I have an issue about some type of plunger stuck inside the overflow assembly. The tub is older and the overflow cover plate was gone and the entire assembly was missing when I got to the tub (helping a friend). I know there is something in the overflow assembly because I sent a plumber's snake down the overflow, pushed past a little resistance and the tub drained, almost as if I had pushed past something. I pulled the snake out and ever since then, I can't push the snake down anymore and the drain is completely blocked. With no assembly attached to the plunger, is there anyway I can retrieve it without going behind the tub or under the house? I tried coat hanger retrieval, I've tried the snake again and I tried WD-40, but to no avail.

  • Have you tried shining a light down there to take a look? Perhaps the flash on your phone as you take a picture? You could even share that with us so we might have an idea what we're looking at...
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 23:14
  • Any change of getting a few pictures so we have a slight idea of what you're dealing with?
    – JACK
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 23:14
  • Some old tub stoppers do not have bell, bucket, stopper on the end of the linkage in the overflow tube but the linkage has a spring that actuates a lever that moves a stopper into place for preventing the tub from draining.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


Soak it overnight with CLR to soften any lime/scale (the bucket, i.e. stopper will often have crusty stuff from years of just sitting there) then douche it with penetrating oil like liquid wrench. Then use a stiff heavy-gauge wire bent into a hook shape to try to fish the bucket out.

Then, instead of trying to replace the bucket and wire assembly, leave it out and put a blank trim plate on the overflow. Hand them a rubber stopper and scram before there are additional problems.

  • "scram before there are additional problems" makes it sound like this is a half-baked solution. That seems very much out of character for you, so I'm sure I'm reading that wrong. Want to clarify?
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 11:49
  • Rubber stopper and avoiding the failure-prone bucket and linkage is a good solution. I read "scram before there are additional problems" as not becoming the "friend who gets to help out" with a poorly maintained house and all its problems.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 17:53
  • 1
    Yes, to clarify the "scram" comment: it was supposed to be a humorous reference to a) my frustrating historical experiences with waste & overflow assemblies that utilize a bucket & wire stopper mechanism, in general; and b) the tendency of older assemblies of this type to turn into the proverbial "can of worms" whereby messing with it could lead to a host of additional problems (e.g. damage to any given component, failure at ancient fitting connections, movement of drain shoe causing leak at strainer, etc) Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 18:39

You may have to remove the overflow pipe from the back of the tub to remove the plunger if it actually there.

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