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How to Remove the Bathtub Drain

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There are plenty of reasons why you may end up needing to remove a bathtub drain. Perhaps a strainer is preventing you from being able to access the drain to clear it out. Or you may be going to replace the drain stopper.

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In this post, we take you through the parts you need to remove and how to do it, step-by-step.

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How to Remove a Drain Tub Stopper

Many modern baths contain special drain tub stoppers which can be tricky to remove. The first step in your process is to figure out how to remove this stopper. How you achieve it will depend on what type of drain stopper you have in your tub.

If you locate a lever at the back of your tub, lifting it should remove the stopper for you. However, other designs will require more effort on your part. Here are some tips on how to remove other stopper mechanisms from your bath.


If your bath contains a push-pull stopper, this is a fairly easy one to deal with. You can simply grab it and twist anticlockwise. After you have twisted it enough, you should be able to lift it out.

If it won’t move, try wrapping cloth or another piece of fabric around it and using pliers to turn it. This should give you enough grip to get it to turn.


With a toe-touch stopper style, you’ll need to first open it. Do this by holding the top in one hand and the shaft in the other. Then detach the head by turning it anticlockwise until it can be removed. There will likely be a screw uncovered under the head which can be removed with a screwdriver.


This is one of the easiest kinds of stoppers to remove. Simply grab it and pull it which should pop it out of your tub.

Lift and Turn

Rotate this stopper until you can see a setscrew on the knob. Loosen this with a hex wrench or screwdriver. Remove the screw and then you should be able to take off the knob. Lift out the drain stopper and unscrew the post.

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Tools Removing the Flange may Require

For those who don’t know, the visible section of the drain is called the flange. Usually, the tailpiece of the drain is where the flange is screwed onto. The tailpiece is what the pipes under the tub are referred to as and it connects up to the main pipe.

If you have the simple setup of the flange screwed into the tailpiece, you may be able to unscrew it with your hands and no special tools.

However, not everyone is so lucky, depending on what style of drain they have. Sometimes you will require tools to remove the flange. You may already have the right tools hanging around in your garage that you can use to remove the flange if you’re lucky, such as one of the below.


If you have a drain that has crossbars, then a screwdriver might be just what you need to remove it. Simply slot the screwdriver through the crossbars and turn to unscrew the flange.

Sometimes it can be impossible for a screwdriver to reach the crossbars. If this is what is happening for you, then you will need to use a different method.


One tool that is specially designed for drain removal is a dumbbell. It looks very similar to a key shape and fits neatly between crossbars if required. 

You place it in position and then turn it either with a wrench or screwdriver.

Drain Key/Sturdy Drain Extractor

If none of the above will work for your drain, the solution may be either a drain key or a sturdy drain extractor. These contain wings or reverse-thread systems that will cling onto the flange’s interior.

After the tool has latched onto the flange, you’ll be able to use something like a wrench to twist it.

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Removing the Flange – Step-By-Step

No matter the reason you’re removing the bathtub drain, you’ll need to detach the drain flange next. Replacing this part is not too difficult as it is quite accessible. It is only if you need to remove the entire drain that it becomes more difficult, working beneath the bathtub.

1. Cleaning

You must first clean off any gunk that has appeared on the opening of your drain. Then, take your sponge and clean the inside of the flange. After it is clean, it will be easier to see the drain opening and flange. You can also get rid of any hair that might be stuck near the opening of the drain when you get the flange off.

2. Drain Key

Put your drain key into the opening of the drain in your bath. Get a wrench and clamp it to the nut located on the key. Turn your wrench anticlockwise until the wings touch the inside of the drain.

At this stage, it gets harder to move. If using a dumbbell, you’re going to need to insert it through the drain. Now, use the tines with a crossbar or strainer. Then use a screwdriver through the dumbbell to function as a lever.

3. Unscrewing

Turning whichever tool you are using anticlockwise should now unscrew the bathtub drain flange. This can be a real challenge due to the build-up of grime, putty, and calcium.

You may simply need to use additional force to unscrew the flange. Adding a steel pipe over the top of the screw handle or wrench can make it longer so you can unscrew it.

Top Tip: If it is just not unscrewing, sometimes applying heat can help. Heat can soften any putty and build-up that may be preventing you from unscrewing the flange. A heat gun or hair dryer may work well for this.

4. Clean the Opening

If there is any putty stuck around the drain opening, you can use a putty knife to scrape it off. If you don’t have one, try using a flathead screwdriver. A household cleaning product should be used to help you wipe off any dirt or gunk.

Use a toothbrush to clean the threads of the tailpiece. If the drain is blocked with hair, as bath drains often are, you can use the zip-it to remove this.

Now, you can install your new flange.

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