How To Unblock A
Shower Drain

If you are finding yourself ankle-deep in soapy water every morning then it is likely that you have a clogged chowder drain. Shower water that drains slowly or that doesn’t drain at all is known as standing water and is caused by a blockage in your shower drain, which will need to be cleared before you can get back to showering peacefully. 

There can be numerous reasons your shower drain is clogged, from small clogs of soap scum and hair to larger blockages that are tough to clear. However, the quicker you identify the cause of the blockage and clearer, the better for you and your shower. 

While your first thought might be to go out and buy a couple of bottles of drain unblocker to tackle the problem, there are a number of less drastic and more environmentally friendly solutions you can try first. We have used our extensive plumbing knowledge to create this guide of the best DIY methods to unclog your shower drain. Follow these tips and your shower water will be draining away normally in no time. 

Table of Contents

How Do I Know If My Shower Drain Is Clogged?

A sure sign that you have a blocked drain in your bath or shower is the pool of standing water that either won’t drain or will only drain very slowly that is left after you have had a shower.  In addition, a bad blockage in your shower drain can often cause an unpleasant smell to come from the drain. This is often caused by the debris that is clinging to the shower pipework and causing the blockage. 

In a worst-case scenario, water can even begin to seep through the shower joints, potentially flooding your bathroom with water, causing serious damage. This is why it is important to quickly deal with any clogs in your shower or bath drain before they get worse. 

Why Is My Shower Not Draining?

When clearing a blocked shower drain, the first step is to spot what the cause of the blockage is. Shower drain blockages can be caused by a number of different things, including a build-up of soap scum and hair or other debris and contaminants that shouldn’t be flushed down the shower drain. 

Soap Scum

Over time, deposits of soap scum from showering can build up over time in the pipework and can cause hair, skin cells and other pieces of debris to become trapped, which can build up and cause blockages.  

Hair And Dead Skin Cells

One of the most common causes of clogged shower drains is the build-up of hair and dead skin cells from your body as you shower. The millions of dead skin cells and hundreds of strands of hair that leave your body every time you shower will start to build up on the walls of the drainpipes, which over time will lead to hair clogs and blockages. Long hair can be particularly problematic. 

Why Is My Shower Not Draining?

Hard Water

If you live in an area with a hard water supply then you could experience blockages more regularly as deposits of minerals and micro solids from hard water build up in your pipes, causing blockages. 

Other Contaminants

These common causes of blockages can be easily exacerbated by small objects being accidentally flushed down the shower drain, such as toothpaste caps or plastic razor coverings. These get caught up in the build-up of hair or soap scum causing blockages. 

How Do I Unblock A Shower Drain?

Once you have determined the likely cause of your shower drain clog, it is time to try unclogging it. Thankfully, there is a number of ways to easily and effectively clear blockages in your bath or shower, without calling in a professional or using expensive and harsh chemical drain cleaners or unblockers. 

Use A Plunger

The first thing you should try when attempting to clear a blockage is a plunger. As a homeowner or renter, it is always a good idea to have a plunger available for these types of situations. The best type of plunger to use when clearing a blockage in your bath or shower is a cup shaped plunger. 

You should always try using a plunger first before resorting to bleach or other chemicals. If you have used a chemical drain unblocker before attempting to use a plunger be careful that the plunger doesn’t cause the chemicals to rise back up and splash over you. 

How To Unblock A Shower Drain With A Plunger

To get the most out of your plunger you should run the rubber end under the hot tap for several minutes to soften the rubber. Position the plunger above the plughole of the shower so that the cup completely covers the drain opening. Adding some petroleum jelly or vaseline to the plunger helps to create a better seal for an improved result. In addition, seal the overflow drain with an old towel or rag. 

Next, fill the shower or bath basin with enough water to cover the plunger’s lipped rim. Then, start pushing the plunger up and down to create suction in an attempt to dislodge the blockage. Try to keep the handle straight and plunge in a vertical up-and-down motion. 

Keep plunging for around 20-30 seconds before inspecting the results. If the water isn’t draining as expected, repeat the process a couple of times before moving on to another method. If the water does drain and it appears the blockage has been cleared. Flush the drain with hot water. 

Pour Hot Water Down The Drain

Pouring hot water down the drain can sometimes help break down the grease, dirt, soap and hair that builds up, causing blockages. Be careful when handling boiling water and try to prevent it from splashing around the bath or shower area. It is best to let the water sit for a few minutes after boiling the kettle to allow it to cool slightly, as boiling water can cause the pipework to distort in large volumes. 

