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Plugged Drain Maintenance

Updated on August 31, 2018

Unplugging drains

Most drains in the bathroom are generally plugged with hair, hair being about 80%-90% of the mass, the rest being the glop that holds it all together, I’d rather not tell you the makeup of the “glop”, you may never clean your drain on your own again. The hair buildup in these instances will not be further down than 4-5 inches within a bathroom sink drain. The bathtub drain on the other hand, one will generally find a mass of hair caught right on top of the drain screen when removing the pop-up plug. Here are some simple steps and tips to make the job easier if doing this on your own

BATHTUB DRAIN

  • Purchase a “ZIPIT” the best modern day invention second only to toilet paper. Purchase many of these and give them to your family and friends make this company rich they deserve every penny, (no I’m not affiliated with them). It is approximately a 2-4 dollar purchase and it will last forever; Literally it will last forever…its plastic!. Technically there are a few companies making similar “ZIPITS” they will all do the job.

Zip it does a nice job clearing the drain.
Zip it does a nice job clearing the drain. | Source
This what a Zip It looks like
This what a Zip It looks like | Source

  • Remove the drain plug from the tub drain; there are literally hundreds of plug types. Some can be confusing; a small pair of pliers and a large screw driver will remove most screwed in types. Once removed there should be a wad of hair sitting right on top. Use your zippity zip it. I like to run warm water while I use the “ZIPIT”, It keeps some of the debris off my hands and lowers the “yuck” factor. If you find the drain will still not allow water to flow out quickly after removing this wad of hair, there may be a buildup further down the drain, usually with in the first 12 to 18 inches. This can be knocked loose rather easily with the proper tools.


  • If the drain still seems plugged after removing the hair. You will have to dig deeper. Removing the stationary chrome plug set cap may be necessary. First, check to see if the snake you are going to use will pass thru the opening in the bathtub drain before trying to remove it, some of the drains caps have a very close net grouping of metal cross hatching, some are large. If you have a small rotary hand snake that looks similar to this picture here,that would be good. If you can fit the snake end in the drain then perhaps you may not have to remove the stationary chrome cap, if not a second you can try another option before trying to remove the cap, and one I have often used in the past and that is a long piece of TV cable.Yes tv cable! Three to four feet is a good length. Slowly push the cable all the way down the drain until it stops at the plug and keep pushing in and out firmly while running warm water slowly. It may take you several minutes of working it. Running warm water will give you an instant indication that the plug has passed when the water starts draining, unless of course you’re working in a “completely” plugged tub in a puddle of water, then no need to run any water.
  • This step should only be done if you need to remove the chrome cap that the drain plug connects to. If you have one of these tools you will be able to insert it in the cap drain and turn counter clockwise. It will seem at first like it is glued in place permanently, I can assure you it is not. It takes a little muscle. The other thing to remember is, if the drain cap is somewhat rusty or starting to decompose there might be a good chance it could break while turning to remove it. Once the drain is out use a band aid on your knuckles. OK next there should be a rubber washer right under the cap, keep this to replace when re-installing. Now the important thing, DON’T RUN ANY WATER until you placed the cap back on. The water will run under the tub. Very bad. OK! now you should have room to snake thru the drain.

BATHROOM SINK DRAINS

  • Bathroom sink drains are much easier. Sometimes the plug top will screw off, you can try, if not you can remove the assembly at the bottom of the sink to release the plug. Remove items under sink put a towel directly under sink pipes, grab a pair of pliers and lay on your back with some type of flash light pointing up at the sink assembly. You will notice a metal stem sticking out of the sink drain pointing towards the wall, it is held on by a small screwed on metal or plastic cap. Use your pliers to and turn counter-clockwise until it releases the stem. Note if the sink is full of water it will pour out of this hole, if that’s the case use a bucket to catch the water. You can pour the bucket water in the toilet. If the sinks not full of water then carry on. Once the stem is out you can go back up and pull the plug out of the sink. Then use your “ZIPIT”. Putting the plug back in is a little tricky. When looking at the drain plug you will notice the little loop or catch hole at the bottom. Slowly drop it back in the sink with the hole facing you, so when you install the stem back in that is under the sink it should slip right in. In most cases you can hold the plug with your left hand while reaching under the sink with your right and wiggle the stem back in the plug catch hole. Don’t worry you will get it eventually. Don’t forget to put the stem cap back on to hold the whole thing together. This does not have to be super tight, just snug.

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