How to unblock a shower drain
Just when you think things are ticking over quite nicely – the car hasn’t needed any work for some time and, in the home, repairs are few and far between – something comes along to burst your bubble. It might be something relatively simple and inexpensive, but either way, you know it’ll set you back.
In this instance, we’re talking about the shower. It’s true that we all take it for granted; when it’s working okay, we don’t give it too much thought, but when it isn’t doing its job properly it can quickly cause absolute chaos. Ensuring early mornings are that little bit more stressful, a blocked shower drain might not seem a big issue, but it can nevertheless bring about huge problems.
Without warning, the family shower is out of bounds for a while and all hell breaks loose as you each take your turn to grab five minutes in front of a sink of hot water and a single, solitary soap. Groan.
Like the boiler being out of action or your car tucked away in the garage for its MOT, there are few things less convenient than a shower on the blink thanks to a blocked drain. As it’s so easy to block the drain – a few clumps of hair will do it and it could happen anytime – and it’s always when you least expect it.
So what can you do when you’re faced with a blocked shower? It’s unlikely you’d do such a thing on purpose, but that doesn’t make it any less hassle-free. Leaving you without a working shower for days – possibly even weeks – a blocked drain could also leave you out of pocket and with less free time before you head off for work.
With a house full of people scrabbling to use the bath or sink, you’ll really want to get it sorted as soon as possible.
So, you’ve blocked your shower drain: here’s what to do first…
If your shower drain isn’t emptying properly, you’ll quickly know about it. If yours is a cubicle shower – and not a basic hose over a bath – you’ll find the water rises quickly while you’re washing. It may even spill onto the floor, which is something you could no doubt live without.
Of course, you won’t want to let the problem escalate. The good news is, then, there are a few things you can do in the first instance and before calling a professional.
Start by digging out a pair of rubber gloves; investigating a blocked drain won’t be a clean job – even if it is a shower (pun very much intended!).
Protect your hands by slipping on the gloves and step into your shower (without shoes on!) to see if you can discover what’s causing the blockage.
The issue could be a result of a build-up of hair; strands of hair which have simply fallen off your head during your daily shower. Or it could be something harder to spot – a hair slide might have slipped down the drain, causing a more serious blockage, or plastic packaging from toiletries like shampoo or conditioner might also be the culprit.
Carefully crouching in the cubicle – remember, it’s likely to be slippy – have a good look around the drain to discover the reason for the blockage. Don’t, however, be tempted to poke your fingers down the drain – no one wants to find themselves a prisoner in their own bathroom as a result of getting their hands stuck. You could, if you prefer, lean into the shower from outside it.
Next, grab a coat hanger or crochet hook. As daft as it may sound, something as simple as this may help you remove hair and other small blockages. And if you’ve used commercial products designed to clear out your drains but had no luck, it’s worth trying this easy option.
Wearing your gloves, simply bend the hanger to make a small hook at the end; this can then be inserted down the drain. Have a plastic bag or small bin at the ready to discard any debris, soap scum or hair you might discover.
If your shower drain has a cover, unscrew it and set any screws aside. Now, slowly insert the hooked end of your coat hanger down the drain, making sure to do it gently and with a slight, twisted motion.
Now, start tugging upwards gradually. You’ll find that hairs and other debris will come to the surface – and you should place these straight into the bag or bin and repeat the process until no more hair comes up.
To check if this quick trick has done the job, simply step out of the shower and turn it on. If the cubicle is no longer filling up, you’ve cracked it! Just make sure you’re out of the shower; a sudden burst of water on the head may just give you a shock!
How to Tell if Your Shower Drain Needs Attention
So, we’ve established that a surefire way to ascertain if your shower drain is blocked is simply if more water than normal is in your cubicle. It’s likely to be rising up into – and sometimes over – the cubicle, but there any other ways you can diagnose the problem. Here are just a few:
A Gurgling Noise – Can you hear a low, groan of a sound coming from the drains; the kind of sound you might hear after flushing the toilet? This is one of the earliest signs of a blocked drain and it’s simply trapped air pushing up through the water trap.
A Bad Smell – A foul smell or internal venting may be due to water being displaced in the traps on showers and in baths that are blocked. If you begin to smell anything unusual, keep an eye on the drains and give the professionals a ring if home remedies you’ve tried haven’t worked.
If you’re going to see to the problem yourself, the most important thing is that you don’t go in with little thought to what you’re getting yourself into.
Pop on some rubber gloves and start gently, using a coat hanger – as previously suggested – and not prodding about too much. Forcing the issue may cause a bigger long-term problem and won’t unblock your drains any quicker.
Biggest Causes of Shower Drain Blockages
We’ve touched on the biggest causes of drain blockages – and the good news is most of them can be prevented with a little care.
To ensure your drains don’t get blocked again, here’s what to look out for:
Hair – You’ll naturally shed strands and strands of hair while taking a shower, so the key here is not to exacerbate the problem. If you’re someone who sheds their hair at a rate of knots (ahem, sorry!), it’s worth brushing your hair before you enter the shower and doing your best not to over-lather when you use shampoo.
