How to Clean Out a Tub Drain

A slow running or clogged tub drain can be really annoying and turn your bath or shower into a less than idyllic experience. Fortunately, it’s usually a simple problem to fix.

Start by removing the screws on the drain’s overflow escutcheon plate.

Remove the screws from the drain's overflow escutcheon plate.

Next, pull the drain assembly out of the overflow pipe.

Pulling the drain assembly out of the overflow pipe.

Clean any hair and debris from the drain bail.

Cleaning hair and debris from drain bail.

A two-foot long flexible rod with tiny bristles on the end, known as a drain stick, is used to remove any additional gunk from the drain.

Two-foot long flexible rod with tiny bristles on the end, known as a drain stick.

The rod is inserted in the drain, and any remaining trash is fished out.

Inserting the drain stick in the drain.

The drain can be cleaned out even more by removing the drain grate.

Removing the drain grate.

Use the drain stick to clean inside it while flushing it out with water.

Flushing with water.

Once the drain is running freely, reassemble the drain assembly and grate.


  1. If I unscrewed the tub drain screws, pulled the section out and it didn’t have the bail on it, how can i get it out? Drains very slow and standing in water during a shower.

  2. Steve,
    If your tub’s WASTE AND OVERFLOW has a “trip” lever then indeed there should have been at the least a cyliner attached to it. If you unscrewed 2 screws and pulled out a danging rod only then I would surmise that the plunger has disconnected from the trip waste linkage thus causing your “some” of your issues. Steve if the Waste and Overflow assembly is greater than 20 years old I would NOT attaempt any band aid repairs or attempts, just replace this assembly AND ITS ASSOCIATED P-TRAP Steve.
    Steve, a waste and overflow, takes a real plumber to install correct. I have made THOUSANDS of dollars repair these items. A W/O is very difficult to install correctly and when complete one should be able to fill the tub to OVER THE OVER FLOW and still have no leaks ANYWHERE therein.
    Steve I always recommend replacing the associated P-Trap w/ the W/O for they used to be installed w/ a very tight pattern’d / radius’d p-trap and the new designs are muuch more “snake” freindly. Old style is difficult AT BEST to cable. Remember to rod out the horizontal pipe extension from the sanitay tee as well! ALWAYS look GOOD inside old drain pipes when you open them and CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN / or replace them, they do NOT last forever.

  3. This was very helpful!! We followed the instructions and pulled out a rat sized ball of hair! No joke….It was gross…seriously…yuck!

  4. tub drain needs clean t i have 5 girls that live with me how do i get the piug up . tryed to turned it but wont come off

    • Hi Barbara,
      There are many different designs of tub drains, each with different ways to remove them, so it’s hard to say without looking at it. You might want to check out the website of the company who made it to see if they have installation instructions online or look for similar models at a home center and read the instructions that come with them. Good luck with your project!

  5. House is 1962. Typical “pink” (peach?) porcelain. After removing the overflow cover, the linkage came out with only a light tension spring (about the physical size of an automotive valve spring) on the end. The linkage and spring total was about 12″ long. I fished down there with some grabbers (18″) but there was nothing else down there. Everything is brass and in great shape for the age. Videos I have seen show a sleeve and o rings that stop the water. What am I missing here? Bathrooms back up to each other with “no access panel”.

    • Hi Rick,
      The drain on my old tub has a similar set up, with linkage in both the overflow and stopper and only a short spring. When I took it out to clean it, I couldn’t get it back in and was convinced the spring had broken off. But after a bit of looking a similar ones online and playing with it, I managed to get the linkage back in and working.

  6. Hi Danny,
    Thanks so much for your help!!! I have had a slow drain forever and decided it couldn’t be any worse if I tried to fix it. I watched your video, and had my drain clear in 10 minutes!!! If only I’d tried earlier…I feel more unintelligent for not trying sooner! It was EASY!!!
    Thank you for saving me at least 120 dollars!!!
    Ionia, MO

  7. My tub has a external stopper. The tub won’t drain and i can’t plunge it because i can’t block the long pipe. Help! please!

  8. i removed the 2 screws that hold the over flow plate and water drain shut on and off assemble from my tub because it would not work. but i could not pull the parts up and out to replace. i tried every thing i could do but nothing would budge. help help

  9. love your how to videos and your t.v. and radio show I just started working part time in a home improvement store and need to learn about home improvement even though my job is stocking the store shelfs with product to be sold to contractors and the general public. I am in my 60’s and never owned my own home but still even in rental property repairs need to be done from time to time so learning what to do if you have a water leak or how to unclog a drain or do emergency repair on a roof is good to know also learning about doing things at the home to improve your quality of life to have a better yard patio area to have a garage or shed to work in and store your stuff in. were I now live I do not have a shed or garage but hope to move later this year to a place were I can have a large shed or garage and have a house that I will have to remodel and bring up to code so that I can then move in and live in it one little step at a time. you and your crew take care and thanks for the videos and your shows.

    • We’re glad our videos help you, whether you’re renting or owning! As you said, everyone needs to know how to clean out a tub drain and maintain a home. 🙂
      Take care.

  10. Removing the overflow linkage in an old tub is a nightmare in the making for non-plumber types like myself to get it back in,.
    Why would you not simply recommend using the little toothed strip drain clean tool in the drain itself and then a bio-dissolving drain cleaner like Mainline or Roto-rooter brand to clean out the gunk left, and recommend using the cleaner 2 or 3 times a year for maintenance?


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