You will be hard-pressed to find a person who enjoys showering with a few inches of water filling in around their feet. However, this scenario might just happen to you if the shower drain gets clogged and water starts backing up.
Over time hair, soap, minerals, and grime can solidify into clumps in the pipes and prevent water from passing through the drain normally. If you’re wondering how to clear a clogged shower drain, here are some options you can try.
Many online guides will advise you to use boiling water to dissolve soap scum and smaller clogs. However, it’s best to stick to water that’s a bit below the boiling point. Extremely hot water can damage pipes more than it can help unclog the drain. The process for cleaning with hot water is relatively simple:
- Heat some water on the stove until it boils.
- Leave it to sit for a couple of minutes.
- Pour the water down the shower drain.
While this method is the easiest, it’s also the least effective. Most often, hot water needs to be combined with an active ingredient to loosen up the clog enough for an efficient cleaning process.
If the clog is relatively close to the drain cover, you can most likely reach in and grab whatever clumps of hair are preventing the water from draining adequately. Most shower drains are covered with a stock grille that needs to be unscrewed. You can usually use a regular Phillips or flat-head screwdriver, depending on the screw type in the cover. Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove any drain covers you have attached to the shower drain.
- Unscrew the stock grille.
- Reach in as far as you can to remove clumps of hair. Use gloves if you don’t want to touch grimy hair with your bare hands.
If the clog is deeper down the drain, removal by hand is impossible. However, most other methods will require you to unscrew the grille, so it might be worth a shot to go for this option first. If you’ve already used hot water and it didn’t help, allow the water to cool before sticking your hand down the drain.
Pump It Out With a Plunger
A standard plunger should fit over most shower drains well and allow you to use pressure to get the clog out. You’ll need a plunger, a screwdriver compatible with your shower drain screws, a flashlight, a towel, gloves, and a plastic bag (optional). Here’s what you need to do:
- Unscrew the drain cover and the grille (if there is one).
- If you’re unclogging a bath, you will most likely have an overflow drain near the top of the tub. Unscrew its cover. Plug the drain with a wet towel. You can wrap the towel in a plastic bag if you want to keep it clean.
- Pour some water in the shower so that the surface is wet. Alternatively, put some petroleum jelly around the drain. This will allow the plunger to create an airtight seal above the drain.
- Plunge vigorously, but keep the plunger relatively straight to preserve the seal. Repeat this process a few times.
- Remove the plunger and look into the drain to spot the clog. Use a flashlight if you need to. Clear the drain with your gloved hands. Use a wire or a drain auger if you want to help it along.
- Rinse the shower with water to test whether the clog is gone.
Hook the Clump Out
A few handy objects around the house can be bent into shape to create a suitable hook. One of the most commonly used items is a regular wire clothes hanger. Additionally, you’ll need a screwdriver and pliers, along with some gloves to protect your hands. Here’s a brief breakdown of what you need to do:
- Use the pliers to contort a clothes hanger or any other piece of wire into a hook. The hook needs to be about a quarter of an inch long (0.64 cm).
- Unscrew the shower cover or grille.
- Put on gloves to protect your hands from sharp wire ends.
- Push the wire and hook down the drain until you meet some resistance or run out of wire.
- Pull the wire back, collecting as much of the clog as you can in the process. Wiggle the wire in the drain to catch more debris.
- Repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you don’t pull any clumps of hair out of the drain.
If the makeshift hook doesn’t work or is too short, you can purchase a commercial drain hook or auger. Some of the less expensive designs are made from single-use plastic with barbs along the line to hook hair more efficiently when they’re pulled out.
Alternatively, a drain auger has a longer reach and is made from more durable, bendable wires. Augers, or snakes, also typically come with a crank to push the wire through the clog easily.
Use Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you’ve ever needed to clean something around the house, using baking soda and vinegar is likely familiar to you. The caustic reaction between the acid and the base creates enough heat and air to dislodge minor clogs from drains if left for long enough. While there are several versions of the “recipe,” it’s recommended to use about half a cup of baking soda (roughly 115g), half a cup of vinegar (118 mL), and half a cup of hot water (118 mL). It’s also best to use a screwdriver and a rubber plug. Here’s what you need to do:
- Boil the water on the stove then leave it to cool a bit.
- Unscrew the shower drain cover or grille. This is optional but will help the chemicals get closer to the clog and prevent deteriorating luxury ceramics.
- Dump the baking soda down the drain.
- Pour vinegar down the drain.
- Let the combination fizzle for a few minutes. If the mixture fizzes out of the drain, pour a bit of hot water to flush it down to the clog.
- Put the rubber plug over the drain if possible.
- Leave the mixture for as long as you want. The more you allow the mixture to stay in the drain, the likelier it is to clear the clog.
- Remove the plug and flush the mixture down.
- Alternatively, use a hook or an auger to remove the softened clog.
Call a Professional Plumber
If you’re wondering how to clear a clogged shower drain most effectively when home remedies don’t work, the answer is always professional assistance. While some advice articles will mention using commercial chemical drain cleaners, these are not effective for all types of clogs. Additionally, using them repeatedly is more likely to damage the pipes below the shower in the process or discolour the shower tub. Most chemical cleaners are also highly toxic and come with scrupulous instructions to follow.
A professional plumbing service has longer and more advanced plumbing snakes that can reach clogs that are farther down the drain. They can also use video-guided cameras to locate pesky clogs and determine the cause of the problem quickly. Plumbers are typically the last resort, but sometimes they’re the best option to fix your problem.
Preventing Shower Drain Clogs
After the clog has been removed, it’s best to take steps to prevent it from happening again or at least delay the situation for as long as possible. To that end, the most effective solution is to install a drain cover or screen. These are typically light pieces of stainless metal or plastic that are screwed into the drain or simply lay atop the existing stock cover.
The screen will catch most of the hair that falls out in the shower. You’ll need to clean it periodically to allow for adequate water flow. However, that’s a much simpler chore than learning how to clear a clogged shower drain in a rush.
Contact Us for Plumbing Assistance
If you live in Toronto and surrounding areas and don’t know how to clear a clogged shower drain after you’ve tried everything, contact MT Drains and Plumbing. Our professional plumbers will be at your home as soon as possible to fix any issues.