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A slow draining bathtub means extra work to keep it clean and might lead to shower wars in the morning. If you are sharing a bathtub, a slow drain can throw off your morning routine, making it difficult for everyone to get a shower in before they make it out the door. Also, pooled water is a breeding ground for all sorts of issues that can impact your health. Drain cleaning is one way to address the problem.
Have you ever tried to clean a bathtub with a slow drain? Not only does a slow flow mean that almost every bath or shower leaves a soap scum ring, but it also means that a simple cleanup takes a lot longer as you slowly flush out the tub after each pass.
What Causes Slow Drains?
Slow drains can have several causes, though in a bathtub the most common culprits tend to be bath products and loose hair. Fun smelling bath salts and skin softening bath fizzies might turn a simple bathtub into a spa experience, but they can also lead to a slow buildup of residue in the pipes, constricting water flow. What was once a delightful aroma can become substantially less pleasant when it lingers in the drain for weeks.
While the internet has dozens of home remedies for drain cleaning, not all of them are safe or effective. Stick with simple, tried and true options — and if those don’t work, call in the professionals. Sometimes clearing a clog takes professional drain cleaning equipment that can damage your pipes when used improperly. A plumber is the no-fail option for a fast-draining tub. Here are a few drain cleaning methods you can try before you make the call:
1. Clear the Drain Catch
Before reaching for any major equipment or turning into a home chemist, take a minute to clean out the drain and catch. Hair and soap scum can build up right at the opening of the drain, impeding water flow. Wipe out the top of the catch, then pull it off and clean the pipe just underneath the drain. You may need a screwdriver to release the catch and get to the pipe underneath. If clearing obvious debris lets water flow freely, you’re done!
2. Grab the Plunger
If water is still slow after a manual drain cleaning for surface issues, reach for the plunger. A plunger uses suction to shift clogs. It isn’t just for the toilet. If there isn’t enough water in the tub to get a good seal, you might need to partially fill it before plunging. Once you get a seal, you should hear it as things shift inside the pipe. If the water drains quickly, the clog is dealt with. Unfortunately, in bathtubs, the culprit is often build-up instead of a single clog point.
3. Try Drain Cleaners
When cleaning and plunging only solve the problem temporarily, you might want to try a chemical drain cleaning. Making your own drain cleaner requires two or three ingredients found in most kitchens — baking soda, white vinegar, and table salt. The salt is optional. Salt crystals add just a little bit of extra scrubbing power through the drain, but it is the baking soda and vinegar mix that does most of the work. Drain cleaning using this recipe is quick, environmentally friendly and doesn’t use any harsh chemicals. If there is any residue left after using it, it’s considered skin safe.
When baking soda and vinegar combine, it causes a foaming reaction and the release of carbon dioxide gas. This combination acts as a scrubber inside the pipeline, helping to clear build-up from the walls of your pipe. To start, drain the tub completely. Water can trigger an early reaction from the baking soda, reducing the effectiveness of this remedy. So, it is best to try this when it has been several hours since someone used the tub.
Mix equal parts baking soda and salt or just use baking soda. Pour the dry ingredients down the drain. Then, add an equal amount of vinegar. You can start with one cup of each ingredient. If it’s working properly, you should see lots of frothing start almost immediately. The froth means the chemical reaction is in progress, and your pipes are getting a wipe down. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes and flush the drain with boiling water. If that was enough, water should start to drain more quickly.
Some users recommend stopping the drain after starting the reaction, filling the tub and using the water in the tub to flush the drain. The pressure from the tub full of water can help shift clogs and clear any leftover debris.
4. Snake the Pipes
If you have a plumbing snake, this is the last thing most consumers should try. A plumbing snake is usually inexpensive to buy and can quickly unclog a drain when used properly. A plumbing snake is a long, metal wire that has a spike at the end. You insert the spike into the drain and crank the handle. The turning motion causes the snake to rotate as it travels through the pipes, spearing through blockages and scraping against pipe walls, providing manual drain cleaning action.
If you aren’t sure how to select a pipe snake or use one properly, it might be a better idea to call in a plumber. Used improperly, a pipe snake isn’t great for drain cleaning since it can damage your pipes, creating leaks. One that’s too long can even get tangled, creating a major mess instead of drain cleaning.
Time to Call bluefrog Plumbing + Drain
If your bathtub is still slow to drain after trying these tried and tested methods, it’s time to call in a professional. At bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, our licensed plumbers can diagnose and repair any issue, using professional-grade equipment.