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How to Clear a Clogged Shower Drain: 8 Methods

Updated on November 02, 2016
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Since leaving college, Paul has worked in a variety of roles, including: painter and decorator; general handyman; and freelance writer.

In my experience, it is always worth avoiding the expense of employing a plumber if you possibly can—unclogging a shower drain yourself often isn’t as difficult as some might think.

The vast majority of clogged shower drain problems can be solved by using some fairly simple and straightforward methods and tools.

Once you have unclogged the shower drain, you should work on preventing or reducing the chances of it happening again—see my suggestions at the bottom of the page.

Below are my 8 suggested methods for how to clear a clogged shower drain.

8 Ways to Unclog a Shower Drain

  1. Pour boiling water down the drain.
  2. Try using a plunger.
  3. Use baking soda and vinegar (the natural alternative to chemicals)!
  4. Take the drain cover off and pull out the clog by hand.
  5. Use a hook.
  6. Use a plumbers’ snake (also sometimes called a "toilet jack" or an "electric eel").
  7. Use chemicals.
  8. Call a plumber.

I'll go into each of these methods in detail below. I have taken into consideration the amount of expense and involvement needed for each approach. I discuss the easiest and cheapest methods first and then explain more involved and expensive ideas. (The only exception to this order is perhaps the chemical option, which is quick, easy, and affordable, but can cause some damage to your pipes, especially if done repeatedly.)

In my experience, unclogging a shower drain often requires a combination of more than one of these methods.

Clogged drains are a common problem, especially in households where one or more of the shower users has long hair. Clogs can be minimized by the use of a drain protector and a soap tray.
Clogged drains are a common problem, especially in households where one or more of the shower users has long hair. Clogs can be minimized by the use of a drain protector and a soap tray. | Source

1. Pour Boiling Water Down the Drain

This can sometimes break down the soap or grease that is holding the clog together and clear the blockage.

Used on its own, this method may not work, especially if you are dealing with a serious blockage that contains a lot of matted hair and has built up over time. However, it may partially clear the blockage and work fully when used in conjunction with another method listed below.

If your shower is not draining, it can be frustrating!  The first symptom of a blockage is usually when you find yourself standing in a pool of tepid water which drains far too slowly.
If your shower is not draining, it can be frustrating! The first symptom of a blockage is usually when you find yourself standing in a pool of tepid water which drains far too slowly. | Source

2. Try Using a Plunger

The nature of the blockage, where the clog is in the drain, and the design of your drain will determine how successful plunging will be. If the clog is deep and made of hair, for instance, you might struggle to get enough suction for plunging to be effective.

You can try adding petroleum jelly to the edge of the suction pad to get a better seal and also adding water to the shower so that the end of the plunger is submerged, if it isn’t already.

Plunging is another method that usually has a low success rate when it comes to showers, in my experience, but it is always worth a try, as the time and costs involved are minimal.

If you are not too pressed for time, then it is good to try some easy and non-destructive techniques.
If you are not too pressed for time, then it is good to try some easy and non-destructive techniques. | Source

3. Baking Soda and Vinegar (the Natural Alternative to Chemicals)

This is a more natural solution than using cleaning chemicals. Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, wait for a few minutes, then pour a cup of vinegar down too.

Wait for a couple of hours to see if the hair clog gets dissolved, then clean out the drain by pouring boiling water down it.

Although this method is ecologically preferable and won't cause damage to plastic pipes, you may still end up having to resort to chemicals.

4. Take off the Drain Cover and Pull out the Clog by Hand

This method has a fairly good chance of success, but it involves using your hands, so I advise wearing rubber gloves.

First you need to remove the drain cover. Sometimes there is a screw in the middle that you have to take out. Other times you can pry the drain cover off using a screwdriver.

Look inside the drain and locate the clog. Use a flashlight, if necessary. If the clog is within reach, pull it out with your fingers.

