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How to Fix a Clogged Shower Drain

A clogged shower drain is one of the most common types of drain clogs, and also one of the most frustrating. No one wants to spend the most relaxing part of their day ankle deep in standing water, but it’s a fact of life for countless people. Thankfully, unclogging a shower drain rarely requires a plumber, and can be done at home with a few household items.

In this article, we’ll show you a few different ways to unclog your shower drain, and take a moment to explain why shower drains get clogged so often. Feel free to jump ahead:

Why are Shower Clogs So Common?

Chances are that you’ve experienced a shower drain clog at some point in your life. You may have even wondered what it is that you did wrong to cause a clog.

Truthfully, you probably didn’t do anything wrong at all. The very nature of showers, and what gets washed down the drain during them, creates the perfect environment to cause a problem.

First, there’s the actual flow of the shower. Compared to most drains in a house, a shower has one of the lowest flow rates. A higher flow rate, like the flow rate of a toilet, naturally helps to reduce the potential for problems because it prevents smaller debris from latching onto the sides of a pipe. Showers send a soft trickle of water down the drain, which can allow debris to get stuck in the pipe more easily.

More importantly, showers create a lot of small debris. During a shower, you’re washing off dirt, dead skin and hair. All of these smaller particles, particularly hair, have a tendency to get stuck in the drain. While this doesn’t immediately cause a clog, over time this can build up into a large enough obstruction that it prevents the shower from properly draining. People who have long hair should be especially wary of letting their hair go down the drain, as longer hair is more likely to get caught in the drain pipe.

How to Prevent Shower Drain Clogs

We all know that it’s better to prevent a bad thing from happening than have to deal with the bad thing once it happens. To that end, here are two ways you can try to prevent shower clogs:

1. “Flush” your shower drain regularly.

Showers don’t send enough water down the pipe to clear out the debris they accumulate, which is one of the primary reasons for shower clogs. Luckily, many showers are also baths, which makes it easy to flush out debris with a blast of water. To do this, exit the shower and turn the heat to the highest setting. Once the water is hot, switch it over to the bath tap and let it run for 15–30 seconds. Doing this once or twice a week will help keep your drain clear of debris.

If your shower does not have a bath tap, you can imitate this effect by filling a bucket with hot water and pouring it down the drain at the end of your shower.

2. Use a hair catcher.

One of the easiest ways to keep your shower drain from clogging is to install a hair catcher over the drain opening. These handy devices come in many shapes and sizes, but most are a mesh sieve that allows water, but not hair, to go into the drain. After each shower, you can remove the hair catcher and empty it into your bathroom trash can.

>While these methods can help you prevent drain issues, they aren’t foolproof. And you can still end up with a drain clog after a sufficient amount of time. If your drain gets clogged despite your best efforts, there are still quite a few ways to handle a it.

Unclogging a Shower Drain with a Drain Snake

Time required: About 10 minutes

Materials needed: Drain snake, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Instructions: A tried-and-true method of taking out clogs is to use a drain snake. While this is few people’s favorite method (frankly, it can be a little gross), it does tend to work quite well.

  1. Put on your gloves and insert the drain snake into the drain.
  2. Feed the snake into the drain until you feel the obstruction.
  3. Rotate the drain snake when you reach the obstruction in order to corkscrew the edge into whatever is blocking the pipe.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to clear deeper into your drain pipe, if desired.
  5. Pull the snake out of the drain. If done correctly, the clog should come out with the drain snake. If nothing comes out, or a small amount comes out, repeat steps 2 through 5.
  6. Run the bath tap or shower to see if the water flows normally.

Unclogging a Shower Drain with Boiling Water

Time required: About 10–20 minutes

Materials needed: Large cup or bucket, boiling water, funnel (optional), dishwashing gloves

Instructions: As you likely learned in chemistry class, or just while doing the dishes, hot water is more effective for removing material than cold water. You can use this to your advantage when you have a clogged shower drain.

  1. Boil water in a pot, electric kettle or other heating device.
  2. Pour boiling water down the drain and wait for 10-15 minutes. We recommend using a funnel in order to avoid damage to the tub shell (though it is probably not necessary as most tub shells are designed to withstand high temperatures).
  3. Run your shower or bath tap. If it was cleared, it will drain normally. If it is still clogged, try this method again or resort to another method.

Unclogging a Shower Drain with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Time required: About 10–15 minutes

Materials needed: Measuring cup, boiling water, baking soda, vinegar, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Instructions: While vinegar and baking soda is typically the realm of elementary school science projects, it can also be a powerful clog clearing tool.

  1. Pour boiling water down the drain.
  2. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a two-cup mixture of half vinegar and half water.
  3. Cover the drain with a tight seal (close the drain or use a drain stopper) and wait for about 10 minutes.
  4. Uncover the drain and run the shower or bath tap. If the clog is not cleared, repeat the steps or try another method.

Unclogging a Shower Drain with Drain Cleaner

Time required: About 15–20 minutes

Materials needed: Drain cleaner, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Instructions: Finally, you can always resort to using a drain cleaner for a stubborn blockage. Drain cleaners are highly corrosive solutions that essentially dissolve the clog in your pipe. It’s important to note that you should always wear gloves when handling drain cleaner as it can burn your skin on contact.

  1. Pour the recommended amount of drain cleaner (see your specific bottle for details) down your drain.
  2. Wait 10–15 minutes.
  3. Run your bath tap on hot for about 1 minute, or pour a bucket of hot water down the drain.
  4. Run your shower to see if the it is cleared. If not, try using a drain snake or another method to remove the remaining clog.

When to Call a Professional to Fix Your Clogged Shower Drain

Typically, a clogged shower drain can be handled on your own, but there are some situations where a professional may need to come and take a look.

If you try every method in the book, and the clog persists, chances are you need to call a plumber. The other times when calling a plumber is necessary are when the drain is producing a foul odor or water is backing up from the drain at any point. Both of these signs point to serious issues that could affect more than just your shower.

Explore Drain Cleaning Services from Mr. Rooter

If you’ve tried clearing your shower drain to no avail, then it’s time to give the pros a call. At Mr. Rooter, our expert plumbers have the skills needed to take care of your drain clogs and address even the most serious plumbing issues.

Need help with a plumbing problem soon? Click the button below to find a Mr. Rooter location in your area.

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