clock menu more-arrow no yes

How to Remove a Bathtub Drain

If you’re looking to replace an old bathtub drain, it’s not difficult to do the job yourself. Read these steps to learn more.

Bath tub and drain Susan Seubert

Requiring only a few tools, replacing a bathtub drain is a fairly simple job that virtually anyone can do. To begin, you’ll need the following items on hand:

Steps to Remove a Bathtub Drain

Step 1: Identify the stopper

There are many types of bathtub stoppers. Three common models that don’t rely on a trip lever mechanism are the toe-touch, the push-pull, and the lift-and-turn. The toe-touch stopper pops open and shut when you press on it.

The push-pull features a center knob that you push in to close or pull out to open. Finally, the lift-and-turn resembles the push-pull, but it requires you to lift and turn the stopper (clockwise to close, counterclockwise to open).

If your stopper is connected to a trip lever mechanism, it’s either a pop-up model or plunger-style (also known as a bucket stopper). The pop-up typically features a visible stopper that’s raised or lowered by the trip lever, while the plunger relies on an internal stopper to block the water when the lever is activated; in those setups, the drain is typically covered by a screen or strainer.

Step 2: Remove the stopper

Toe-touch stoppers are relatively easy to remove—just pop open the stopper and unscrew the shaft cylinder by turning it counterclockwise.

  • To remove a push-pull stopper, set it in the open position and turn the knob counterclockwise with one hand while holding the body of the stopper in the other. For increased leverage, hold onto the body with a towel and use a pair of pliers to turn the knob.
  • For the lift-and-turn, set the drain to open. Hold the body of the stopper and turn the knob to look for a set screw on the knob. If there is one, unscrew it using a screwdriver or hex key.
  • Turn the stopper counterclockwise until it’s free from the mounting post, and then remove the mounting post with pliers.
  • For a pop-up stopper, flip the lever to open the drain and pull the stopper straight up along with the metal (“rocker”) arm that extends through the drainpipe. If it doesn’t come out easily, jiggle it gently as you pull up.
  • The stopper of the plunger-style setup is found inside the drainpipe, not near the drain opening.
  • To take it out, remove the screws from the faceplate of the trip lever, then carefully pull the faceplate away. The rest of the hardware should follow; jiggle as necessary to loosen the entire structure and pull it out.
  • If there’s a screen or strainer in the bathtub, pry it off with a flathead screwdriver (removing any screws first).

Step 3: Soften the plumber’s putty

  • Most drains will have been fitted during installation with plumber’s putty that’s now hardened.
  • Soften it with a hairdryer or heat gun, applying hot air directly into the drain for a few minutes. The putty should give way, releasing its grip on the drain fitting.

Step 4: Remove the drain fitting

  • Most drain fittings feature a metal “X” that keeps objects from falling in. If your drain fitting has these crossbars, insert a drain wrench into the cross shape and turn counterclockwise to unscrew it. (There are two ends to the wrench; use the side that offers the best fit.)
  • You can also try using a pair of needle-nose pliers to grip the X and unscrew the drain fitting. It should be loose enough after a few rotations to be unscrewed the rest of the way by hand. Then just pull it out.
  • If your drain fitting doesn’t have metal crossbars, you’ll need to remove it with a tub drain extractor that’s designed to grip the inside walls of the drain fitting.