How To Block A Bathtub Drain Without A Plug (Quickly & Easily!)

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

After a long, stressful day a good soak in the tub can be a relaxing way to unwind. However, this experience is highly dependent on a working stopper keeping the water from escaping down the drain. If your bathtub doesn’t have a functioning stopper or plug, there are ways to block the drain without them.

Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to block your bathtub drain with just some common items found around the home. These household fixes include using plumber’s putty, an empty coffee pod, a jar lid that is the same size as the hole, a toilet plunger, a washcloth in a bag, and more.

Although you can find simple inexpensive stoppers at your local home improvement center, these temporary solutions can work in emergency situations or if you cannot get to the store right away. The methods outlined below will show you how to craft a makeshift drain stopper from items you likely already have on hand.

How Do Bathtub Plugs Work?

The primary purpose of your bathtub’s plug or stopper is to keep the water in the tub. It covers the hole above the bathtub drain, effectively preventing water from leaking down. The plug does this by forming a watertight seal to keep water from escaping down the hole.

There are a variety of plug types available on the market and they come in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Regardless, they all accomplish the same thing. In most cases, your bathtub stopper will be outfitted with a handle or pull chain that can be used to remove the plug when you’re ready for the water to drain.

Most bathtub drain plugs are very durable and can last you several years. However, over time they will gradually start to fail. If wear and tear is what is preventing your bathtub plug from functioning properly, it may be time for a replacement. In the meantime, there are a number of temporary fixes you can implement to plug up your tub.

How to Block a Bathtub Drain Without a Plug

Many of the following methods for blocking your bathtub drain without a plug can be done by using common household items. These short-term solutions will allow you to keep enjoying your bath in luxury and prevent the water from draining before you’ve had the opportunity to soak away all your worries.

1. Plumber’s Putty Fix

This method works great for bathtub plugs that have a failed gasket, no longer providing the proper seal. Using plumber’s putty offers a temporary fix until you can replace the gasket, or the plug entirely. This putty is used by professional plumbers to prevent leaks in drains and other fittings.

Take a bit of the plumber’s putty and roll into your hands to form a long snake-like shape. It should be just long enough to encircle your bathtub drain. Then, lift up your stopper or pop-up drain, and use the putty to line the hole around the drain. Close the drain plug over the putty and you should now have a watertight seal. Keep in mind that this method is only a one-time fix, as you’ll need to remove the putty when you drain the tub.

2. Empty Single-Serve Coffee Pod

If you own a Keurig, you likely have an empty single-serve pod lying around the house somewhere. This, or a small cup of a similar size, can be used to effectively block the drain. Both a plastic 15 ml medicine cup and an empty coffee pod are the perfect size.

For this method, firmly position the cup or pod into the drain hole with the bottom end in first. Then, begin filling up the tub to see if it can hold water. It may leak a little bit, but should last long enough to take a bath. If the cup is significantly smaller than your drain, you can wrap some rubber bands around the body to achieve a better seal, or consider using plumber’s putty.

3. Jar Lid Solution

If the coffee pod doesn’t work well enough, or you simply don’t have the appropriately sized cup on hand, you can try using a jar lid to cover the drain hole. Grab a plastic lid or flat jam jar lid that is just large enough to fit over the hole. Position the lid so that it rests flat on the bottom of your bathtub.

Begin filling up the tub and press down on the lid firmly. You can create an even stronger seal by slightly dampening the bottom of the lid first. The weight of the water and the suction created underneath the lid will ensure that it stays in place and the water doesn’t escape down your drain.

4. Toilet Plunger

I’m sure most people have a toilet plunger lying around that can be used for this method. In this case, your toilet plunger can act as a makeshift plug for your bathtub drain. However, you’ll want to thoroughly clean the rubber end of the plunger first with soap and water, especially if you’re going to be bathing.

Once the plunger is clean, place it over the drain hole, and press down tightly to form a seal. Then, remove the wooden handle, unless the hole for the handle goes all the way through the plunger. Regardless, leaving the wood handle on can make it much easier to remove the plug when you’re ready to train the tub. You just have to be okay with looking at it while you bathe.

5. The Plastic Bag and Washcloth Trick

If you have a washcloth, small towel, or small sponge, it can be used to craft a temporary plug for your bathtub drain. For this solution, simply stuff the washcloth into a small plastic bag and squeeze out as much of the air as possible. If you don’t remove the air, the bag could float up to the top and will not provide a sufficient seal for the drain.

Then, seal off the ends of the bag by zipping it closed or using a rubber band to secure it. Roll or fold the stuffed bag into the drain so that the material fits snugly in the hole. Turn on the water and hold the bag in place until there is enough pressure to keep it down on its own. Alternatively, you can fill a zipper plastic bag up with water, seal it tightly, and place it over the drain.

6. Tape the Hole

Another temporary solution for blocking a bathtub drain without a plug is to use tape. The best type of tape for this method is waterproof duct tape or, more specifically, Gorilla All Weather. Simply cover the drain hole with a double layer of tape, so that it can withstand water long enough to allow you to enjoy a bath.

For best results, tape the drain hole when the tub is completely dry. Press the tape down firmly to ensure that it is binding properly and creating an adequate seal. This method can work great in a pinch but the tape may be difficult to remove once you’re ready to drain the water.

7. Marine Drain Twist Plug

The final option for plugging your bathtub drain is to use a marine drain twist plug. This method will only work for those who are fishermen and have this device in their tool kits. They are primarily used to drain the water from ballast tanks or live fish wells after a day out fishing on the water. However, they can be equally effective at preventing tub water from draining.

To install, simply twist the marine drain plug clockwise into the drain using its T-shaped brass handle. Once you’re ready to remove it, all you’ll need to do is gently pull up on the handle and twist counterclockwise. Keep in mind that these plugs will only work if they happen to be the same size as your drain hole.

Wrapping It Up

Although knowing how to block a bathtub drain without a plug can be useful in a pinch, finding a permanent fix will allow you to avoid any future hassles. For a long-lasting solution, purchase a new bath plug and install it yourself or enlist the help of a professional plumber.

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

More by Jessica Stone