Be sure to use enough water, a kettle full for example, to increase the chances of clearing the blockage. The hot water should dislodge any buildup in your pipes and flush it further down the pope. Sometimes hot water will only partially clear a blockage. If this is the case, try again with more water or try another method on this list. 

Use Baking Soda And White Vinegar

An effective and natural way of breaking up clogs and blockages in drains is the use of baking soda and white vinegar. The combination of baking soda and vinegar creates a chemical reaction that bubbles and fizzes, breaking down the blockage so that it can be easily washed away. 

Firstly, pour some hot water down the drain before pouring a cup of baking soda down the drain and then wait a few minutes. Then, follow up with a cup of white vinegar. For best results, put the plugin and leave this to work for around ten to fifteen minutes before flushing the drain with hot water. 

The baking soda should loosen grime and dirt from your drain before the white vinegar causes a reaction that loosens the blockage. This method isn’t always effective, especially with severe blockages, but it is cheap and far more eco-friendly than using chemical drain unblockers. 

Pull Out The Clog By Hand

This is a messy option, so using rubber gloves is recommended. Firstly, you will need to remove the drain cover which is usually done by removing a screw from the middle with a screwdriver. Be careful not to drop the screw down the drain. 

Use a flashlight or the torch on your phone to try and identify the blockage. If it is within reach then try to pull it out with your fingers. This only really works with hair clogs or blockages caused by foreign objects like plastic razor covers. If you do manage to clear the blockage, flush it through with hot water afterwards to clear any hair or soap scum you can’t reach. 

Use A Wire Coat Hanger Hook To Clear Debris

A wire coat hanger that has been bent to fit into the plughole is a cheap and effective way to clear blockages that you can’t reach by hand. Simply bend the wire coat hanger into shape so that it can fit down the plughole easily. Be sure to leave the hook at the end to help catch and dislodge the blockage. 

Push the coat hanger into the plughole hook first until you feel it hit against the blockage. Once you have reached the blockage, simply twist the coat hanger around to try and hook the debris, before pulling it out. Follow up with a flush of hot water to clear any debris that remains.  

Use A Plumber’s Snake Or Auger

A Plumber’s Snake is a thin, flexible auger or a steel cable on a handle, also known as a drain snake or an auger, and can be great at unblocking tough cogs. A hand crank operates a cable that reaches fair into drain pipes to clear any clogs that are out of reach. 

Simply feed the drain snake down the overflow opening until it won’t move any further. You will often meet some resistance as you go past the trap, but continue to feed the snake in. 

How To Unblock A Shower Drain With A Drain Snake

Once you have reached the clog, crank the snake’s handle counterclockwise to grasp the clog. Continue to crank the handle and turn the snake so that it breaks up the clog or attaches to it, allowing you to remove the clog completely from the drain. Once you have cleared the clog, flush the drain through with hot water. 

Use Chemical Products

If none of the above methods have helped clear the blockage in your shower drain then it might be time to consider using a commercial drain unblocker. Chemical drain cleaning products are easily found in hardware stores and retail shops and are often effective at clearing blockages. However, repeated use of cleaning chemicals can cause damage o your pipework, so they should only be used as a last resort. 

Always wear rubber gloves when handling harsh chemicals and always follow the instructions on the packaging to ensure you use them safely and effectively. 

How To Prevent Your Shower Drain Becoming Blocked

The best way to fix a blocked shower drain is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Try to take steps to reduce the risk of blockages forming in the future, such as clearing excess hair from the bath or shower after washing. In addition, consider buying a drain protector to catch hair and small objects from falling down the drain. A secure soap dish will also prevent soap from dripping from the sides of the bath into the drain.

how to unblock bath drain

If In Doubt - Call In One Of Our Professional Plumbers

If the blockage is extensive or your drains are bubbling, it is likely that the blockage is much further down your pipes. If this is the case, you may need to call out a professional plumber to assist. Our friendly, professional and experienced team of plumbers are available to offer a range of bathroom plumbing services in the Greater London area, including unblocking clogged bath and shower drains. 

We offer leading customer care and plumbing, boiler and domestic heating services with some of the most competitive rates in London and the surrounding areas. Whatever your plumbing needs, we can take care of it. Get in touch with us by phone on 020 8102 9898 or Book Online to arrange for a visit and same-day quote.