How to Unclog a Shower Drain Like a Plumber

A clogged or slow draining shower drain is caused by hair, soap scum and mineral deposits that stick on the drainpipe and trap, restricting the flow of water. In some instances, clogged sewer lines or a blocked vent stack can cause the shower drain to back up or gurgle when another fixture drains.

A coat hanger, baking soda, vinegar and hot water are fantastic in clearing a clogged shower drain. Make a hook from the wire coat hanger and use it to remove most of the loose gunk, then pour a baking soda and vinegar solution down the drain. Blast hot water down the drain to wash down everything.

shower-drain

Shower drains clogs are held just below the drain opening in a pipe fitting called a drain trap. A drain trap is a U-shaped pipe that has 2 important functions in all drains. You can spot a drain trap below your kitchen or bathroom sink and also in the toilet.

Drain traps allows a little amount of water to be held at all time, creating a seal that prevents sewer gases from coming up into the house. This is the reason why your shower drain will have a sewer gas smell if it has not been used for a while since the water in the trap evaporates.

sink trap

The second reason for having a trap in the shower drain is to prevent clogs from happening further away in the drainpipe. This makes it easy to unclog a shower drain and pretty much all the other fixtures.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Let us now look at how to unclog a shower drain in more details. There are actually quite a number of ways to clear a slow draining or clogged shower drain naturally, but you can also use chemical drain cleaners although I don’t encourage it.

These are the steps to follow:

1. Remove the Shower Drain Cover

Removing a shower drain cover gives you access to the shower drainpipe for easy removal of hair, soap scum and other type of gunk. There are several types of shower drain covers but their removal are all easy.  You will only need a flathead screwdriver or a needle-nose-pliers.

  • Look for 2 screws on the shower drain cover.
  • Use a screwdriver to remove them by turn it counterclockwise.
  • Once the screws are out lift off the cover.
  • If there are no screws on the cover, insert the screwdriver in one of the shower drain cover side slots and pry it out. Another alternative is to grab it with a needle-nose pliers and pull it up gently.

If your shower drain cover is secured with screws, you need to be very careful so that you don’t drop the screws down the drainpipe. I should also add that the contents in the shower drain will be quiet gross so be sure to have on rubber gloves.

2. Unclog the Shower Drain with a Wire Coat Hanger

  • Dash to your closet and grab a wire coat hanger.
  • Straighten it and make a hook on one end using a pair of pliers.
  • Insert the hooked end of the wire hanger inside the shower drain and fish out as much gunk as possible. It helps to have a plastic bag to put in all the trash as you don’t want to put it on your shower floor.

Although a coat hanger is the most ideal and readily available tool to use, you can also try to be a little innovative if you do not have a wire coat hanger. Look for a strong/firm wire or using a needle nose pliers to grab the waste instead.

3. Unclog the Shower Drain with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda is an alkaline substance while vinegar is a mild acid. When you mix the 2 substances, a fizzing reactions occurs rapidly creating bubbles (carbon dioxide) and water. The reaction breaks down the clog into smaller and loose pieces than can easily wash down the drain.

Apart from helping in unclogging drains, baking soda and vinegar are fantastic cleaning agents. They remove bad odors and are safe to use for people on a septic system.

Here is how to unclog a shower drain with baking soda and vinegar:

  • Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the shower drain.
  • Slowly add 1 cup of vinegar in the drain. It is important that you add the vinegar slowly as it reacts very fast with the baking soda and could potentially splash on your face.
  • Let the solution sit and do its magic for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • As you wait for the baking soda and vinegar solution to work, boil about 1 gallon of water.
  • After the 30-60 minutes have lapsed, pour the hot water down the shower drain to wash down any loosely held hair strands and other type of gunk.

Hot water is also very effective in melting soap scum and dissolving mineral deposits like calcium, which are 2 of the main causes of clogged shower drains.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain with a Plunger

A plunger is very effective in unclogging bathtubs, toilets and sinks but a little difficult when it comes to shower drains. This is because you need the plunger cup to be covered with enough water in order to create a strong suction.

Unlike in a toilet, bathtub or sink, it is hard to hold a lot of water in the shower. There is however a trick you can use to unclog a shower drain with a plunger.

  • Apply Vaseline or just about any other petroleum jelly around the rim of the plunger cup and place it on top of the shower drain opening. The jelly will help to create a tight seal around the cup for an even stronger suction.
  • Start plunging being careful not to lift the plunger off the surface of the shower.
  • After about 2 minutes of plunging, lift off the plunger and pour a small amount of hot water down the drain to see if the clog has been dislodged.

The benefit of plunging is that you don’t even need to remove the shower drain cover, hence it is quite effective when you are in a hurry. I would however encourage you to first remove the cover and remove the gunk on top of the trap as plunging might push all the trash down to the trap and cause an even worse clog than before.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain with Standing Water.

A clogged shower drain with standing water is quite gross if you think about. Unlike a toilet, sink or bathtub that you can unclog from the outside, you need to enter inside the shower to access the shower drain opening.

