How to Snake a Bathtub Drain

Bathtub drains are susceptible to clogging from gunk, grease, soap particles and hair. These objects can result to slow draining and worse, standing water. This is not good news especially if your feet are soaked in greasy and soapy water while you took the shower. Although clogging might not always happen overnight, it is still bothersome to have plumbing and draining problems.

When dealing with drain problems, there are three common ways to remove the clogs. Some use the plunger and others rely on vinegar and baking soda while there are those who use a drain snake. If you have tried using a plunger and a cloth hanger to clear the clog but always failing to unclog your tub, a plumber’s snake might just do the trick. This flexible tool has a metal wire about ¼” think on one end that you need to insert into the tub drain to break or pull whatever is obstructing the tub drain and causing the standing water. Probably the best way to clear the clog is to ensure that you use the right kind of snake with the correct size because not doing so can damage the fixture, the tub and the snake. Having said that, it is necessary to have an idea of the different types of drain snakes available:

Top Snake

Smallest among the snake types, this is usually used for bathroom sink stoppages, tubs, showers, kitchen sinks and washing machines.

Toilet Auger

This costs around $50 and is specifically made to solve clogging problems in toilets.

Medium Drain

Also called as mini rooter, the length of the 3/8” cable can be between 50’ to 75’ and can also be used for washing machines and kitchen sinks. This type should not be chosen for bathtub drains or showers since it can damage the trap.

Larger Drain

Used for drains larger than 3”, this type comes in several lengths and sizes. Cable width can be at least 5/8” and length can be as long as 100 feet.

Drain snakes can also be manual or power types. For smaller pipes of at least 2”, flat tape snakes that are flatter is perfect. Conversely, for toilet clogs, toiler closet snakes are flexible and can be electric or manual.

Step by Step

If the toilet plunger does not work to clear a bathtub drain, a plumber’s snake is the best option, especially if the clog is farther down the drain. To help you out, here is a step-by-step guide to unclog bathtub drains with a snake:

Step 1:

The first thing you have to do is to remove the metal plate found beneath the tub faucet. This is what is called the overflow plate. Unscrew the overflow plate but be careful not drop the screws since they can be tiny. You will also notice that it can be connected to the mechanism on the tub, a stopper that you can remove by pulling it from the hole behind the overflow plate.

Step 2:

Invest in rubber gloves with good grips so you can work comfortably. Some hair might appear form the underside of the stopper so it is best to remove whatever dirt you in there. A paper towel will come in handy to get this part of the job done. If there is so much accumulation of hair inside, this might be the culprit and a snake might not even be needed.

Step 3:

Check if the clog has been cleared by turning on the faucet and letting water flow for a minute. If the problem has been fixed, your work is almost done. Replace the stopper mechanism and the overflow plate. However, if there is still standing water or is draining slowly, go back to step 1 but this time, get your plumber’s snake.

Step 4:

Holding the snake on one hand, get the end of the cable at the other end of the snake and insert it into the hole where you removed the overflow plate from. See to it that the cable is inserted at least a few inches. Crank the helix of handle and let the able run through at least 30” into the pipe.

Step 5:

Press the tool forward and down the drain as you continue to crank the handle. Continue to do so until you feel some resistance as the end of the metal wire reaches the clogged material. Twist and wiggle the cable while you turn the handle until the wire breaks and loosens the blockage.

Step 6:

Pull the handle back so as to get the cable out of the drain. Be careful as you take it out since this cable will probably be full of gunk and dirt. Clean the end with a paper towel or an old cloth. Do not forget to throw them out after you have finished the job.

Step 7:

Repeat steps 4 to 6 until you can feel the snake can go through the pipe without any blockage and you feel that it is already free from gunk.

Step 8:

Turn on the bath faucet and let it run for a few seconds. Observe if the water drains as it should and there is no standing water.

Step 9:

Collect the screws so you can replace he overflow plate and the stopper mechanism. You might also want to drain the tub with hot water to ensure whatever waste and gunk are still inside will be flushed down the drain.

Step 10:

Clean the area and ensure that the snake is cleaned as well and free from gunk so it will not drip on the bathroom floor.

Additional Tips:

If you are using a plumber’s snake to drain the tub, see to it that you use just the perfect size of snake with at least ¼” to 5/16” width. Using a snake with a cable larger than this can make it difficult for you to maneuver the metal wire. It can also damage the drain line under the tub. Remember to use the appropriate tool to clear the bathtub drain clog.

Skip to content