7 Steps to Unclog a Shower Drain (Explained)

A clogged shower drain is a reality everyone faces! Showers can develop a hair clog when loose hairs wash down the drain opening and accumulate inside the drain trap.

Long hair is not the only culprit though, the build-up of soap scum can also restrict water flow in plumbing pipes. Small items can fall into the drain if the shower drain cover is missing or broken.

It’s best to keep your drains clean in the first place, but even with the best efforts, sometimes clogs are inevitable. It’s crucial to know how to deal with a clogged shower drain effectively.

When a clogged shower drain does not clear, it can lead to more costly repairs and even put your health at risk.

  1. If you have a slow shower drain, you can usually fix it by pouring boiling water, a homemade cleaning solution of vinegar and baking soda, or using a cup plunger.
  1. For more stubborn clogs, a chemical drain cleaning product like Drano Max Gel can cut through nasty clogs and standing water inside the pipe to reach and clear the clog. If you have standing water in the shower, using chemical drain cleaners will probably be ineffective because the solution can not reach to clog to create the chemical reaction necessary to clear it.
  1. For more severe clogs with standing water, you may be able to reach the clog with a wire hanger. However, for deeper clogs, you may need to remove the drain cover to use a drain snake to reach clogs deep inside pipes.
  1. Call a local plumber if you are unable to unclog your shower drain.

In this article, we’ll break down the dangers of a clogged shower, common reasons for clogs, and different methods that you can use to unclog your shower drain. Let’s get started so your shower water can get flowing!

Why Won’t My Bathtub or Shower Dr...
Why Won’t My Bathtub or Shower Drain Right?

Best Way to Unclog a Shower Drain

When it comes down to unclogging your shower drain, there are a few tried and tested methods you can use. These are the best options we’ve seen be effective at clearing a shower drain clog. Depending on the severity of your clogged shower drain, you may need to use more than one of these methods to unclog your drain.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that:

  1. If other sinks or bathtubs are also backing up, the problem is likely more complex than just the buildup of hair in your shower drain. If multiple fixtures are backing up, it’s a sure sign that you should call a plumber immediately.
  1. It’s easier to clear blockages in PVC pipes than in metal pipes. The interior walls of galvanized and cast iron pipes can corrode and narrow with age and will likely require replacement. PVC pipes have a smooth interior surface that doesn’t corrode and are resistant to chemical drain cleaners.

If you’re unable to unclog your drain after using these methods, or you suspect the clog has led to other plumbing issues, you should get a professional plumber to come and inspect your shower drain and plumbing system.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain Without Drano

We suggest trying these three natural methods first before moving on to using harsh chemicals, like Drano.

1. Use Boiling Water

With small shower drain blockages, sometimes boiling water is the easiest way, and most effective way, to clear a small blockage. This method can still be effective for more severe shower drain clogs when used alongside another method on this list. Boil a sufficient amount of water in a pot and pour it down your shower drain.

This will help to at least partially clear the clogged drain. Once you’ve poured the boiling water down your drain, you should wait a few minutes before turning the shower on and seeing if this method has worked. If this method didn’t clear your clog, don’t worry – you’re all but out of options!

2. Use Baking Soda and Vinegar Solution

Before resorting to a chemical drain cleaner, you can try using a natural drain cleaner comprised of a cup of white vinegar and baking soda. You’ll likely find you already have these ingredients in your pantry. The natural drain cleaner can also be used on sinks and bathtub clogs, but it does have an unpleasant odor.

  1. Start by pouring boiling water down the shower drain. If you did this step above you don’t need to repeat it.
  1. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a solution mixture of one cup of vinegar with one cup of water. Cover the drain and allow the solution to work for 5 to 10 minutes. The chemical reaction from this homemade cleaner begins to loosen the clog.
  1. Follow this up by pouring more boiling water down the shower drain to flush the clog through the plumbing system.

If you see some improvement in the way the shower drains, you may need to repeat this process a few times.

3. Use a Cup Plunger

If the shower remains clogged, try using a cup plunger. Most people will have a toilet plunger stored away somewhere they can use to try and unclog their shower drain.

How successful this method is for you ultimately depends on the nature of your clog and where it’s situated within your drain pipes. Nonetheless, it’s worth the try, especially if you already have a plunger to use.

For the best results, you should add a coating of petroleum jelly to the rim of your plunger. This will allow you to get more suction while plunging your shower drain. You can also fill your shower with some water. Having the plunger submerged in some water will help facilitate the unclogging process.

