Imagine you’ve just had a refreshing soak in your bathtub with calming mood music, aromatherapy candles, bath salts, and a glass of red wine. Unfortunately, when you finish and pull the plug, the bathtub won’t drain. What a bummer! Having blocked drains is not only annoying, it’s also kinda disgusting.

So, what do you do when a bathtub won’t drain? If you don’t want to get down and dirty, you could call a professional plumber. However, if you lack the cash to pay plumber fees, you will have to roll up your sleeves and try a DIY fix for your clogged tub.

In this article, we’ll explore common reasons why a bathtub won’t drain, what you can do about them, and how to prevent such a problem from happening again.

How to Tell If Your Drain Is Clogged

Clogs can develop in any part of the plumbing system and can be caused by a wide variety of elements. Some clogs are easier to spot than others, but it's important to know what signs to look for so you can catch and fix the problem before it escalates into a much bigger problem. Here are some of signs of a clogged drain:

  • Water or sewage backing up in a toilet, sink, or bathtub
  • Gurgling noises as other plumbing functions happen, such as the water flowing out of a faucet
  • The shower, tub, or sink drains slowly
  • There’s poor pressure in the system, resulting in a weak toilet flush or light stream from the faucet
  • A foul odor coming from the drain
  • Water-dependent utilities react to one another, such as the toilet malfunctioning when the washer is being used

Although unfortunate and inconvenient, clogged drains are a natural part of, well, modern plumbing. However, knowing what to look for and treating your drains accordingly will help you fend off nasty clogged drains and more serious damage that may need professional attention.

Common Reason Why a Bathtub Won’t Drain

What could be the reasons your bathtub won’t drain? Here are a few:

  • Hair: Hair is one of the most common and visible causes of a clogged bathtub drain. When taking a bath, hair naturally falls off the body. No matter how thin or fine the hairs are (human hair or pet fur), they are likely to stick to your pipes when going down the drain. Over time, the hair builds up and traps anything else going down the drain. Soon enough, your bathtub won’t drain.  
  • Soap scum: Soap scum is the filmy, chalky stuff that clings to your tub or the sides of the pipes. Soap scum can accumulate over time on your pipe walls, trapping hair and other objects in the process. The problem is made worse when chemicals in soap react with magnesium and calcium ions present in hard water.        
  • Bath bombs: When it comes to drainage problems, bath bombs are a major issue. Ingredients like baking soda and epsom salt tend to dissolve well in water. However, other additives like cornstarch, essential oils, cocoa butter, glitter, and bits of flower don’t dissolve very well. Such additives leave behind residue that might stick to your pipes. Cornstarch can harden and oils usually solidify as they go down the drain. These deposits will collect hair, soap, and other substances over time, causing blockages.
  • Cosmetic products: Products like eye shadow, face masks, hair gel, shaving cream, and moisturizers can cause problems when allowed to go down the drain. They will coat the inside of your pipes alongside other gunk and lead to clogs.  
  • Damaged pipes: Different types of pipe damage can cause blockage. For example, pipes that are dented can constrict or totally block the flow of water. Similarly, rust from corroded pipes can build up over time on your pipe walls and restrict water flow. Pipe joints can also come apart or wear out, causing pipes to sag and constricting the flow of water.

What To Do When a Bathtub Won’t Drain

Whatever the reason behind your clog, there’s a solution that can fix it. Before calling a plumber, here are some easy fixes you can try when a bathtub won’t drain.

Remove Visible Blockages

Wear rubber gloves and use a container to scoop out all the standing water in your tub. Remove the drain stopper and pull out any visible hair, soap scum, and other debris in the drain using your fingers. Also clean the drain cover to get rid of any hair or gunk that may be tangled in it.    

Flush the Drain With Boiling Water

Hot water is usually effective for melting grease, clearing soap residue, and dislodging other clogs. After removing visible blockages, boil about two liters of water and pour it down the drain. However, don’t do this if you have PVC (plastic) pipes since the boiling water could damage them. 

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This powerful home remedy combo is useful not just for clearing drains, but also for cleaning stains. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Wait for about 15 minutes until the fizzing stops, then pour 2 liters of boiling water down the drain.

Plunge It

If boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar doesn’t work, you might want to try plunging your drain. Start by pouring about half a bucket of water into the tub and then place the plunger over the drain. Push it down and pull it up in quick succession several times. If the method is working, hair and other gunk will start getting sucked up out of the drain. If the water doesn’t drain away, try plunging a few more times.

Grab a Plumbing Snake

bathtub won't drain: Plumbing snake

A plumbing snake or auger is designed to reach down deep into your drain and pull out any clogs. You can buy or hire an auger in a hardware store near you. 

Remove the drain stopper using pliers or a screwdriver, then insert the cable slowly into the drain. Push the drain snake in as far as you can until you feel some resistance. 

Twist it to grab the clog and then pull it out. Repeat the process several times until all the gunk has been cleared. Finally, run water in the tub and check if the problem has been resolved.

How to Prevent Clogs in the Future

Using the strategies mentioned above to clear your drains can be tiring and time-consuming. In addition, you might have to dig into your pocket to get the necessary tools. So, why not avoid the hassle altogether?

When it comes to your drainage, prevention is better than cure. Let us explore some of the things you can do to avoid a blockage in your bathtub drain:

  • Remove makeup before showering: Before you jump into the tub, use a facial pad or wipe to remove any makeup on your face. This way, the beauty products will not go down the drain.
  • Use dissolvable bath products: Avoid bath products that contain ingredients that don’t dissolve well in water. To prevent clogs, use products containing components that dissolve better, like sugar or salt scrubs.
  • Don’t pour cosmetics down the drain: If you want to reuse bottles of old cosmetic products, do not rinse the contents down your bathtub drain. Instead, pour the contents in a container and throw it in the trash.
  • Check your pipes: Pipe damage cannot be avoided entirely. It’s inevitable that pipes will get old and break down or corrode. You can keep track of the condition of your pipes by conducting bi-annual inspections. The inspection, conducted by a professional plumber, will reveal any damaged or poorly fastened pipes. Any issues detected should be fixed immediately before they escalate.
  • Install a hair catcher: The best way to prevent hair from going down the drain is by installing a drain protector. Placed above or inside the drain, a hair catcher will not only trap hair, but also dirt, objects, or soap scum that goes down your drain. These products come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials.

While there are numerous options to choose from, the best hair catcher on the market is TubShroom. This revolutionary drain protector fits snugly in any standard tub drain and catches every strand of hair. Retailing at only $16.99, it’s the best deal you can get.  

Bathtub Won't Drain? No Problem.

Blue TubShroom hair catcher

Signs of a clogged drain include gurgling noises, slow drains, foul odors, and water backing up. Common reasons why a bathtub won’t drain include soap scum, hair, bath bombs, cosmetic products, and damaged pipes. You can fix such plumbing problems using boiling water, baking soda and vinegar, a plunger, or a plumbing snake. 

To avoid clogs in the future, use dissolvable bath products, remove makeup before bathing, maintain your pipes, and install a hair catcher. The award-winning TubShroom is the perfect solution for trapping hair in your drains. With a 4.5 rating on Amazon, this product is a must-have for every home.