How to Clean a Drain Stopper

Jennifer L. Betts
Water running into a drain

Despite your best cleaning efforts drain stoppers get clogged with soap scum, sediment and hair. If your bathroom drain starts running slow, you don't need to go out and buy a new stopper. You will need to get down on your hands and knees to get it clean. Learn how to remove and clean a push and pull, flip-it, trip lever, toe-touch and lift and turn stopper.

Removing and Cleaning a Drain Stopper

Even with the best of stoppers, you will get hair, rust and calcium deposits or sediment in it. To remove and clean stoppers, you'll need a few tools:

Popping a Lift and Turn Stopper

The lift and turn drain stopper is a low maintenance stopper that works by turning the knob to open and close it. However, if you start to notice that it is getting clogged, removing and cleaning it can get things flowing again. Follow these steps to easily remove and clean the stopper.

  1. Put the stopper into the open position.
  2. Use your hand or Channellock pliers to loosen the handle on the top.
  3. Using a flat head screwdriver or an Allen wrench, stick into the hole in the top of the stopper and un-thread it.
  4. Pull out the stopper.
  5. Pop the stopper in a tub or bucket with equal parts vinegar and water.
  6. Use needle-nose pliers to grab the hair out of the drain.
  7. Create a paste with the peroxide/baking soda and use the toothbrush to scrub the drain.
  8. Pull out the stopper and look it over.
  9. Use the toothbrush and baking soda paste to clean any remaining debris.
  10. Screw the stopper back into the drain then put the top back on. Use the tools to make sure it is tight.

Getting Ahead of a Push and Pull Stopper

Very similar in look to the lift and turn, a push and pull stopper is pushed down and pulled up to plug the drain. To remove this type of stopper, you will:

  1. Put the stopper in the up position.
  2. Remove the screw top cover. You might need to use the pliers to do this.
  3. Push the stopper down and you will see a post. Using the pliers, you'll loosen the post from the drain.
  4. Pull out the stopper and put it in a bucket with equal parts vinegar and water to give it a good soak.
  5. Use the needle-nose pliers or your fingers to pull the gunk and hair out of the drain.
  6. Pour a homemade drain cleaner down the drain.
  7. Giving it a few minutes to work, pull the stopper out of the vinegar mixture.
  8. Use the toothbrush to scrub off any rust or sediment.
  9. Put the stopper back into the drain, tightening it back into place. Add the screw top and test out that flowing drain.
Water running down the drain

Cleaning a Toe-Touch Stopper

The toe-touch drain works like the push and pull. You push it down to plug and pop it up to drain. However, the toe-touch drain has a spring in it so you can just push on it with your toe to get it to pop up. To remove and clean this one, you will just follow these simple steps.

  1. Unscrew the cap.
  2. Use a flat head screwdriver to loosen the threading mechanism. You can then loosen it the rest of the way with your hand.
  3. Pull the stopper out and check over the rubber pieces looking for cracks or if it needs replacement.
  4. Use the toothbrush and washcloth to clean off any sediment or debris. Add a little baking soda for extra fighting power.
  5. Grab the needle-nose pliers and attack any hair in the drain.
  6. Give the drain a quick swab with the baking soda on the toothbrush.
  7. Rinse the drain and screw the stopper back in.
  8. Screw the top on and you are good to go.

Scouring a Flip-It Stopper

The flip-it type of drain stopper is commonly used in sinks and flips to the right or left to plug or drain the sink. Removing this bad boy doesn't generally require any tools, since it is just pushed in rather than screwed down. For removal and cleaning of this stop, you will need to:

  1. With the toggle to the left, grab the top of the stopper and pull/wiggle it out of the drain.
  2. Use a little water and baking soda to create a paste.
  3. If there is hair on the stopper or in the drain, use the pliers or your hand to remove it.
  4. On a washcloth, use the paste to scrub the stopper.
  5. Check the O-rings and rubber over for cracks and wear that might show the need for replacement.
  6. Use the toothbrush with the baking soda paste and scrub the opening and around the drain.
  7. Rinse the stopper.
  8. Make sure the toggle is to the left and push the stopper back into the drain.
  9. Turn it to the right to allow the gasket and O-ring to make a seal.
  10. Test it out.

Scrubbing a Trip Lever Stopper

The trip lever drain is a bit different. Rather than going to the drain itself, you are going to remove the lever that is under your spout on the overflow opening. It connects to an arm that pushes a stopper into the drain.

  1. Grab your washcloth and remove any hair or debris from the drain grate over the drain.
  2. On the trip lever, put the lever into the open position.
  3. Using your flathead screwdriver, you'll unscrew the two screws that hold it into place.
  4. Now pull the entire linkage arm from the overflow hole.
  5. Grab your toothbrush and baking soda and clean any hair, debris, sediment off the arm and the stopper.
  6. Throw the entire stopper in a bucket of equal vinegar and water to remove any soap scum or rust.
  7. Give it another scrub with the toothbrush and rinse.
  8. Fit the linkage and stopper back into the overflow hole and screw it into place.

Cleaning Your Drain

Cleaning your drain stopper isn't anyone's favorite job. You never know what you are going to find, and the stoppers can get complicated. However, now you know what to grab and how to get it out. Grab your tools and get that stopper sparkling. And to make sure you don't end up with a slow drain, make it part of your bathroom cleaning routine.

How to Clean a Drain Stopper