How to Clean the Shower Drain


If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of standing in several inches of water while taking a shower (and who hasn’t?) you know that it’s time to clean the shower drain.

Clogged shower drains can wreak havoc on your floors and create leaks that can drip, creating mold. If you’ve got overflowing water, or just too much water sitting in your tub, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Knowing how to clean the drain and prevent clogs can be the best way to avoid all these problems, save money and have a cleaner house to boot. A clogged drain is unavoidable and most can be fixed without having to call a professional.

Causes of Plugged Pipes:

If you’ve got anyone with long hair in your home, you know exactly how much hair gets stuck in the drain on a daily basis. That clump of hair can look like a small animal if it doesn’t get picked up every day. As much hair stays on top of the drain – even more gets down the drain and clogs the plumbing.

Over time, the buildup of hair, dirt and residue from shampoo, and cleaners can get stuck and cause big problems. Once these get built up to a certain point, it impedes the flow of water and you find yourself in a few inches of water that won’t drain. Maintaining and keeping the shower drain clear can save you the trouble of having to call a plumber to come in and clean out the pipes.

Use a Plunger:

This one is simple and works exactly the way it does when you plunge a toilet. It’s especially effective if there is standing water in the tub when you do it. Just a few pushes on the plunger and any standing water should drain and begin flowing freely in the pipe.

Use an Enzyme Detergent:

Dish soap, like Dawn, contains enzymes that break up proteins, grease and other deposits. Simply pour about a cup of Dawn dish soap down the drain and leave it to sit for at least an hour. Flush the drain with hot, hot water and the clog should be dissolved.

Vinegar and Baking Soda:

This is a good science lesson for the kids and it’s fun to watch what happens when these two ingredients come together.

  • Use the baking soda first by dumping about 1/2 cup down the drain.
  • Follow this with about 1 cup of vinegar.
  • After letting the kids watch the reaction; the fizzing, cover the drain with a rag to keep the mixture from completely fizzing out.
  • Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Boil a tea kettle full of water (or about 4 cups) and dump down the drain to dislodge and complete the process.

Snake It:

In the rare case that the drain remains clogged due to additional items that somehow got down the drain, you can use a snake or drain auger that will reach into the drain and dislodge whatever is blocking the pipe.

Try Using a Coat Hanger:

In a pinch and if you don’t have a snake, you can try an old wire coat hanger. Unravel the hanger and make a hook on one end. Use this to pull out the clogged stuff from the drain, just be careful not to push the clog further down the drain.

Wet/Dry Vacuum:

I’m going to take complete credit for this idea.

Short story is the metal catch basin had broken and over several months the broken drain had allowed several shampoo caps to fall down the drain and into the p trap.

I had tried treating the clog multiple ways (plunger, snake, coat hanger etc) and had even used with Draino several times. I ended up calling the plumber who told me that it was shampoo bottle caps that were obstructing the water flow.

Of course he started going into cutting into the ceiling and cutting out the pipe and re-welding it for several thousand dollars.

I thought- Let’s try to suck the clog out. So I closed the drain, added about 2 inches of water and fired up the wet dry vac with the hose positioned right over the drain to get as much suction power as possible. Voila- The bottle caps came right out.

I don’t remember if the plumber ended up charging me. But I’m sure he did. However, that trick kept me feeling smart for a few days!

Keeping The Drain Clean:

This is as simple as having any hair picked up after showering. Use a screen or drain basket to catch most of the hair before it goes down the drain. If the water starts draining slower, this could mean a clog is starting to build up again, be proactive and clean it using one of the methods above.

In the unlikely event that none of these work to clean out your shower drain, you may need to call a professional. Sometimes there is an actual problem with your plumbing that only a professional plumber can handle.


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