6 Ways to Unclog a Tub Drain

plunger near clogged tub drain
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-200
What You'll Need
Kettle and hot water
Round plunger
Coat hanger or thin wire
Baking soda
Plumbing snake
Wet/Dry vacuum cleaner

Over time, every tub drain will most likely become clogged. Hair, grease and other debris will accumulate in the drain, gradually stopping the water from flowing. Ideally, you will make clearing the drain a regular part of your household maintenance but in reality, most people won’t do anything until there’s a problem. There are a number of chemical products on the market that claim to quickly unclog drains. Alternatively, you can call a plumber. However, there are also a number of ways you can unclog the drain yourself without resorting to chemicals or an expensive local contractor.

Hot Water

Water that’s hot but just short of boiling (in other words, hotter than through the tub faucet) can clear drains that aren’t fully clogged. Allow a kettle to heat just shy of boiling and pour the contents directly down the tub drain. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes and follow up by using a round plunder on the tub drain.

Remove the Stopper

The stopper on the tub drain should pull out or screw out easily. Remove it and clean the underside where debris will have accumulated. With this out of the way, take a bent coat hanger or piece of thin, rigid wire and poke it down into the drain, pulling up hair and other items that usually make up some of the clog. Keep working until you’ve removed the material clogging the drain.


A plunger is the first tub drain clog remedy for most people and every home should have a round plunger that can be used on sinks and bathtubs. With the drain stopper removed, press it down around the tub drain to form a seal and plunge up and down several times. You can create a vacuum and make the plunger more effective by blocking off the tub overflow. Repeat if necessary. Where the clog isn’t too bad, heavy plunging will usually clear it.


In a pitcher, combine 1/3 cup vinegar with 1/3 cup baking soda. The mixture will immediately begin to fizz. Pour it down the tub drain as quickly as possibly to allow the mixture to react with the clog. Allow to stand for 10 minutes then flush with hot water. You'll be able to see if the treatment has cleared the clog successfully or not. Repeat as necessary to remove the clog completely.


If you have regular problems with the drains in your house, a plumbing snake can be a good investment. It’s a steel cable with a spring that can be extended down the drain of a sink, tub, or toilet and is around 15 to 25 feet long. You can buy one at most hardware stores. To clear the clog in the tub drain, feed the snake down the drain slowly. For plumbers, a snake is the clog-clearing tool of choice.


Take your wet/dry vacuum and set it to liquids. Remove the filter and any inside bag and cover the vacuum vent. Put the hose over the tub drain and switch on the vacuum. The vacuum cleaner will suck up the debris in the tub drain and isolate it in the cleaner receptacle.