Why Your Toilet Bubbles When The Bathtub Drains-Easy Fix
Why Does My Toilet Bubble When I Drain My Tub?
A proper function bathtub should not be in any “communication” with the toilet. When you notice your toilet bubbling/gurgling any time you drain your bathtub then you need to fix it as soon as possible.
If your toilet bubbles when you drain your bathtub, it is a sign that either the drainpipe or vent stack are clogged. This causes negative air pressure inside the drainpipe/vent which is forced out through the toilet in form of bubbles.
Although a toilet and a bathtub are independent fixtures, their drainpipes are joined together in the main house drainpipe. Due to their close proximity, they also share the same vent stack. A problem with one fixture’s drainage will therefore directly affect the other fixture.
Think of a house plumbing structure like a tree. A tree has several branches and one trunk. Each branch represents a single fixtures which drains into the main house drainpipe, in this case the tree trunk.
If the main house drainpipe is clogged you will definitely have a problem with all the fixtures. You might therefore notice that the toilet bubbles when flushed or:
- Toilet bubbles when the washer drains.
- The toilet is bubbling and won’t flush.
- Bathtub drain gurgles when the toilet is flushed.
Since a vacuum cannot exist, the space in the drainpipe between the clog and the bathtub will be full of air. When you start draining the bathtub, the water will displace the air in the drainpipe.
The displaced air will force its way out through the bottom of the toilet bowl. This is the main reason why toilets bubbles when a bathtub is draining.
sometimes it is not the main house drainpipe that is clogged but just the one connecting the bathtub and toilet.
To be sure of this, turn on the water in the sink and listen for bubbling from the toilet. If it bubbles then sure enough the main drainpipe is clogged. On the other hand if it doesn’t then the problem is only with the tub and toilet.
Clogged Vent Stack
A vent stuck is the piece of pipe which is connected from the drainpipe and runs out through the roof of the house. It removes sewer gases from the drainpipe allowing waste to easily flow down the drainpipe and into the sewer lines or septic tank.
If the vent stack is clogged then sewer gases cannot flow out. Pressure will start to build up inside the vent and so when the bathtub is drained water pressure will force the trapped sewer gases out through the toilet in form of bubbles.
The water at the bottom of the toilet bowl is meant to prevent sewer gases from coming up into the bathroom. Due to the volume and hence pressure of the draining bathtub water, the trapped sewer gases pressure will breach the toilet bowl water barrier, resulting in a bubbling/gurgling toilet.
Why You Should Fix a Bubbling Toilet ASAP
If you are dealing with a clogged main drainpipe, it means waste from your bathtub, toilet, shower, sinks or washer is not flowing out into the sewer lines. It is accumulating in the drainpipe.
Initially, your toilet or other adjacent fixtures will only be bubbling or gurgling whenever you drain the bathtub. But things will not be that way for long.
As more waste accumulates in the drainpipe, it will run out of space and a backup will be inevitable. A backup happens when sewage starts coming out of your toilet, sink or any other fixture.
If it is a partial clog then you might be safe because a backup is unlikely. The toilet will however continue to bubbles each time the bathtub drains.
You should however still fix a partial clog the soonest as it can develop into a full clog within no time. This will be a cheaper and easier fix.
A toilet that is backing up will cost you a lot of money. To start with, you are less likely to fix it yourself hence you will need to call in a professional plumber. Those are not cheap.
Don’t also forget the awful odor that comes with a house that has a backing up problem. You might not even stay or sleep in the house until the problem is fixed.
How to Fix a Toilet that Bubbles when a Bathtub Drains
There are several ways to fix a toilet that bubbles/gurgles when a tub drains. The solution can be an easy or a very difficult and expensive one. It will depend on:
- The severity of the clog.
- The position of the clog.
- The type of clog (material).
The followings are the different ways to fix a toilet that bubbles after draining a bathtub:
1. Plunge the Bathtub
If you have a bathtub, chances are high that you also own a bathtub plunger. Here is you to properly unclog a bathtub using a plunger:
- Remove your bathtub’s drain plug using a screwdriver.
