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How a Pop-Up Drain Stopper Works

The pivot rod beneath the sink connects the pop-up to the sink-top lever.LightWaveMedia / Shutterstock.com

The pivot rod beneath the sink connects the pop-up to the sink-top lever.

Although pop-up stoppers in sinks and bathtubs look similar from inside the fixture, the mechanisms that control them are somewhat different.

Sink and Bathtub Pop-Up Drain Stoppers Diagram ©HomeTips

Pop-up drain stoppers move up and down to open or close drains in sinks and bathtubs.

Sink Pop-Ups

You raise and lower sink pop-ups with a knob usually located near a faucet handle. The knob is actually the head of a lift rod fastened to a clevis, a connecting bar.

The clevis connects to a pivot rod–and– ball assembly—a rod that runs through a rubber pivot ball and slopes slightly uphill to the tailpiece of the stopper.

Pushing the knob and the lift rod down causes the pivot rod to push the stopper up; pulling the knob causes the pivot rod to pull the stopper down. If you want to remove the assembly, you may be able to pull it right out. You may have to twist it, however, to unhook it from the clevis.

Bathtub Pop-Ups

You raise and lower bathtub pop-ups with a lever at the tub’s overflow plate.

A bathtub pop-up is typically sold in an assembly that includes the overflow tube.©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

A bathtub pop-up is typically sold in an assembly that includes the overflow tube.

The lever operates a lift linkage that pulls on a spring. The spring pulls a rocker arm that raises and lowers the stopper.

It is usually very simple to pull out the stopper and rocker arm linkage.

Click here to buy pop-up drain stoppers online.

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About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort developed his expertise more than 30 years ago as Building Editor for both Sunset Books and Home Magazine. He has written more than 30 home improvement books and countless magazine articles. He appeared regularly on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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  1. There is no “spring” in the spring clip…can I replace this spring?

    • Take the old one to the hardware store, home improvement center, or plumbing supply store and see if they have a replacement. This is just a retainer, so you can probably solve the problem by just winding the connection with some black electrical tape until you can find a proper replacement clip.

      • Thank you.

  2. My apartment that I moved into had a very slow draining bathroom sink. Liquid plummer failed to make a difference. I pulled the assembly apart and tried to problem solve. I noticed that the stopper could be inserted two ways: with the hole for the pivot rod to be inserted facing away from the retaining nut and with it turned 180deg and facing towards the retaining nut. I’m not sure which way it is facing now but I turned it 180deg and reconnected everything and now the water drains away quickly. Is it essential for the stopper to be inserted as shown in the above diagram (with the hole for the pivot rod, to be inserted, closer to the opposite side of the pipe from the retaining nut)? Whatever way I have it now makes a world of difference for water to be able to drain properly.


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