How To Remove A Bathtub Drain – Forbes Advisor

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Working time: 30 minutes or less
Total time: 1 to 2 hours
Skill Level: Beginners
Project costs: $50 to $200

Removing a bathtub drain is usually a fairly simple task for any do-it-yourselfer. The most important step is figuring out what type of drain plug is in the tub. Knowing the basic mechanics of your tub’s drain plug before attempting to remove it will help prevent damage to the drain or tub. Other than this, the only really difficult step is getting rid of hairballs and other gunk that can get caught under the drain. Removing a bathtub drain requires basic tools that can be found in any standard toolbox.

When to remove a bathtub drain?

Bathtub drains can be removed at any time if the homeowner needs to thoroughly clean the drain, replace the entire drain, or remove the bathtub. Drain baskets tend to corrode over time, which can lead to drain removal. Removing a drain may also be necessary to clear clogs like hairballs and other gunk that are often trapped in these tight plumbing plugs. Visible leaks are also a sign that it is time to remove and replace the bathtub drain.

Safety Considerations

Removing a bathtub drain sometimes requires a little elbow grease to unscrew and clean. Try to be patient while twisting the drain basket in place as they usually have long threads that sometimes take a few minutes to completely remove. Be careful not to get your fingers caught when using a wrench or pliers. Older, dirtier drains where mold may be present may require additional safety precautions, such as masks. Most people will want to wear gloves anyway.


  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flat screw driver
  • locking pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Allen key
  • putty knife


  • Sponge
  • all-purpose cleaner
  • Rag


1. Identify the drain plug

First identify the type of drain plug to know how to properly remove it from the drain basket. The plug is the part of the drain that opens or closes so that the bath can be emptied or filled with water. The main types of stoppers are: Toe-touch, push-pull, lift-and-turn, trip-lever and screen.

2. Remove the drain plug

Remove the drain plug according to the type:

toe touch

  • Open the drain and keep it in an open position
  • Hold the ash cylinder (the part that fits into the drain) and unscrew it from the drain basket
  • If necessary, use a screwdriver to loosen the toe stop

Push pull

  • Open the drain and keep it in an open position
  • Lift the drain plug by the knob and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it

Lifting and turning

  • Open the drain and keep it in an open position
  • Loosen the knob that rests on the top of the stopper
  • After loosening the knob, check if there is a set screw underneath. In this case, use a screwdriver or an Allen key to loosen the set screw
  • Turn the plug counterclockwise until it is clear of the mounting pole
  • Remove the mounting post with pliers by pulling up

Shutdown lever

  • Open the drain and keep it in an open position
  • Unscrew the face plate attached to the overflow drain with a screwdriver
  • Once the faceplate is removed, gently pull the hardware out of the overflow drain so as not to break it


  • Slide a flathead screwdriver under the edge of the screen and gently push it out

3. Clean Hardware

If the drain plug, screws or mounting posts are reinstalled, clean them with a cloth or sponge and all-purpose cleaner. For those concerned about mold, try to find more eco-friendly cleaning solutions before applying bleach. Set the hardware aside and clean up any dirt or debris that may be around the rim of the drain basket.

4. Remove waste basket

Most drain baskets have a metal or plastic crossbar that prevents large debris from falling down the drain. Use small needle-nose pliers strong enough to remove the drain basket. Clamp and lock the pliers on the center of the crossbar. Turn counterclockwise to open the basket. If this is difficult, grab the lower end of the locking pliers at a perpendicular angle with a second set of pliers and turn counterclockwise. The added torque should help.

Another option is to use a special drain wrench to remove the drain basket. Drain wrenches help reduce the chance of the drain basket breaking during removal, as they are shaped to slide neatly into the crossbars. Insert the drain wrench into the crossbars and turn counterclockwise to remove the basket. For those concerned about scratching fancy hardware, these may be worth investing in.

If the drain basket has no crossbars, use a drain extractor. Drain pullers grip the metal walls in the basket to effectively remove it.

5. Clean the drain hole

Drains are often sealed with plumber’s putty. If it is difficult to remove the drain basket after following the steps above, use heat from a heat gun or hair dryer to loosen the putty.

Clean any remaining putty and other residue in or around the drain with a putty knife and rag. Do not drop putty down the drain as it will not break down and can clog the drain.

When to call a professional?

Call a professional plumber if the drain basket breaks while trying to remove it. If the basket or stopper is stuck and won’t come out, a professional can help remove the bathtub drain without damaging the bathtub or drain hole.

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