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The Bathtub Drains Slowly - What do I do Now

Written By:
R. Dodge Woodson

Bathtubs that drain slowly are often a result of hair clogs. You may be able to correct this problem yourself and save the expense of a professional plumber. With the exception of bathtubs in mobile homes and clawfoot tubs, bathtubs are generally fitted with a tub waste and overflow. There are several types of these on the market. Look at yours. Is there a lever on the overflow cover plate that you operate to open or close the drain? If so, it is held in place with two screws. You can remove these screws to gain access to the waste and overflow and the trap below it.

Remove the screws and pull the device out of the piping. You’re likely to find a build-up of hair and soap scum. With this out of the way, turn the water to the tub on and see if it drains properly. If it does, clean the device and replace it to solve your problem.

In the event the drain is running slowly with the drain mechanism removed, focus your interest on the trap. A small spring snake that is available from most hardware stores can be placed in the overflow pipe and worked through the trap. This is as far as a homeowner should go without professional help.

If your tub doesn’t have a lever-type trip waste as described above, try to unscrew the drain plug to check for hair clogs. The tub drain will have a heavy crossbar strainer that could be jammed with hair or other obstructions.

Avoid using caustic drain chemicals to clear your drain. If you do administer this type of product and wind up calling a plumber, tell the plumber about your use of chemicals. Otherwise, the plumber is at risk of injury.

If you have a bathroom sink/lavatory that is draining slowly, it is probably hair. Crawl under the sink bowl. You will normally see a chrome bar pointing towards the back wall. This rod comes out of the pop-up assembly and is connected to the rod that goes vertically through the faucet to enable you to open and close the drain.

Loosen the knurled fitting that holds the bar into the pop-up assembly. When it’s loose, pull the bar out. This will allow you to remove the drain from inside the lavatory bowl. Remove the drain stopper and inspect the piping with a flashlight for any build up of hair and grime. If there isn’t any, replace the assembly that you took apart and continue your search into the trap of the sink drain.

You can remove most traps by loosening two slip nuts with pliers. The trap will be holding water. Dump the contents of the trap into a bowl and inspect the trap. If it is clear, you should probably call a plumber. You could try snaking your own drain, but sometimes snakes become hung in pipes and that creates a mess for a professional to fix.

With a little time and taking our steps most slow drains will run like Olympic medal winners in a short period of time. Don’t run for the Drano or the plumber’s phone number before attempting to fix it your self.

R. Dodge Woodson is a master plumber of over 30 years. He has written over 90 books dealing with many subjects, including plumbing.