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I’m trying to figure out how to snake a tub clog. The tub has a pop up stopper that won’t fit a snake. The overflow has a single bolt in the center that screws into a large piece of pvc in the overflow pipe with no room to fit a snake around. The tub is on a slab so there’s no access from underneath. Do I have any options besides citing a hole in the other side of the wall and putting in a clean out?

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    If you'll provide a pic or two of what you're looking at, people will be better able to help you.
    – FreeMan
    2 days ago

4 Answers 4

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Pop up drains generally have a chrome cap that unscrews to reveal a slotted screw head underneath, or the older style which has a set screw pointing sideways but is underneath the popup and can only be viewed by getting all the way down to eye level with the thing.

These screws allow removal of the pop up without removing the pipes.

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  • Even with the pop up out the spaces around where it screws in are to small for a snake Sep 21 at 17:52
  • @BarryHinsinger Are we talking about a drum auger or a hair snake or Roto Rooter here? It just requires the right tools. Sep 21 at 17:56
  • It’s this homedepot.com/p/… Sep 21 at 18:07
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    @BarryHinsinger That might work in the overflow tube. Can you add a photo of the PVC situation? As for the popup tube, try a hair snake. If the clog can't be reached with a hair snake then it's not in that tube anyway. Sep 21 at 18:30
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    @BarryHinsinger Now I understand you have a PVC 1-hole overflow. If the auger doesn't fit in there then you need a smaller snake. Better to get the right tool than tear open the walls. Sep 21 at 22:58
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Alternative tool suggestion

I commend you on going chemical before snake. However I usually add what I would have called a plunger (my dictionary insists it's called "plumber's helper", a stick as handle with a rubber bell on one end) as two extra steps (1 + 3):

  1. When anything clogs, I try the plumber's helper first. Focus on sucking more than pushing but don't be shy of shaking the clog apart by doing both. The clog built up in the push direction. Thus it's more likely to fall apart in the suck/pull direction. Also make sure there's a water level sufficiently high so that the plumber's helper gets a good seal. Air between plumber's helper and clog dampens your effort (air is expandable/compressible, water is not in this context). If parts of the clog come back out of the drain, fish them out. Don't let them get back into the drain.

  2. If that doesn't help, I try loosening the clog with chemicals. My chemical of choice is just a big scoop of washing soda. I add some (hot) water to flush it up to the clog and let that sit for a couple of hours (if possible overnight) and then pour a cup of concentrated vinegar on top (next morning). Your chemical likely works too but washing soda and concentrated vinegar is what I keep in stock for other tasks anyway.

  3. If the chemical doesn't help on its own, I try the plumber's helper again. Most often the clog loses enough coherence to make it work. A soda soaked clog often loosens up quite a bit when doused in vinegar, because the two react to CO2 with lots of hissing and foaming.

  4. Finally, I would lend my brother's snake. However I never had to yet.
    Caveat: There's currently no one with long hair around the drains that I'm responsible for. Long hair does a remarkable job at stabilizing clogs. I usually estimate 15-20 minutes work with the plumber's helper including fetching it, cleaning up the mess that comes back up the drain and test flushing the drain. With long hair in the clog, you should be prepared for at least half an hour of intensive work, if not more. Also for long-hair-clogs you want to act as soon as they become noticeable. Kicking it down the road will only add more hair to the clog.

Please note: The tub's overflow makes the plumber's helper less efficient. Ideally, you plug up the overflow (remember to unplug, when you're done). Alternatively, it helps to press a wet towel over the overflow to sort of plug it up temporarily.

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  • The use of "plumber's helper", while consistently missing the apostrophe, is just so awkward, even if that's what your dictionary calls it. The rest of the world calls it a plunger. (Where "world" = "USA", I'm sure there are other terms elsewhere that are equally not-so-awkward).
    – FreeMan
    yesterday
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  1. If you have any extra insulated copper wire laying around, you could bend back one end (to avoid possibly scratching the plastic pipe) and shove it into the popup drain to use as a makeshift snake. I find that a few feet of insulated solid 12AWG works wonders for those little holes that a real snake won't go through.

  2. You could try chemically dissolving the clog if you have the time to wait.

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    I’ve tried clearing it with zep liquid heat, usually go chemical before breaking out the snake. It helped a little but it looks like a significant clog. I will try the wire before I start cutting holes in the wall Sep 21 at 18:03
  • I'm not sure that the chemicals are always the fastest solution. Also, having chemicals in the pipe makes for a less than ideal solution should you need to plunge and/or snake later. You don't want them splashing back at you.
    – FreeMan
    2 days ago
  • True - Drano and the like are certainly not the fastest - thus my "if you have the time to wait" :) - but the OP was looking for options other than disassembly. It wasn't known at the time that he had already tried that.
    – Chris O
    2 days ago
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Use a drain tool and unscrew the drain part in your tub. Should be relatively easy.

Now snake it.

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