How to Fix a Slow Draining Tub

If your tub drain has slowed down, it can be an inconvenience, but it could be a sign of a larger problem that needs to be fixed quickly. There could be a number of simple causes, such as a clog of loose hair or an accumulation of bath salts in the drain. In this article, we will look at some simple ways to try to get the tub draining again and an alternative if these methods don’t work for you.

Investigate the Drain

Take a look in the drain. In many cases, the cause of a slow draining tub may be immediately obvious. Perhaps you have some loose hair tangled in the drain that has soap scum or other materials mixed in. This can often be removed with your fingers or if this is fiddly try using a pair of thin tweezers. Avoid dropping the material into the drain where it could form the basis of a larger drain clog later. If the material is wound tightly and it cannot be removed easily, you can unscrew the drain and give it a thorough cleaning with white vinegar. While the drain is removed, take a look for any other pieces of material that you can remove without dropping them further into the drain. When you’re done, simply screw the drain back in place and run the tap to see if the water is draining easily. If you have a complicated stopper that prevents access to the drain, contact your local certified plumber for expert help.

Try the Cup Plunger

Everyone should have a cup plunger in their home to clear simple drain clogs. A cup plunger can be used on flat surfaces such as your sink, shower stall floor, and in your tub. It works by changing the pressure inside the drain to force clogs loose, and then they can be flushed away with water. But, some people are far too vigorous when they use a cup plunger, they apply to much pressure too quickly, and this can cause damage. Let the cup plunger do the hard word, place it over the drain and move it up and down gently to build the pressure. Introduce a little water from time to time to keep things move, and eventually, you may notice that the water is draining well. Sometimes the clog is forced back up into the tub from the drain, so have an old cloth ready to pick up this nasty debris. If you remove the clog, run the cold water tap for a few minutes to flush away and pieces that may remain.

Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you cast your mind back to science class at school, you may remember when the teacher placed baking soda in a beaker of vinegar to blow up a balloon. This same combination can work well together when you need to clear a slow running tub drain. The chemical reaction that occurs when you mix together baking soda and vinegar will scrub at any surface that it comes into contact with. This process occurs without any harsh chemicals that you find in store bought drain cleaning products. Make sure the tub is dry and that there is no standing water before you begin. Add a cup of baking soda and 1 tsp of salt to the drain for added cleaning power. Then pour in a cup of white vinegar, and you should see some frothing at the drain. Don’t panic; this frothing shows that the chemical reaction is taking place, and your homemade cleaner is working. Leave the mixture to bubble in the drain for approximately 10 minutes and take that time to boil a pot of water. After 10 minutes has elapsed, pour the pot of boiling water into the drain, and the clog may be cleared. If this process doesn’t work, you can repeat the same steps a few times to remove a more formidable clog. But, if you have tried multiple times and the clog is persistent, it’s time to contact a local plumber for expert help.

Use a Plumbing Augur

A plumbing augur is often referred to as a “plumbing snake,” and the smaller ones are a great tool for your home. An augur is a length of thin metal with a rotating spike at one end and a handle or switch at the other. When the handle or switch is engaged, the drill bit at the business end rotates slowly. To use the plumbing augur, insert it carefully into the drain until hit bumps up against the obstruction. Then engage the drill bit and apply a little force to drill into the obstruction and break it apart. Then you can run the cold tap and flush the smaller broken clog pieces into the drain. A basic plumbing augur is relatively inexpensive, but more specialized models can be pricey.

Chemical Drain Cleaning Products

We briefly mentioned store bought chemical cleaning products, and they should be avoided. These products contain harsh caustic chemicals that can cause burns on exposed areas of skin, and they can be dangerous near your eyes. But, these very same characteristics make these types of chemical cleaners a poor choice for your plumbing system. Chemical cleaners can damage your plumbing pipes leading to expensive repairs or, in extreme cases, a replacement. This is why all professional plumbers use manual clog removal methods to get the drains running again.

Preventing a Slow Running Tub Drain

Prevention is better than the cure, and the best way to prevent a clog is to avoid placing items in the drain. Adding a drain cover is a great way to stop hair from entering the drain, and a buildup of hair will bind a clog together. Regular drain cleaning as part of an annual plumbing health checkup can remove smaller clogs before they can cause a major problem.

If you’ve attempted some of the tub drain clearance methods on our list and the problem persists, call a local certified plumber for expert help. There may be an underlying plumbing issue that causes the clog to return continually, and this needs to be fixed.

By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.