How to Unblock a Shower Drain

If you’re finding yourself ankle-deep in soapy water at the end of your morning shower then it’s a sure sign your shower drain has become blocked.

Shower water which drains slowly or doesn’t drain at all is known as ‘standing water’ – and the source of what is causing the blockage in the shower drain will need to be investigated as soon as possible.

There are many reasons why your shower may not be draining, ranging from small easily solvable issues to more serious problems which may require external assistance.

Unfortunately, once you identify there is a problem then it is only going to get worse and won’t disappear on its own. The earlier you take action the better.

Before looking at how you can unblock your shower drain, let’s take a look at the reasons why there may be a blockage in the first place...

Why is my shower not draining?

Hair and dead skin cells:

One of the most common reasons why your shower may not be draining properly will be the result of hair and dead skin cells shedding from your body.

Every time you take a shower you can shed millions of dead skin cells as well as hundreds of strands of hair. While many of them will successfully drain away, they can also cling to the drainpipe which over time can lead to a blockage. Long hair can be particularly troublesome.

Soap scum:

Over time, soap scum can deposit on the walls of pipes and trap hairs, skin cells and other foreign bodies – leading to a blockage.

Hard water:

If you live in an area with a hard water supply then you could experience a blockage as hard water deposits a range of minerals and micro solids on the walls of your drain pipe. If these aren’t cleaned away regularly then you could be heading for an ankle deep shower.

Other contaminents:

It may sound obvious, but you need to be careful that small items which have no business taking a journey down a drainpipe don’t end up there through carelessness. We’re talking toothpaste caps, razor coverings – those sort of items. Small items dropped down a shower drain are more common than you would imagine and obviously lead to difficulties draining the shower.

How do I know if my shower drain is clogged?

As we mentioned earlier, a sure sign that you need to look at unclogging your drain will be when your shower has finished but you are still standing in a pool of water which isn’t disappearing down the drain as quickly as you would expect.

It’s also possible that there will be an unpleasant smell coming from the drain, caused by some of the debris which is clinging to the pipes and preventing the smooth flow of water. In more serious situations, your bathroom may become flooded if water starts to seep through shower joints.

If your drain clogs repeatedly despite numerous repair jobs then it may indicate a more serious blockage in your main sewer line. Generally, though, that isn’t the case and there are steps you can take yourself to prevent or remove any blockage in your shower drain.

How do I unblock a shower drain?

Now that we have established what could be causing your blockage, it’s time to look at what your options are to get your shower draining properly again. Fortunately, there are a number of remedies you can look at yourself before needing to phone a plumber.

Use a plunger:

The type of blockage, where it is in the drain and the design of your drain will determine how successful using a plunger will be. For example, if the clog is deep then you may struggle to generate the suction required for the exercise to be effective.

To unblock your shower drain using a plunger, try adding petroleum jelly to the edge of the suction pad to generate a better seal. Once you have added water to the shower to submerge the plunger, you should begin plunging.

There are no guarantees that plunging will work, but this can be a particularly effective solution.

Pour boiling water down the drain:

Boiling hot water can sometimes break down the grease or the soap which is helping to form the blockage.

Always be careful when handling kettles or other appliances full of boiling water, and if possible filter the water down the drain rather than allowing it to splash around the bath or shower enclosure. You don’t want any boiling water splashing back on yourself – or on expensive bathroom accessories.

Sometimes using boiling water may only partially clear a blockage and you will need to supplement this with another of the methods listed here.

Use baking soda and vinegar:

If you have a deeper and bigger blockage then it’s quite likely using boiling water or a plunger won’t be particularly successful.

An effective way of breaking up hair clogs is through the use of baking soda and vinegar.

Firstly, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and then after a few minutes pour a cup of vinegar down the drain as well.

After a couple of hours you can turn the shower on and see if the blockage has been dissolved. Then add boiling water again to clean out thedrain.

Pull out the clog by hand:

This is a messy option so you will need to make sure you are wearing rubber gloves.

Firstly, you need to take off the drain cover which is usually achieved by removing the screw in the middle using a screwdriver.

Then use a flashlight to see if you are able to identify the blockage. If it is within touching distance then reach in and bring it out.

This is a great method for removing clogs caused by small objects or hair, but won’t be successful if the blockage is caused by the build-up of minerals.

Use a plumber’s snake:

Using a plumber’s snake – otherwise known as a ‘Toilet Jack’ or an ‘Electric Eel’ is another cheap and effective way of unblocking your shower drain.

Simply push the snake down the drain until you reach the clog, and after turning the snake’s handle pull it back up.

Then run the water to make sure the clog has been completely cleared and that your shower water is flowing smoothly down the drain once more.

Use chemical products:

If none of the above methods has removed your shower drain blockage, then it could be time to look at using commercial chemicals.

Drain cleaning chemicals are readily available to buy in shops, and as a one off can prove to be a perfect solution. But repeated use can cause damage to your pipework.

Always wear gloves when handling commercial drain cleaning products and carefully follow the directions for use on the packaging.

If none of the above methods have proved to be successful in unclogging your shower drain then it may be time to call in the experts to assess whether the issue is outside of your home in the main sewer pipe.

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Find more bathroom advice and buying guides by reading the Plumbworld blog. You may also like these posts…

How to Seal a Bath Properly | What Size Bath Do You Need? | How to Fit Bathroom Wall Panels


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