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These Kitchen Staples Will Unclog a Bathtub Drain Quickly Without Harsh Chemicals

Plus, the $1 tool that works just as well!

Whether it’s caused by a buildup of moisturizing shower oil, hair conditioner, a clump of hair —or a combination of all three, it’s never fun to take a shower and find yourself standing in several inches of gross, soapy water because your bathtub takes a ton of time to drain — or won’t really drain at all. But using those drain clearing chemicals is bad for pipes over time, and calling a plumber can leave you with a big bill. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can try to clear the clog before resorting to calling in a pro. We talked to a few experts to get their take on what to do the next time you’re faced with a stopped-up bathtub drain. Here, their advice on how to unclog a bathtub drain.

How to unclog a bathtub drain with a safe DIY mix

baking soda and vinegar to unclog a drain
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“If the drain isn’t completely clogged, try the remedy of baking soda and vinegar,” says Rafael Zeligzon, The Drain Medic, a residential and commercial drain expert with over 30 years of experience clearing out drains. The bubbles and acid in the combination of baking soda and vinegar work together to break down the grease from body oils and moisturizers, which then allows it to be flushed away with hot water. “It’s much safer than using harsh chemicals,” says Zeligzon. Start by clearing out any standing water, and add a small amount of very hot water to the drain. Then pour in ½ cup baking soda and ¼ cup vinegar. Wait an hour and then flush with very hot water.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which is reactive. When you add vinegar — an acid — to it, the resulting bubbles create pressure that helps clear away the clog. Don’t have any baking soda? No problem! A combination of ¼ cub Borax and ¼ cup salt can also be used in its place. No vinegar? Though not as strong as vinegar, a half cup of lemon juice will work it its place. The best part? This method can be used more than once if it doesn’t work the first time!

Related: 10 Brilliant Uses for Baking Soda All Around the House

Folks have sworn by this DIY clog remover for years, but it’s also been making the rounds on social media lately.  Even the experts at Liquid Plumr suggest using this DIY method rather than their own product — unless it’s a heftier clog, in which case they do recommend bringing in their bigger clog-fighting guns (Buy at Walmart, $16.49).

This YouTube video from @balkanplumbing shows how to clear a bathtub drain with baking soda and vinegar:

How to unclog a bathtub drain with this $1 hair removal tool

Many clogs are just a tangle of hair bound up in the tub drain, and clearing them out can be as easy as making a run to Walmart or a dollar store. “There’s a hair grabber (Buy from Amazon, $6.09 for a 4-pack) that looks a bit like a zip tie with little spikes on it, and it’s great to have on hand for smaller hair clogs,” says Tom Wolfe, a fifteen-year veteran of the clog business and co-owner of Clog Busters, a drain cleaning and excavation company in the Portland metro area. “Bathtubs and showers get clogged with hair frequently.” Simply maneuver the end of the plastic tool into the drain and twist it around a bit, he says. Then pull the tool back out — along with the clump of hair and gunk. “If the stoppage is close enough to the tub drain for the tool to reach and isn’t too large, this method works well.”

This popular Dad, How do I… video shows how to use the device to clear a hair clog:

How to unclog a bathtub drain with a wet-dry vac

A shop vacuum (Buy from Amazon, $65.99) is another option to try for smaller clogs, says YouTube content creator and expert plumber Roger Wakefield. “Cover up the waste and overflow, and use the shop vac to suck up the clog from the drain,” he says. The waste/overflow is the smaller hole above the faucet. You’ll want to cover or tape that opening closed in order to create suction in the line and draw the clog out. You can also try to blow the clog through, says Wakefield, but be cautious because if the clog is bad, this can actually make it worse. Simply unscrew the drain cover and insert the vacuum hose into the opening, making sure there’s a tight fit there as well to build suction.

This video from @Monkeyboy68Mr shows how to use your wet-dry vacuum to clear a clogged tub drain:

How to unclog a bathtub drain with hot water

Very hot — not boiling —water is another DIY clog-busting trick that can help if you’re facing a slow drain, says Wakefield. “You want to be very careful that the water isn’t boiling, though,” he says. “Boiling water can actually damage your pipes.” Instead, opt for very hot water and use it to flush out a slow-moving drain. You can even pour a cup or so of bleach down first to help soften and break the gunk up and then use the hot water to flush it away, he says. A few drops of dish detergent can also help to break up any grease or oil in the clog. If it doesn’t work and you do end up having to call in a professional, just be sure to let the pro know what you used first as he will need to know in order to take proper precautions.

How to unclog a bathtub drain with a plunger

A plunger can also be used to loosen a clog that’s close to the drain, says Zeligzon. But you have to use the right plunging technique, he says. First, add some water to the tub before starting to plunge. “Don’t push really hard because you don’t want to pack the clog, making it even harder to loosen the clog.” Instead, push the plunger down slowly and then pull it back quickly, and make sure to plug the overflow in order to get the plunger to work properly. The suction created with the use of the plunger can push the clog back and forth through the drain pipe, breaking it up and eventually clearing the pipe.

Related: 5 DIY Fixes That Will Cut Out the Handy Man

How to unclog a bathtub drain with a hand snake

A small hand crank snake (Buy on Amazon, $24.95) or one hooked up to a power drill is another great DIY way to clear a stopped-up tub drain. Remove the drain cover and either hand crank or slowly drill crank the snake through the drain line. Because the snake moves around as it spins into the drain pipe, it’s clearing the pipe as it goes, says Wakefield. If you can’t get through to the clog in the drain pipe, going down the waste and overflow line is another, easier option as that line is straighter.

See Wakefield’s video here on how to use a snake to clear a tub drain:

How to prevent future bathtub drain clogs

The best way to clear a clogged tub or shower drain is to prevent it in the first place, says Wakefield. Use these tips on a regular basis to keep the water in your bathtub draining well.

1. Enlist a drain screen/cover

Since many drains are plugged up by the hair we lose when we shower and condition our hair, placing an inexpensive screen over the drain in your tub will prevent the vast majority of hair from getting in there — thus preventing hair clogs, says Wakefield.

2. Use the “zip tie” tool once a month or so

If you or someone in your household has long hair, take a few minutes each month to snake the plastic “zip tie” into your drain, swirl it around a bit, and pull it back out in order to grab and dispose of any hair that does sneak through the screen.

3. Wash away any baby powder or lotions you use

Many people like to use baby powder or lotions while still standing in the tub after the water has been turned off, but rinsing these products down the drain can cause them to gum up your pipes. Use the baking soda and vinegar or hot water method regularly to wash away any oily or powder buildup and keep your drain clear.


For more drain cleaning tips, click through the links below!

Experts: Cleaning the Drain Plug on Your Washing Machine Can Stop It From Shaking, Soaking and Smelling

Plumbers Weigh In: The Best Way To Remove Smells From a Kitchen Drain + How To Unclog a Slow-Draining One

How to Get Soap Scum Off of Anything: Experts’ Genius Solutions

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