It is very frustrating when you just want to soak up in the tub after a long day but the bathtub won’t just hold water. This problem is usually caused by a faulty bathtub drain stopper.
A faulty bathtub stopper is often caused by debris/dirt or mineral deposits making it sticky, or it could also be caused by a worn out O-ring/gasket. So, how can you block a bathtub drain without a stopper?
A quick way to plug a bathtub drain without a stopper is to wrap a washcloth in a plastic bag and stuff it (most of it) inside the bathtub drain. Alternatively, fill a plastic bag with water and hold it over the tub drain as you fill it with water. The weight and pressure of the water will push against the bag creating a watertight seal.
There are actually many practical ways to block a bathtub drain without a stopper, or with a faulty stopper. To do this you have to first understand the type of stopper you have since you might need to remove it first.
Types of Bathtub Stoppers
There is a difference between a bathtub drain hole and the stopper. The drain hole is the opening through which water empties from the tub while the stopper is the accessory that controls the opening and closing of the drain. In a way it acts like a valve.
Here are the different types of bathtub stoppers:
1. Trip Lever bathtub stopper
This is the most unique of all bathtub stoppers. It is usually fitted on the side of the bathtub on the top of the overflow plate. The lever is connected to the plunger which closes and opens the draining using 2 link rods.
To use this stopper you simply flip the lever up and down to close and open the bathtub drain. Hair, soap scum, mineral deposits, debris and the entanglement of the 2 rods can contribute to the stopper not working.
By the way check out how to convert a trip-lever to a pop-up stopper in this post.
2. Lift and Turn Bathtub Stopper
A lift and turn bathtub stopper is the one with a small knob on top of the drain stopper cap. To close this type of stopper, you usually turn the knob until the stopper goes down. If you want to open it, lift it and turn the knob in the opposite direction which will lift the stopper off the drain hole
3. Push and Pull Bathtub Stopper
A push and pull bathtub drain stopper is very similar in design to the lift and turn tub drain stopper. As its name suggests, you normally push the stopper cap down to close it and pull it up to open it. The stopper body is usually attached to the drain using a screw found under the cap of the stopper.
4. Toe Touch Bathtub Stopper
A toe touch bathtub stopper, also known as a foot-actuated bathtub stopper looks very much like the push and pull bathtub stopper only that is usually operated using the toe. It is flat at the top, and without a knob. The stopper is spring-loaded, and normally attached to the drain bar using a screw found underneath the cap.
5. Flip-It Bathtub Stopper
A flip-it bathtub drain stopper is the easiest to work with. A toggle lever attached to the top of the stopper is pushed side to side to open or close it. This bathtub stopper is not threaded to the drain hole and does not need any tools to remove or install it.
An in-built O-ring holds it in place creating a water tight seal. If you have a bathtub with type of stopper which is not holding water then definitely the O-ring is the problem.
Depending on how you decide to plug your bathtub whose stopper is not working, you will most likely need to remove the stopper. Luckily, removing a tub stopper is a quick and easy process as the video below illustrates. If you have a trip-lever bathtub stopper then you don’t need to remove it.
How to Block a bathtub Drain without a Stopper
The following are the different methods you can use to plug off or block a bathtub drain when it is just not holding water. I will give you a several of them so that you are able choose the one that best works for you.
I should however say that all these are temporary fixes and you should aim to replace your faulty bathtub stopper as soon as possible.
1. Washcloth in a Plastic Bag
This is my favorite method. It will work perfectly and you only need a cloth and plastic bag. This is how it works:
- Grab a washcloth or sponge, roll and squeeze it so that it is only slightly larger than the drain opening.
- Insert it in a small plastic bag and push out as much air as possible.
- Seal the plastic bag. Alternatively, you can opt to wrap the cloth with a plastic bag and roll it several times.
- Insert the cloth in the drain opening so that it is firmly held in place.
- Start filling the tub with water.
- Enjoy your bath.
2. Plastic Bag with Water
This method works just like the one above. Let us see how to go about it:
- Fill a storage plastic bag with water and seal it.
- Place the bag of water over the drain hole opening. To do this, insert the tip of the plastic bag inside the drain hole and hold the entire bag in place with one hand. Now start filling the tub with water. Holding the bag in place prevents it from shifting in position due to buoyancy.
- After more water has filled the tub, let go of the bag. The force and pressure of the water will create a suction force inside the drainpipe which will as a result tightly hold the bag in place, creating a tight seal.
When you are done bathing, simply lift off the plastic bag and let the water drain. You should however be careful not to kick the bag with your feet while bathing.
3. Plumber’s Putty
Granted, not many people will have plumber’s putty in their house unless you are a DIY enthusiast. As it name suggests, plumber’s putty is a soft material that plumbers use to make leak-proof seals around faucets and other fixtures.
If you have a trip-lever bathtub stopper, this method will not work. It is best for pop-up drain stoppers. Here is how to proceed:
- Scoop a little putty and roll it between your hands. The aim is to have a thin roll that can nicely fit round the bathtub stopper.
- Lift off the stopper and encircle the roll of putty on the gasket/O-ring.
- Push the stopper down to create a tight seal.
Once you are done bathing, drain the bathtub and remove the putty.
4. Medicine Bottle Top
Bring out your medicine and/or vitamins bottles and look for the size of the bottle top that will fit exactly on the drain opening. Essentially it should slightly be bigger so that it creates a tight seal.
Push the bottle top inside the drain opening, upside down. Doing it this way will make it easy for you to retrieve it. If the bottle top is slightly small, fold a plastic bag several times around it. Try this out several times until it’s tight enough.
5. Use a Jar Lid
- Walk around the house and especially the kitchen and look for a jam jar lid or any other jar lid that is larger than the bathtub opening.
- Place it upside down on the drain hole. For good adherence with the tub, dampen it with water.
- Hold it with your hand tightly above the drain opening and start filling the bathtub with water.
- As more water fills the bathtub, it will exert pressure on the lid holding it firm in place. A suction force will also be created below the lid which will prevent it from shifting.
6. Tape the Drain Hole
If you have duct tape in the house then this is an easy and practical solution. To make sure that the tape sticks properly on the tub, wipe the area around the drain opening with a dry rag or towel.
Cut small pieces of duct tape and make a star (*) across the drain opening. Fill your tub with water and enjoy your bath. This is fantastic way to plug a flat drain hole.
7. Bring on the Drain Plunger
No matter how desperate you are please don’t use a toilet plunger. I know some people recommend cleaning it in the sink prior but just don’t do it. It is just gross.
Use a plunger dedicated to unclogging the bathtub or sink. Cleaning it properly and remove the wooden handle. I think it would be weird to take a bathe with a handle sticking out into the tub.
Place the plunger cup around the bathtub drain hole and start fill the tub with water. When the cup is fully covered with water, let go of it. The suction force created below the plunger cup is enough to hold it tightly in place.
All of the above mentioned methods will work perfectly to help you block a bathtub drain without a stopper. They are however all temporary fixes and you should have you bathtub drain stopper fixed or replaced as soon as possible.