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Bathtub Won’t Drain Not Clogged: What You Can Do About It

Having a bathtub can provide you with a luxurious experience. A nice warm bath is a great way to recharge. That relaxing experience can turn into major frustration if your bathtub doesn’t drain properly. Most drainage issues are due to clogs. However, there are other reasons why your bathtub won’t drain.

Let’s review some of these reasons and what you can do about them.

Bathtub won’t drain not clogged can be due to several factors. Some of the most common reasons include hard water buildup inside the pipes, septic backup, or major plumbing damage. A damaged or stuck drain stopper could also be the reason why your bathtub won’t drain.

Bathtub Won't Drain Not Clogged

Assessing Your Bathtub for Clogs

To find out what is causing your bathtub not to drain, first, you have to rule out the possibility of a clog. The number one reason why bathtubs don’t drain properly is that it is clogged.

When you take a bath or shower, it is common for hair to go down the drain. As much as you try to avoid this, it is nearly impossible to keep hair out of the drain and pipes. When hair is the culprit of the blockage, it starts slowly until it gradually clogs the drain completely.

Besides hair, clogs can develop from the accumulation of grease, soap scum, or objects. If you suspect a clog, try pouring boiling water down the drain. Follow the water with a mixture of one cup of vinegar and baking soda at a 1:1 ratio. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes and see if that does the trick.

Other ways to unclog a bathtub include using drain cleaning liquid, snaking it, or calling a plumber.

If you determine a clog is not the cause of the draining dysfunction, you can explore the following reasons:

  • A Stuck Drain Stopper
  • Hard Water Buildup on Drain
  • Septic Backup
  • Damaged Plumbing

Let’s explore each one of these reasons in detail:

1. A Stuck Drain Stopper

A bathtub that has a shower combination typically has a built-in drain stopper. This component allows you to control the filling up and draining of the tub. These are the four most common drain stopper designs:

1. Pop-up

2. Lift and turn

3. Trip lever

4. Push-pull knob

The stopper can occasionally get stuck either partially or fully. This will make the bathtub drain very slowly or not drain at all. A damaged or rusty stopper can get stuck and will stop functioning. This can happen simply from normal wear and tear.

If you have ruled out a clog, check to see if the stopper is blocked or stuck. Gently pull the stopper with pliers to pull it from the drain. It’s possible that the stopper is blocked by excessive hair or it has a broken piece.

After doing this, check to see if the bathtub drains. If the stopper is the issue, you’ll be able to clean any buildup from it or replace it.

2. Hard Water Buildup on Drain

An additional reason your bathtub doesn’t drain could be hard water buildup. Another term to refer to this problem is pipe scale. If you don’t have a water softening system, there could be a high level of minerals in your water.

Magnesium and calcium are typically the types of minerals that make water “hard.” The problem with hard water is that these minerals start to build up in the pipes. This eventually creates a blockage.

The minerals harden with hard edges on the buildup. Hair and other debris can get caught in these hard edges. Soap scum can also get stuck in mineral buildups and further block the drain.

What’s even worse is that in the long run, mineral deposits start to dissolve metal pipes. This damage can be severe and can lead to complete deterioration. If this happens, you’ll have to replace your pipes with new ones. You certainly don’t want to undertake that huge job!

To avoid hard water buildup, experts recommend testing the water’s pH levels. Check to see if the test results in high mineral content. If mineral levels are above average, you likely have a hard water buildup that is blocking your drain.

If you have hard water, but the buildup has not yet developed too far, you’re in luck! Minor hard water build-up could get professionally cleaned out from the pipes. Just be sure to install a water-softening system so that it doesn’t happen again.

This system will filter out minerals and prevent buildup. Plus, softened water is much better for your body.

3. Septic Backup

A septic backup is a very ugly problem! When the main sewer line is obstructed, it can back up and come through your bathtub’s drain. The problem is usually detected by seeing raw sewage in your bathtub…yuck!

This is not always the case. Sometimes there’s septic backup without sewage reaching your bathtub. If you don’t see any brown sewage water in your bathtub, you may be able to only smell the foul odor. This is a sign that a septic backup is happening.

Regardless of how far up your drain the septic backup is, it will still cause your pipes not to drain properly. Since this problem won’t allow your bathtub to drain correctly, it will need urgent repair.

You’ll certainly need to call a licensed plumber to diagnose and repair the problem. It will be a complicated and expensive job. This situation cannot wait! Raw sewage whether it hits your tub or only comes through as a foul odor is an emergency.

Waiting too long to fix this problem can cause other issues in your plumbing and is bad for your health. According to the Insurance Information Institute (, these are the most common causes of septic backup:

  • Old sewer system
  • Combined pipelines
  • Tree roots
  • Sanitary main blockages

The EPA ( reports that there are approximately 23,000 to 75,000 sewage overflows per year in the United States.

4. Damaged Plumbing

A bathtub that won’t drain could be due to a problem further down the pipes. You may have a broken, leaking, or damaged pipe. A professional plumber will be able to perform a comprehensive inspection to see if this is the problem.

You can suspect this problem if your bathtub continues not to drain despite trying other solutions. Typically, the bathtub will repeatedly stop draining properly without responding to traditional solutions.

When to Call a Plumber

When to Call a Plumber

There are some things you can try on your own. However, most homeowners don’t have the tools and expertise to properly troubleshoot a bathtub that won’t drain but is not clogged.

You can try to diagnose the problem and implement common solutions. If nothing that you try works, you’ll want to leave this problem to the experts. Be sure to choose a licensed and insured plumber. You’ll want to hire a company that has good reviews and can provide you with some type of guarantee.

As much as you feel confident about doing most projects yourself, you will want to be cautious when it comes to plumbing. Some people who don’t have the correct tools or knowledge can cause further problems.

Plumbing can be very delicate. If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, it can cost you more money and hassle. Don’t take a risk on your plumbing, know when it is time to call a professional!

End Notes

If your bathtub won’t drain and you don’t have a clog, there are other possible solutions. If your drain stopper is damaged or stuck, it is an easy fix. If hard water buildup is the problem, a water-softening system will help. Hopefully, you don’t have a septic backup or a major plumbing problem deep within the pipes.

Know when to seek professional assistance as plumbing is very delicate. Diagnose and treat the problem quickly. If left unattended, it can create even bigger troubles.

Once you get back into a relaxing bath knowing that your bathtub will drain properly, you’ll be glad you took immediate action.

Cheers and happy bath time to you!

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