If it is not in reach, go to method number 5.

Keep the shower water flowing!  You can sometimes use a metal hook to dislodge or remove the clog.  A hook can be fashioned from an old metal coat hanger.
Keep the shower water flowing! You can sometimes use a metal hook to dislodge or remove the clog. A hook can be fashioned from an old metal coat hanger. | Source

5. Use a Hook

If you can’t reach the blockage by hand, then try fishing out the clog with a piece of wire.

You can improvise a tool with a wire coat hanger, fashioning a hook at the end of it.

6. Use a Plumbers’ Snake (aka a "Toilet Jack" or an "Electric Eel")

Push the snake down the drain until you reach the clog. Turn the snake’s handle and bring it back up. Run water to test the drain and verify that the clog is entirely removed.

7. Use Chemicals

Most hardware stores and supermarkets sell strong chemical cleaners designed to unblock drains. Follow the instructions carefully. Don’t resort to chemicals lightly, as they can cause damage to your drainage pipes, especially if you use this method repeatedly.

Using chemicals is normally a quick, easy, and affordable method, however. You can minimize their future use by avoiding future blockages (see bottom of page)!

8. Call a Plumber

If you don’t want to start taking your drain apart and are uneasy about using chemicals, or they don't work, then you will have to call out a professional plumber. It’s by far the least affordable option and clearly the last resort if you are looking to save on expense.

That said, it is also the least trouble.

What Causes a Drain to Become Clogged?

A clogged shower drain is usually caused by a lump of knotted hair, dirt, grease, and/or soap. The hair is often wrapped around parts of the drain and therefore can be difficult to move.

The problem occurs much more frequently in homes where one or more of the shower users has long hair, as short hair is much less likely to get caught in the drain system.

Symptoms of a Clogged Shower Drain

The first time that you realize that you have a problem is when you find yourself standing in a deep puddle of water in the shower because the water isn’t draining like it should.

Unfortunately, once the drainage problems have begun, they will usually only get worse over time, unless action is taken. The sooner that you deal with the problem, the easier it can be to resolve.

How to Prevent Future Clogs

Prevention is almost always better than cure, of course, so don't forget to minimize the chances of your shower drain getting clogged again. You should certainly consider buying a drain protector, if you haven't already got one, to catch hair and other things from clogging the drain.

A secure soap dish can help too, as soap can help to create clogs by sticking knots of hair together into larger clumps. (It goes without saying that loose soap sliding around on the floor of the shower can also cause accidents due to slipping.)

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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    • profile image

      Mel 5 years ago

      Thank you for your advice, it worked perfectly yay!! No more turning off the water halfway through a shower for fear of flooding!! THANKS :)

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 4 years ago

      I've often used a plunger, but never thought about pouring boiling water down the drain first. I'll have to try that. I've also never plunged underwater - didn't know that creates a better seal. So I have two things to try. My final solution? Call the apartment manager for our repair guy to come (lol).

    • profile image

      jougy55@yahoo.com 3 years ago

      someone suggested using acid? seems like it could cause problems with the piping!!

    • profile image

      John Devis 8 months ago

      Thanks for sharing this post. I really liked the point number 3 in the above post as combination of Baking Soda and Vinegar can be a very powerful alternative to chemicals.

    • profile image

      jamar 6 months ago

      This was very helpful

    • profile image

      Brent 6 months ago

      What if the cliff isn't hair, grease, or soap. What if it's a cap from a can of hairspray?

    • profile image

      aynsley 4 months ago

      Is it normal when you use a snake in the shower stall drain that the snake comes back up through the bathroom drain or does it mean I have a real problem. Help.

    • hiichichi profile image

      hiichichi 4 weeks ago

      Thank you. I now know the symptoms of clogged shower drain and how to prevent them. That was a niece piece.

    • hiichichi profile image

      hiichichi 4 weeks ago

      Your pieces was sure a nice one. Well done.

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