A clogged bathtub may be a little higher on the difficulty scale than a clogged kitchen drain or toilet, but most homeowners should be able to fix this problem using basic repair tools and commercially available chemical drain openers. Before attempting any clogged bathtub repair, however, you may want to first make sure that you have all of these tools and chemicals on the premises. This could mean a trip to a local hardware store to buy a plunger or plumber's helper, a drain snake, an adjustable pipe wrench and a chemical drain opener.
One of the first ways to fix a clogged bathtub is to visually inspect the drain for obvious blockages. Sometimes, a small bar of soap or a child's toy becomes wedged in the bathtub drain and it becomes a simple matter of pulling the blockage out. The object may be stuck a short way down the drain, so careful prodding might dislodge it. Clumps of hair can also accumulate behind the plate covering the water controls, so it might help to remove that plate by removing a few screws and manually cleaning out the opening.
If the clog cannot be removed easily by hand, then use a plunger or plumber's helper. A plunger is a simple tool consisting of a rubber cup and a wooden handle. The cup should be placed squarely over the hole in order to get a good seal, then you press down on the cup with the stick until it is fully compressed over the drain. Sometimes, this initial burst of pressure will dislodge the clog, but many times the plunger will need to be pulled up and pressed down repeatedly. After several strong compressions, check for any signs of draining water.
If physical plunging does not remove the clog from the bathtub drain, it may be time for more aggressive chemical action. The instructions on most chemical drain openers call for the users to put on protective clothing, including goggles and rubber gloves. The drain opener may be poured into standing water, but some manufacturers may recommend removing as much excess water as possible. Once the drain opener has been poured into the bathtub drain, it must be given enough time to work. After a specified amount of time has elapsed, the drain should be checked for any signs of restored water flow.
The last resort to fix a clogged bathtub is to either run a plumbing snake through the drain system or remove the actual drain pipe for a thorough inspection and cleaning. This kind of work is generally reserved for professional plumbers, but a motivated amateur handyman should be able to maneuver a flexible pipe snake through a drain without causing significant damage. If this attempt should fail to produce any results, however, the next step may be to call in a professional plumber, since the clog may be located far from the bathtub itself.
Sometimes, the best defense against a clogged bathtub is a good offense, so it pays to use a properly fitted screen or filter over the open drain to prevent larger objects from falling in, and to keep an eye on any accumulations of hair or other detritus around the drain and behind the control face plate.