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Easy Fixes for a Clogged Shower Drain (2023) | San Francisco

Jan 25, 2023 | How-To, Plumbing Advice, Residential Plumbing

How to unclog a shower drain full of hair.

If you find yourself ankle-deep in soapy water after taking a shower, you have clogging issues. In most cases, unclogging is a simple and inexpensive DIY job. The remaining will need to be seen by a plumber. They could be severe clogs that only a plumber can handle safely.

Why does my shower drain keep getting clogged?

Mostly due to shower habits, but sometimes from a foreign object that may have got stuck in the pipe. The common reasons for a clogged shower drain pipe are:


Most hair shedding happens in the shower, says dermatologist, Wilma Bergfeld, MD to Cleveland Health. [1] Hair strands stick to soap scum and coat the inside of bathroom pipes. Ditto if you shave in the shower as short hairs can get stuck to shaving cream residue. A hair net or drain hair trap will catch falling hairs and keep them out of the drain.

Bar soap

If you use bar soap and tend to discard the last sliver in the shower, it can get stuck in your shower drain trap. Other debris flowing down the drain can stick to the soap and cause a build-up. Switching to a liquid body wash can prevent this problem.


Showering after a beach outing is good hygiene but the sand can go into the drain and cause a blockage. Wet sand can easily coat the side of drainpipes and buildup can occur deeper within the drainage system. You could get sand off at the beach using hacks like rubbing baby powder on your feet. [2]

Foreign objects

Kids’ toys and feminine products have also been discovered in video feeds investigating the cause of shower drain clogs. You may be dealing with an unusual situation but it isn’t anything a plumber cannot handle quickly.

What are the Best Ways to Unclog a Shower Drain?

There are a number of DIY methods you can try to remove clogs and have your shower drain running smoothly. Here are your options:

By hand

See hair clumps or soapy bits stuck to the drain cover? Put on rubber gloves and remove the debris by hand. If you can’t easily reach the clog with your fingers, take a wire coat, straighten it, and make a small hook at the end. Use the hook to extract the debris. It’s faster when you use a flashlight to locate the exact location of the debris.

Boiling water

Boiling water can loosen the stuff holding the clog together and work for a minor blockage. Without removing the drain cover, pour boiling water down the drain in small amounts at a time. Turn on the shower to check if the water still pools. Don’t use this method if your drain pipes are made of PVC as they will be warped by the boiling water.

Chemical drain opener

Chemical drain openers are designed for speedy drain unclogging. Do read the instructions before using the product. Wear rubber gloves to avoid getting the chemicals on your hands. When pouring the liquid down the drain, be mindful of the fumes it can give off. While chemical drain clog dissolvers are effective for soap scum and hair, they don’t work on foreign objects.

Vinegar and baking soda

How can you unclog a shower drain without chemicals? You have a fair shot at unclogging the gunk using a few kitchen ingredients. Mix together one cup of white vinegar and one cup of baking soda. Pour the mixture down the drain. Wait for an hour or so. Then, follow with boiling water to flush out the solution. You can also pour the water first to loosen the gunk, then add the mixture and wait 15-20 minutes before rinsing with more boiling water.

Use a plunger

Your trusty plunger can get the job done. Remove the drain cover and place the rubber ring of the plunger over the drain. Push and pull on the handle in quick thrusts without lifting the plunger out of the drain. The idea is to break the blockage and when that happens, the water will start draining. Repeat until all the water has drained and turn on the shower for a quick check.

Use a drain snake

When the plunger proves ineffective, it’s time to bring out the drain snake/augur. It is designed to pull out a clog. Insert the coiled end into the drain. When it makes contact with the clog, you will feel a resistance. Now, crank the handle in a clockwise motion to hook the clog. Keep pushing more of the snake into the drain. The clog will attach to the snake as it keeps making contact with it. As the drain clears, you’ll feel the resistance lesson. Turn the handle to hook the clog, then turn it anti-clockwise and pull it snake slowly from the drain.

The electric powered version uses similar mechanics but turns the crank using a motor rather than by hand. The success and safety of each depends on how you manage the drain augur. Applying too much force can scratch zinc pipes and damage the coating.

While it’s tempting to carry out DIY plumbing for its cost benefits, it must be done keeping potential safety risks in mind. Washington Post reported that emergency room visits related to DIY projects rose in 2022. [3] That’s something to bear in mind when using a snake augur, which can recoil at you at high speeds, particularly if you’re using an electric version.

Call a plumber

A plumber should be the first person you call rather than the last resort. That’s because you never really know what may be causing the clog. If the issue is with the main drain, you want to know about it as soon as possible. A warning sign is when you can smell sewage odor coming up the shower drain.

The bottom line is that only a licensed professional can tell you what’s going on and carry out the right fix. A plumber has the tools to detect the root cause of the clog and repair the problem quickly.

If you have a slow shower drain from time to time, it’s worth cleaning it out once a month. Speak to a plumber to understand how often you might need shower drain maintenance, and whether you can do it by yourself.

O’Grady Plumbing ‘s preventive maintenance plan will help you gain a good understanding of your home’s plumbing system and keep plumbing emergencies at bay. Book a service now.





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