I have an old bathtub drain assembly that is similar to this:

Bathtub Drain

As far as I can tell, the linkage broke off completely due to old age. If I unscrew the trip lever and cover, it's not attached to anything and I can't feel anything if I try to reach inside.

I'm reasonably certain that the plunger is down since water doesn't drain from the tub.

Is there an easy way to retrieve the plunger? I've tried using a pickup tool from harbor freight:

pickup tool from harbor freight

This was unsuccessful after 30-40 minutes of trying. I really don't relish the thought of crawling under the house with our 8-legged friends and dismantling the drain. Any/all suggestions are welcome. =)

  • 2
    Maybe rig a shopvac to a piece of flexible hose? I'm trying to think like MacGyver here.
    – BMitch
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 12:29
  • @BMitch Thanks for the suggestion. Creative too. =)
    – Mike B
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 17:39
  • Do you know if the plunger is of a magnetic material?
    – Freiheit
    Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 14:05

7 Answers 7


Unfortunately, I think you're fixin' to go for a crawl with the crawlies. (At least you have that option -- the same task in my house would require a jackhammer.) There SHOULD be a P-trap below the drain. If you can get the tailpiece off of the bottom of the tub (unscrew the metal drain, then the tailpiece should pop out), you should be able to spear the plug.

  • Thanks. Yeah, I tried valiantly for another 40 - 50 minutes and still no luck.
    – Mike B
    Commented Sep 8, 2011 at 5:06
  • 6
    Just closing the loop on this one. Went under the house and the P trap was completely corroded -- actually the whole pipe for that matter. Called out our plumber and they replaced the drain in under an hour. Thanks again for your help.
    – Mike B
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 0:57

Here's what I used to fish out the plug. I got it on the 4th try in about 15 seconds. Piece of cake.

enter image description here

  • Ha. +1 for the ingenuity!
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 12:18
  • 1
    I would recommend not using a string + piece of plastic. If the plunger is too stuck, the string may break, the plastic hook could break, or the entire assembly could become lodged. Using a a coat hanger with a hook bent in the end, if the plunger is too stuck the hook will just bend out of shape and release.
    – odie5533
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 23:03

I just had this problem this morning and searched online for a solution, which is how I stumbled on this page. My lever would go up and down, but would not release the plug to drain the tub. I took the lever mechanism apart and the plug was not attached. I actually tried that same grabber tool but it didn't work. On a whim, I thought to try a using a c-hook, which I opened a bit more using a pair of pliers. Then I wrapped the screw-end of the c-hook with string, and lowered it into the hole. Somehow I hooked the plug on the very first attempt, and it pulled right out. Before I reattached the fixture, I used the pliers to close the hook around the plug so that it didn't dislodge again. Good luck!

  • I'm too new to post an answer, but I tried this with no luck (probably because my tub was full of water when it broke, so the c-hook on a string would just float). I ended up using this: dx.com/p/… which has a built in retrieval attachment. I was able to shove it under the water because it's a little more rigid and was able to see what was happening. I even took a video: youtube.com/watch?v=X16mUK2PuIU
    – Zuofu
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 2:50

The spring loaded pickup tool did not work. However, a coat hanger about 20" long with a 1/2" bent hook at the end worked. You need to stick the coat hanger down to the stopper and hook under the cross piece that the stopper rod is attached. It can stick below the stopper and you need to keep plunging and pulling the coat hanger to free it. You need to keep turning the coat hanger so that the hook lines up to hook under the cross piece on the stopper. Took about 3 to 4 minutes. Oh the stopper assembly was newly installed.enter image description hereenter image description here


I just had the same problem, and what I did, is bought ZEP brand crystal drain cleaner (available from Home Depot or Lowe's).

Simply remove the overflow plate (2 screws) and pour some CRYSTAL drain cleaner down the overflow tube using a funnel. Using a funnel again, pour some cold water down the tube (about 3 cups) let it clean the crud out. It does smell and burns your nose a bit. Then run about a quart of water down the tube again to rinse it out.

Next use a grabber claw tool (available at auto parts stores) and just start grabbing. I grabbed the linkage on the 3rd try. Put the linkage back together and you're done! Cheers!


I had this problem and took a wire coat hanger, straightened it, then bent a little hook on the end of it. After 10-15 attempts, I snagged it enough to release a little water out of the tub. After another five minutes I was able to dislodge the plug. I took it all the way out and everything is now working properly.

  • I used this method and managed to remove most of the assembly, but the actual stopper itself could not be found or snagged. The drain is running better than ever and no water gathers at all. Is there any way to locate the stopper without removing significant amounts of plumbing? Is it possible that the stopper has simply moved on? I can't be sure the stopper is possible to be found, so I'm not sure what I'd tell a plumber.
    – odie5533
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 23:08
  • @odie5533 You could try snaking it or sticking a boroscope down there, possibly attached to a snake...or ask a new question here on diy :)
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 19:54

I had the same problem and was able to suck the plastic stopper up through the overflow with a shop vac and then grab it with a pair of pliers to get it out.

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