How to Repair a Stuck Pop Up Tub Drain

What You'll Need
wire coat hanger or similar as needed
small wire brush as needed
white vinegar as needed
heatproof grease as needed
new drain switch mechanism as needed

The common style of tub drain is the pop up tub drain. The stopper moves up and down to open and close the drain. The mechanism is located behind the tub but you will not need to access it from behind. All your repair work will be from the front. There may be several reasons that a pop drain is stuck. How to repair a pop up tub drain begins with understanding the mechanics of how the drain works.

It uses a lever or a switch that, in one position raises the drain plug, and in the other, lowers the drain plug. It is likely that the cause of your problem is a damaged internal lever or a rusted internal lever.  The simplest fix is to clean or replace this lever. Once this switch is working properly, it is likely that your drain will resume functioning properly again.

Step 1 – Prepare the Work Area

It is a good idea to cover the drain with some newspaper or a towel so that if you drop a screw there is no chance of it going down the drain.  Locate the drain switch and determine if you need a Phillips or a flat screwdriver. Some switches have a decorative metal plate over the screws and this will need to be removed before you continue.

Step 2 – Unscrew and Remove

Remove the two screws that are holding the plate in place and set them aside. Slowly lift up and move the cover plate back and forth at first as it may be stuck, slowly lift it out. Attached to the cover plate should be the linkage and at the bottom is a small plug. Remove this assembly completely.

Step 3 – Possible Problems and Remedies

Dirty or Rusty:

If the mechanism appears very dirty or rusty it should be replaced. 

If it is only a little dirty or rusty, you may be able to salvage it. Using a small wire brush, you should clean the linkage and plunger with some white vinegar. Next you should use some heatproof grease and lubricate the assembly. 

Continue to Step 4.


If there are missing parts on the assembly it has either rusted through and broken off or it has simply come apart. You will need to fish out the remaining parts before you can continue. With a bit of patience, you can use a bent wire coat hanger to retrieve the parts.

If the unit has broken, you will need to replace if completely with a new drain switch.

If the unit is simply detached, check it over to see if there is a visible cause.  You can reassemble it and replace it, following step 4, or you can discard it and replace it with a new one.

Step 4 – Reassemble the Switch

Your last step is to reassemble the switch. Since this switch is part of the overflow system, protecting the tub from overflowing in the event to the faucet being left on and the drain closed, be careful that you seat it correctly. Feed the unit back in the opening the way you took it out.  Feel around as you lower it and be sure the plug fits back in property. Screw the two screws back into the metal place and tighten down firmly but do not over tighten. Replace any decorative plate you removed.