How to Remove a Bathtub Drain Stopper

Hand holding a screwdriver to a bathtub drain

Have you noticed that your bathtub is draining slowly? If water is pooling at your feet every time you take a shower, you likely have a clogged drain. Removing the drain stopper will help you get a closer look at whatever is causing the problem. It’s also important to know how to remove a bathtub drain stopper if it isn’t properly placed. A stopper that isn’t flush with the bottom of the tub when it’s engaged may not hold water very well, making bath time a hassle.

Chances are good that you can troubleshoot and replace your stopper. The first step in figuring out how to remove a bathtub drain stopper is to determine which type of stopper you have. Some of the most common types are listed below.

Toe-Touch Tub Stopper

This style opens and closes with the touch of your toe. It is usually circular and flat at the top, with no tabs or knobs. Here’s how to replace a toe-touch tub stopper:

  1. Place the stopper in the “open” position, as if you are draining the tub.
  2. Some toe-touch stoppers have a top cap that unscrews from a base cylinder that is threaded into a crossbar in the strainer. Others are just one unit threaded into the crossbar.
  3. Try holding the base of the cylinder while turning the top cap counterclockwise. If the entire unit moves as you turn, let go of the cylinder base and continue to unscrew until you can remove the unit completely.
  4. If your stopper has a top cap, twist counter-clockwise to remove it before removing the cylinder base by turning counter-clockwise.
  5. In some cases, you may need to use a standard flathead screwdriver to unscrew the cylinder from the strainer crossbar.

Push-Pull Tub Stopper

This type of stopper has a knob at the top. The knob is pushed down to close the drain and pulled up to open it. Here’s how to remove a push-pull tub stopper:

  1. Begin by removing the knob that is on top of the stopper. Use one hand to hold the base of the stopper in place, and turn the knob counter-clockwise until it is all the way off.
  2. If the knob is too tight to unscrew by hand, wrap a washcloth or rag around the knob and use standard pliers to loosen it.
  3. Once the knob is removed, look for a post that connects the stopper to the crossbar of the strainer. Unscrew the post using a standard flathead screwdriver and lift off from the strainer.

Lift and Turn Tub Stopper

Very similar in appearance to the push-pull style, this stopper is operated by lifting and turning the knob in opposite directions to open and close the drain. Here’s how to remove a lift and turn stopper:

  1. With the stopper in the open position, use one hand to hold the body of the stopper in place.
  2. Slowing turn the knob counter-clockwise, looking for a screw set on the knob. If there isn’t one, turn the stopper counter-clockwise to unthread from the strainer until it can be removed.
  3. Sometimes the post threads may be stripped, making it difficult to unscrew the stopper. Try gently pulling upward while turning.
  4. If your stopper does not have a visible screw set on the knob but does not seem to unscrew, lift the stopper up and turn, looking for a small screw.
  5. Use a standard flathead screwdriver or an Allen wrench (hex key) to loosen the set screw. You shouldn’t have to remove the screw entirely to remove the stopper. Be very careful with this process; if the screw is removed entirely, it can fall down the drain.
  6. If there is no set screw on either the knob or the stopper, it likely uses a channel/pin mechanism.
  7. Lifting the stopper, slowly rotate it counter-clockwise, aligning the slot at the bottom of the channel with the pin on the strainer.
  8. Pull upwards to release the stopper.

Flip-It® Tub Stopper

Instead of a knob on the top, this stopper has a flip tab or toggle that opens or closes the drain when it’s flipped back and forth. This type is typically easy to remove. Grasp the body of the stopper and use a gentle twisting motion (in either direction) or wiggle it back and forth while pulling upward at the same time until the stopper pops free.

What to Do After You Remove the Bathtub Drain Stopper

Now that you know how to remove bathtub drain stoppers of all kinds, it’s time to figure out why your drain is slow. Once the bathtub stopper has been removed, use a flashlight to peer into the drain. If your bathtub’s draining slowly, there may be a build-up of hair, soap, and other gunk clogging the drain. If the clog isn’t too far down—and if you are brave enough—you can pry the strainer off and try to remove it yourself. Or, better yet, avoid the stress—and the mess! Call Mr. Rooter® Plumbing. Our friendly professionals can tackle the problem for you so that you can keep your hands clean and your drains clear.

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