.

For bottom floor tubs, you will get a pool of stagnant drain water under your home that will start to smell and attract bugs.  Upstairs tubs can cause a bunch of damage to your lower ceiling.  Care needs to really be taken here.

How to Clear a Bathtub Blockage

The first step to clearing a bathtub backup is usually to make sure it is a tub blockage, and not a main line backup.  If it is an upstairs tub, it is not a main line.  If it is a downstairs tub, a flushing of the toilet will usually tell.  If the water in the tub starts to “burble” after flushing, it is a main line.  If not, and a few flushes still does not affect the tub water, it is most likely the tub drain.

Once you have determined that it is indeed the tub drain, the next step is to remove the overflow cover, and the drain plug.  In many instances, the rod will bring up a lot of hair/sludge.  In some cases, it will appear as though the problem is solved.

Do not be fooled!  More often than not, all of the hair did not come up with the rod, and a big chunk of it may have fallen into the drain pipe.  A small drain cleaning cable (1/4” or so) should always be run down the overflow, through the drain pipes to ensure a proper cleaning is done.

At Allstar Plumbing, we also recommend following up with a degreasing agent.  This will help keep the line from backing up as quickly in the future.

Due to the complexity of waste/overflow systems, we always recommend having a profession handle your bathtub drain cleaning.  If you are looking for the perfect professional for the job, call Allstar Plumbing.