Drain auger on tub drain - how to fix a slow-draining bathtub

How to Fix a Slow Draining Bathtub (3 Simple DIY Solutions!)

Do you find it frustrating to stand in a shower or relax in the bathtub only to have it drain ever so slowly when you’re done?

This is an annoyingly common problem. The good news is that it can be fixed in multiple different ways, most of them easy and inexpensive.

Before we teach you how to fix a slow-draining bathtub with our 3 simple solutions, let’s take a look at why it happens in the first place.

5 Reasons Why My Tub Drains Slowly

You can probably guess how a tub drain gets clogged. But here’s a quick list of the most common causes:

  1. Hair. Every time we wash our hair, some of it falls out and washes into the drain. We can’t help it, and we rarely notice it’s happening. Unfortunately, hair tends to cling to the inside walls of the drain. After building up over time, the collection of hair narrows the drain, the tub to drain slowly…or not at all.
  2. Scale. Scale is short for limescale, which is a hard water mineral buildup. You may have heard it called calcium buildup. Whatever you call it, the minerals stick to the metal surface of the drain wall. Worse than just slowing down water flow, it also corrodes the drain.
  3. Soap Scum. We tend to think that soap disappears entirely once it goes down the drain. But soap becomes soap scum after breaking down in water. And being made of grease or fat, soap scum is sticky. Just like hair and scale, soap scum sticks to the inside walls of the tub drain and build up over time.
  4. Dirt & Sediment. We wash in a bathtub or shower for a reason: we’re dirty. Just like soap scum, the dirt acts like sediment and flows down the drain. It also sticks to the inside of the drain, catching on soap scum, hair, and scale.
  5. Drain Stopper. Sometimes, the flow of water is reduced due to a part being damaged or not fitting correctly. Although rarer than the above reasons, a stopper that doesn’t fit properly can become stuck in a semi-closed position that slows down water flow.
soap scum on faucet - how to fix a slow draining bathtub
It’s difficult to see soap scum inside a bathtub drain. However, you’ve probably seen this buildup on other water-using fixtures like your faucet.

How to Fix a Slow Draining Bathtub

Here are four simple ways to effectively clear a slow-draining bathtub that is clogged.

1. Use a Plunger

  • If your tub has a stopper, remove it and the overflow plate. Plug the overflow opening with a large wet rag or use duct tape to completely seal it. This will prevent air from escaping, making the plunger more effective.
  • Coat the plunger rim with petroleum jelly and run enough water into the tub to cover the plunger cup.
  • Insert the plunger so that no air remains trapped under it.
  • In short, quick strokes, push down and pull up quickly on the plunger for about 20 seconds. Make sure the plunger cup keeps its seal over the drain.
  • Repeat the process as needed, up to 5 or 6 times; patience is the key to plunging a slow-draining bathtub.
  • If the clog remains, move on to the next method.
use a plunger and tape or rag - how to fix a dlow draining bathtub
Notice that, in this case, the overflow has been completely sealed with duct tape. This keeps air from being released through it, making plunging more forceful and effective.

2. User an Auger

  • Have a bucket ready to place any debris snagged by the end of the drain auger.
  • If you’re doing this in a shower stall, pry up or unscrew the strainer and work the auger through the drain opening.
  • If you’re doing this in a bathtub, remove the stopper and lift the assembly. Then feed the auger down the overflow tube.
  • Maneuver the auger throughout the drain, rotating it clockwise to break up any clogs.
  • Remove the auger slowly, place debris in the bucket, and run water to test the drain.
  • If the clog remains, try the next method.
This video shows several different methods for fixing a slow-draining bathtub, including Method #2 and #3 in this article.

3. Use a Hose and Rubber Ball

  • Using a garden hose and rubber ball might sound odd, but it’s an effective DIY technique.
  • You can attach the hose to an outdoor faucet (this only works if your hose is long enough to reach the tub drain, perhaps through a window).
  • If that’s not possible, attach the hose to an indoor faucet using a threaded adapter.
  • Close all nearby drains and feed the hose down the overflow tube.
  • Pack rags tightly around the hose where it enters the overflow.
  • While inserting the hose, you might notice that the tube gets too narrow. Just feed the hose as far down as possible.
  • Place the rubber ball over the drain at the bottom of the tub (if you don’t have a drain plug). This will keep water from pouring out of it when you turn on the hose.
  • Press down firmly on the rubber ball or drain plug with your foot to seal it.
  • Hold the hose firmly while a helper turns on the water on and off (at full force).
  • Turn the hose on and off several times to flush the blockage.
use garden hose attached to faucet - how to fix a slow draining bathtub
If your hose doesn’t reach the tub drain from an outdoor spigot, you can attach it to a bathroom faucet using a thread adapter as shown here.

Final Thoughts

Thankfully, learning how to fix a slow-draining tub is easy. And the process for each of the above methods goes quickly.

Of course, prevention is the best cure. Pay careful attention to the reasons why your bathtub drain is getting clogged. Notice what kind of debris gets removed in the process of cleaning it out (this is easy to do if you use the auger method).

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help excavating a sewer line trench or burying a pipe at the correct depth.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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