When rinsing it with hot water, you’ll be able to note how effective this solution was in unclogging your shower drain. You can repeat this process for stubborn clogs or proceed to the following method on this list.

Using Drain Cleaners to Unclog a Shower

4. Use a Chemical Drain Cleaner

If the previous methods have not fully cleared your clogged shower drain, it may be time to use a chemical drain cleaner. These chemical products are readily available in-store. However, you can even purchase it online!

While using chemical cleaners, you should wear protective gear. This includes protection for your eyes and rubber gloves! Furthermore, you must read the provided instructions before using a chemical drain cleaner to unclog your shower drain.

Chemical drain cleaning products are formulated to liquefy organic matter that builds up within a drain clog. This includes accumulated hair, soap scum, grease, and often even paper products that get lodged in drains.

Before using a drain cleaner, try using a wire coat hanger to remove longer hairs that are within reach of the drain. Try not to push the clog deeper into the drain as a compacted buildup of hair can make it more difficult for the chemical product you’re using to free the clog.

If the drain cleaner doesn’t free the clog, you’ll need to move on to the next method which involves removing the drain cover and using a plumber’s snake. If you are not comfortable doing this, you should go ahead and contact a local plumber.

Some of the best drain cleaning tools for removing hair clogs within reach without removing the drain cover is The Drain Weasel. It works for all sorts of hair clogs, including sinks, bathtubs, and even vacuum cleaners.

Chemical drain cleaners will not correct drain problems caused by tree roots in the main sewer line which are indicative of a bigger problem that will require replacing sections of drain piping.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain When Drano Doesn’t Work

5. Remove the Drain Cover

By removing your shower’s drain cover, you may be able to remove the clog yourself. Your shower’s drain cover may attach with a screw, which you’ll need to loosen to remove the cover. You can pry other types of drain covers off using a flathead screwdriver.

You can use a dry shop vacuum to remove standing water from the bottom of the shower.

Once you’ve successfully removed the drain cover, you can try removing the clog by hand if it is within reach.

If it is not within reach, you can use an inexpensive drain clog remover tool like a plastic snake tool. You can find one at Home Depot or your local hardware store. You can also order one from Amazon.

A drain claw is effective at removing clogs that are within a few feet of the shower.

If this doesn’t work for you, don’t fret! The next method is essentially a more in-depth version of this method, one which might do the trick for your clogged shower drain!

6. Use a Drain Snake

Unlike a plunger, most people don’t generally have a plumbing snake just lying around. However, if you have one handy – or if you know somebody who owns one – a plumbing snake can work wonders in unclogging your shower drain.

Also known as a drain snake, you insert these devices into a clogged drain to help remove whatever is causing the problem. The ‘snake’ then keeps going deeper into your drain until you carefully pull it out, along with the debris clogging your shower drain.

If you do not have access to a plumbing snake, you could use a homemade wire hook. You can fashion one from an old coat hanger. A homemade hook can function as a makeshift plumbing snake for those clogs that are harder to reach.

Here is an inexpensive 25 ft drain snake that is effective at reaching drain clogs far from the source.

If you’ve never used a plumbing snake to unclog a drain, this YouTube video from Fix This House will explain precisely how to use this handy tool for beginners!

7. Call a Plumber

If you’ve exhausted your unclogging options to no avail, it’s time to call a plumber. It’s essential to do this before your clogged shower drain leads to more severe issues, as discussed earlier in this article.

Plumbers have more options like commercial drain cleaners and longer plumbing snakes to locate and remove clogs. They can even use a drain scope to see inside the pipes and show you just how much buildup is inside your plumbing pipes.

You should also consult a plumber if you suspect your clogged shower has resulted in damage to your plumbing system.

Common Reasons Why Your Shower Drain Is Clogged

Understanding the reason for your clogged shower drain will allow you to prevent clogs from occurring in the future. Often the reason for your clogged shower drain will be a combination of these reasons. Understanding the causes, however, is crucial to dealing with them in the long run.

Here are the most common reasons for a clogged shower drain!

Hair Buildup

One of the most common reasons for a blocked drain is the buildup of hair and skin cells over time. Unfortunately, this is unavoidable for most people. It doesn’t matter how long the hair in question is; any hair can lead to a blocked shower drain.

Hair and dead skin cells build up in your drain and, combined with other factors on this list, can lead to a clogged drain. Using a hair catcher or drain screen in your shower drain can help prevent hair from clogging your shower drain.

