How to Fix Problems With Your Bathtub Drain Stopper
What is a Bathtub Stopper?
A bathtub stopper is a device that essentially seals water in the bathtub and prevents it from draining. There are a few kinds of of different bathtub stoppers available; each of them serve the same purpose even though they may look slightly different, or be made of different material.
Bathtub drain stoppers generally function quite well for many years. However, over time they may become clogged or may not seal or function as well as they used to. If you are experiencing problems with your bathtub stopper then you might be able to fix the problem yourself instead of calling out a plumber and paying an expensive service fee.
The following information will help you to understand the different types of bathtub drain stoppers so that you may first identify which one of them best describes your own. Then, we will take a look at the possible reasons for your bathtub drain repair. You may need to completely replace the stopper unit, or perhaps the problem can be fixed more easily just by simply learning how to clean and unclog a bathtub drain.
Different Kinds of Bathtub Drain Stoppers
There are basically 5 different kinds of bathtub drain stopper that all perform the basic function of preventing water from flowing down the drain.
- Lift and Turn
- Roller Ball
How do Bathtub Stoppers Work?
Rubber stoppers are the simplest form of drain stopper. These round little stoppers sit easily in the bathtub drain and form a tight seal to prevent the water from escaping. Rubber stoppers usually have a metal ring or chain attached to them, so with a simple pull of the chain the stopper can be completely removed to allow the water to drain. Even though rubber bathtub stoppers are not used as much these days, they can be found in certain older-style bathtubs. The nice thing about the simplicity of rubber stoppers is that they can be replaced very easily by buying a new one from your local hardware store, for just a couple of dollars.
Plunger drain stoppers can be recognised by their large handle and sliding devices that, when activated, create and release a tight seal with the bathtub drain. By pressing a plunger stopper into a drain the sliding portion of the unit firmly pushes down a seal to stop the water from going down the drain. By pulling the lever the second sliding device operates as a “plunger” to break the seal. Sometimes the plunger can become unattached from its connection and will not operate until it is simply reconnected back into place.
Pop-up stoppers are also operated by the use of a lever. The lever, located in the overflow drain plate is attached to an arm that changes the position of the stopper in the drain. By pushing or pulling the lever, a spring mechanism at the end of the arm seals or releases the stopper. Because of the rapid movement caused by the spring, this particular stopper literally “pops up”.
Lift and Turn Stoppers are more common these days, especially in brand new homes. Lift and Turn Stoppers are not operated by a lever, but instead by a little handle located directly on top of the stopper itself, as featured in the photograph opposite. By taking hold of the handle, the stopper can be released by simply lifting and turning. By turning and pushing down the handle, the stopper moves low down into the drain and forms a seal to prevent the water from escaping from the tub.
Roller Ball Stoppers are also quite similar to Lift and Turn Stoppers, in that they have a handle on top of the stopper which is used to activate it. But instead of turning the handle to screw this stopper in and out of the drain, you simply lift the handle upwards to release the stopper and then push it back down to close the drain again.
Recognizing Problems with Your Bathtub Drain Stopper
Bathtub stoppers do a great job of sealing water in a bathtub when they function correctly. However they are very prone to getting clogged by hair, dead skin cells, soap and other bath products. If not cleaned out regularly then it is possible that your bathtub stopper is not functioning correctly simply because the blockage is preventing the device from opening up enough to allow the water to pass freely down the drain.
Another consideration is that over time, bathtub stoppers are subject to certain wear and tear that could cause the rubber seal to become worn or cracked. If this happens, the rubber seal cannot correctly perform its task of properly sealing the water in the tub, and consequently the water drains out when it shouldn’t. Sometimes, a simple adjustment to the assembly might be required to reposition the rocker arm into place.
How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain
If your bathtub drain is clogged up with hair and grime, then the easiest way to get it cleaned and working properly again is to use a plunger, or in tougher situations, a plumber’s snake.
There are 2 types of plungers available to buy, and the recommended type is featured in the photograph opposite. This type of plunger produces a lot more air than the cheaper version, and so will probably do a better job of unclogging your bathtub drain.
First, remove the bathtub stopper to get access to the drain. Refer to the section below “Bathtub Drain Repair” to learn how to remove the stopper.
Watch this instructional video to see how a professional plumber correctly uses a plunger and plumber’s snake to unclog a bathtub drain.
There are also some excellent hubs available with further information on how to successfully unclog a bathtub drain, here are my recommended links:
Recommended Products from Amazon
Simple and affordable rubber style bath stopper, 1-1/4", long lasting and stain proof
How to Replace a Bathtub Stopper
Lift and Turn Stoppers and Roller Ball stoppers are very simple to replace; just unscrew counter-clockwise until the stopper is removed from the drain. The stopper can then be cleaned, or replaced with a new one. These little stoppers are quite inexpensive to purchase from Amazon or any home improvement store, costing less than $10.
Lever bathtub stoppers, such as the Plunger or Pop-Up style, can also be easily repaired and replaced by yourself at home, without needing to call out a plumber.
- Turn the lever to “open”
- Gently move the drain stopper from side to side to loosen and remove it
- Use a bathroom cleaner and brush to clean up the unit if it is still in good condition, otherwise purchase a new stopper assembly unit from Amazon or any home improvement store for around $40
- Replace the new stopper unit and check for any leaks before use
For a really complete visual tutorial, watch this video for easy step-by-step instructions. It has been put together by a professional plumber and he does an excellent job of explaining how you can do your own bathtub drain repair at home.
After all that hard work, you’ll be able to relax knowing that you have identified and fixed the problems with your bathtub drain stopper. What better way to reward yourself than by enjoying a nice long relaxing soak in the tub!