Unblocking Shower Drain
Have you ever been in the shower and noticed that you were standing in a puddle of backed up, murky water?
Blocked shower drains usually happen gradually. That puddle is barely noticeable at first. But eventually, you notice that the shower water isn’t draining down as quickly as it should. Before you know it, you’ve got a backlog of soapy water that is creating an unwanted, unpleasant footbath.
Why does the shower drain get blocked?
The most likely reason for a blocked shower drain is hair going down the drain. Even the smallest amounts of hair (yes, even body hair) going down the shower drain daily will eventually create a build-up that could block the drain. The problem is even worse if members of your household have long hair. And the issue is worse still if people comb or brush their hair in the shower.
Small objects falling down the drain can also lead to a blocked shower drain. These include small earrings or studs, small caps or lids from toothpaste or toiletry products, used contact lenses, the small remnants of a bar of soap. They may not cause an immediate blocked shower drain, but over time, added to hair, soap and body care products they can contribute to a blockage.
Lastly, your shower drain may be getting blocked because of problems with the drainpipes or drainage system that you cannot see. If your pipes are old, corroded or damaged, no amount of drain clearing products are going to unblock a clogged shower drain.
How do you unblock a shower drain?
We’ve got a few suggestions on how to unblock shower drain, starting with the easiest first, escalating up to the most complex.
- Very hot water: The first and the easiest thing to try in order to clear that blocked shower drain is very hot water. Once you’re finished your shower, step out and while you dry off, wait a couple of minutes for some of that puddle at the bottom of the shower to drain down on its own. Then turn on just the hot water for a minute. If it is just soap scum and oil that is causing the blockage, this will help dissolve or dislodge it.
- Try plunging: Another easy thing to try is to clear the blockage using a plunger. Using a toilet plunger – or a smaller sink plunger that looks and functions in the same way as a toilet plunger – pop it over top of the drain. Make sure the shower and taps are turned off. Pump the plunger a few times, making sure it stays flush with the base of the shower (you don’t want air getting in on the side). This creates a system of suction and compression. What you’re trying to do is move the water (and hopefully the clog) up and down so that whatever is causing the blockage either breaks up or moves down the pipe.
- Drain cleaning products: If hot water or plunging don’t do the trick, you can try pouring drain cleaning products down the shower drain. Only use products specifically designed for drains and avoid any other household cleaners as they may not be safe for the wastewater system. Some clients have asked us in the past whether natural solutions like vinegar or baking soda are appropriate. We don’t have any evidence either way regarding whether they’re effective or not in clearing a blocked drain. All we can say is that if you do try them, make sure you use lots of hot water to wash them down, and don’t use too much baking soda that may clump and make the problem worse.
- Pull out the blockage: If you can, remove the cover of your shower drain. It may easily clip out, or you may need a small screwdriver to do this. If you can see a clump of hair that you can reach with your fingers, that might do the trick. Another good old-fashioned approach is to use a wire hanger. Unravel it so that you have a long, straight section of the hanger to put down the drain. Before you pop it down, create a small hook on the end that will catch any hair or other clumps that may be within reach. Wiggle it around and lift it out to see if there is anything you can remove. Then follow up with a good hot water rinse – and don’t forget to replace the drain cover.
- Call your plumber: If none of those methods work, it’s time to call a plumber for drain unblocking. We have the right tools to look inside the drain and get deep inside if there is something lodged in a pipe. We can determine if there are greater plumbing issues that need resolving. We can also look at your drainage system to see if it’s working as it should be. It may be that your shower is blocking up because of a problem further down the system, such as tree roots blocking your wastewater system. No amount of drain cleaner down the shower is going to permanently fix that issue.
What can you do to prevent a blocked shower drain?
- First off, do not comb or brush your hair in the shower. Ignore those shampoo and conditioner product labels that tell you to comb the product through while your hair is still wet in the shower (or if you do, hold the ends of your hair in one hand to capture the loose hair that might come out).
- If you do have a comb or brush in the shower, do not clean it in the shower. All that does is release more hair down the drain. Wait until after your shower and empty the hair from your brush into the bin (not down the toilet!). If you were really keen, you would put that hair in the compost bin.
- Another way to help prevent a blocked shower drain is to avoid wearing jewellery in the shower. Small earrings or piercing studs can easily fall down the drain and add to the collection of small items and hair in the drainpipes that eventually cause a blockage.
- The easiest way to prevent any of these things from blocking your shower drain is to have a proper drain cover that allows only water to go down. If you have an old shower that doesn’t have one of these, pop into your local hardware store or bathroom supplies shop and inquire.
- It’s always good to have your drainage system checked from time to time. This is even more relevant if you’ve recently moved house and don’t know what the condition of the drainage system is, or if you are living in a home with old pipes.
We can come out and do a good overview check of your drainage system, inside and out, and let you know of any issues that might occur in future. Prevention is always better than repairing damage. We may even help you discover ways to save on your water use.