Removing a Tub Drain
WD-40 won't do the trick, but a few of choice tools—or a plumbing pro—can
I would like to remove my old tub drain, but it won't budge. I imagine it's supposed to unscrew, so I tried squirting it with WD-40 and tapping it lightly, to no avail. What should I try next?
—Don Justin, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Richard Trethewey replies: WD-40 isn't going to help you. A tub drain is threaded into a horizontal pipe called a waste shoe, and sealed under its flange with a foam washer or plumber's putty. This seal is what's preventing the lubricant from reaching the drain's threads.
Plumbers have specialized tub-drain removers and pop-up plug wrenches for this purpose, but you can make your own drain remover with a pair of slip-joint pliers and a beefy screwdriver. Slide the pliers' handles down the drain, past the X-shaped metal arms or crosshairs inside, then put a screwdriver between the handles and use it like a lever to unscrew the drain. At first you'll need a bit of muscle to break the putty's grip, but once you do, the drain usually comes out easily. If the crosshairs are broken or missing, you'll need a tool called a drain key, which can be tightened against the inside of the drain. You should be able to find one through a plumbing supply house or plumbingworld.com.
One caution: If you somehow damage the waste shoe, it'll be a real nuisance getting everything back together. So if your goal is to remove the tub, then go for it. But if you just want to replace the drain, call a plumber.