To unclog a shower drain with standing, you have 3 options:

  • Mop the water dry with a sponge/rag
  • Suck up the water with a shop vac
  • Plunge the shower drain

A drain plunger is the easiest and quickest method. Just grab it and position it over the shower drain opening. Start plunging start off gently and later plunge aggressively. Keep plunging and lifting the plunger to see if the water is draining away.

A shop vac is also quite fast in removing the standing water and what is good is that it can even suck up water from inside the shower drain. Bring your vac to the bathroom and suck up as much water as possible from the shower.

A shop vac will however not unclog a shower drain on its own. What it does is help you remove the standing water so that you can access the shower drain cover.

Once you have removed the pooling water proceed to remove the drain cover and use either a snake or coat hanger to unclog the drain. You can use baking soda and vinegar solution combined with hot water.

If you want to unclog a shower drain with a shop vac, remove the cover and push the shop vac’s hose inside the drain and seal around the hose with rags for a stronger suction. Start the shop vac for about 30 seconds and check if the clog has been removed.

Another method of unclogging a shower drain with standing water is to soak up the water using a sponge or rag and squeeze it out in the sink or toilet. Make sure that you are wearing rubber gloves with this method.

When you have soaked all of the standing water, remove the shower drain cover and unclog the drain with a snake, wire coat hanger or any other method you may like.

Unclogging a shower drain with standing water is a lot difficult than a slow draining shower drain. What is worse is that you have to unclog it urgently lest the water will start spilling out of the shower.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain with a Snake

drain-snake

A plumber’s snake, also called an auger is a fantastic tool for unclogging drains. It has a hooked spring-like head, a flexible cable and a cranking handle. It acts on the clog by hooking and pulling it out or by shredding it into smaller pieces.

A shower drain snake is very different from a toilet auger. A toilet auger should not be used on a shower drain as it can easily damage the trap.

Here is how to unclog a shower drain with a snake:

  • Start by removing the shower drain cover and removing as much gunk with your hand as possible.
  • Insert the cable inside the drain opening until you encounter resistance. Tighten the clamp on the handle and slowly start turning the handle clockwise. Cracking the handle will turn the cable forcing it through the clog.
  • As the cable penetrates the clog, the handle will feel light and free. Loosen the clamp and feed more cable down the drain. Repeat the process until you are satisfied that the entire shower drain is free. Never force the cable down the drain; always pull it up and start afresh when pushing the cable down becomes difficult.
  • Pull up the cable into the drum. As you do this, hold a towel/rag against the cable to strip it off any gunk that might have stuck on it.
  • Turn on the shower faucet just to be sure that the shower drain is unclogged and that it is draining perfectly.
  • Put the shower drain cover back on.

How to Unclog a Shower Drain with Bleach

Bleach is a stronger cleaning agent than baking soda, which is a mild base. Bleach is also more effective in unclogging drains.

The disadvantage of using bleach to unclog a shower drain is that it produces a lot of heat which can weaken pipes, it is not eco-friendly and will also kill the good bacteria in a septic tank for people who are on a septic system.

If however bleach is all you have or are wondering how you can dissolve hair in a shower drain then bleach is a great choice. Human hair is acidic while bleach is a strong alkaline hence it will dissolve the hair and in the process unclog the shower drain.

  • Make sure there is no pooling water around your shower drain opening. Soak it up with a rag or shop vac.
  • Pour 1 cup of bleach down the shower drain and wait for 15 minutes.
  • Blast hot water down the shower drain to rinse off the bleach and also to wash away and gunk still trapped in the drain.

The danger of using bleach to unclog a shower drain is that if the drain does not unclog, the bleach will be trapped in the drainpipe, corroding steel pipes or deforming plastic ones. You also risk the bleach splashing on your face if you decide to unclog the shower drain using others methods like plunging or snaking.

How to Clean Your Shower Drain Trap

You should make it a habit of cleaning your shower drain trap frequently (at least once a fortnight) especially with natural cleaners. This has 2 advantages:

  • It prevents a smell shower drain.
  • Your shower drain will hardly clog.

Apart from a dry drain trap, a sewer smell from the shower drain is caused by biofilm inside the drainpipe and trap. Biofilm is a coating from soap, oils, conditioners and shampoos, which are all organic.

When these substances decompose, they form a sticky substance called a biofilm that smells horribly. Cleaning your shower drain trap will make sure that you won’t have to deal with this problem at all.

Here is how to clean a shower drain trap:

  • Pour one up baking soda down the shower drain.
  • Slowly add one cup vinegar and wait for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Run hot water down the drain to wash down the gunk.
  • Repeat after 2 weeks

FAQs

1. Snake won’t go down a shower drain.

If a snake won’t just go down a shower drain, make sure that you are actually using a drain snake and not a toilet auger. The drain snake should be straight and not bent. If you are using the correct type of drain snake and it won’t go down a shower drain, don’t force it. Call in a professional plumber.

2. Can you use Drano to unclog a shower drain?

Yes. You can use drain to unclog a shower drain, bathtub drain and even a sink drain. The only place you don’t want to use drano is in the toilet.

3. Slow draining shower drain but not clogged

If you have a slow draining shower drain, it is either partially clogged or you are dealing with a blocked vent stack. A blocked vent stacked means sewer gases cannot flow out of the drainpipe and hence a slow draining shower drain.

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