7 Practical Ways to Plug a Bathtub Drain Without a Stopper

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?

The following are ways of plugging a bathtub drain without a stopper:

  • Use a Washcloth or Rag: Fold a washcloth or rag tightly and push it into the drain to block the water. Ensure it fits snugly to create an effective seal.
  • Suction Cup Plug: Place a suction cup over the drain and press it down firmly to create a seal. This method is effective for small to medium-sized drains.
  • Silicone Drain Cover: Consider purchasing a silicone drain cover that can adhere to the drain’s surface and form a temporary seal.
  • Plastic Bag and Rubber Band: Cover the drain opening with a plastic bag and secure it in place with a rubber band or a twist tie to create a makeshift stopper.
  • Sink or Drain Stopper: If available, use a sink or drain stopper that fits the drain opening. These can provide a temporary solution for bathtub drains.
  • Inverted Cup or Bowl: Place an inverted cup or small bowl over the drain, pressing it down to form a seal. Be cautious about using glass items that could break.
  • DIY Putty or Clay: Create a temporary seal using plumber’s putty or modeling clay. Mold it around the drain opening to block the water.
  • Tape or Plastic Wrap: Cover the drain with plastic wrap or duct tape, ensuring it adheres tightly to prevent water from escaping.

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.

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