A drain stopper operates normally until it doesn't. That's when you notice the water doesn't drain as fast as before. While it could be a clog, it also could be your clogged sink stopper.
This article covers how to remove a drain stopper and clean and reinstall it. Learn how to skip the plumber and tackle this DIY project head-on.
How to Remove Drain Stoppers
There are several types of drain stoppers, and it's important to know which type you have in your bathroom before you begin. Every type has different removal and cleaning instructions. If you aren’t sure which drain stopper type you have, this article can help. P.S.: If you don't have a flat-head screwdriver, an electric drill will complete the task too.
Lift and Turn
Also called a twist-and-pull stopper, this drain stopper is challenging because there are multiple ways to remove it. Some unscrew, and some twist off. Sadly, you won't know what kind you have until you try all the options below. Also, it’s important to remember what method you used to take out the drain stopper so you can easily re-insert it.
Note: Before you begin, make sure the stopper is open and lifted.
- For lift and turns with a removable knob: First, unscrew the knob from the stopper base. Next, get a screwdriver and unscrew the screw inside the knob just enough to greatly loosen the stopper. Then, pull out the stopper.
- For lift and turns with a screw-in base: Use a flashlight to look for a screw head underneath the stopper. This connects to the long, thin base. Next, insert the screwdriver horizontally and turn the screw counterclockwise until you can separate the stopper from the long, thin base. Then, remove the stopper from the drain.
- For lift and turns with a twist style base: Use a wrench to rotate the base counterclockwise until the stopper loosens from the drain strainer. Then, detach the stopper from the drain.
Push and Pull
Although similar to the lift and turn, the push and pull drain stopper contains a less complicated removal method. It's less confusing than the lift and turn, although its removal will remind you of the lift and turn removable knob method.
- With the stopper in the open position, unscrew the knob from the stopper base.
- Push the stopper closed to reveal the center post.
- Use pliers or a flat-head screwdriver in the center to loosen the slotted screw inside the center post in a counterclockwise direction.
- Lift the stopper from the drain.
The toe touch drain stopper is just as easy to remove as it is to use. Before uninstalling the stopper, make sure it’s in the open position.
- Twist the cap counterclockwise to remove it. The cap is a silver top that says "push.” A slotted screw is underneath it at the center.
- Use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen the stopper by removing the screw.
- Twist the stopper counterclockwise by hand.
- Pull out the stopper.
The pop-up drain stopper has different removal methods. Like the lift and turn, you must try them all to see which type will work for your stopper.
Note: Make sure the pop-up stopper is in the open/lift position before trying any technique.
- Technique #1: Grasp the drain stopper by squeezing each side. Pull the drain stopper up until it comes out. If it's not coming out, wiggle it back and forth as you pull.
- Technique #2: Twist counterclockwise to unscrew the cap. Next, use a screwdriver to unscrew the base underneath. Then, lift the whole thing upward to pull out the stopper.
- Technique #3: This works for a rocker arm pop-up stopper. With this stopper, you pull the lever up to close the drain and push down to open. To remove the stopper, you’ll need to go under the sink and unscrew the pivot rod arm connected to the sink drain pipe. You may need pliers or a wrench to help twist the arm off. Pull out the arm, including the round plug attached to it. Then, return to the sink and pull the stopper out.
Also called a flip lever or plunger style lever, the trip lever bathtub drain stopper has its own complications. To remove it, you’ll need to separate the lever above the bathtub from the opening underneath. This process is similar to lever pop-up stoppers in bathroom sinks.
- Focus on the round lever with two holes on the side and a switch in the center. The two holes have screws in them. Unscrew one using a flat-head screwdriver.
- Then, unscrew the other screw as you hold on to the lever cover and possible loose parts.
- Separate the top from the opening underneath. Hold everything as you gently wiggle and pull up on the lever, arm linkage, and cylinder base.
StopShroom and StopShroom Plug
These plug stoppers are the easiest drain stoppers on the list to remove. Just pull the StopShroom Plug out of the drain using its thick, black, silicone knob.
The StopShroom is even easier. Since it doesn’t sit inside the drain, just grab the handle sticking out of the rounded bottom and pull.
How to Clean the Drain Stopper
Now that you know how to remove drain stoppers in the sink and bathtub, it's time to learn how to clean a dirty stopper. Fortunately, the same cleaning processes work for most drain stoppers.