- Check (using a flashlight) if there is some obstructions which you can easily remove. This includes things like hair or soap scum.
- Cut and straighten a wire hanger and bend it into a hook at the front using a pair of pliers.
- Push the hook inside the tub drain and remove as much of the obstructions as possible.
- Plug the bathtub overflow drain with a rag or towel to prevent pressure loss.
- Place the plunger around the bathtub drain and turn on the hot water until the base of the plunger is covered with water.
- Start plunging up and down without lifting the plunger above the water. Hopefully this will dislodge the clog.
Lift off the plunger and let the water drain. Listen carefully if the bubbling from the toilet has stopped. If it hasn’t then you will need to upgrade to a better tool.
You should avoid using chemical-based drain cleaners to unclog a bathtub or any other drain for that matter. Using hot water, baking soda and vinegar is better alternative.
The following video from Home Depot is very helpful.
2. Snake the Bathtub
A bathtub snake contains a handle, a flexible cable and a hooked head. It acts directly on the clog inside the drainpipe. You can either buy your own snake or rent one out.
Introduce the snake slowly inside the tub drain as you crank the handle clockwise. when you come across an obstruction, change the cranking direction then crank again in the original direction until you go past it.
If you cannot go past a certain point gently pull out the snake and inspect it. There is a chance that you might have hooked and pulled out the clog. The good thing is that due to its design, bathtub clogs are not as nasty as those found in toilets and a snake will easily shred/pull them.
3. Plunge the Toilet
A toilet plunger is a must-have even for people with the most powerful flushing toilets. It is very helpful in unclogging clogs that are not too far down the drainpipe.
Toilet plungers are a little different from other drain plungers. Unlike other drains, the toilet bowl outlet is not a flat surface hence other plungers won’t do the trick. The best toilet plungers are bell-shaped.
The bell-shaped toilet plunger allows you to make an air-tight seal around the bowl outlet to prevent pressure loss. If you want to learn how to plunger like a plumber check out this post.
4. Snake the Toilet
A toilet snake also known as a toilet auger is about 3 to 6 inches in length. Just like the bathtub snake, it acts directly on the toilet clog by shredding it into small pieces or hooking it and pulling it out.
Toilet augers are more powerful than tub snakes and are hence more reliable in removing stubborn clogs, especially those further below inside the drainpipe.
For even more stubborn stains you can buy or rent out a longer motorized toilet auger. Home improvement stores like Home Depot offer such services.
The main challenge in using a toilet auger is that you can easily and badly scratch the inside of your toilet bowl leaving it with very ugly marks. If you would like to learn how to properly unclog a toilet with a toilet auger check out this post.
5. Unclog the Vent Stack
Before calling in a plumber, you should first ensure that your vent stack is not blocked. Since it is normally open at the top to allow sewer gases to flow out, the vent stack can easily be blocked by tree leaves, dead animal likes birds and rodents or even snow.
Use a ladder to climb to the roof of your house and check the condition of the vent. See if there are stuff you can easily pull out from the top with your hands or even a wire.
Next go up with a garden hose and start pouring water down the vent stack. As the water accumulates inside the vent, its weight will unclog whatever is clogging it and be washed down the drain.
5. Call in the Professionals
When you have tried everything unsuccessfully, it is time to call in a professional plumber. This guys have seen all manner of plumbing problems and will without a doubt know what to do.
I would advise against opening the cleanout plug unless you have plumbing experience. The cleanout plug allows you to access your house’s drainage system.
If you remove the cleanout plug cap, there is a chance that all the sewage trapped inside the drainpipe will forcefully flow out. You will then have a bigger problem than the one you had in the beginning.
If your toilet bubbles when the bathtub drains you should act quickly to prevent dealing with even more difficult and expensive repairs. You should also occasionally clean all your drainpipes to prevent clogs happening in the same place.
Have a talk with all the family members sensitizing them on what causes toilets to clogs and what not to flush down a toilet. Occasionally pouring hot water down all the house drains is effective in cleaning the drains and therefore preventing clogs.