How can I fix this bath drain plug?
July 29, 2014 1:17 PM   Subscribe

My house came with a plug like this. A few weeks back my wife unscrewed it to remove some hair and now it won't go back. It won't screw to the threads in the drain. It seems like the drain threads are slightly larger than the one in the plug. Maybe some adapter was there that fell into the drain? No idea. I bought another plug from Lowes that looked slightly larger, but it didn't thread. How can I fix this without getting a plumber to visit?
posted by jonclegg to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could try some Plumbers Tape around the plug screw--maybe there was some there before that disintegrated when it was unscrewed?
posted by calgirl at 1:30 PM on July 29, 2014

Have you tried screwing in both directions? I've found circumstances where plumbing fixtures screw in the opposite direction from what I'm expecting.
posted by alms at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2014

I am not a plumber.

My house has very similar drain plugs on both of the bathtubs; I hate them with the mighty fire of ten thousand suns (well, OK, maybe I just don't like them very much). I have the same problem with screwing and unscrewing them for cleaning.

Try cleaning the threads (both on the plug and drain opening) with some steel wool; it looks like there might be some old, disintegrated plumber's tape or corrosion in there. This, however, is not an application where one should use plumber's tape, as the watertight seal is actually made by the top of the drain plug suctioning against the drain opening when fully screwed down.

You can also try buying a suction-type drain plug with no screw as a replacement. We tried this one, but unfortunately it was a bit too narrow to seal the opening properly.
posted by tckma at 1:38 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh god these piece of shit things! I think they reverse thread, try that first. I remember I had the same problem and I no longer have it so it must be something stupid simple like that.
posted by jessamyn at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: Reverse thread was an interesting idea, but afraid not. I really feel like i need a set of different sizes to figure out what the exact size is. Lowes really doesn't have that much in terms of selection, maybe a plumbing supply shop?
posted by jonclegg at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2014

If all else fails, get a universal sink plug -- it's a $2 piece of rubber big enough to fit over pretty much any drain. They sell them at places like Target and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. You can buy a mesh hair trap too, for draining, to prevent the pipe from clogging. Problem solved :)
posted by ananci at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've got the same drain. The threads are normal, not reversed, and you can actually see this in the plug picture.

Perhaps the drain's threads are a little stripped. I'd definitely try the plumbers tape -- a lot of it, until it's thick enough to solve the problem.
posted by intermod at 1:58 PM on July 29, 2014

My guess is that you aren't actually getting the two pieces to thread together. Your picture looks like the top and bottom portion are misaligned. That may be causing the make threads to go into one of the voids instead of the female threads.

Can you make sure that the plug is in the open position? If it is not, the threaded portion may not reach.

I assume this thing came out of there without too much effort and the threads don't look damaged from your picture, so I think it has to be something as simple as a misalignment.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 2:10 PM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The drain plug threads are way to small, they don't thread at all, I can just push it in and out. I think maybe there was some adapter in there that fell when my wife unscrewed it and now it's missing?

I bought another kit, but it only has one larger size and it won't thread, it seems too big.
posted by jonclegg at 2:12 PM on July 29, 2014

Lowe's has those sizing board thingies on the screw/bolt/nut aisle if you want to size your spring-loaded plug's threaded portion. (Which I hate like fire.)
posted by resurrexit at 2:23 PM on July 29, 2014

I think there was a nut threaded onto the end of the bolt (or screw, as you put it) which goes through the plug; if you look at the bolt you can see a zone of white residue near the end where it passed through the threading in the drain (IMO), and the nut would have screwed onto the clear area beyond that.

You could replace the nut with the plug in the drain and the drain in place in the fixture by removing the pipe from the drain down below the fixture if you have easy access to the piping down there, but you probably ought to have a new seal for the pipe/drain connection before you start because you might wreck the old one getting it off.

This should be pretty easy as long as you don't have too much trouble loosening the big nut holding the pipe to the bottom of the drain. Most of the time you can do that by hand (wearing a rubber glove) but occasionally a Channel Lock/Knipex style adjustable wrench is required.

Good Luck!
posted by jamjam at 3:58 PM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can buy a complete foot-lock stopper assembly that includes the drain piece, like this. Here's a youtube demonstration of how to get a stubborn drain out. I didn't have that much trouble with mine.

But it wasn't a permanent fix. A few months later the replacement stopper failed (the spring, I guess). So I can't really recommend going this route unless you really want this type of stopper.
posted by Snerd at 5:28 PM on July 29, 2014

If that were my problem, I'd approach it by finding a brass or stainless steel bolt that screws nicely into the thread down the drain, and I'd take apart the plastic plug and figure out how to replace its existing brass thread with my new bolt, possibly cut down.

If I couldn't figure out how to get the plug apart, I'd cut the brass stud off flush with the end, then drill a 1/16" hole right down the centre of it, then keep enlarging that 1/32" at a time until it was big enough to JB Weld the new stud into.
posted by flabdablet at 7:20 AM on July 30, 2014

This old House magazine had a small ad for this It bypasses the existing threads and is attached with a silicone sealant.
posted by Gungho at 10:34 AM on July 31, 2014

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