Removal of a Bathtub Drain

To remove the drain from your bathtub, you must first determine the type of drain stopper it has. This will allow you to choose the appropriate removal…

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Tell Us About Your Tub Drain Stopper

A bathtub drain with a traditional plug drain stopper.

To remove a bathtub drain, first determine what kind of drain stopper your tub uses. The tub can be drained or filled by opening and closing the drain stopper. It is the drain's most distinctive feature.  

Here we will go over the four most common kinds of bathtub stoppers and how to get rid of them. Even though any tub drain can be removed, it's best to call a plumber if the drain is particularly old or if the stopper is not easily recognizable.


Drainage Stopper that You Can Operate With Your Toe

A toe-touch bathtub drain stopper against a white background.

It is possible to open and close a toe-touch drain stopper by simply touching it with your toe. This stopper is simple and straightforward, but regular use may wear out the spring and require replacement.


Closure for the Sink that You Unscrew and Pull Up

A push-pull bathtub drain stopper against a white background.

Push-pull drain stoppers, also called foot plugs, are used to open and close drains in the same way that their names suggest. The drain can be opened by pulling up on its tiny knob and closed by pushing it down. The long life and ease of use of this drain stopper make it a great value.


Simple Drain Stopper: Lift To Turn

A lift-and-turn bathtub drain stopper against a white background.

Both the push-pull drain stopper and the lift-and-turn/twist-and-pull drain stopper look like small knobs on top. To release the stopper, turn it counterclockwise while pulling up slightly on the knob, and to open it, turn it clockwise while holding it in place.


Drain Plug with Trip Lever

A trip-lever bathtub drain stopper against a white background.

The trip-lever drain stopper, also known as a flip-level drain stopper, stands out from the other four drain stoppers and must be removed in a unique way. This drain stopper is operated by a trip lever located on the tub's overflow drain, beneath the sink. Instead of being located on the floor of the tub, the stopper is operated by a lever that is connected to a rod that travels through the overflow drain. However, a trip-lever drain stopper can be more challenging to remove than other types of stoppers because of this internal hardware.  


Take out the plug from the bathtub drain.

A person unscrews a toe-touch bathtub drain stopper.

Once you know the drain stopper type, you can remove the drain from your bathtub by following the appropriate steps below.

Here's the scoop on taking out that pesky toe-touch drain stopper:

  • Turn the drain's stopper all the way open.  
  • To remove the drain stopper from the drain opening, unscrew the shaft cylinder. It is typically attached to the drain via a threaded section. It's possible to remove the drain stopper by hand by twisting it counterclockwise, but a screwdriver may be required if the stopper is too tightly fitted.    

Instructions for Taking Off a Push-Pull Stopper from a Drain:

  • Make sure the drain is open.  
  • You can release the clog by turning the drain stopper's knob in a counterclockwise direction.  
  • The drain stopper can be removed from the drain opening after a sufficient number of turns.    

Removing a Lift-and-Turn Drain Stopper:

  • Position the drain cover to open.  
  • Check for a set screw by unscrewing the drain stopper's top knob.  
  • Using a hex key or small screwdriver, remove the set-screw from the drain stopper.  
  • The whole stopper must be turned counterclockwise to be released from its mounting post.  
  • Using pliers, take out the screw that holds it to the wall.    

Drain stoppers with trip levers require special tools to remove.

  • Make sure the drain is open.  
  • To access the overflow drain, unscrew the cover plate.  
  • If you remove the drain stopper's cover plate, the rest of the connected hardware should come loose as a result. The entire stopper must be removed from the drain before the overflow can be opened.  
  • The entire length of the drain stopper may need to be freed by jiggling it. To those attempting to remove it, please be patient.    

After taking out the drain stopper, put it to the side and use the scrub brush to get rid of any remaining grime or debris.  


Take out the Waste Receptacle

A bathtub plug drain stopper sits next to an open bathtub drain that reveals the crossbars of the drain basket.
  • When the drain stopper is removed, the drain basket (or drain flange) is exposed in the drain opening. In the drain basket, you'll find a metal x.  
  • Locking pliers or a tub drain wrench are required to remove the drain basket. A drain wrench is a special tool designed to fit over the crossbars of a drain basket and remove the drain. It makes the crossbar much less likely to be broken inadvertently.  
  • To remove the drain basket using a drain wrench, place the wrench into the drain and turn it counterclockwise.  
  • Make sure the locking pliers you use are compact enough to fit into the drain and strong enough to withstand your turns. Fasten the pliers' locking jaws to the metal's crossbar's center and turn them anticlockwise. Put a screwdriver in between the pliers' handles to increase the torque and make it easier to turn the pliers if you're having trouble.   
  • Unscrewing a bathtub drain can be a tedious process because of the drain's long, deep thread. Bathtub drain replacement requires some time and patience.

Helpful hint: plumber's putty is used to seal the drain basket. The drain basket can be removed more easily after the putty has been softened using a hairdryer.  


Purge the Drain Hole

A woman cleans a bathtub with a scrub brush.
  • There may be remnants of the old seal; use a plastic putty knife to remove them.  
  • A bathroom cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda (in a 50/50 ratio) applied with a sponge can be used to clean the drain opening.
  • Remove the drain stopper and drain basket and wash them if you intend to reuse them.  

How to replace a bathtub drain is up next.


Fixing a leaky drain in the bathroom

A container of plumber's putty against a white background.

  • It is important to use new plumber's putty whenever replacing a drain or installing a new drain.   
  • Putty is best rolled into a long log about the thickness of a pencil. The new drain basket should have a lip, which you can seal with putty.  
  • To install the new drain basket, simply screw it in by hand and tighten it with the pliers or drain wrench.  
  • Cut away any excess plumber's putty with the putty knife.   
  • Insert the plunger into the overflow drain first, then the drain basket, and finally the drain's faceplate, if you are installing a flip-lever drain stopper. For specific instructions on installing your flip-lever drain, please consult the product's documentation provided by the manufacturer.  
  • To replace a drain stopper of the other types, you need only screw the new one into the drain basket.  


Seek Leaks

A partially filled bathtub.

  • Give the plumber's putty the recommended amount of time to set before using it.  
  • You should plug the drain and fill the tub about halfway with water.  
  • Put a piece of tape at the top of the water level.  
  • After an hour, head back to the tub to make sure it's full.  
  • If the water level drops below the tape mark, you have a leak and need to double-check that the new drain is sealed.  
  • If the water level does not change after the drain has been replaced, you did a good job.  

Depending on the type of bathtub you have, removing and replacing the drain may not be a difficult task. Once you've learned the proper procedure for removing a tub drain, you can switch it out for a model that better meets your needs. Explore our custom shower door and tub installation services if you're interested in a full bathroom makeover.

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