Plumbing in the Home/Stuck in bathtub drain


Hello Cate,

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?

Your help is greatly appreciated.



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

hi Richard,
typically people get a little confused when dealing with a waste and overflow. Most all W&OF are set up very similar. The tub drain (lowest part of the configuration that is visible from the tub side) typically turns 90 degrees sharply and along the tub center-line extends 6-8 inches and connects to a tee (the side inlet) and the top of the tee receives the overflow pipe from the highest connection within the tub. The bottom of the tee (straight through from the overflow)extends straight down and connects to the P-trap which is a U shaped fitting that holds water and prevents sewer gas from entering the living space. To get out of the trap (which should be no more than 24" but as little as 14" from the overflow entrance) your instrument will have made a 180 degree turn and is immediately going to turn another 90 degrees to enter the tub drain pipe and travel no more than 30 inches to a vertical pipe and make another 90 degree turn into the vertical drain --- counting the 90 degree turn at the entrance to the overflow in the tub the tool has now bent in 450 degrees apx. IF you enter through the tub shoe you will be up 54 degrees at this point and could be as close as 24-inches of total travel....Typically the inside bore of the waste system will be smooth and if it (your tool) hangs/snags on something it ain't supposed to be there.
I have attached a little image to show you what you are looking at but you have to visualize what is happening and figure it out from there. Some tub waste stoppers have a flexible rod that extends into the waste tee but you can pull them out when cleaning  and they usually have a trip-lever overflow so i doubt this would fit your situation. It is important to know exactly how much of your tool is in the system and a good idea to make marks on it before you begin... work it out, you will be successful.

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Cortez (cort) Cate


PLEASE read this entire introduction. I have been doing this for a long time and I have come to the conclusion that if you are not willing to take the time to write a detailed question then don't expect a detailed solution! I am getting far to many questions that do not give enough detail to warrant a good solution. I realize it is a little difficult to formulate a good question but if you want a good answer you have to give me good this entire introduction please....remember this website is world wide I have no clue where you live if you don't tell give more detail on the fixture you are having problems with...a one piece eljer 3.5 gallon flush will be totally different than a one-gallon flush toto.....details are important. I can answer most questions related to residential and commercial plumbing for many buildings. I have sufficient knowledge of the UPC and UMC. I will speculate for you if necessary. In those cases I will try to give you some guidance and you should use that to refine the question further and we, together, can seek the answer via a follow up. Plumbing codes and practices vary around the world--If you don't tell me where you live the answer I give may not fit your locality. I am giving my time to you as a way of fulfilling my perceived obligation to share. I am here to try to help you find a solution to your problem. REMEMBER, If you want a good answer you need to ask a detailed question and include where you live, type of pipes, type of building, water pressure if it is a water problem, type of heater, age of appliance & building all these and many more are variables that have an effect on various situations. Detailed information will help produce a better answer.


Since 1972 a California licensed B-1 General Building Contractor, C-36 Plumbing and C-16 Fire Sprinkler Contractor; also installing and servicing Heating, Air Conditioning and Sheet Metal operating as C and C Building and Plumbing, California State License 279516. In 1995 I downsized the company to become semi-retired. Still I remain active in the construction industry. As head of a company I placed personnel and job safety as the number one objective followed closely by training and continuing education. Always seeking to stay informed of leading edge technology in the industry. Also I have spent several years as an Apprenticeship Instructor in the Pipe Trades Unions. Additionally I am a certified OSHA instructor.

United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Instruction Training, Ann Arbor, MI Bakersfield College, Bakersfield CA Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, CA Foothill College, Los Altos, CA California Licensed Contractor from 1971

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