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Why Your Bathtub Won’t Hold Water And How To Fix

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

Do you love a hot, relaxing soak in the bath after a long, hard day at work?

Do you love to lock yourself away in the bathroom with a glass of wine and a good book when your kids are wreaking havoc in your living room? 

Picture this; you get home, throw your bag down in the hall and kick off your shoes.

You run straight to the bathroom and start running your bath, adding the bath salts and the bubbles.

You go to the kitchen to grab yourself a glass of wine and when you get back, all the water has drained away! 

Now, there are many reasons as to why your bathtub may not be holding water.

Most of the causes are very easy to fix so read on to find out why your bathtub might be draining quickly!

You will also find some temporary solutions below in case you just cannot wait for your bath.

Why Your Bathtub Won’t Hold Water

The Drain Stopper Is The Wrong Size 

One reason that your bath may be prematurely draining could be due to an issue with your drain stopper.

In some cases, your original drain stopper may have been lost and you may have replaced it with a rubber plug which can be the wrong size.

If your drain stopper is the reason your bathtub doesn’t hold water, this is easily rectified.

To fix this issue, you simply need to find one that is the appropriate size for your drain. 

The Rubber Part Of The Stopper Is Missing 

The rubber piece around the bath stopper is the part of the drain stopper that prevents the water from leaking out.

It acts as a seal. If this is missing, or is worn in some way, the bathtub won’t be able to hold the water.

Have a look at your bath stopper to see if it fits tight in your drain.

This can be fixed by purchasing a new rubber piece at the store. Ensure it is the correct size for your bathtub!

A Faulty Pop-Up Drain Stopper 

Another reason that your bath water may be draining away is due to an issue with your pop-up drain stopper.

More modern baths (see also ‘Is A Bath Fitter Really Worth It?‘) are usually fitted with a pop-up plug which is controlled using a lever and a spring.

Why Your Bathtub Won’t Hold Water And How To Fix

Problems or faulty connections between the plug and the spring could cause the plug to remain stuck open, meaning the water will not remain in the bath.

This would also usually cause the bathtub drain lever to become stuck in one direction, or to spring back when it is moved. 

To find out if this is the cause of your problem, have a look at the mechanism.

Check if it is connected and functioning as it should be. You can do this by pulling the lever to expose the spring fully. You should notice that the linkage/spring is:

  • Hanging straight down
  • The pin is located at the top

If the spring has become disconnected, and you can see it, you could try to retrieve it with a magnet and reattach it.

You may also notice that the spring is bent, in which case you will need to replace the spring.

Another reason for the pop-up bath plug won’t stay down could be that the nut underneath it is too tight or too loose.

Try adjusting this by taking off the cap and either tightening or loosening the nut. 

Once all of these steps have been taken, the drain should be functioning again and you should be able to enjoy that nice warm bath you’ve been longing for! 

The Pipes Are Clogged 

If the pipes are clogged underneath your drain, sometimes you will find that your bathtub won’t drain (see also ‘What To Do When Drain Snake Won’t Go Down Bathtub Drain‘) or is draining much slower than usual.

This is usually caused by a buildup of hair and grease in the old pipes.

However, this can also cause the water to drain away faster because of the change in water pressure.

As the water pressure (see also ‘How To Increase The Water Pressure In Your Shower‘) builds up, the water has to go somewhere. This pressure could cause the drain stopper to lift, allowing the water to run out of the tub.

There are plenty of quick and easy ways to treat a clogged pipe.

You can always use cleaning products and chemicals such as bleach to break up the grease and free up the pipes.

You may find that the blockage is caused by a small item falling down the drain so watch out for that!

If you find you are not feeling confident about treating the clog yourself, call in a plumber to help! 

The Tub Is Leaking 

Sometimes, if your bathtub is quite old, there could be a leak in the bath itself.

Usually, this is easy to spot as you would notice water seeping out of the bath and onto the bathroom floor.

Look out for signs of flooding on the bathroom floor (see also ‘Finding And Fixing A Leak Under The Bathroom Floor: A How-To Guide‘), walls or ceilings. Occasionally, these leaks will occur underneath the flooring.

