How to Fix a Clogged Shower Drain in 5 Easy Steps

How to Fix a Clogged Shower Drain in 5 Easy Steps


Finding standing water around your feet when you step into the shower can quickly ruin your day. It’s a clear sign that your shower drain is clogged, which not only disrupts your daily routine but also exposes you to unpleasant smells and potential health risks. A clean and comfortable bathroom environment relies on a properly functioning shower drain.

While it may be tempting to immediately call in professional plumbing services, learning how to fix a clogged shower drain yourself can save you both time and money. Don’t worry about getting your hands dirty—this blog post is here to help you confidently deal with this common household problem.

In this guide, we will explore several effective methods for clearing a clogged shower drain and restoring proper drainage. Whether the cause is hair, soap scum, or mineral buildup, these proven techniques should help get your shower back in working order.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of fixing a clogged shower drain, let’s first understand why it’s so important to keep your drain clear:

  • Hygiene: Standing water from a clogged drain can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, which can lead to health issues.
  • Comfort: No one enjoys standing in dirty water while trying to get clean.
  • Prevent Damage: Ignoring serious clogs can result in leaks or pipe damage, leading to costly repairs.

So if you’re ready to take action and free your shower from stubborn clogs—let’s get started!

Shower drain with flowing water.

Step 1: Assess the Severity of the Clog

Clogged shower drains are a common nuisance, often interrupting your daily routine with a slow drain or worse, a complete stoppage. Before rolling up your sleeves to tackle the issue, it’s crucial to assess clog severity and identify clog cause.

Observe Water Drainage Speed

Begin by watching how fast the water leaves your shower. A slow trickle indicates a partial blockage, while water that doesn’t drain at all suggests a complete obstruction. These observations will help you choose the right approach for unclogging.

Identify Potential Causes of the Clog

Common culprits include:

  • Hair: Often binds with soap scum, creating a net-like barrier.
  • Soap Scum: Sticky residue from soap that adheres to pipes.
  • Mineral Buildup: Hard water can leave mineral deposits that narrow pipes.

Use a flashlight to peek into the drain for visible signs of these blockers.

Determine the Best Course of Action

Based on your initial assessment:

  • Simple DIY Method: If you spot hair near the surface or if water drains slowly, a DIY fix may suffice.
  • Professional Help: For no drainage or when you cannot see the cause, consider enlisting a plumber.

Checking for Visible Blockages

Sometimes, the cause is immediately apparent:

  1. Shine a flashlight down the drain.
  2. Look for obstructions within arm’s reach.
  3. Use gloves to remove any debris and test water flow.

If debris is beyond reach or not visible, further action may be needed.

Assessing Clog Severity Through Observation

Take note of:

  • Water pooling duration after turning off the shower.
  • Changes in drainage speed over time.
  • Sounds like gurgling or bubbling, which might indicate trapped air from a clog.

These signs can reveal how urgent it is to address the blockage.

Identifying Clog Cause Beyond Visible Blockages

When initial inspection doesn’t pinpoint the problem:

  1. Evaluate recent changes in your routine that could affect drainage (e.g., new hair care products).
  2. Consider less obvious factors like sediment from broken pipes or small objects that could have fallen in accidentally.

A detailed evaluation guides you towards an appropriate unclogging method.

Deciding on DIY vs Professional Remediation

Reflect on:

  • Your comfort level with using tools like plungers or plumber’s snakes.
  • The complexity of your plumbing system.
  • Previous experience with similar issues.

Your skills and the clog’s complexity will dictate whether to DIY or call in professionals.

Understanding clog severity helps prevent unnecessary work and potential damage:

  • It ensures you don’t use heavy-duty tools for minor clogs.
  • It prevents worsening the clog through incorrect methods.
  • It saves time by applying an appropriate solution from the start.

This step is about making informed decisions before proceeding with unclogging efforts.

To identify what’s causing your blockage:

  1. Remove drain cover and inspect manually for obstructions.
  2. Consider recent activities that could contribute to buildup (e.g., shaving in the shower).
  3. Watch out for slow drainage after these activities as they often point to accumulating blockages.

By pinpointing the cause, you select more effective unclogging tactics tailored to your situation.

As you become familiar with assessing clog severity and identifying causes, you’ll be better equipped to handle this common household problem. Armed with this knowledge, let’s move on to gathering essential tools and materials needed for unclogging.

