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How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain With Standing Water

When your morning (or evening) shower is ruined by the fact that your bathtub drain is so uncooperative that it isn’t draining your soapy water fast enough, your annoyance levels can quickly go through the roof. After all, you wanted to take a shower, not give your feet a bath. 

Unclogging a bathtub drain with standing water isn’t a task you usually look forward to, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it looks. Here are some remedies you can try. 

How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain With Standing Water? 

To unclog a bathtub drain with standing water, you can try pouring hot water into it, plunging your drain, using a plumbing snake, or pouring an unclogging product down the drain. If nothing else works, you can always call a plumber. 

Remove All the Water First 

You will first need to remove all the standing water from your bathtub. If none of it is draining, you can use a bucket or a pail for the task. Grab a sponge to absorb the rest of the water, and ensure your tub is as dry as it can be. 

If the water is just draining slowly, save yourself the effort and wait for it to drain. 

Then put on a pair of gloves, and get rid of any of the blockages you can get to. More likely than not, there will be some hair trapped in there, and you don’t want to be touching that ickiness with your bare hands. 

Will Boiling Water Unclog a Drain? 

Don’t pour boiling water down your drain to unclog it, as this tactic will only work when your pipes are relatively clean. 

If there is a large clog in your piping, the boiling water will get trapped behind it, and can damage your PVC pipes and their seals, causing some very costly repairs. 

You may also end up merely moving the clog further down the pipe, which will make it harder to reach.

If you must pour water down the drain, use hot water instead of a pot you have just boiled in the kettle. 

How to Use a Natural Drain Unclogger to Unclog a Bathtub Drain 

You probably already know that baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean anything and everything. This alkaline + acidic mixture is great for eating away at grime and soap scum, and can also help remove limescale from your pipes. 

All you need to do is pour a cup of baking soda down the bathtub drain. Make sure the drain is as dry as possible. Chase that with a cup of white vinegar. Pour it slowly, as the combination will start to fizz and foam. 

Once the fizzing starts, cover your drain and let it work. Wait 30 minutes after the bubbling has stopped, and pour a pot of hot water down the drain. 

If this tactic hasn’t worked, you may need something stronger. 

How to Use a Commercial Drain Unclogger to Unclog a Bathtub Drain 

If your home-made mixture hasn’t managed to unclog your bathtub drain, you can reach for a commercial product. Finding a drain unblocker that will work with your kinds of pipes and your level of blockage should be fairly easy. 

Make sure to follow the instructions when using a commercial drain unblocker, and always handle the product in gloves. 

Can I Pour Bleach Down the Drain?

Don’t pour bleach down your drain, as it kills both good and bad bacteria, and it may do nothing for unclogging your pipes. 

Bleach is also bad for your pipes, as it will wear them down and can even cause a leak if your pipes are already damaged. 

How to Plunge Your Bathtub to Unclog the Drain 

Remove the overflow cover from your bathtub before you start plunging it. 

Then take a piece of cloth and stick it in the hole. It will move around when you start plunging, so you either want to recruit another pair of hands to help you out, or use one hand to keep it firmly in place. Your goal is to create a firm vacuum. 

All you then need to do is start plunging. Use a gentler force at first, until you work your way up to quite a vigorous workout. You will hear the water starting to drain when you get it right. It may take a fair amount of time, so keep at it. 

There is of course also a chance you won’t be able to unclog your bathtub drain by plunging, in which case you need to reach for a different method. 

Can Plunging Make a Clog Worse?

When used correctly, plunging a bathtub drain will not make the clog any worse. 

What you can do is use too much force or plunge too quickly, in which case the tight seal needed to create a vacuum won’t form, and your efforts will be futile. 

You can also damage your pipes if you use too much force, but this will only happen with very old and damaged pipes. 

How to Use a Plumbing Snake to Unclog a Drain 

A plumbing snake is practically guaranteed to solve your clogged bathtub problem. However, if you’ve never used one before, and have no idea what to do, you may want to call in some professional help.

If you are however willing to do it yourself, here’s how to use a plumbing snake:

First, remove the overflow plate, as this is where the snake goes, not in the bottom drain. It will seem easier, but you can end up breaking your pipe, so stick to the overflow plate. 

Run the cable in with one hand and firmly hold it with the other. Keep it tight to prevent it from kinking, and use slow but firm motions. If the cable starts to twist, pull it back and move even slower. 

You want to make sure the cable is going down the drain, and not up, if there is any piping in that direction, so try guiding it downwards. 

If your plumbing snake comes with a drum screw, you will need to tighten it as you come up against the blockage. Push hard against it and turn the handle until you break through. Repeat the process until you get all of the debris unclogged. 

Make sure you remove the cable slowly, so as not to damage your bathtub. 

When to Call a Plumber

If none of these methods have worked, it’s high time to call in a plumber. 

If you are good with your hands and are confident you won’t damage your pipes, you can try snaking them yourself. If however you are not sure what the condition of the pipes is, or have no idea how to get started with a snake: give your local plumber a call. 

If you notice there is a leak in your bathroom, that absolutely no water is draining from your tub, or if there is a particularly foul sewer smell emanating from the tub: make an emergency call to said plumber. 

Why is There Standing Water in My Bathtub Drain?

Standing water will pool in your bathtub drain due to a combination of soap scum, hair and mineral deposits. 

There is no way to completely prevent this buildup. While regularly cleaning your drain will certainly help standing water from forming, the debris is still in there, but it’s small enough not to cause a problem. 

How to Prevent Bathtub from Clogging? 

You can prevent your bathtub from clogging by regularly pouring a baking soda and white vinegar solution down the drain, and making sure to manually remove all the debris from the drain cover. 

Use a hair catcher that will prevent stray strands from forming hairballs in the drain. No matter how icky it is, get rid of them after every shower. 

When using oil-based products, make sure to run plenty of hot water down the drain after them. 

Wrapping It Up 

Unclogging a bathtub with standing water can be a bit of a task, but one of these DIY tactics should be able to solve your blockage. If you find that pouring an unclogger down the drain hasn’t worked, perhaps it’s best to give the plumber a call, and save yourself the manual labour of using a plumbing snake yourself? 


  1. Difficult task indeed. Sometimes is better to call a plumber and avoid the hassle. Cheers!

    • Hey Al, thanks for reading! I do agree, calling in the pros is usually the best way to go, unless the clog really is minimal. Tom usually manages to handle ours, but it is accompanied by a fair amount of cussing.


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