How To Unclog Bathtub Drain With Standing Water

If your bathtub drain has been slowly clogging up or is completely clogged up resulting in standing water, there’s a quick fix that is reasonably cheaper than calling a plumber. All you need is a screwdriver, hot water, vinegar, a plumbing snake, or a plunger. 

Clogged bathtub drains are a common problem that affects many homes with bathtubs. Unintended water sitting is a breeding ground for a host of different bacteria and bad smells.

While calling a professional plumber is recommended when dealing with severe clogging, drainage failure, or pipe damage, you can also use everyday tools to fix the issue.

Here are some steps to follow to get your bathtub drain unclogged and why you want to avoid standing water in the first place. 

unclogging bathtub drain

Steps To Unclog Bathtub Drain Using A Plumbing Snake

A plumbing snake is a relatively small tool used to clean bathtub drains. They operate like power drills with front-mounted coil cables. You can easily unclog a bathtub drain with a plumbing snake in around thirty minutes, making it a handy tool for plumbing issues. If you don’t have a plumbing snake, you can also use a plunger but you can always get one at your local hardware store.

Here are some steps to follow when using a plumbing snake: 

Remove the Cover Plate

To start, you’ll need to remove the overflow cover plate from the bathtub. Your bathtub has a couple of working parts, and perhaps the most important one is the cover plate, which prevents water in the bathtub from overflowing. It’s a metal plate typically located on the inner walls of the bathtub.

Once you remove this plate, it’s possible to access the tub drain through the overflow tube. Some cover plates have screws drilled to hold the plate in place. To remove them, you’ll have to use a screwdriver. 

Insert the Cable Into the Overflow Opening

Locate the overflow opening and insert the plumbing snake cable. Wear rubber gloves to help you hold the cable firmly and slowly feed the cable into the drain, and insert it as far as you can. 

Start the Motor or Rotate Switch

Some drain snakes come with a motor that automatically moves the cable, while others have a switch that you have to rotate. 

If you have a plumbing snake with a motor, activate the motor and hold it firmly while you continue to insert the cable into the drain. Look for large clogs that could cause tension leading to bending or pulling the cable. Otherwise, use one hand to move the switch so the line starts to move. 

As a rule of thumb, consider running the cable at approximately 10 feet. Anything more than that might mean that the snake cable went into the wrong line.

Remove the Snake

If you’ve successfully penetrated the clog, run some water into the tub and check whether it flows freely. Then, carefully extract the snake’s cable from the drain. You can achieve this by running the plumbing snake’s motor in reverse. Afterward, run hot water for several minutes to flush any leftover debris in the drain. 

Steps To Unclog Bathtub Drain Using Vinegar And Baking Soda

Mixing baking soda and vinegar can clean out smelly and clogged shower drains. Most people use it to clean kitchen drains since it removes fat, oil, and grease. 

Instead of using chemicals to unclog the drain with standing water, homemade solutions like white vinegar and baking soda are better for your pipes and the environment.

  1. Heat water to its boiling point and pour it down your bathroom drain to loosen any dirt in the system. You can mix the hot water with soap or simply pour it plainly.
  2. Take half a cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain. Leave the baking soda for a few minutes to work on the clog.
  3. Mix half a cup of white vinegar and water, then pour the solution into the drain. Leave the mixture for about ten minutes.
  4. Reheat the water if it’s warm and pour it into the drain.
  5. Do this three times to ensure the drain correctly clears out.

Why Standing Water Is Bad

Standing water is that which has been sitting for long periods without moving. While stagnant water in nature can benefit its environment, standing water in your bathtub should be avoided.

Soap scum on shower curtains and bathtubs contains many different bacteria, so fungi and mold can grow in such environments. The longer standing water sits, the longer these organisms have to grow and fester.

Apart from creating a breeding ground for things you don’t want, standing water can also cause bad smells in the bathtub. 

What Causes A Bathtub Drain Clog?

bathtub drain hair

Standing water in the bathtub is caused by hair, product residue, soap scum, and a combination of all. Don’t be surprised if you run into this problem since it's prevalent in big homes. The gradual build-up of these materials ultimately results in a clogged drain. 

Hair - One of the most common causes of standing water is hair clogs in the drain. Since you wash your hair in the bathtub, it builds up slowly. If you have a large family sharing the shower, it’s common to run into this problem.

Shaving your legs or armpit hair can also lead to a build-up in the drain. Once hair mixes with other materials such as dead skin and scum, clogging will be expedited. The best way to prevent the issue is by having a drain cover that catches hair. 

Hard water - Most people often downplay the effect hard water has on the drain. However, hard water usually features mineral deposits that can cause a blockage. High mineral content often collects on the drain pipes and traps tiny debris, eventually clogging it. Add hair and soap scum into the mix, and you will eventually run into a heavy buildup. The best way to deal with hard water in your area is by using a shower water filter to remove most minerals as well as a water softener. 

Soap scum - Soap scum occurs when hard water minerals mix with your soap. It often appears on your bathroom walls and causes stains. As it washes down, the drain often collects the soap scum with time and solidifies on the sides, creating a blockage.

Dirt - Dirt can make its way into your shower or bathtub if you do lots of outdoor activities like hiking or sports. As you bring dirt or other debris inside, it will build up collectively. There isn't too much you can do in this case other than brush off anything on your body before you go in. 

Why You Should Not Use Bleach To Clear Up Clogs

You shouldn’t use bleach to clear up clogs because the chemicals can deteriorate your pipes, and it’s not intended to be used for clogs. Bleach is primarily used to kill germs since bleach is a stain remover, not a drain cleaner. It can’t dissolve hair, soap scum, or debris in the clog. 

In addition, pouring it down the drain can impact the inner walls of the metal pipes. Therefore, it’s not the best option to unclog a bathtub drain.

Sometimes if bleach comes into contact with acid, it produces heat, which can cause a considerable problem to the pipes. When used in large volumes, the bleach can result in your pipes bursting. 

The corrosive nature of bleach also leads to pipe corrosion and discoloration. If you have brass or copper-coated pipes, you should altogether avoid using them. This is also a common problem with other strong chemical drain cleaners.

About the author 

Ryan Thompson is a residential and commercial plumber from Miami, Florida. He has over 20+ years of plumbing experience. He is also a huge DIY enthusiast who does all types of improvement projects around the house.

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