5 Common Reasons Your Bathtub Won’t Drain (Troubleshooting Guide)

Having a bathtub that refuses to drain is not only unnerving but frustrating as well. Trying to figure out the source of the problem and its solution can often be tricky. The solutions to these are quite simple, you probably have the materials in your house! It just takes a bit of understanding of what to look for.

The most likely reason your bathtub will not drain is due to it being clogged with fine objects, such as hair or soap scum. Additionally, if you have installed a drain stopper this device may be stuck and blocking the water flow. Damaged pipes and septic backup are more severe options that require a plumber to fix. 

These problems may seem confusing, but understanding what the signs are can help you diagnose the problem on your own. Here we will go through all the most common reasons bathtubs get clogged, how to fix them, and when you should call a professional. Continue through this article to get a sufficient understanding of your bathtub drain!

Reasons Your Bathtub Will Not Drain

There are a handful of reasons why your bathtub will not drain. Some of the reasons are easy to fix and prevent, while others might cost you a few checks to fix. Understanding these problems can help you solve them yourself and prevent calling in a professional when you do not need to. This list is ordered from easiest to most difficult to fix!

Already-Installed Drain-Stopper Is Stuck 

If your tub is not draining well, you may want to check the drain stopper first! Many households have some version of a drain stopper in their bathtub pre-installed. Showers without a bathtub basin will not have this feature, so the clog will certainly be another problem. 

A drain-stopper was created to block the water from draining, to fill up the bathtub. Often if these stoppers are old they can be damaged, rusted, or simply worn out from excess use, it could get stuck. This will lead to the bathtub not draining completely or it may drain extremely slowly.

After noticing the problem, in your tub, give it a quick look to see if a stuck or broken stopper could be the issue. If you see trapped hair, rust, or a lot of mineral build-up you will want to take out the stopper and clean it off. This is to be sure that the stopper is not the problem if the poor draining continues.

You can use a pair of pliers to gently pull the stopper out of the drain. This will allow you to see if this piece is what is truly blocking the drain, or if it is another problem. Pulling the stopper out will allow you to move forward in your drain investigation and allow you to clean out the issue better.

The Pipes are Clogged by Smaller Objects

More often than not, the main draining issue in your bathtub is the small objects you forget fell down the drain. Hair, dirt, soap, and cosmetic products can all accumulate on the sides of your drain and block it up over time. Here are some explanations of these clogging objects and how to remove them!

Accumulation of Hair 

 Hair is one of the most common and visible causes of a clogged bathtub drain. Human and pet hair commonly falls off in the shower, but they can clog your pipes! To prevent this build-up you can buy a hair catcher for your drain for cheap in major supermarkets. But to fix the hairy issue, you need one simple tool.

The solution to hair buildup in your drain is a plumbing snake! This item is designed to reach down into your drain and pull out any type of clogs. They are easy to find or even rent in local hardware stores and only take a few minutes to use.

After removing the drain stopper in your tub, you insert the cable of the snake slowly into the drain. You will need to push the drain snake in as far as you can until you feel a bit of resistance. Next, you will want to twist the plumbing snake to grab the clog and then pull it out. Then repeat the process several times until everything looks clean. Finally, run the water in the tub and ensure you fixed the problem!

Dirt and Grease 

As another typical consequence of regular bathing, dirt and grease contribute to clogged pipes. These objects are not as obvious to see or easy to remove, but they add to the overall clogging of the drain pipe. In fact, you will rarely have just one type of object blocking your drain pipe. It is usually a combination of many pollutants!

Luckily, the solution to this problem is pretty simple! Baking soda and vinegar are a powerful combination for clearing out dirty blockages in pipes. And you probably have these two ingredients in your pantry right now!

This solution will clean out your drain and help clean the stains on the tub while you are at it! The perfect measurement is half a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by half a cup of white vinegar. Pour both of these into the drain to let the chemical reaction clean away the grime!

After about 15 minutes, the fizzing should stop. If you would like to be extra thorough, you can then pour 2 liters of boiling water down the drain. This should give the drain a good clean, but you can repeat this process a few times if the bathtub is still draining slowly. 

Soap Scum, Bath Bombs, & Cosmetic Products  

Lesser known drain blockers are sneaky but destructive to your pipes. Items like soap scum or shaving cream can add to the collection of other drain blockers and gunk up your bathtub fast! They are pretty easy to clean out and avoid in the future.

Soap scum is not a specific product, but mostly the chalky residue left by all kinds of soaps used in bathing. It can accumulate over time on your pipe walls and catch your hair and other objects making large blockages over time. 

