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How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Clogged shower drains aren't pleasant, but you can make your life easier by knowing how to tackle the problem. Our handy guide covers preventative measures, some DIY tricks for tackling a clog, and what to avoid doing if you don't want to make the problem worse.

Grab your rubber gloves, and let's get to work.

What Causes a Clogged Shower Drain?

Why is my shower drain not draining? Drain blockages are mostly caused by material build-up over a long period.

Severe cases can be caused by decaying pipework and debris falling into the sewer pipe or even tree roots obstructing your main sewer line. However, the most common culprit for a clog is hair and soap scum.

Oily bath products are another regular suspect. Even when exposed to hot water, oil doesn't wash away; the lukewarm water that runs away with your bath will leave the oil stuck to the inside of your pipes. It catches other debris in the pipes and gradually builds up into an impermeable ball.

Signs That Your Shower Drain is Clogged

Common indicators that your pipework is blocked include:

Slow drain

If water lingers and pools around the plughole, there's likely a blockage further down. If you notice this in your bathroom sink, it might simply be a blockage in its S-bend. If it's noticeable in the sink and the bath, the clog will be further down.

A bad smell

If you notice an unpleasant odor emanating from the plughole, especially when it's draining, this could be a sign of blockage. Organic matter in the pipes starts to decay over time and doesn't smell great.

Water backs up

If you notice excessive gurgling in your sink or bath when you drain the other or standing water in your sink when you empty the bath, that's a tell-tale sign of a clog. The water is looking for somewhere else to go.

The Best Way to Unclog Your Drain

Now we've identified the problem, what to do? Often it's best to call a professional plumber to ensure that the blockage is unclogged properly and avoid damaging the pipework. However, you can try a few DIY solutions for minor blockages and regular maintenance.

  1. Pick it out by hand. Long hair trapped in your plughole's drain covers can "hang on" to other strands further down. This causes hair build-up that can trap other small objects and develop into significant blocks. Gently pull out the hairs and try to thread them up through the drain protector so you retrieve as much material as possible - snapping it will send the hair clog back down the plughole.

  2. Pour boiling water. Will boiling water unclog a shower drain? Sometimes! Boiling hot water can free hair clogs stuck in oil that lines your pipework. Shower water isn't hot enough to free up the oil - boiling water stands a better chance of freeing things up.

  3. Baking soda and vinegar. A classic household remedy, pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar into clogged drains can dissolve oil and residue. The general ratio is 1/2 a cup of baking soda to one cup of vinegar. A distilled white vinegar solution combined with baking soda is cheap. While the smell isn't to everyone's taste, it's a non-toxic, effective remedy.

  4. Use a plumber's snake. A plumbers' snake is a pipe cleaner that can loosen trapped hair and debris without damaging the pipework. It can loosen most clogs if they're shallow.

  5. Try a plunger. This can be more complicated than it seems - it depends on your pipes. You might need to block the sink's plughole before you start plunging to get traction. Sometimes you even need to alternate between drains for a bad blockage. However, next time you're at your local hardware stores, picking up a plunger is a good idea.

What NOT To Do With a Clogged Drain

A professional should always treat clogs caused by deeper build-ups in your underground pipes. There are no heroes in drain cleaning - don't start taking apart your shower drain or jamming a long cable down it out of frustration. Here's what to avoid if you don't want to explain an embarrassing situation when calling a plumber.

DON'T: Stick a Wire Coat Hanger (or Similar) Down the Plughole

A wire hanger is a surefire way to achieve very little while potentially damaging your pipework. If you can't see the blockage, don't try to poke it with rigid objects - even a plumber's snake should be handled with care.

DON'T: Use Harmful Chemicals When There's No Need

What can dissolve hair in a drain? Harsh chemicals are part and parcel of many expensive shower cleaning products. That doesn't mean they're effective.

No chemical reaction from a commercial shower cleaner will remove a chunk of solid debris that's come loose from aging pipework. You're only risking inhaling toxic chemicals or burning your skin for little reward.

DON'T: Start Disassembling Pipes If You're Not Experienced

An expert can take apart and remedy a clogged shower drain fairly quickly. That doesn't mean it's an easy job if you've not been trained. Removing piping that you don't know how to replace simply means you won't be able to take a shower until a professional arrives.

Best Ways to Prevent a Clogged Drain

The best way to avoid clogged shower drains is regular maintenance and thinking about what should go down the drain. Here's how to ensure good water flow.

1) Use a drain cover

A drain stopper or drain cover will catch hair. It makes stray strands of hair and build-ups of soap scum easy to remove. It's a simple way to ensure a better seal on your drain.

2) Avoid oily products

Bath oils are very pleasant, but your shower drain hates them. Even boiling water won't remove oil and grease - using petroleum jelly in the bath is another big no-no.

3) Clean drains regularly

Use a baking soda and vinegar solution for regular drain cleaning. Leave it for a few minutes or up to an hour before rinsing with boiling water.

When Should You Call a Plumber If Your Bath is Clogged?

A clogged shower drain seems simple enough, but plumbing is a delicate business. Many things can form clogs besides hair, soap, and fuzz from your wet towel - before you try to unclog a shower drain by yourself, ask yourself if you know what's causing the clog. If the answer is no, it's time to seek professional plumbing services.

At ARS/Rescue Rooter, we have decades of experience fixing drains and treating every type of problem. We can identify the source of the blockage and fix the problem with minimal fuss so you can get back to your life.

Unclogging a Shower Drain: Final Thoughts

We hope this article helped you learn the best practices for keeping your bath free from clogs. We also hope that you realize that being a DIY hero doesn't matter when it comes to finding the best solution. Contact the team at ARS/Rescue Rooter to book an appointment today.

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