Step 2: Gather the Right Tools and Materials

Before you start unclogging your shower drain, make sure you have all the necessary tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

Essential Tools:

  • Plunger: Use a flat-bottomed plunger specifically designed for drains. It should have a narrow profile to fit into the shower drain.
  • Drain Snake or Auger: This flexible tool is great for stubborn clogs that won’t budge with a plunger. It can reach deep into the pipes to physically remove the blockage.
  • Rubber Gloves: Clogged drains can get messy, so protect your hands with rubber gloves.
  • Bucket: Keep a bucket nearby to catch any water or debris that may come out while you’re working on the drain.

Optional Materials:

  • Zip-It Tool: This handy tool is perfect for grabbing hair and other debris from the drain.
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: These natural ingredients can help break down minor clogs without causing harm to your pipes.
  • Chemical Drain Cleaner: Use this as a last resort, as it can be harsh on your pipes. Be careful when using chemical cleaners to avoid damaging your plumbing system.

Having these tools and materials ready will make the unclogging process smoother. Remember, understanding the issue will help you choose the right tools.

Step 3: Use Effective Methods to Unclog the Shower Drain

When it comes to unclogging a shower drain, there are several effective methods you can use. In this step, we will explore the plunger method as well as alternative tools and natural remedies for tackling stubborn clogs.

3.1 Plunger Method

The plunger method is a simple and effective way to unclog a shower drain. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Use a plunger specifically designed for drains, with a flat bottom and a narrow profile to fit into the shower drain.
  2. Place the plunger over the drain opening and ensure a tight seal by pressing down firmly. Make sure there is enough water in the shower to cover the bottom of the plunger.
  3. Push and pull the plunger forcefully several times to create suction and dislodge the clog. Repeat as needed until the water starts draining properly.
  4. It’s important to maintain a strong seal between the plunger and the drain throughout the plunging process. This will help create maximum suction to clear the clog effectively.
  5. If necessary, you can add some hot water to help break up the clog while plunging. The heat can help dissolve soap scum or loosen hair that may be causing the blockage.
  6. After plunging several times, test the drain by running water to see if it’s clear. If needed, repeat the plunging process until the clog is completely removed.

Remember, using a plunger requires some physical effort, so be prepared to exert force when pushing and pulling on it. The key is to create a strong suction that dislodges the clog from the pipe.

3.2 Alternative Tools: Plumber’s Snake and Zip-It Tool

If your shower drain is still not unclogged after using a plunger, you may need to employ alternative tools such as a plumber’s snake or a zip-it tool. Here’s how you can use them:

  1. Plumber’s Snake: A plumber’s snake, also known as an auger, is a flexible tool that can reach deep into the drainpipe to break up and remove clogs. To use it, insert the snake into the drain and rotate the handle clockwise while pushing it forward. This motion will help the snake navigate through the pipe and dislodge any obstructions. Once you feel resistance, continue rotating and pushing until the snake breaks through the clog. Finally, pull out the snake to remove any debris.
  2. Zip-It Tool: The zip-it tool is a simple yet effective tool for unclogging drains. It features small barbs along its length that can grab onto hair and other debris causing the clog. Insert the zip-it tool into the shower drain until you feel resistance, then slowly pull it out, allowing the barbs to catch onto any clog material. Dispose of any debris caught by the tool and repeat the process if necessary.

3.3 Natural Remedies and Commercial Drain Cleaners

If you prefer natural remedies or have tried other methods without success, there are a few options you can explore:

  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar and pour it down the drain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to allow the mixture to fizz and break down any organic materials causing the clog. Afterward, flush with hot water to clear away any residue.
  • Boiling Water: Sometimes a simple solution like pouring boiling water down the drain can be enough to dissolve minor clogs caused by soap scum or grease buildup. Carefully pour boiling water down the drain in two to three stages, giving it time to work between each pour.
  • Commercial Drain Cleaners: If all else fails, you may consider using a commercial drain cleaner. Be cautious when using these products, as they can be harsh on your pipes and may not be effective for severe clogs. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use appropriate safety precautions when handling chemical drain cleaners.

Remember, prevention is key to avoiding future clogs. Regularly clean your shower drain by removing hair and debris, and consider using a drain strainer or cover to catch potential blockage-causing materials.

3.2 Alternative Tools: Plumber’s Snake and Zip-It Tool

Sometimes, a plunger just won’t cut it, especially when you’re dealing with a tough clog. In those situations, it’s time to bring out the big guns – a plumber’s snake or zip-it tool.

