How to unclog a shower drain
People often don’t realize how much they rely on shower drains until they suddenly find them draining slowly, with a puddle of water at their feet. Nearly every shower drain will clog at some point if not cleaned out routinely, which can cause problems with drainage. Not only does clogging create inconvenience for those in the home, but a clogged drain is also unsanitary. Clogs can quickly contribute to the growth of bacteria and grime in the drain and the development of mold in the area.
If you find yourself with a blockage in the shower drain, a few strategies can help you correct the problem. Once you get the problem fixed, consider getting a drain cover to prevent it from recurring. Here’s what you need to know about how to unclog a shower drain.
4 causes of a clogged shower drain
One of the first signs of a clogged shower drain is an increase in standing water. The drain will likely first start draining slower and slower, with the amount of water that remains in the tub or shower stall increasing and the clog getting worse. If you don’t fix the problem quickly, it might stop draining entirely.
There are a variety of materials that can cause the drain to clog. Some likely culprits might be:
- A buildup of human hair. As people shower, some hair naturally falls into the drain and can begin to slowly tangle and build up a clump that starts to clog the drain.
- A buildup of minerals from the water in the shower. Some homes have hard water, which means the supply has a lot of minerals that will cause a buildup over time as the mineral deposits begin to grow in the shower.
- Small objects that have fallen down the drain. Some people might find that small objects have fallen down the drain, such as hair bands. This can also start to form a clog.
- Buildup from soap. Occasionally, soap buildup can create a clog, particularly when combined with one of the other culprits mentioned.
Tools you’ll need to fix a shower clog
If your clog proves to be a bit stubborn, having some tools on hand can help you get a bit creative in your problem-solving. As you prepare to tackle your backed-up drain, consider having these readily available:
- A screwdriver. A screwdriver will help you remove the drain cover if your shower has one. Depending on the drain, though, you may need to search around a bit to find the screws. At the same time, unscrew the stopped plate, which is located on the wall of the tub right above the drain. This covers the drain that helps prevent overflowing.
- A wire coat hanger, wire or wire pipe cleaners. These can help you reach even a bit further down the pipe. Use the end of the wire as a hook to lock through the clog.
- Pliers. Pliers can help you grab onto something solid, like a small object that has fallen into the drain.
- Plunger. This can be used similarly to how it’s used with a toilet.
- A drain snake/drain auger. A drain snake allows you to reach even further down into the pipe to grasp hard-to-reach clogs and get them loose. Once you make contact with the clog, crank the handle counterclockwise to pull it up.
How to unclog your shower drain
When you realize that you have a clogged shower drain, you’ll want to start working immediately to fix the problem so that it doesn’t have a chance to get any worse. Start by closely examining the clogged drain. Often, people find they can pull the plug out from the surface. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to go on to more intensive and invasive gunk removal strategies.
We’ll walk you through the best tips for unclogging your shower drain.
Pull the clog out from the surface
Remove any drain covers you have and see if you can spot the clog. Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands and feel around the top. Often, people find they can lift the clog out with their fingers or simple tools. This is particularly true for clogs that have not had the chance to fall deeply into the drain yet and sit close to the surface.
If you manage to pull out a clump of debris, throw it away and then test the shower to make sure that the removal has solved the problem. If the drain still seems slow, you might have a second clump further down, so you will need to keep working.
Get out the tools
If you can not reach the source of the clog with your fingers, you’ll want to get out some tools to help you. Consider gathering:
- Pipe cleaners
- A flashlight
- Anything else that will let you reach down deeper into the pipe
These tools allow you to use the same strategy as you did in the first step but by reaching significantly further down the pipe. Gently use the tools to feel around to see if you can find the clog. A flashlight can help guide you. As you reach down into the pipe, be careful not to push any type of clog further down, which will only make it even harder to get out.
Add boiling water
Boiling water can also sometimes help unclog drains. The hot water helps dissolve any minerals or other materials that have contributed to the buildup.
Bring a few cups of water to a boil and carefully transport the water to the clogged shower drain. Pour the water slowly down the drain and see if it starts to dissolve any clogs. If this system works, you’ll see the water start to flow more easily.
You can also alternate the boiling water with the plunger to see if you can use them together to dislodge the hair clog and help the water move more freely.
Pour white vinegar down the drain
White vinegar can also sometimes help with mineral buildup that causes clogs in drains. You’ll use a cup of vinegar in a similar fashion to the boiling water by pouring it slowly down the drain to see if it will dissolve some of the mineral buildup and help any hair clog flow more freely.
For added strength, some people mix the vinegar with baking soda. This can help boost the chemical’s ability to dissolve buildup contributing to the clog.
For those who need something a bit stronger, a store-bought chemical drain cleaner like Drano can work for certain stubborn clogs. If you decide to go this route, carefully read the instructions on the packaging to ensure you use it correctly and give it time to work properly.
Use a drain snake/drain auger
A drain snake or auger can also help with clogs that you have trouble lifting using other methods. This tool, which is also called a plumber’s snake, looks like a cable that runs down the drain with an auger-like tip on the end. Snaking through the pipes can help you find deeper debris. When the tool reaches the clog, the tip will burrow in the clog so you can take hold of it and pull it out.
Having a tool like this on hand can be very beneficial for people who want to take care of their shower drain clogs independently as often as possible. Since drain clogs happen frequently in many homes, having a drain snake can make it easier to get hard-to-reach clogs loose. You can get one at a local hardware store.
Call a plumber
If you have tried the above strategies and are still struggling to get the water flowing freely from your faucet down the drain, the time has come to call a plumber. The plumber can help you determine if something more serious is causing your drain to clog, such as a mass deep within the plumbing system that you can’t reach with a drain snake.
Calling a plumber can help you safely take care of the problem if you’re not comfortable with DIY. Plumbing can present a challenge for those who are untrained, as leaks and other pipe problems can cause lasting damage.
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