Unscrew That Impossible Bathtub Drain Stopper Today

Is your bathtub drain driving you crazy because no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to unscrew the blasted stopper? We feel your frustration. A stuck drain stopper can make bathtime unpleasant and leave you racking your brain trying to unclog the works.

But don’t pull your hair out just yet. In this complete guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to finally unstick and unscrew the most stubborn bathtub drain. You may not think it’s possible, but we have the inside tips to prove otherwise.

bathtub drain won t unscrew

Start by Identifying What Type of Stopper You Have

Bathtub drains come in several varieties, so your first troubleshooting step is to correctly identify what stopper mechanism your tub has installed. Some common types you might encounter are:

  • Toe-touch stoppers: Stopper lowers or raises when you press on a lever with your toe
  • Flip-it stoppers: Hinged stopper that flips up or down to open or close drain
  • Trip lever stoppers: Linkage connected to turn style knob on tub wall
  • Lift & turn stoppers: Rotate stopper up to open and down to close drain
  • Push-pull stoppers: Pull up to remove stopper or push down to replace

Check for Signs of Corrosion and Wear

Once you know the type of stopper, inspect where it connects to the tub and check below for signs of rust or deterioration on any exposed drain components. Significant corrosion may mean parts of the drain are fused together from years of mineral deposits building up.

Also try jiggling the stopper back and forth while applying light upward pressure. It should lift out with minor force. If it barely budges even when you tug hard, that indicates something is binding it in place.

Assess if the Stopper Screw is Stripped

Many stoppers secure to the drain via a screw in the center that can loosen over time from repeated removal to clear clogs. Attempt to turn this screw counterclockwise with a flathead screwdriver. If the screw spins endlessly without catching, the head is likely rounded off and stripped.

So before any stopper can unscrew, first determine what condition it’s in. Corrosion and stripped screws complicate removal efforts.

Attempt Manual Removal Techniques

With the stopper type and any issues diagnosed, attempt to unscrew it manually first before bringing out any heavy artillery.

Try Some Penetrating Oil and Time

If corrosion seems the culprit, apply penetrating oil liberally around the stopper and give it a few hours to work at loosening things up. Revisit and try unscrewing it by hand using an old rag both to improve grip and protect the tub finish from scratches.

Use Pliers or a Small Wrench

For simple slip-ups with plastic stoppers, a pair of pliers or small crescent wrench often does the trick. Remember to wrap electrical or duct tape around the jaws to prevent scratching chrome. Still take care, as porcelain tub surfaces crack easily under pressure.

Grip the body of the stopper lightly and twist counterclockwise. Too much torque risks cracking porcelain or snapping off the stopper entirely.

Try Turning the Stopper Itself

Some stoppers themselves turn to open or close rather than lifting or lowering. In these cases, wrap a rag or small towel around it, then gently try rotating it counter clockwise using pliers.

We’ve found that about 80% of stuck stoppers release after a little penetrating lubrication and manual effort. But for the truly stubborn ones, specialty tools help finish the job.

Use Specialty Drain Remover Tools

When all else fails, you need to bring out the big guns. Plumbing specialty stores offer several specialty tools perfect for removing stripped, corroded and uncooperative tub drain stoppers.

Drain Remover Auger

This tool has a flexible 3-foot steel cable with a corkscrew end to bite into the stopper. Slowly twist the T-handle to burrow the auger deeper until it catches hold. Carefully torque the stopper loose and withdraw to pull free.

Drain Extractor Hooks

If you can see and access the portion of the stopper down inside the drain, specialized hooks grip and pry it free when twisting fails. Use a flashlight to guide custom hooks made for grabing rounded, smooth surfaces.

Stopper Screw Extractors

These genius tools were made for broken, rounded-off screws and bolt heads. Different diameter extractor bits bore into damaged screw heads and bite down. Slow steady tightening backing them out in a counter-clockwise motion.

These three specialty options cover most stuck drain stopper situations when DIY efforts disappoint. They can be pricey, but they also spare paying a plumber.

