How to Snake a Tub Drain (Not What You Think)

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Did ever happened to you that you’ve taken a nice relaxing bath and just after you’ve finished, you suddenly became distressed because the water just refused to go away?

Unfortunately, it was the reason I stopped doing long baths. Simply, I had no patience to wait for the water to go away, and if I didn’t, the dirt would collect at the bottom of the bathtub.

I knew it was all about the clogged pipe, but there was no way to unclog it. I have tried with the plunger and with some chemicals, but it didn’t help.

Then, I took out the plumbing snake.

how to snake a bathtub

How to Snake a Tub Drain

Do not snake through the drain!

The whole difference between snaking the bathtub and the shower drain is that in case of a bathtub you should never snake through the drain.

You are probably wondering why the bathtub is so special and where we should put the snake then.

Well, the shape of the tub’s pipe is quite different than in a shower drain. It goes from a tub drain at 90 degrees angle, thus, if you snake through the tub drain you can easily damage the pipe.

how to snake a tub drain

You must be skilled enough to remove the overflow plate, and it has been a bit more difficult for me than with the shower drain’s grate.

So you should be equipped at least with a screwdriver, but it would be helpful if you had a couple of pliers.

Be easy with them because if you break mechanism of overflow plate, it will look awful, and smell awful too.

The first time I tried to snake my tub, it actually ended this way, so from the first-hand experience, please be careful with it.

Also, since the tub drain is no wider than 1 ½ inches you should use ¼ inches snake. It costs less to get one than calling a plumber and the snake remains.

If you know how to snake properly, there will be no problems with it.

Please read the manual of your snaking device carefully because there are slight differences between them. Besides that, the method of snaking remains the same, and I am sharing it with you.

  1. Open the overflow plate
  2. Slowly insert the cable until it hits the clog
  3. Rotate the cable through the pipe

If you use an automatic snaking device, hold it firmly with your dominant hand because it can pull back from the dirt and hit you. You can also lay a device on your arm like a gun, so you get a better stand.

If your cable gets stuck in the dirt, pull it back a bit, and try again. Remember to do it more slowly this time.

How to Snake a Tub Drain

Anyway, if you are unfamiliar with the position of the pipes in your bathroom be prepared that the cable might go in the wrong direction. This is because in many cases pipes are joined together into one.

And if your cable went up, it means that it went into the wrong direction, so you should pull it back and try again.

Be prepared that each time you pull the cable back, you can pull some dirt with it. No one ever said that the plumbing is a neat job!

If you are a neat person, try with stronger and thus more expensive devices that will easily unclog the tub in the first try.

how to unclog a shower drain

I can suggest a few different types of snaking devices, which you can choose according to your preferences.

Again, I will start from the cheapest and finish with the ones for professionals.

Professional Slow Drain Cleaner and Clog Remover

This convenient snaking device is made of heavy duty steel coil that ensures high flexibility, which further ensures that it can bend at 90 degrees.

So in theory, you can use this device through the drain, yet I didn’t try that, and cannot guarantee that it won’t break your pipe.

If you try, please let me know so I can spare myself the dull removal of the overflow plate. 

It is 10 feet long, yet its width is 0.6 inch, which is a bit above recommended cleaning the tub pipes. Thus it could get stuck it the pipes if they are tighter.

According to some, 10 feet is just long enough to go till the end of the tub pipe. Thus, I must conclude that with the value goes the quality of the device.

General Pipe Cleaners R-25SM

This device, on the other hand, fits perfectly with its width of ¼ inch. Also, it is significantly longer, with its 25 feet cable. Of course, the price follows.

Yet, it is still a device that remains in your household, and with its one year guarantee, it gives you full reliability.

The only flaw of this device, compared to the last one is its weight of approximately 9 pounds. Besides that, the same strength is necessary since the same manual principle is used in both cases.

Also, you can put a cordless drill on this device so it becomes automatic.

On the back of this device, you can find adapter to which a cordless drill can be attached. It is not recommended to use it with an electric drill.

Since it goes into the water which is a very good conductor, it needs to be specially isolated. For the matter, the snaking devices with a cord are more expensive.

STKUSA 25' Drain Auger

Another from the family of cordless automatic snaking devices is here. It with a battery and its width is ¼ inches so it perfectly fits your tub pipe. It is a highly portable device that comes with a 25 feet long cable. 

It can easily be used without additional power. It is certainly important to follow all the general rules listed above.

Even if your machine is stronger, it doesn’t mean that the pipes cannot break, or the cable cannot ricochet at you after it stumbles into some hard obstacles.

The main flaw is endurance of the battery, so it is not for professional use since it cannot last for 8 working hours.

Therefore, if you want to go pro, you must invest additional money and buy an electric one.

VEVOR 100 Ft x 3/8 Inch Electric Drain Auger

This professional snaking device uses electric power, yet it is perfectly safe for use because it has a built-in GFCI on the cord to protect you from an electric shock.

Also, the power cable is of premium quality, which ensures the longer endurance of the cable.

Since it is quite heavy, it goes on the 5 inches wheels, which makes it easy to move around. It looks somewhat like a vacuum cleaner.

Except obviously vacuum cleaner can’t clean pipes in your house.

It can clean pipes from 1-inch width to 4 inches, and it is all pipes in normal American household according to BOCA, which is American plumbing code.

Conclusion: How to Snake a Tub Drain

There is the difference between unclogging the shower drain and tub drain. The main difference is the place where you put a snake.

If you are unclogging the tub, you should never put the snake through the drain, but through the overflow plate.

In theory, there are some snaking devices that can bend over 90 degrees so they do not harm your pipes, and can be used through the tub drain, but it is only few devices.

Still, the risk remains because the tub drain goes into the sink at 90 degrees and in case of obdurate dirt, the risk is even higher.

I suppose that you already tried with a plunger or the other easier methods and that your dirt is certainly obdurate. Hence, you should always put the snake through the overflow plate.

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