Sure, bathtubs are useful and necessary, and generally easy to care for… until the overflow starts acting up. And when you have bathtub overflow problems, things are going to get messy and stay messy until you fix them. Here are a few potential problems you might run into and some probable solutions for dealing with bathtub overflow problems quickly and effectively.
1) Black Ooze and Stagnant Water
If you head into your bathroom one day to find black gunk inside the tub, and you clean it up only to find that the next day your tub is full of water that won’t drain out, you’ve got yourself a serious issue. If you don’t get rid of that water, the tub will overflow and keep filling up with water, leaving you with a pretty nasty mess to clean up.
What you want to do is clean out whatever is blocking your tub’s drainage system before it causes further problems.
While bathtub overflows are meant to keep the water from doing just that – overflowing – in this case your system is probably so clogged that even the overflow needs cleaning. It’ll be in the main line, so get down there and clean it out. Don’t use any more water in your house until you’ve got this cleaned up.
2) An Overflow That Won’t Drain
If your overflow is oozing soap suds or water as your tub drains out after a bath or shower, you’re going to need to do a few things.
First, remove the screen in your tub. Second, use a pair of thin pliers to try and reach whatever it is that’s wrapped around the metal inside. More often than not, it’ll be a mass of hair that’s clogging things up. If you own a wet/dry vacuum, you can use this to get the clogs out with less mess.
If you still can’t find the problem, or you can’t get a pair of pliers inside, what you might also do is try to use a drain snake. Put the snake into the overflow, and use it to pull out whatever’s clogging things up inside.
Another thing you could try is a crank-rod. Take off the overflow plate, and stick the rod about four feet down. Turn the crank-rod clockwise as you go in, and when you bring it out, turn counter-clockwise. This should catch any hair or foreign matter sitting inside the drain.
3) Really Tough Bathtub Overflow Problems
If you’ve already tried cleaning the main, using pliers, snaking the drain, and still can’t figure out what the problem is, there’s one more solution you can try on your own, but this requires some fairly serious knowledge of your pipes. If you don’t know what your pipes are made of, don’t try this method – you’ll have to call a plumber.
Otherwise, for pipes that are UPVC – not cast iron – pour a strong solution of acid into the clogged overflow. What should happen is the acid will eat away at whatever is blocking the pipes. Do this overnight, as it needs some time to work, but if your pipes and connections are iron, the acid will eat away at the metal too, springing leaks all along your pipeline.
If you choose to go this route, open any windows that are near the bathroom, since some acid compounds can have very strong fumes that may be problematic for individuals who are sensitive to strong odors.
Also, just for personal safety, it’s always a good idea to take precautions when using chemical cleaners in any household project – wear gloves, don’t get any on your skin, and don’t directly breathe in the fumes. If you get acid on your skin, wash thoroughly and call poison control if you see any changes or discoloration.