You have likely heard of bath bombs, but are also likely unaware of how horrendous they can be for your drainage pipes! These cute, fizzing, scented spheres can make bathtime pretty and fun. But the chemical compounds of these objects can gunk up your drains incredibly fast if you use them consistently. 

Some of the ingredients of bath bombs, like baking soda and Epsom salt, can dissolve well in water. However, additives to bath bombs like cornstarch, essential oils, cocoa butter, glitter, and even pieces of flowers don’t dissolve easily

These additives easily stick to your pipes. Cornstarch specifically is bad for your tub. It can harden and stick to the drain, allowing other oils and pollutants to get stuck much easier. These deposits will collect hair, soap, and anything else that will stick. Over time, this can cause major blockages.

Finally, we have cosmetics! You probably do not even think about the foundation from washing your face getting clogged in the drain, but it can certainly build up over time. The pasty and chemical backgrounds do not dissolve well in water and can get stuck on pipes quickly.  

Products such as eye shadow, mascara, face masks, hair gel, shaving cream, and moisturizers can cause problems down the drain. These substances cover the inside of the pipes and contribute to gunking up the tube with everything else! They will coat the inside of your pipes alongside other gunk and lead to clogs.  

The solution to clean out these products is to flush the drain with boiling water! This hot water is effective at melting grease, clearing soap residue, and dislodging other clogs. Boiling about 2 liters of water should be enough to clear out the drain.

However, do not pour boiling water down the drain if it is made of plastic PVC pipes! The hot water can damage and break down the pipe, leading to much for severe problems in the future. If you have PVC pipes, you can use the vinegar and baking soda method.

Larger Objects Blocking 

This one may seem clear, but large blockages can go unnoticed in a drain for a while! This section is a bit broad, as it can include anything from rocks to legos to anything else that can fit in the drain hole. If something large slips into the drain, it can make it a lot easier for smaller objects like hair to build up fast.

The easiest way to deal with these large objects is to remove them! You will probably want to go about this with rubber gloves to avoid the nasty sensations inside the drain. If your tub is currently flooded, you will want to use a container to remove the standing water before you go for the blockages. 

After you clear the water, remove the drain stopper to give you access to the real problems. Then you will want to pull out any visible hair, soap scum, and other debris in the drain. Once you get the big and small debris out, you can be extra thorough by using the baking soda vinegar method.

This should ensure that the large object, small debris, and other scum are out of the drain so you will not have problems for a while! If you see a large object farther than your fingers can reach, using a drain snake is the next step.

The Pipes are Damaged 

Damaged pipes come in all sorts of varieties and can be difficult to detect on your own. But they can be a major component of clogged drain pipes! So if you have tried all of these little tricks with no luck, there is a chance the problem is deeper in your pipe system.

One example of damaged pipes affecting your drain is those that are dented. These seemingly small dents can constrict and eventually block the flow of water. Another possible pipe damage is rust! Rust building on corroded pipes can increase over time on your pipe walls. Eventually, the pipe becomes so narrow that it restricts water flow. 

Additionally, your pipe joints could be the problem. These joins can fall apart or wear out, which leads to many problems with the structure of the overall system. The pipes can sag, leading it to constrict the flow of water.

Obviously, there is no at-home, quick and easy fix for damaged pipes. You will certainly need to call in a good plumber to assess the problem and make a plan. Professional plumbers have a vast knowledge of plumbing intricacies and can fix these major problems. It is why they get paid the big bucks!

There Is a Septic Backup

This is the most severe of the possible drainage issues with your bathtub. Septic backup can be a real health hazard and desperately calls for a professional. It is the result of a much larger problem in the whole of your plumbing system.

After you have tried every other method on this list and your drain is still backing up, you can consider the septic could be the issue. If your tub isn’t draining normally, or if water is backing up into your tub, then the septic system backup may be the culprit.

After trying everything previously suggested and nothing is working, it is time to call in a professional. Hopefully, they will be able to identify and fix the problem quickly, but there is nothing you can do at this point. 

Be sure to clean your skin well if you have been touched by the backup water. You want to prevent the bacteria and other diseases that thrive in this dirty water from entering your body. Try to keep the tub as sanitary as possible till professionals arrive. You do not want to get sick on top of dealing with a busted drain pipe!


There are a handful of posible culprits for a backed-up bathtub drain. The most common of which is hair or soap scum, which can be cleaned out on your own. But if you have been troubleshooting this problem for a while and are not sure what to do next, it is best to call in a professional.

However, completing a full examination of your drain before making that call will help you avoid unnecessary money and ensure you only call help when you truly need it. Helping you become efficient homeowners who are adept at solving all kinds of problems!

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