How Do You Clean A Trip Lever Drain? (3 Steps & Done!)

We’ll all seen or showered in a tub that uses a trip lever drain stopper, but how and why does it need to be cleaned?

A pop-up drain often clogs with hair so that the water drains slowly or not at all. But a trip lever drain (or plunger-style tub drain) has the opposite problem — hair may prevent it from fully closing so that it does not hold water.

Fortunately, cleaning a trip lever drain is simple to disassemble and clean.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

Frankly, you won’t need much to do this job. Aside from some vinegar and petroleum jelly stored in most households, you’ll also need:

The entire job shouldn’t take about 30-45 minutes.

How Do You Clean a Trip Lever Drain?

Follow along with these quick three simple steps and your trip lever tub drain will be clean in no time. The photos will help you visualize what you’re working with and how to follow along.

1. Remove Cover Plate & Assembly

Start by removing the screws holding the overflow cover plate. Once done, set the plate and screws aside. Now, simply remove the tub drain assembly out of the overflow hole.

2. Clean, Dry & Unclog

Now that the trip lever drain assembly has been removed, clean the linkage (see photo above right) and plunger with a toothbrush and vinegar. Then dry the drain assembly and smear the plunger with petroleum jelly.

The vinegar and petroleum jelly work to (1) keep the parts from being sticky and hard to use, and (2) keep the parts protected and moving efficiently.

After you’ve cleaned the assembly, turn the water on and see if the tub still drains slowly. If so, you’ll need to feed a hand auger into the overflow hole and down into the drain.

When you meet resistance, start turning the hand auger clockwise while slowly withdrawing it. With any luck, the hair or debris that’s clogging your tub drain will be hooked onto the auger.

Test again to see if the water drains down your tub more smoothly. If so, you’re all done; just reconnect all the parts. But if your tub is still draining slowly, you’ve probably missed some hair or debris. You’ll need to repeat this step until it is working again.

How do you clean a trip lever drain - remove the assembly
Using a plumber’s snake or hand auger is a great way to remove debris (like hair) that’s clogging your tub drain. It also allows you to clean out the entire trip lever tub drain assembly as you’ll have to remove that piece first.

3. Replace the Trip Lever Tub Drain Assembly

Insert the drain assembly through the overflow hole and replace the overflow cover plate.

Test water flowing through the drain one more time now that everything’s back in place. If the tub now either drains slowly or will not hold water, take out the drain assembly again.

Using your adjustable wrench, adjust the position of the threaded rod and nut at the top of the linkage. Now turn the threaded rod up into the nut to speed draining. Turn it out further to stop it from leaking.

Replace the assembly once again and you’re all set with a clean, free-flowing tub drain.

how do you clean trip lever drain - internal and external views of how parts are connected.jpg
The diagram (left) and photo (right) indicate how all the pieces of the trip lever (plunger-style) drain assembly connect and work together to form the mechanism that allows you to open and close your tub drain.

Final Thoughts

There are many styles of tub drains on the market, from Lift-and-Turn and Push-and-Pull to Toe Touch, Flip It and Trip Lever.

Not all mechanisms work the same but you can feel confident that this cleaning method works extremely well for trip lever tub drains that are clogged with hair or other debris.

Here are some great articles that can help you with any clogged tub and shower drain:

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

If you need more help cleaning out your plunger-style trip lever tub drain, don’t hesitate to contact us or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237). We immediately respond to and handle any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.

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