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Bathtub Won’t Hold Water: 5 Reasons & How to Fix Them

The soothing sound of water flowing into a soapy bathtub creates a fantastic place to relax and clean up after a long day. But a bathtub that does not hold water is not tranquil at all and can be pretty frustrating.

There are more than a few reasons why your bathtub is not holding water, and ignoring these issues will force your bathtub into early retirement or can even cause more serious problems like water damage.

This article will cover all the reasons why your bathtub is not holding water. We also show you the tools needed and methods required to resolve these issues. Let’s begin.

filling bathtub

Why Won’t My Bathtub Hold Water?

Bad Drain Stopper

A faulty drain stopper is one of the most common causes of a bathtub that won’t hold water. What usually happens is the trip lever gets disconnected from the drain plug, which halts the drain stopper from doing its job.

Other times the linkage that moves the drain stopper up and down becomes unattached, twisted, or broken. Any issues with the drain stopper will make your bathtub unable to hold water.

Bad Overflow Tube

The overflow tube rests near the top of your bathtub and has a vital role to fulfill. If your bathtub gets overfilled, the overflow tube helps take some of this water out of your bathtub and send it back into the pipes.

When overflow tubes become loose or faulty, they will instead send water all over your bathroom floor and keep your bathtub from filling properly. A bad overflow tube is easy to diagnose through the puddles of bathwater developing on your bathroom floor.

Changing Temperatures

A less common cause of bathtub filling issues is the expanding and contracting of pipes due to changing temperatures. If this problem affects your baths pipes, your water may be diverted elsewhere.

In extreme cases, your pipes may burst, causing water to leak from your pipes, never making it to your bathtub. If you live in a climate with very frigid winters and scorching summers, this issue is more likely to affect you.

Clogged Pipes or Drain Stopper

Over time your pipes will get clogged with dirt, hair, and who knows what else. Clogged pipes are a normal occurrence. But when clogs get really bad, they can affect your bathtub’s ability to hold water.

A clogged pipe may force your water on an alternate route. Your drain stopper can also get clogged, effectively stopping it from doing its job, leaving you with an empty or low-filling bathtub.

Rust or Damage

Rusted or damaged pipes are one of the worst-case scenarios. Unfortunately, over time pipes are bound to give out. Pipes with rust or damage will cause water that was meant for your bathtub to leak back into your water system or out into other parts of your home, causing water damage.

It’s easy to forget about the pipes that make our home’s water needs possible. That’s why it’s important to regularly inspect your pipes and keep an eye out for rust or damage.

How to Fix a Tub That Won’t Hold Water

Tools You Will Need

The tools you will need will depend on the specific problem, but the tools listed below are a great general set that can help you solve all of these issues.

  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead)
  • Pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Lubricant
  • Cloth towels or rags
  • Telescoping magnet retrieval tool
  • Pipe insulation sleeves
  • Drain unclogging tool
  • Drain unclogging liquid
  • Repair coupling


Fixing a Bad Drain Stopper

Fixing a bad drain stopper is a relatively straightforward process. You will first need to remove the drain stopper cover, which can usually be done by hand. Depending on the model you have, there may be a button, screws, or you may need to pull or turn the stopper out. If you have difficulty removing your cover by hand, you can use pliers along with lubricant.

Once the cover is removed, there are a few essential things to check. Connected to the lever within your stopper is a linkage. There is a U-shaped pin and a spring attached to the linkage. Make sure both of these items are connected. You can use a magnet tool to reconnect the spring. If the U-shaped pin is damaged, you will have to replace it.

The linkage itself should be straight and secure. You can straighten the linkage or reduce its length if necessary. Suppose none of these solutions work, then you are best off removing your drain stopper and installing a new one.

Fixing a Bad Overflow Tube

It is pretty common for an overflow tube to become loose. Overflow tubes are easy to tighten; the problem arises in getting access to these tubes.

You may have an attic or crawlspace that gives you easy access to your overflow tube. And if that is the case, you can easily tighten this tube by using pliers or an adjustable wrench. Check your tube for any damage or rust.

If you have no easy access to your overflow tube, you have a difficult decision. You can cut a hole in your wall to access this tube if you know where this tube runs. But this can become a more costly method to repair this issue. Your only other option would be to consult a professional plumber.

Preparing for Changing Temperatures

Any rapid temperature change can wreak havoc on your pipes. Luckily there is a simple method to prepare your pipes for changing temperatures.

Insulation sleeves for pipes are well worth the initial investment as they cut down your energy and water bills while saving your pipes from rapid expansion or bursting. Measuring the pipes you want to insulate will give you a good idea of how much pipe insulation to buy.

Once you have the pipe sleeves, you simply cut them to length. The sleeves have a slit down the middle allowing you to attach them to your pipes easily. You can then use wire, tape, or a clamp to secure the insulation sleeves onto your pipes.

Unclogging Your Pipes or Drain Stopper

Unclogging pipes and drains should be a routine part of our bathroom maintenance. But, unfortunately, we usually don’t care for our pipes and drains until we have a severe clog on our hands.

Using an unclogging liquid along with an unclogging tool like a snake or auger should be enough to unclog even the most stubborn pipes and drains. Make sure you follow the instructions listed with any product you use.

If you cannot get your pipes unclogged, you may have to take apart a section of your piping or call in a professional plumber.

Repairing or Replacing Damaged or Rusted Pipes

Pipes are more likely to rust from the inside, and this will become noticeable through rust in your water. But once rust chews through your pipes and causes leaks, it will be easily noticeable upon inspection.

If the rust or damage to your pipes is not too terrible, you can use a repair coupling to solve this issue. A repair coupling is placed over a pipe’s joints or a damaged part of the pipe and secured and sealed with bolts, creating a water-tight seal that can solve your issue. In addition, there are also products like plumbers putty or water weld that can work as a temporary solution.

If your pipe is too far gone that no coupling or putty can stop the leaking water, you will, unfortunately, have no other choice but to replace the piping.

Kyle Tucker

Kyle from Kyle Tucker Plumbing is a certified plumber with over 20 years of professional experience installing plumbing fixtures such as bathtubs, sinks, and toilets, as well as installing gas lines and water pipes, performing bathroom repairs, and more.

Kyle knows how to deal with every plumbing issue that modern homeowners encounter, and he shares his lifelong experience with readers in an engaging and easy-to-digest way.

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