Plumber’s Snake: A Powerful Clog Remover

Think of a plumber’s snake, also known as a drain auger, as a long, flexible wire. It can go deep into your drain to break up clogs and clear away debris. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Insert the snake into the drain: Push one end of the snake into the opening of the drain and start turning the handle to make it go further down.
  2. Locate the clog: As you keep pushing, you’ll feel some resistance when the snake reaches the clog.
  3. Break up or remove the clog: Once you’ve found where the blockage is, turn the handle of the snake to break it apart or create a hook so you can pull it out.

The plumber’s snake is an effective alternative to chemical drain cleaners. It’s reusable, environmentally friendly, and allows you to physically remove blockages without resorting to potentially pipe-damaging chemicals.

Zip-It Tool: A Simple Solution for Hair Clogs

Another option you can try is the zip-it tool – a straightforward and affordable device that works wonders on hair clogs. It’s essentially a long plastic strip with barbed edges designed to catch hair and pull it out of your drain. Here’s how it works:

  1. Insert the zip-it tool into the drain: Push it down until you feel some resistance.
  2. Pull out the clog: Slowly pull upwards on the zip-it tool. The barbs will grab onto any hair or debris in your drain.
  3. Clean and repeat: After each use, make sure to remove any hair or debris from the tool. Then you can repeat the process until you’re no longer pulling up any clogs.

Similar to the plumber’s snake, the zip-it tool is reusable, environmentally friendly, and a great way to avoid harsh chemicals or professional plumbing services.

In summary, both the plumber’s snake and zip-it tool are readily available at most hardware stores, making them cost-effective options for unclogging your shower drain on your own. They are excellent alternatives to chemical drain cleaners, offering a more environmentally friendly and safe approach to clearing clogged shower drains. They can reach deeper clogs and physically remove blockages in a way that plungers might not be able to achieve.

3.3 Natural Remedies and Chemical Cleaners

When it comes to unclogging your shower drain, you have two main options: natural remedies or chemical cleaners. These alternatives can be effective in clearing clogs without having to rely solely on tools like plungers or drain snakes. Let’s take a look at some of the methods you can try:

1. Baking Soda and Vinegar

This is a popular DIY solution for unclogging drains. Here’s how you can use it:

  1. Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain.
  2. Follow it with half a cup of vinegar.
  3. Let the mixture fizz for about 10 minutes.
  4. Flush the drain with hot water.

The chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar helps break down the clog and clear the drain.

2. Hot Water, Salt, and Baking Soda

If you don’t have vinegar on hand, you can try this alternative method using hot water, salt, and baking soda:

  1. Mix 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of baking soda together.
  2. Pour the mixture down the drain.
  3. Follow it with boiling water to help dissolve the clog.

This method can be effective in breaking down greasy residue and loosening hair clogs.

3. Commercial Drain Cleaners

Another option is to use commercial drain cleaners, which are readily available in stores. Here are some things to keep in mind when using them:

  • Read and follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.
  • Be cautious as these products often contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your pipes and the environment.
  • Avoid using them excessively or as a first resort.

“Commercial drain cleaners offer a quick solution to stubborn clogs but can be harmful to your pipes and the environment.” – Benjamin Franklin Plumbing

It’s important to note that while natural remedies like baking soda and vinegar are generally safe for your pipes and environmentally friendly, they may not be as effective against severe clogs. In such cases, you might need to consider using commercial drain cleaners or seeking professional assistance.

When using any of these methods, make sure to take the necessary safety precautions:

  • Use gloves to protect your hands from any chemicals or debris.
  • Avoid mixing different cleaning solutions, as this can create harmful reactions.
  • Ventilate the area by opening windows or turning on a fan to prevent the buildup of fumes.

Remember, prevention is key to avoiding future clogs. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

  1. Regularly clean your shower drain by using a simple mesh drain cover to catch hair and debris.
  2. Consider using enzymatic drain cleaners on a monthly basis to help maintain clear pipes.

By exploring natural remedies and chemical cleaners, you can find the best approach for unclogging your shower drain based on the severity of the clog and your personal preferences. These methods offer additional options beyond traditional tools like plungers and drain snakes, allowing you to effectively restore proper drainage in your shower without the need for professional assistance.

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Step 4: Clean and Maintain the Shower Drain

A clogged shower drain can be a nuisance, but regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent future clogs. In this step, we will discuss the importance of cleaning your shower drain and provide tips on how to remove hair and debris, as well as prevent clogs from occurring.

