My tub was draining slowly, so I removed the drain cover stopper and reached down into the drain with needle-nose pliers and extracted a disgusting wad of hair and soap residue, as I have done several times before.

However, this time it didn't solve the issue, so I got a drain snake and fed it down into the drain, but it did not extract any further clogs. And on my next shower, the tub drained much more slowly. I made the problem worse!

I thought I would have to call a plumber. As a last resort I watched a few do-it-yourself videos on YouTube, and one of them showed removing the overflow plate and feeding the drain snake down that way, instead of the actual drain. So I tried that, and lo and behold, it brought out another fat disgusting hair clog.

Why did snaking the overflow plate work, when the actual drain didn't?

3 Answers 3


Because the standard tub drain has a sharp right-angle T junction where the overflow and tub drain meet (this is also where the stopper is located if the stopper is operated by a lever on the overflow plate, as opposed to an in-the-tub stopper or rubber stopper over the drain.)

The sharp right-angle is not friendly to snakes passing, and the stopper, if present, even less so. Coming down the overflow is, on the other hand, a straight shot, and the stopper comes out with the plate if it's that style of stopper, so it's not in the way.

I highly recommend using a hair-catcher over the tub drain to reduce this problem going forward - a little more frequent easy cleaning of somewhat less disgusting collected hair .vs. dealing with the gunked up mess collected over a longer period in the pipes.

  • 2
    I agree and have tried those hair catchers the wife says they are disgusting when the girls are in the bath so it gets pulled and not put back in 6 granddaughters it builds up fast especially in the summer when we have 3 grandchildren here almost every day.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 15:21
  • 3
    @EdBeal Problem is not how many grandchildren but how many baths :-). Let them go grimy Commented Jul 16, 2019 at 18:37
  • Hair catcher or getting hosed in the garden. Whatever the hair catches don't catch, it ends up in the pipes for you to collect some years down the line.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 2:14
  • 1
    @EdBeal as someone with long hair I agree with Nelson's suggestion. Either shower with the hair catcher (and clean the damn thing after you're done, don't leave your hairball for someone else!) or get hosed down in the garden. I'd even go as far as to check the tub after they shower; if the catcher isn't in there and/or there isn't a hairball in the garbage, hose them down anyways, just for a reminder of how it works at your house.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 18:47
  • Well since I have tried to keep the hair catchers in there I think they work as I stated, as far as let the kids go grimy that is a no go, we have a horse farm and the kids also love the creek so musky creek water or horse smell has to go (plus anything that squish’s up through your toes) most of the kids only wear shoes when riding or grooming the horses.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 23:19

Because, as others have pointed out, the overflow is a straight shot down the drain pipe and the bathtub drain has a couple of nasty 90-degree corners that the snake isn't likely to get past. Here's a picture of the typical set-up:

Shower/Tub Drain, Typical


I believe you missed part of the plug that was clinging on to the stopper. By running down the overflow you picked that last chunk up, I have found in some cases that pulling the stopper out makes it easier to get to the plugs, but many times I have to do both as my wife and all the grand daughters have long hair so for me this is an every 6 month thing. I pull the stopper because it is easy, if the hair in the drain comes out I put it back together but most of the time I have to pull the fitting and get the little bit that is still hanging on. Now I am good for 6 more months.

  • My daughter is long-haired and I can tell when she's back from college. It takes about 2 days... :/
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 13:35

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