Hard Water

The ‘hardness’ of water refers to how much mineral content is present within the water. Hard water is water that contains high levels of calcium and magnesium. The excess minerals present within hard water can cause this mineral content to collect and build up within your drain.

To prevent this, you can use a water softener, which you can install within your shower to filter your hard water. This solution is great because hard water can even cause soap scum to build up in your shower.

Soap Scum

When soap mixes with hard water, soap scum forms and accumulates. The excess calcium and magnesium present in the hard water react with the soap to form a substance known as soap scum. If you’ve ever noticed the buildup of soap scum on your shower walls, you’ll know how hard it can be to clean.

When soap scum builds up within your drain, it’s even harder to reach and adequately remove. The soap scum, along with hair and foreign objects, can build up in your drain and cause it to become clogged over time.

To prevent the buildup of soap scum within your shower drain, you should regularly pour a solution of hot water and bleach down your shower drain. Continue to do this periodically, even once your shower drain is unclogged.

Foreign Object or Debris

Foreign objects falling in the shower drain are often inevitable and can contribute to a clogged drain. This is common with small objects, such as toothpaste caps, wrappers, and even the safety covers put on razors.

When small objects like this wind up in your drain and your plumbing system, they can cause your shower drain to become clogged and are difficult to remove.

Using a device like a hair catcher or drain screen in your shower, as mentioned earlier, can also help prevent these foreign objects from becoming lodged within your drain and causing a clog.

The Dangers of a Clogged Shower Drain

Clogged shower drains are more than an inconvenience; they’re a potential structural and safety hazard when not dealt with properly. Below, we’ve listed some of the threats clogged shower drains can pose. These will hopefully highlight the importance of properly dealing with a clogged shower drain.

1. Your Shower Won’t Smell Fresh

When you get into your shower, you want to get clean. You don’t want to smell a foul odor caused by a clogged shower drain. It has been proven that foul odors can make people more irritable, anxious, and tired even when they are not a health risk. Now that doesn’t sound like a relaxing shower!

A clogged drain can result in a foul odor due to the stagnant water that collects above the clog. This water, which cannot drain properly, will result in an odor that filters back into your home.

2. It can Attract Pests and Encourage Mold Growth  

Stagnant water that builds up in a clogged shower drain – or any drain in your home, for that matter – can attract pests and encourage the growth of mold. When you allow these issues to develop due to an untreated clogged drain, they can become harder to deal with and clean.

For one, stagnant water can attract pests like mosquitos, cockroaches, and flies to the water. These insects can carry germs and diseases, which is not a good combination with a clogged drain. Furthermore, standing water creates the perfect environment for mold to grow.

3. Health Risks from Clogged Drains

As discussed above, a clogged drain can cause further issues with pests, mold, and mildew. These issues can then lead to your clogged shower drain posing a health risk. From bacterial infections to respiratory infections, clogged showers can negatively impact your health when left untreated.

Clean drains make an environment that is difficult for mold and mildew to grow. Cleaning your drains helps to remove organic materials that become a breeding ground for mold growth.

4. Clogged Drains Cause Plumbing Leaks

When not dealt with, a clogged shower drain can lead to other plumbing leaks developing. This is especially common in drains linked to bathrooms due to the high volume of water that typically passes through these drains.

Clogged shower drains cause water to build up within plumbing systems. Plumbing leaks can then be caused when caulking or sealing is worn down by the built-up pressure caused by standing water. Remember that your plumbing system isn’t fully visible, so you may not notice these leaks.

These leaks, especially when they go unnoticed for quite some time, can encourage the growth of mold in these hard-to-reach areas of your home. In turn, this can negatively impact the structure of your home. This can result in problems that are a lot pricier to fix than simply unclogging a shower drain.

5. High Potential for Structural Damage

We briefly mentioned above that clogged bathroom drains could cause structural damage to your home. However, it deserves to be mentioned again! When your shower drain is clogged, the water has to go somewhere.

Clogs can lead to water seeping into the foundation of your home. This can lead to you inadvertently weakening the structural integrity of your home. This can be an unnecessary and costly issue to repair when dealt with too late.

Conclusion

In this article, we looked at the many threats that a clogged drain poses, from a bad odor to structural damage and health risks; the list goes on. That’s why it’s important to deal with a clogged drain immediately before the problem snowballs into something more severe.

Understanding the reasons your shower drain is clogged is the best method for preventing clogs in the future. We broke down the different options and techniques that you can use to unblock your shower drain and get it working properly again.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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