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Plumbing in the Home/Help... unclogging bathtub drain... wire is stuck


Dear Dana,

I have used before a roll of thin steel wire with the tip bent 1/4 inch like a hook in order to extract hair from the upper floor bathtub drain. There's not much hair there usually, but after 2 yesrs or so, it needs to be done again. The house is from 2007, the bathtub drain pipe is PVC, and the overflow plate is a plain one, meaning that it doesn't have the small lever to open/close the drain, it only the faceplate and the 2 screws.

The drain pipe runs horizontally towards the wall (where the faucets, shower, and the overflow plate are), and then the pipe goes vertically down to the lower floor. Today I pushed the wire down the drain, and then like a foot or less horizontally towards the wall... But when I tried to pull it out, it was stuck. It doesn't seem to be stuck on hair, it's something solid and firm that doesn't give... I'd say it feels like it's stuck in a metalic thing... What could it be that it's stuck with? How can I get it out?

Dana, your help is greatly appreciated.



Lesson learned: Next time unclog thru the overflow plate, not the drain :-(

Trip lever waste & overflow.
Trip lever waste & ove  
Hello Richard,
A bathtub drain is technically called a "waste and overflow". I'll include a picture of what one looks like with this answer.

If there is no "trip lever" that it is just a regular waste and overflow. When you clear a tub drain, you are supposed to remove the small plate up on the wall of the tub and do whatever clearing you're going to do through that, not through the actual tub drain. The T fitting where the tub drain and the vertical portion of the waste and overflow meet is a hard 90 angle and very difficult to get past (as you have discovered). If, as you have done, you managed to force your tool into that joint, it can easily get stuck. Surprise!

To rectify this situation, I would open up the cleanout plate and try to use another hooked wire to free up the one that you fished through the tub drain.

In the future, rather than a stiff wire that can easily become trapped, use a "Zip-it" drain cleaning tool like this>> These tools are much more flexible, are made out of plastic and are much less likely to get caught. I use one myself and they work great.

Good Luck,

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Dana Bostick


Pretty much any residential plumbing questions. For "item specific" details such as a specific model of fixture, I will need to research and there may not be any useful information available. Note: I live and work in Southern California. We do not, as a rule, use hot water or steam heating systems, oil fired boilers or private water wells so my knowledge in those areas is pretty limited. There are others here on AllExerts that can probably answer those questions better.


Retired, Licensed General Contractor with Plumbing license. Active Home Inspector, Litigation Consultant and Infrared Thermographer, Online Marketing specialist.

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