Get Professional Help For Tough Pop-Up Stoppers

Pop-up style drain stoppers operate by a spring tensioned connecting rod. Over years of use, problems develop that require professional service.

Readjust Connecting Rod Alignment

If a pop-up stopper fails to fully close and seals water in the tub, the connecting rod likely slipped out of proper alignment. Attempting to realign it risks snapping the rod or breaking internal parts.

For popup types, call a plumber to open the drain, detach the connecting rod, and reset it to the proper angle so it fully engages again.

Replace Broken Springs and Washers

Inside a popup assembly are springs, o-rings, washers and seals that degrade. A stopper stuck open hints something inside broke. Blindly prying risks harming leak-protecting gaskets and seals.

Trust a pro to open the works, inspect everything, and replace worn parts so the popup returns to smoothly operating order.

Clear Away Grime and Gunk for Success

Before wrestling with the stopper, ensure the problem isn’t a deeper clog in the drain. Remove any debris on top first. Then probe down into the drain with a zip-it style cleaning tool.

DIY Drain Cleaning Methods

For organic gunk like soap scum or hair buildup, boiling water combined with baking soda and vinegar often dissolve goop. Lower a small funnel into the drain and pour ingredients down.

Use Caution! Chemical commercial drain cleaners corrode pipes and prove hazardous. Avoid them when possible.

Seeking Professional Drain Cleaning

Tough blockages requiring a snake rotor tool are best left to drain cleaning professionals. Attempting to cable drains risks scratching fixtures or bursting pipes.

A local plumber can diagnose trouble and hydro jet the pipes clear before addressing the uncooperative stopper.

Remove the Drain Flange for Total Access

When every conventional method fails and you’re ready to lose it on your drain, one last resort remains: removing the drain flange for total stopper access.

What’s a Drain Flange?

The drain flange is a chrome base ring mounted around your tub drain below the stopper. It’s held in place by putty or caulk during tub installations.

By detaching this ring, the entire stopper assembly detaches for inspection and replacement.

How to Remove Drain Flanges

Flanges unscrew or pry loose by working around its edge with a putty knife. Lift up gently, working the blade evenly to prevent cracking the porcelain.

With the flange removed, now the stopper lifts out completely. Examine it for cracks or missing pieces. Ensure the tailpiece below didn’t get damaged from your efforts so far.

Replacing Stoppers and Reinstalling Flanges

Take your stopper shopping to get an identical match. Apply plumber’s putty around the new drain flange base and press into place. Hand tighten the locking nut.

Test for leaks after reassembly before caulking. If bone dry after a few hours, apply a smooth caulk bead between the new chrome flange and tub.

Prevent This Torment Next Time

Now that you’ve finally conquered theim possible and tamed your drain, prevent this agony from ever happening again!

Lubricate and Loosen Annually

Once a year, lubricate stopper screws and give them a few practice twists to prevent seizing shut again. Clean hair and gunk, then add petroleum jelly or plumber’s grease to screws.

Catch Debris Better with Drain Screens

Install drain screens or hair catchers over or inside drains to catch shedding before it winds up causing a clog deeper down the pipes.

Soft plastic hair catchers sit inside drains out of sight while basket types sit discretely over the drain to filter out debris.

Know When Parts Need Replacing

Tub drains endure decades of use and abuse. At around 10 years old, talk to a plumber about proactively replacing washers, o rings, ball bearings, and springs hiding under your drain. Catch worn parts before they turn into stuck stoppers!

As you can see, even the most ridiculously stuck tub drain stopper can be defeated with some finesse and patience. Just break the process down step-by-step:

  • Identify the stopper style
  • Assess issues preventing removal
  • Attempt manual removal techniques
  • Use professional grade specialty tools
  • Have deeper clogs professionally cleared
  • Remove the drain flange if all else fails

Don’t live with a stuck bathtub drain any longer. Roll up your sleeves, follow these advanced tips, and reclaim your bathtub today! No impossible stopper can match your persistence.

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