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What To Do When Drain Snake Won’t Go Down Bathtub Drain

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

DIY in your own home is an art on its own. It saves plenty of time and money. Instead of paying for a plumber, you may want to fix issues yourself.

When you are working on your plumbing, you will need to have the right tools. One of these essential pieces of equipment is a drain snake.

As the name suggestions, this is a motorized snake-like device that is typically used to remove any clogs in your bathtub or sink drain (see also ‘Plumbers Putty or Silicone To Seal A Bathtub Drain?‘).

We found it is best to try resolving any clogs in a drain with vinegar and boiling water first.

Only if that does not work, then you can try to dislodge the blockage with the drain snake.

However, you need to make sure that you use it correctly.

We take a quick look at how to use a plumber’s snake, and then find out why you may not be able to get the snake down your bathtub drain.

How Does A Drain Snake Work?

Also called plumber’s snake, this device is very easy to use but you need to make sure that it is done correctly.

First, move the head of the drain snake into the drain. Then start to uncoil the rest by rotating the handle.

The drain snake will then uncoil, and move further down the drainpipe. At some point you will feel a slight resistance.

When this happens, keep turning the handle. The obstruction in the pipe will have cleared when you do not notice any resistance anymore.

Why You Can’t Get A Drain Snake Down A Bathtub Drain?

A drain snake is a really simple concept that helps remove blockages inside the drain pipe of your bathtub.

However, you need to get the drain snake a little bit down the pipe first. Here’s what you need to look out for in order to get the snake down the pipe.

Wrong Drain Snake Size

One of the biggest issues we find time and time again is that people use the wrong size drain snake. 

If you use the incorrect size, then it is likely that your drain snake won’t either even go inside the pipe or it may only move a few inches into the pipe.

Normally the opening of a tub plug is only one and a half inches wide. This doesn’t allow a lot of space for anything to go in.

The same applies to the pipe as well. Typically, bathtub drain pipes aren’t much wider than the opening itself.

For these particular blockages of a bathtub pipe, we recommend using a small drum auger that use a cable of 25 feet long.

They are also very thin which makes it much easier to maneuver them around in smaller pipes such as drainpipes.

In order to avoid the wrong size, make sure that you measure the opening of your bathtub overflow, and check the drain snake is suitable for this purpose.

Wrong Drain

Wrong Drain

A drain snake typically does not fit into the bottom drain of a bathtub. This is because the pipe at the bottom of your tub bends sharply.

You won’t be able to navigate this bend with a snake, as it is too stiff. For this, you need to insert the snake into the overflow cover.

Wrong Type Of Snake

Not all drain snakes are the same. Plastic sink snakes aren’t usually working for bathtub blockages.

You will need to have a motorized snake instead. This uses a small motor to get through the pipes until it hits the obstruction and pulls it out.

Faulty Drain Snake

If you are sure that your drain snake is the correct size and it is the right type, but it still won’t go down the pipe, then there may be something wrong with the plumber’s snake itself.

Make sure that you test the drain snake properly before. Check that all the parts and components work as they should do.

As a lot of plumbing tools get used over and over, check that there are no old clogs stuck to the drain snake, if it was used previously.

If you find that your drain snake is broken or damaged, then you will need to replace it as a broken snake will not go down the drain.

Too Big Blockage

Although the majority of clogs can easily be handled with a drain snake, sometimes certain clogs may be just too big.

You will find that when an obstruction is too set or it is too big to be dislodged by a snake, then the snake won’t move further down the drain.

This usually happens when a bathtub drain has been blocked for a while and you haven’t cleared it immediately.

When the water is standing in your bathtub and there is no drainage, then the blockage is likely too big to be removed with a drain snake.

Too Much Force

If you haven’t handled a drain snake before then it is easy to use too much pressure onto the cable.

When you slowly feed the drain snake down the pipe, you will need to do so at a slow pace to prevent any damage.

After all, you want to get to the blockage.

If you push too much or too fast, then the drain snake may tangle or bend. This can lead to the snake getting inside in the drain, and then only a plumber will be able to remove it.

If you think you have forced the snake too quickly, then try to gently pull it back out of the pipe. You can then try to feed the snake down again, but slowly.

You should only push the cable of the snake a few inches at once. Then pause, and push again. This will take a few minutes but it is worth it.

However, if you find that your drain snake is stuck inside the pipe, then it’s best to contact a plumber immediately.


There are plenty of household remedies that should be your first point of call for a clogged bathtub drain.

If you notice the water standing in your tub for longer, then this is however a job for either a motorized snake or a plumber.

There are a number of reasons why a snake won’t go down a bathtub. Depending on your snake or the pipe, you may also be using the snake in the wrong way.

It’s best to check that you use the drain snake correctly and that it is suitable for the type of obstruction that you want to remove.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases. When it comes to dealing with clogged drains, many homeowners turn