Regularly clean the shower drain

  • To keep your shower drain running smoothly, it’s important to regularly clean it and remove any hair or debris that may have accumulated.
  • One effective method is to use a drain snake or a pair of tweezers to physically remove any visible hair or debris from the drain.
  • Start by inserting the drain snake or tweezers into the drain opening and gently pulling out any hair or debris that you can reach.
  • Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands and dispose of the hair and debris properly.

Prevent clogged shower drains

  • In addition to regular cleaning, it’s also important to take preventative measures to avoid clogged shower drains in the first place.
  • One simple way to prevent hair from entering the drain is by using a hair catcher or strainer. These devices are designed to trap hair and other debris before they enter the drain.
  • Hair catchers are typically placed over the drain opening and can be easily removed for cleaning. By using a hair catcher, you can significantly reduce the amount of hair that goes down the drain and minimize the risk of clogs.

Maintain the shower drain

  • To keep your shower drain in optimal condition, it’s recommended to pour boiling water down the drain once a week.
  • Boiling water helps dissolve any built-up soap scum and other residues that may be contributing to clogs. Simply boil a kettle of water and carefully pour it down the drain.
  • This hot water flush will help keep your pipes clear and prevent future clogs.
  • Another option for maintaining your shower drain is to use a mild and natural cleaner. Avoid using harsh chemicals, as they can damage the pipes over time.
  • You can create a homemade cleaner by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water. Pour this mixture down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing with hot water.
  • This natural solution can help remove any lingering soap scum and keep your shower drain clean and clear.

Regularly cleaning and maintaining your shower drain is essential for preventing clogs and ensuring proper drainage. By removing visible hair and debris, using hair catchers, and performing routine maintenance tasks like pouring boiling water or using a mild cleaner, you can keep your shower drain in excellent condition. Taking these simple steps will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. So don’t wait until you have a clog – start implementing these practices today to keep your shower drain running smoothly!

Step 5: Long-Term Prevention Strategies

Preventing Future Clogs in Shower Drain

  • Install a drain cover or catcher to prevent hair and debris from entering the drain and causing future clogs.
  • Regularly clean the drain cover or catcher to ensure it continues to effectively prevent clogs in the shower drain.
  • Consider using a hair strainer in the shower to catch hair before it goes down the drain.
  • Implement a monthly maintenance routine of pouring hot water down the drain to help dissolve any potential buildup and prevent future clogs.
  • Regularly clean the drain covers or catchers to remove any trapped debris and maintain proper water flow.

Using Drain Covers or Catchers

  • Consider using drain covers or catchers to prevent hair and other debris from entering the drain and causing clogs.
  • Regularly clean the drain cover or catcher to remove any buildup of hair and soap scum that could lead to clogs.
  • Consider using a hair strainer in the shower to catch hair before it goes down the drain, reducing the risk of future clogs.
  • Offer advice on avoiding clogs in the first place, such as installing a mesh drain cover to catch hair and soap residue.
My mom's renovated bathroom


Fixing a clogged shower drain doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive process. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively clear a clog and restore proper drainage in your bathroom. Here are some key takeaways to remember:

  • Regular maintenance is key to preventing clogs in the shower drain. Installing a drain cover or catcher can help prevent hair and debris from entering the drain and causing future clogs. Be sure to clean the drain cover or catcher regularly to ensure it continues to effectively prevent clogs.
  • Implementing a routine maintenance schedule for your shower drain can also help prevent clogs. Consider using a natural enzyme cleaner once a month to break down organic matter and keep your drain clear.
  • If DIY methods don’t work and the clog persists, it may be necessary to use a chemical drain cleaner as a last resort or call a professional plumber. However, be cautious when using chemical drain cleaners as they can be harsh on your pipes and may not be effective for severe clogs.
  • Natural remedies like baking soda and vinegar can also be effective in clearing minor clogs. Pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the drain followed by hot water can help break up the clog.
  • If all else fails, don’t hesitate to call a professional plumber. They have the expertise and specialized tools needed to address stubborn clogs and prevent any further damage to your plumbing system.

In conclusion, taking immediate action upon encountering a clogged shower drain is crucial to avoid standing water, unpleasant odors, and potential damage to your plumbing system.

By implementing regular maintenance practices, using preventive measures like drain covers, and knowing how to effectively clear a clog using DIY methods, you can keep your shower drain running smoothly and enjoy a hassle-free bathing experience.

Remember, maintaining a healthy plumbing system is not only beneficial for your comfort but also for the overall functionality of your bathroom. So, don’t let a clogged shower drain ruin your day – take action and restore proper drainage today!