Taking a relaxing bath in the tub is one of the best ways to wind down after a stressful day. However, the experience is highly dependent on the water in the bath staying, instead of escaping down the drain. Bath plugs prevent this problem, but if you don’t have one, you can create yours quickly.

Some of the best ways to block a drain without a plug include using a small cup, using plumber’s putty, finding a jar lid of the same size as the drain hole, plugging the drain with a washcloth stuffed inside a plastic bag, taping the drain hole, and using a marine drain twist plug.

The rest of the article will go into detail on each of these methods. Some of them are easy and can be completed with items lying around your house right now, while others may require you to spend some money. First, how do bath plugs work generally?

How Do Bath Plugs Work?

A bath plug basically keeps the water in the bath and prevents it from leaking away down the drain. They work by covering the hole above the bathtub drain. This forms a tight seal and prevents water from escaping down the hole.

There are many types of bath plugs available in the market. They come in different shapes and sizes and are made of various materials. However, they all accomplish the same thing in the end. They generally come with a chain or handle that can be pulled when you want the water to drain away.

Most bath plugs, including the rubber variants, are durable and can remain useful for years. However, at some point, they’ll gradually start to fail in their duty. If wear and tear is the main problem or you can’t find your bath plug for some reason, it is time to get a replacement.

In an emergency, however, you will most likely want something you can use right away. It is also possible that you are tired of buying and losing your bath plugs and want to only use temporary solutions whenever you are in the bath. Whatever your reasons, you can use any of the recommended solutions above. Here’s a closer look at them.

Ways to Block a Bathtub Drain

1. Use a Small Plastic Cup

Do you have a single-serve coffee cup or pod lying around somewhere? You can use it to block the drain. A small plastic medicine cup can also do the job. To use this as the solution, place the bottom of the cup in the drain hole and then open the drain tap to see if it can hold the water. If it doesn’t hold the water well enough, tie some rubber band around the body of the cup to turn it to a better seal.

Don’t have a coffee pod or a small medicine cup? Any object shaped like a cup that can fit in the drain hole and won’t melt with cold or water can solve the problem. A good example of such an alternative is the typical pack of supplement pills.

2. Use Plumber’s Putty

Plumber’s putty offers you a temporary fix for blocking a bath drain. Of course, you can’t use it alone as it works best with hardware. If you have a bath plug that doesn’t fit properly lying around, it can work perfectly. All you need to do is to roll some of the putty into a wormlike shape and then line the hole around the drain with it before closing it with the plug.

This is a temporary solution as you’ll have to remove the fix when it’s to drain the tub. If you don’t have plumber’s putty, you can get a can at your local home improvement store or online. They are affordable and can come in handy in other situations. It’s why plumbers carry them around.

3. Find a Jar Lid of the Same Size With the Drain Hole

Do you have a jar or plastic lid that is large enough to cover the drain hole? Place the lid upside down on the drain hole. To ensure this makeshift plug is strong enough, press the lid down as you start to fill the tub. The suction action from inside the drain and the weight of the water will ensure the lid stays in place and prevent water from escaping.

If you don’t have any jar lids, you can buy some online (like this Aozita 18 Pack). However, you should consider if this option is really best for you. You can find plastic bath plugs for around the same price. Of course, you will get one bath plug (as against multiple jar lids), but a bath plug solves your problem better in the long term.

4. Use a Toilet Plunger

If you have a toilet plunger, it can serve as a makeshift plug for your bath drain. All you have to do is to clean the rubber end of it with some soap and water and then set it over the drain hole in the tub. Press down on it to seal the drain and remove the wooden handle. You can also leave the handle if you want to easily lift the plunger when you need to drain the water.

5. Plug the Drain With a Washcloth Stuffed Inside a Plastic Bag

Do you have a washcloth or small towel? Stuff it inside a plastic bag and squeeze out the air from the bag. Seal the bag if it is sealable or tie the ends using a small rope or rubber bands. You can also tie the plastic bag in a knot. This will give you a tool you can insert into the drain hole. If you don’t remove the air, the bag may float with enough water in the tub.

If the bag is coming up even when you’ve removed the air, hold it down in the drain hole until the water in the tub is exerting enough pressure from the top of the bag to hold it down.

6. Tape the Drain Hole

You can use waterproof duct tape to cover the drain hole of your bathtub. Create a double layer on top of the hole, and it can withstand water long enough to allow you to complete the bath. Press the tape down properly to ensure it is binding to the tub tightly. For the best results, tape the hole when the tub is dry. This Gorilla All Weather is a good example of what kind of tape to use.

7. Use a Marine Drain Twist Plug

This method of blocking a bathtub drain without a plug is only for fishermen who are likely to have this equipment at home. Find a drain twist plug that is the same size as the bathtub drain and block the hole with it. You’ll have to push the plug down and ensure it fits perfectly. To block water from leaving, twist the plug clockwise while it is inside the drain. Twist it counter-clockwise to remove it and drain the bath.

If you want to buy a marine drain twist plug, one of the best brands to consider is SEACHOICE 18861. Again, if you don’t really have a need for a drain twist plug apart from blocking your drain, buying a bathtub plug is the better way to go.

Some Considerations to Keep in Mind

The only way to finally solve your problem of water drain in the bathtub is to find a permanent solution. All the DIY tips above can only work for a while, and unless you are willing to keep repeating the process whenever you are ready for a bath, you should buy a proper plug—unless you can convince yourself that it makes more financial sense to not buy a plug.

If you have a complicated bathtub with a drain hole you can’t find a plug for, call in a professional to take a look and proffer a lasting solution. Alternatively, you can take a trip down to your local store with a picture of the hole and some measurements to see if the attendants can find a replacement plug that will fit. Such plugs won’t last for years before wear and tear start showing again, but they’ll be more convenient than a DIY method.


Blocking a bathtub drain without a plug takes a bit of ingenuity, but anyone can do it easily. You only need to find materials that can cover the drainage hole properly and won’t float away when the bath is filled with water.

However, remember that most of these DIY methods are only useful when you are faced with an emergency. If you want a long-lasting solution, you need to buy a bath plug. If you don’t want to buy a bath plug, choose a method that you can replicate in seconds when you are ready to take a bath.

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