This can be a serious problem and you should get a plumber in as soon as possible to prevent the leak causing damage to the rest of the bathroom. You may need a new bathtub if yours is leaking.

Temporary Ways To Keep The Water In The Tub

Why Your Bathtub Won’t Hold Water And How To Fix

Usually, when your bathtub won’t hold water, your issue arises from a problem with the drain stopper.

While usually this is not hard to fix you might not have the parts you need immediately and your children may really take a bath after yesterday’s football match!

Or perhaps you need some me time with some bubbles, a good book and a glass of wine. If so, read on for some immediate emergency solutions.

Plumber’s Putty

Plumber’s putty  is used to prevent leaks in drains and other fittings. If you have some in the cupboard, now is the time to put it to use!

All you need to do is roll up some of the putty so that it forms a long worm-like shape.

Take the drain stopper and cover the rubber part with the plumber’s putty.

Then simply close the train and fill up the bathtub (see also ‘ How To Clean And Get A Bathtub White Again ‘)! When you’re done, simply remove the putty. This is only a temporary fix.

Use A Washcloth (With A Twist)

Shoving a cloth in the drain is an age old solution to the drain problem. However, usually, the water will just drain through the cloth and run out of the bathtub!

To make the washcloth work, you have to put the cloth in a plastic bag. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal it up.

Then shove it in the bathtub drain hole. Hold the bag down while you fill the tub to keep the bag in place and ensure it holds the water.

Use A Toilet Plunger! 

A toilet plunger is a great way to hold the water in the bath because of its suction mechanism. Make sure it’s a very clean toilet plunger though!

Coffee Pods 

Single serve coffee pods are often a perfect size for a bathtub drain. Turn the used coffee pods upside down and place it in the drain.

Hold the pod down while you fill the tub so that it remains in place. It won’t be fool-proof but it might work if you’re desperate for a bath! 

The Lid Of A Jam Jar

If you have a small jam jar, the lid can work as a drain stopper. Place the lid on the drain hole, holding down the jam jar lid upside down while you begin to fill the bath.

After a while, the water should hold the lid in place. Again, this may not last long but it might give you time for a quick bathe before the water drains away! 

When Is It Time To Replace Your Bathtub?

If you’re reading this page, you may have noticed that your bathtub is beginning to struggle.

Baths have many very important health benefits and are essential to the mental health of many.

You don’t want to be left in the lurch with a bathtub that has given up on you!

If you notice any of the following signs it might be time to get yourself a new bathtub: 

  • The bathtub is old and stained. This can cause a buildup of germs and bacteria which can be harmful.
  • Mould and mildew are present in the bath. This can be harmful to you and your family because they cause respiratory problems, allergic reactions, asthma attacks and nervous system disorders. 
  • Recurring leaks that are costing you lots of money. Sometimes, it is cheaper in the long run to just bite the bullet and get a new one instead of constantly fixing each individual leak!
Why Your Bathtub Won’t Hold Water And How To Fix

Things To Remember When Replacing Your Tub

Installing a new bathtub is expensive and can be a big job so ensure you shop around and spend time on decisions about your new tub:

  • Ensure your bathtub fits the dimensions of your current one or ensure there is space if it is smaller or larger. 
  • Remember, you can make space by getting a smaller tub! 
  • If you are just replacing the bathtub because your old one is stained or leaking, you can consider replacing it with the exact model as the last one because the plumbing will likely be much easier with the same tub.

Final Thoughts 

Plumbing problems can cause people a lot of distress. They are very inconvenient and can be expensive.

However, if your bathtub is not draining properly, usually, a very small issue is at play.

Follow this guide to figure out what is causing the problem, how to fix it and a few ways that you and your family can enjoy a relaxing bath in the meantime!

Remember, if you have tried a few things but can’t find the cause of the problem, it is always better to get a plumber in.

Water could be leaking in invisible places and you may have a bigger problem on your hands.

A professional plumber will identify the problem in no time and help you to fix it.

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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