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How to Unclog a Shower Drain With a Snake and Drano

Thanks to living in a household with several long-haired women, Paul has lots of experience unclogging drains.

Clogged and Slow-Draining Drains Are Dangerous

Sometimes a drain that is emptying slowly is annoying, but it can also be a dangerous situation that leads to great expense.

Our three-year-old daughter recently went to the bathroom at my mother's house, and like a good little girl, she washed her hands when she was finished. But she didn't quite close the faucet all the way. The drain was partially clogged and the water began to overflow. In 20 minutes, the water had seeped through the upstairs roof, down the stairs, and through the walls, causing tons of damage. While it's a good practice to teach kids to make sure the water is off, all of this damage could have been spared had the drain been clear.

How to Unclog a Drain at Home

I've been successful at unclogging shower drains three ways. All are low-cost and can easily be attempted before having to call a plumber. I've also found that these techniques tend to work well when the clog is near the opening of the drain.

  1. Try is putting some hot water in the shower or sink and using a plunger. Like unclogging a toilet, forcing water down the drain with pressure from the plunger can break a clog open and empty the drain. The sink drain that my daughter flooded the house with was unclogged with the plunger technique. I suggest trying this method first. if it doesn't work, try the second method.
  2. Use a product designed for unclogging drains, like Drano. While some people may be concerned about using chemicals in their shower, I've found that following the directions closely works extremely well. Once, when our shower drain was running very slowly (we have lots of women in our household and they all have pretty long hair), I suspected that the hair was the culprit, and this method did the trick.
  3. Use a snake (see instructions below).
Some Drano comes with an 18 inch plastic snake that has hooks to remove a clog near the top of the drain.

Some Drano comes with an 18 inch plastic snake that has hooks to remove a clog near the top of the drain.

Example of a shower drain that isn't draining fast enough to empty the shower. Step one is to remove the drain cover. Usually there are two screws holding it in place.

Example of a shower drain that isn't draining fast enough to empty the shower. Step one is to remove the drain cover. Usually there are two screws holding it in place.

Snaking and Clearing a Clogged Shower Drain

  1. Remove the drain cover (it's usually screwed down with two screws).
  2. Leading with the pronged side of the snake, push it down the drain as far as it will go.
  3. Pull and twist the snake back out, bring the debris up, and clean it off.
  4. Repeat to remove as much of the clog as you can reach.
  5. Once the snake has been used, throw it out.
  6. Empty the contents of the Drano bottle into the drain. Drano is a clear, jelly-like substance. Let it set in the drain for 30 minutes, then turn the shower hot water on and let it run for a few minutes.
I pushed the snake down the drain and pulled out a huge clump of hair.

I pushed the snake down the drain and pulled out a huge clump of hair.

What I Noticed

Once I turned the hot water on, the drain began to back up. I was getting a little disappointed that the product didn't work, but then I turned around and saw the shower had completely emptied and the water was quickly running down the drain. So give the hot water a few minutes to work.

*Disclosure: I was given a bottle of Drano Snakeplus as part of an advertising campaign. I took that product to test on the clogged drain.

Sometimes, You Have to Call a Plumber

At our house, the plumbing backs up from time to time. Roots penetrate drainage lines and toilet paper and sanitary napkins can get caught. When these major clogs come, it's a good idea to call a plumber who'll have snakes with sharp points that twist mechanically to disrupt the clogs.

Lastly, if the drain backs up and sewage leaks through a drain on the street, the city sanitation department will often come and clean up the waste. This happens from time to time on our street. In our city, they don't charge the homeowner when this happens, but if I called a private plumber, I'd have to pay.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you remove a push drain stop in a shower?

Answer: Push stops on drains screw into the drain. So, unscrew it so that it’s removed and then follow the article’s instructions.

© 2011 Paul Edmondson

Comments

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on January 21, 2012:

Instead of trying to push it through with a snake, I'd try to extract it from the drain. Depending on how far it's down in the drain I'd try tweezers or putting something sticky on the end of the snake to see if you can pull it out.

jim on January 21, 2012:

i let a cap from a small plastic bottle get into my tub drain. using a snake i can hit it but cant push it on thru. suggestions-- other than calling a professional? thanks

Shil1978 on August 29, 2011:

Nice hub, Paul - thanks for the tips. Should come in handy for those annoying clogged situations.

ligiaogl from Brazil on August 29, 2011:

Very good Hub! Thanks for the tips.

All of the best for you.

=]

adryanfi on August 29, 2011:

Very nice Hub!. :D i always have a problem with this.. :D thanks paul..

Fuller-Life from Washington, DC on August 27, 2011:

Thanks Paul. I know how frustrating the slow draining shower or tub can be. I am one of those people that easily get annoyed. Thanks for the tip. I'll try it. Useful hub!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on August 27, 2011:

Very good instructions Paul. I suspect that hair is always the main culprit for clogged shower drains.

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on August 27, 2011:

Excellent hub, Paul. Simone is right; that hair was GNARLY! It's amazing what the blocked up drain will disgorge with some encouragement from Drano.

Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on August 26, 2011:

I hope I just stick to home projects.

Simon Cook from NJ, USA on August 26, 2011:

Paul: nice hub! You might just have a career as a plumber if Hubpages ever fails!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 26, 2011:

I've never heard of a clogged drain leading to so much water damage. Yikes! They really can be a hazard. I guess three year olds can be somewhat of a hazard, too...

The hair you pulled out of the grain is GNARLY! The shower scene in Psycho looks like a Teletubbies scene by comparison. This is an awesome Hub. Plain and simple.