All bathtub drain stoppers do the same things, but knowing which type you have makes it easier to install a replacement and to fix any issues that may occur down the line. Also, some drain stoppers are easier to clean than others.
We run through the types of bathtub drain stoppers to put you in the picture about how they work and how easy they are to install.
Which Bathtub Drain Stopper Is the Best?
There are 6 commonly used bathtub drain stoppers, and they all do the same thing but in different ways. The lift-and-turn drain stopper has a small knob that twists open and shut. It is held in place by a setscrew that threads into the drain crossbar. The advantage with this type of drain stopper is they rarely malfunction and they are easy to install. The downside is they can be tricky to remove.
Types of Bathtub Drain Stoppers
There are 6 commonly used types of drain stoppers: lift-and-turn, push-and-pull, pop-up, toe-touch, flip-it, and trip lever. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
This kind of drain stopper has a small knob on the top of the cap that you can twist and turn to open and close the drain. As you turn it one way, the stopper goes down and shuts, and the other, it lifts and opens.
This drain stopper has a center set screw that winds into the threaded drain crossbar. The setscrew sits beneath the stopper top cap and can be fiddly to remove if it is overtightened or left unopened for some time.
Thanks to its simple mechanical design, it rarely malfunctions, and getting access to the drain to clean it, unblock it and remove debris is easy because the setscrew just unscrews from the thread.
- Easy to clean thanks to the simple setscrew attachment.
- Simple design means it rarely malfunctions.
- Easy to install should you need to buy a replacement.
- Rarely malfunctions.
- Setscrew tricky to remove for repairs.
- Possibility of overtightening, which damages the setscrew threads.
A push-and-pull stopper looks very similar to a lift-and-turn stopper, but it differs in the way it operates. Instead of twisting the stopper, you push it down to close the drain and lift it when you want the water to drain away.
It installs in the same way as the lift-and-turn stopper because you have the same set screw that threads into the drain’s crossbar.
Thanks to the simple design, it rarely malfunctions and needs minimal maintenance to keep it in working order. The only downside is the set screw is located underneath the stopper cap, making it awkward to get to it, should you need to perform a repair.
- Easy to install, making it ideal for replacement.
- Simple design means it rarely malfunctions.
- Easy to operate thanks to the push and pull action.
- Unscrews from the drain crossbar for easy access for cleaning.
- Tricky to get to the set screw for removal and repair.
A toe-touch stopper closely relates to the previous two models featured. This one is sometimes called toe-activated or toe-tap. It works by activating a spring-loaded mechanism when you push it down with your toe.
It is held in place with a screw located under the cap of the stopper, which treads into the drain crossbar. As you push it down, it clips shut. To release the stopper, push it down again, and the clip releases to let the water drain away.
Like the other two, this stopper rarely breaks, but be aware that the spring does wear out over time, which may lead to you replacing the drain stopper. However, thanks to the set screw, removing this drain stopper for cleaning and repair is easy.
- Operates with a push action with your toe.
- Easy to install thanks to one set screw in the center.
- Rarely malfunctions due to the simple design.
- The spring wears out with repeated use.
The flip-it stopper is the perfect model for a novice plumber because you don’t need any tools to install it. It has a plastic body with O-rings that grip into the drain opening, locking it in place with a watertight seal.
To close the drain, simply slide the toggle lever across the hole, and to let the water drain away, pull the lever to expose the hole. This type of stopper is a great middle-ground between a levered and non-levered option.
The disadvantage with a flip-it or toggle stopper is that you can sometimes catch the toggle with your foot while in the bathtub and activate the drain. It can also be painful if you step on the protruding lever.
- No tools are required to install it, making it the best option for novice plumbers.
- Easy to activate and simple to keep clean.
- No mechanical parts to malfunction.
- Toggle levers can be accidentally activated while in the bathtub.
- Can be painful if you stand on the toggle lever.
The trip lever stopper is unlike other drain stoppers in that it lacks a plunging mechanism in the bathing area that moves up or down. Instead, you get a lever on the overflow plate that moves a plunger inside the overflow pipe.
This closes the gate at the bottom of your tub, sealing the drain to hold the water. The grate stops large items of debris going down the plughole when you drain the water away.
The advantage with this type of stopper is it never accidentally gets activated when in the bathtub. However, installing this type of stopper is more complicated, which could lead to your tub draining continuously if it’s not fitted properly.
You probably want to get a plumber to install this stopper, so it is done correctly the first time. The other gripe is that this drain stopper is tricky to clean because the grate makes it awkward to get access.
- Eliminates accidental activation when in the bathtub.
- No mechanism in the bathing area, making it easier to operate.
- The plunging mechanism is concealed inside the overflow pipe.
- Tricky to install, so you may need a professional.
- More expensive to buy compared to other drain stoppers.
- Hard to clean thanks to the grate.
The pop-up stopper resembles a bathroom sink stopper because it has a lever located on the overflow plate. The lever connects with the stopper via a series of rod linkages in the overflow drainpipe that move when you operate the lever.
When you move the lever, the linkage pivots a rocker arm that lifts a pop-up stopper. At the bottom of the connecting rod is a spring that activates to move the plug.
This type of stopper is the most complicated to clean because the rocker arm and stopper need to be removed through the drain opening and the connecting rod linkage extracts through the overflow plate.
And thanks to the complicated design, it is more likely to trap hairs and debris, which leads to stopper malfunctions. Installation is not as easy as the others because the connecting linkage is fitted inside the overflow pipe.
Plus, it is more likely to malfunction thanks to all the mechanical parts.
- Once installed, it is easy to operate.
- The operating lever is located on the overflow plate above the bathing area.
- Familiar style of stopper, similar to bathroom sink stoppers.
- A more complicated mechanism that is prone to malfunction.
- Installation is more challenging, so you may need a plumber.
- Harder to clean because you have to extract the stopper and link rods.