The drain in our tub is slow and I'd like to snake it. I was planning on going through the overflow / drain stopper toggle plate:

enter image description here

But I can't remove the stopper and link from the overflow pipe. It seems stuck—there's maybe 1/2" of vertical travel and I can't pull it up any more. I've tried a moderate amount of force, but I don't want to break anything and be in a worse spot.

Is there some trick to this? Should I just pull hard? Or does it require disassembly from behind the wall?

EDIT: Sorry for not being more specific about the fixture: the tub does not have a pop-up stopper in the tub floor. The drain fixture is just a grate (can't get a snake through). I assume that the stopper is suspended in the overflow pipe, like Tester101's second image.

EDIT 2: After fiddling with the lever more I was still unable to get the stopper out. I'm also unable to close the drain plug.

However, somehow in my jiggling I must've loosened the clog, since the tub is now draining well. Oh well, problem solved, I guess! I don't take baths so am not concerned about not being able to close it.

  • Why not remove the stopper and go through there? There's a good chance any clog will be in the horizontal section of the pipe before you get to the vertical one the overflow accesses. Also note that a clogged vent will also make for slow drainage (need air behind water for fast drainage) so if this doesn't fix the problem you may need to go to the roof and clean the vent pipes. Oct 10 '12 at 12:43
  • I just clarified the answer: there's no pop-up stopper. The grate in the tub floor is permanent and I can't get a snake through it.
    – Hank
    Oct 10 '12 at 12:57
  • Hmm... Maybe the stopper was the "clog".
    – Tester101
    Oct 12 '12 at 16:57
  • 1
    Yup, could be. I'm still not sure why it's stuck, but at least it's not backing up.
    – Hank
    Oct 12 '12 at 19:32

First, make sure that the clog is accessible via the overflow. Try this test... While the tub is draining slowly, pour water down the overflow through a funnel. If that drains fast, then the clog is in the horizontal arm and no clearing through the overflow will help you.

What works for me is to use a wet cloth to seal off the overflow (replace it first to make as small an opening as possible). With the tub 1/2 full of water and holding the wet cloth over the overflow vent, a plunger should then be able to clear the clog because it will force water down the drain (horizontal or vertical) rather than pushing water up the overflow pipe (or pulling air down it). Should that fail, use draino or physically pry off the grate for an auger.

The plunger should pull some amount of gunk back up into the tub while you're using it, even through the grate. If that doesn't happen and the drainage does not improve, then you may have a clogged vent. You need air behind water for it to drain quickly otherwise it's like water draining from an upside-down bottle. Cleaning the vent means going up on the roof and clearing the clog from there -- a hose at full blast will usually do this.

As for fully removing the overflow and parts... I don't know.

  • I wasn't able to get the stopper out, but the clog seems to be gone (see my answer's "Edit 2"). However, this answer has some good tips that I hadn't thought of, so I'm going to accept it as the answer. Hopefully I'll never have to try them.
    – Hank
    Oct 12 '12 at 2:12

This is likely what you're dealing with...

enter image description here

Try wiggling the lift linkage while you pull up. If that doesn't work, try lifting/wiggling the stopper as you pull the lift linkage up.

This area of the drain often collects quite a bit of gunk, and may become difficult to disassemble when it's gunked up.

You could also try removing the stopper and rocker arm first (removal instructions will depend on make and model of stopper).

If you don't have a pop up stopper, forget everything you just read. You could be dealing with something like this...

enter image description here

In which case, the plunger may be getting hung up (possibly on gunk). Try wiggling the lift linkage while you pull up, this might free up the plunger and allow you to pull it out.

  • I just clarified the question, my drain is like your second picture (no pop-up stopper). If you think there is "gunk" preventing the plunger from coming out, do you think I should pour a bit of draino down the overflow pipe to break it up a bit?
    – Hank
    Oct 10 '12 at 13:06
  • Some of that foaming type drain cleaner might help. But if it's the plunger type of stopper, it may not be that gunked up.
    – Tester101
    Oct 10 '12 at 13:24

With a funnel, pour hot water first and then vinegar generously into the overflow drain, wiggling the lift linkage in all directions and let it sit over night. Repeat the process as needed . Finally, I put a big flat head screw driver under the pin and put something between the screw driver and the bottom of the overflow opening. Push the screw driver handle downward. Hopefully that will do it. Good luck.


I used WD-40 but not usual stuff. Found penetrating WD-40 at home depot. Also got a plastic hair clog tool. Sprayed down pipe, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, stuck clog tool down, jiggled it around and viola...able to pull out stopper (lucky it hadn't broken off).

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