When it comes to a stubborn clog in a full bathtub, homeowners are at a disadvantage. The gallons of stored water in a dirty, clogged tub will thwart many of the usual DIY unclogging tricks, such as baking soda and vinegar or boiling water. Other than a plunger, the only viable DIY option for a bathtub-clog fix is to use a plumbing snake.
But how do you use a snake to clear a clog in a tub, without having to pry off a fixed drain cover?
Don’t Snake From The Drain
If you were clearing out a clog from a kitchen sink or a toilet, you’d certainly send a snake down exactly where the water drains. So it may seem counter-intuitive not to do the same for a tub. But in most bathtubs, there’s a sharp bend in the pipe just below the tub drain. If you pry off the cover and force a snake down, you may risk scratching or damaging both the drain cover and the pipe.
This violates the first rule of DIY repair: Cause no harm.
Access From The Overflow Opening
A better way to clear a clogged bathtub drain is to take advantage of the overflow opening, located just under the tub faucet. It’s usually covered by a plate held to the tub by a screw or two. Remove the plate and you’ll have easy access to the plumbing and perhaps a larger portion of the clog.
Remember that cleaning out any clog, whether from a tub or sink, can get really icky. Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves and have plenty of paper towels or rags to clean up the mess when you’re done.
Snake Slow And Steady
Whether you use a hand-cranked or a power snake, slip the wire into the overflow access and feed it down into the drain in a slow but steady way. Crank out about two feet of wire or until you feel an obstruction of some sort. You may have to wiggle the wire a little, or put a bend in the wire’s end, to get the snake past the bend of the U-trap. If you’re not sure what is stopping progress, you may want to pull the snake back out to see if there is any clinging debris, in which case you may have hit the clog.
In that case, insert and pull out the snake multiple times to remove or at least loosen the clog. After the tub drains, run hot water to wash away any additional debris in the pipes.
Stubborn clogs are one of the most common reasons why homeowners call in plumbing experts. They can make the working of your home grind to a halt. When you need a fix quick for any problem, big or small, remember that it’s never an imposition to call a trusted local plumber.