Keep all screws and small, loose items in a safe place. You can lean on home remedies to clean the stopper. Use at least one of these methods:
- Remove the debris by hand.
- Rinse the debris with faucet water.
- Scrub the drain stopper with a toothbrush and baking soda or dish soap liquid, then rinse the debris with water.
- Soak the drain stopper for 30 minutes in a bowl filled with either a cup of white vinegar, cleaning vinegar, dish liquid, or a cup each of baking soda and vinegar. Then, scrub the contents with a toothbrush. Rinse the debris off with water.
Afterward, dry the stopper with a washcloth or paper towel. While the drain pipe is open, use a fresh cup of each vinegar and baking soda to clean the clogged pipes. (If you’re out of vinegar, you can use a cup of salt.) If you see debris, use pliers to pull the gunk out. You can also use a coat hanger, plunger, or drain snake.
How to Reattach the Drain Stopper
Finally, you need to learn to reinstall drain stoppers. Generally, to reinstall the drain stopper, you’ll do the installation steps backwards. If you don’t have a flat-head screwdriver, you can also use an electric drill. After reattaching, turn on the water to see if it's operating normally.
Lift and Turn
It's important to remember what method you used to take out the drain stopper because you now need that method to re-insert it. Grab knobs and screws, a screwdriver or drill, a wrench, and a flashlight. All lift and turn versions begin by inserting the stopper back into the pipe drain.
- Removable knob: Grab any loose screws, and insert them inside the knob center. If the screw is inside the knob center, skip this step. Next, grab the screwdriver and twist it clockwise to tighten the stopper. Then, tighten the knob by turning it clockwise.
- Screw-in base: Shine the flashlight at the drain. Use a screwdriver to tighten the stopper's screw to the long, thin base.
- Twist style: Grab the wrench, and rotate the base clockwise to tighten the stopper.
Push and Pull
Before re-inserting the device, make sure the knob, screw, and screwdriver are close by.
- Insert the stopper back inside the drain. Turn it clockwise to tighten the stopper base.
- Insert the screw in the center base. Skip this step if the screw is already inside the base.
- Grab a screwdriver and twist the screw clockwise to tighten.
- Grasp the knob, insert it on top of the center base, and turn it clockwise until it tightens.
The reinstalling method depends on the type of pop-up you have. If the stopper pulled straight out, just insert it back inside. If you twisted it counterclockwise before pulling it out, just twist the stopper clockwise to tighten it.
Here’s the process to reinstall a pop-up with a lever:
- Insert the drain stopper back into the sink.
- Open the drawer underneath the sink, and screw the pivot rod arm connected to the sink drain. Make sure you keep every component the way you found it (ex., the round plug) or it might have trouble operating.
- Use pliers or a screwdriver to tighten the screw to the sink drain.
Re-installing a toe touch is just as simple (or complicated, depending on how you view this) as taking it out. Always have a screwdriver ready before starting the process.
- Insert the toe touch stopper into the drain. Screw the stopper clockwise.
- Grab a screwdriver, and insert it inside the center opening. The screw should already be inside. If it isn't, screw it into the hole
- Twist the screw clockwise to keep it in place.
- Place the cap on top and twist it clockwise.
Re-inserting the tub drain stopper is easier than taking it out. Before starting this procedure, make sure the screws and screwdriver are close by.
- Lower the cylinder into the overflow hole.
- Lower the arm linkage.
- Fit the trip lever lid on top of the overflow hole.
- Align the lever with the screwdriver holes.
- Insert both screws in the holes.
- Tighten the screws with a screwdriver.
StopShroom and StopShroom Plug
Shroom’s drain stoppers are the easiest to re-install after cleaning.
The StopShroom fits on top of drain openings. The suction cup bottom does the rest. With the StopShroom Plug, use the knob to push the plug inside the drain. The grooves on the plug make it easy for the drain stopper to glide in and out.
The Easy Way to Remove Drain Stoppers
A dirty drain stopper can't do its job because the gunk, debris, and soap scum build-up impede clearing water. When a drain stopper is clean, it can effectively keep water from entering the drain. It also means you can drain the sink and bath water quickly so you can tend to important tasks around the house.
If DIY removal, cleaning, and re-inserting different drain stoppers is overwhelming, go with the simple solution. The StopShroom and StopShroom Plug sink stoppers simplify drain use because they’re so easy to remove, clean, and reinsert.