How to Remove a Bathtub Drain Plug

The bathtub plays an essential role in the home. It provides space to bathe kids and pets without making a mess, but it also gives adults the option to lie back and relax while they take a soak. Once finished, you should be able to simply open the bathtub stopper to allow the water to drain away.

However, if the water doesn’t drain or you notice a leak in the drain line, you must remove the bathtub drain stopper to gain access to the pipes. Depending on the type of bathtub stopper you have, you could complete this process in minutes without using tools, or it may require time and skill to safely remove the bathtub stopper without damaging the assembly.

Find out how to remove a bathtub drain stopper with this informative guide.

Types of Bathtub Drain Stoppers

A bathtub drain stopper is the name given to the bathtub assembly used to close the drain. When the drain is closed, water remains in the bathtub, allowing adults, kids, and pets to take a bath without the water draining away. Bathtub drain stoppers come in various types, including:

  • Lift-and-turn
  • Toe-touch
  • Push-pull
  • Pop-up
  • Flip-it
  • Trip-lever

The method and tools required to remove a bathtub drain stopper depend on the type of stopper. For instance, a flip-it bathtub drain stopper can be removed without the use of tools, while a pop-up drain stopper requires the use of a screwdriver set and channel lock pliers to safely remove the entire bathtub stopper and drain assembly threaded through the overflow drain.

Bathtub Drain Stopper Removal

Identify the type of bathtub drain stopper you have before attempting to remove it. The removal method depends on an accurate identification.

Lift-and-Turn Bathtub Stopper

Lift-and-turn bathtub drain stoppers can be identified by the small, threaded knob located on the top of the stopper. Rotate the knob to the left or right to operate the bathtub stopper. In most cases, turning the knob clockwise closes the drain, and turning it counterclockwise while lifting opens the drain.

You can remove a lift-and-turn bathtub drain stopper in just a few steps:

  1. Turn the knob counterclockwise to open the drain.
  2. Keep turning the knob until it unthreads from the bolt in the center of the drain stopper.
  3. If the knob is attached to the stopper, rotate the entire lid to access the drain stopper bolt.
  4. Use a screwdriver or pliers to unthread the drain stopper bolt
  5. Lift the drain stopper out of the drain.

Some lift-and-turn stoppers have a simple twist lock to hold the drain stopper in place. If you have one of these products, you will not be able to unthread the stopper. Instead, rotate the drain stopper lid until it’s properly aligned and pull up to remove the stopper lid.

Make sure to check the stopper for damage or excessive wear before reinstallation.

Toe-Touch Bathtub Stopper

Toe-touch bathtub drain stoppers often have a flat, circular shape that is completely smooth or engraved with the word ‘Push’ to indicate how the drain stopper works.

  1. Push down on the drain stopper with your hand or foot. One push closes the drain, and a second opens the drain.
  2. Push the stopper so that it is in the open position.
  3. Twist the drain stopper lid to unthread it from the stopper and access the fastening screw.
  4. Use a screwdriver or pliers to unthread the fastening screw from the drain crossbar.
  5. Lift the drain stopper out of the drain.

Push-Pull Bathtub Stopper

Push-pull bathroom drain stoppers look similar to lift-and-turn stoppers, except that the knob on top of a push-pull stopper is usually wider and smoother than the knob on a lift-and-turn stopper. Push-pull bathroom stoppers are easy to use: Just push the stopper down to close the drain or pull the knob up to open the drain.

Before attempting to remove a push-pull bathtub drain stopper, check the knob on the top of the stopper to determine if it is attached or if the knob is a separate piece that can be unscrewed and removed.

If the knob is separate:

  1. Turn it clockwise to unthread it.
  2. Remove the knob to access the fastening bolt.
  3. Use a screwdriver or a set of pliers to unthread the fastening bolt from the drain crossbar
  4. Lift the stopper out of the drain.

If the knob is attached to the stopper:

  1. Turn the entire drain stopper to unthread it from the crossbar.
  2. Lift the drain stopper out of the drain.

Pop-Up Bathtub Stopper

Pop-up bathtub stoppers are one of the most complicated styles available. They consist of a lever mounted on the overflow faceplate, which connects to a rod assembly that drops down vertically through the overflow drain. The rod connects to a spring sitting on top of a horizontal rocker arm. The rocker arm then runs through the bathtub drain line to control the movement of a pop-up drain plug.

When the lever is flipped to the open position, it compresses the spring, which pushes down on the rocker arm and pops up the plug. When the lever is in the closed position, the spring does not apply pressure to the rocker arm, allowing it to pivot up and close the drain plug.

To remove a pop-up bathtub stopper:

  1. Flip the lever to the open position to access the plug and rocker arm assembly.
  2. Use your fingers or a set of pliers to squeeze the sides of the drain stopper and pull it out of the drain. If done correctly, the plug, stopper, and rocker arm should all come out at the same time.
  3. Use a screwdriver to unscrew and remove the overflow faceplate, putting the screws in a safe location.
  4. Carefully pull the rod assembly, including the lever, rod, and spring, out of the overflow drain pipe.

When reinstalling this type of drain stopper, you need to insert the plug and rocker arm before reinstalling the spring, lever, and rod assembly.

Flip-It Bathtub Stopper

Flip-it bathtub drain stoppers are the easiest type to remove. They consist of a simple stopper that uses a flip lever to expand or contract a gasket to open or close the drain. Since these stoppers are secured only by an O-ring that sits inside the drain, they are simple to remove and don’t require a tool.

  1. Flip open the lever on the drain stopper.
  2. Get a firm hold on the drain stopper and pull it up to remove it from the drain.

After taking it out, quickly inspect any signs of excessive wear or damage. Then rinse the stopper and put it to the side until you can reinstall it.

Trip-Lever Bathtub Stopper

Trip-lever bathtub stoppers are easily recognizable by the lever located on the overflow faceplate and the connected drain plunger, which moves up or down to open or close the drain, depending on the position of the lever. This type of bathtub stopper has a rod assembly that runs from the lever on the overflow faceplate, through the overflow drain, and through the bathtub drain line to connect to the drain plunger.

Due to the complex design, trip-lever bathtub stoppers can be challenging to remove.

  1. Flip the lever to the open position.
  2. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the overflow grate.
  3. Take off the overflow grate and place the screws in a safe location
  4. Carefully pull out the entire drain stopper assembly, including the trip lever, the rods, and the plunger.

After removing the bathtub drain stopper, you can inspect the drain stopper assembly, clear drain clogs, and repair any damage to the drain line before reinstalling the drain stopper. However, if there are any signs of excessive wear, like rusting or cracks, it’s best to replace the bathtub drain stopper.

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