Dead Skin Cells – Just as hair can quickly block your drains, excess skin will fall off your body with each and every wash. It’s another reason why it’s important not to over-lather in the shower – and don’t forget to avoid too many harsh, gritty exfoliating products which will mean you’ll shed your skin even faster. Hairs and dead skin cells can stick to the walls of your drain pipe, if allowed to build up over time, so keep an eye on this and try to scoop up any hair before it reaches the plug.
Soap Scum – It’s not called ‘scum’ for nothing; a build-up of soap really is horrible – you certainly won’t want to lift it out of your drains, anyway. Try to catch any falling pieces of soap if possible, as it really will save you a lot of hassle in the long-run.
Hard Water – Depositing all kinds of minerals and micro solids on the walls of your shower drain pipe, hard water will eventually clog your drain. If you’re worried – and you’re in an area with particularly hard water – use a softening agent to help you sidestep the problem.
Rubbish – Take extra care with things like toothpaste lids, the plastic coverings for razors and other small items – like hair bobbles and grips – when showering.
How to Stop Hair Clogging Up Your Drains
Once masses of your hair has made their way into your drain, there’s little you can do. Many of it will head straight down, while some of it you may be able to scoop out. Either way, it’s certainly not a job anyone looks forward to. Hair mixed with soap scum isn’t a pretty look – or a pretty task.
So, what can you do to stop hair clogging up your drains? It’s simple really: just minimise the amount of hair that lands in the bottom of the shower. Who knew?! Here’s how:
Avoid Brushing Your Hair – It might seem like an obvious one, but so many people continue to brush their hair in the shower – to smooth out knots or comb through a conditioning treatment – and wonder why their drains quickly get blocked. Instead, give your hair a brush before and after you jump in the shower and not during.
Don’t Smooth or Over-lather Your Tresses – In much the same way as brushing your hair in the shower will cause it to shed, smoothing it too much by running it through your fingers will do the same. Don’t over-lather your hair with shampoo or conditioner, either – it’s a drain blockage issue just waiting to happen.
Catch Any Loose Strands – If you’re finding it hard to stop your hair falling out – some people are more susceptible to it than others – try your best to instead catch any fallen strands or clumps before they hit the plug and the area surrounding it. Gather any matted hair and pop it straight into the bin; don’t be tempted to simply sweep it down the drain or wash it away – a blocked drain will only cause problems later down the line.
So there you have it! We’ve compiled a few, seemingly simple tips but they’re bound to save you a lot of time, worry and money if you follow them to the letter.
Unblocking Your Shower Drain: A Home Remedy
When you’ve been alerted to a drain blockage, your first thought might be to panic. But there really is no need, as you might be able to save the day – and your shower – yourself. As with all jobs around the house, there’s always a remedy you can find in your own kitchen cupboards that might work first.
While some drains may need the expert attention of a professional or two, other more minor jobs can be dealt with easily at home. Here’s something to try:
Baking Soda – Who knew such a humble baking ingredient could be so useful? Aside from helping you whip up delicious cakes, that is. Lay out your handy ‘Drain Blockage’ kit: 225g of baking soda, alongside an equal amount of table salt and white vinegar.
Now, making sure there is no water in the shower cubicle, pour the baking soda down the drain. Follow this with the cup of salt, before finally pouring down the white vinegar. Once you’ve done this, simply wait for ten minutes and flush it all down with boiling water. If you’ve done it right – and the blockage is a minor one – the problem should now be sorted.
Mr Muscle – While it isn’t a natural remedy, you will find this product in your home. Probably. There’s a reason why ‘Mr Muscle loves the jobs you hate’ – and it’s because they’re generally a bit easier for him! The brand’s Drain Cleaner can get the job done, providing it’s a minor one – and may just prevent you getting on your hands and knees with a coat hanger or an old rag. Why not give it a go?
Still got a blocked drain? Call out a plumber or drainage services team as soon as possible.
Clearing a Blockage: Here’s How Not to Do it:
Everyone knows someone who loves being the go-to handyman (or woman!), rising to a challenge and ‘saving the day’.
But people like that often have a tendency to tackle a job with little care or thought. In their rush to prove themselves as ‘Handyman/Woman of the Year’, they’ll attack an issue with a spanner here, or a hammer there, when often all that’s required is a little bit of common sense and a coat hanger.
We jest of course; no one would go at a blocked drain with a hammer – surely? But the fact is, sometimes all that’s needed is some careful consideration and the right materials for the job. And if Mr Muscle won’t do it, it’s time to have a go yourself. With that in mind, here’s how not to address the issue:
With Undue Force – Yes, you can use a coat hanger to unblock a drain but it’s important not to jam it down the plug hole with force. It instead requires a gentle hand and a little bit of patience; working excess hair out of the drain can be an easy job if you just give it some thought on the best way to do it.
With Your Shoes On – It may seem silly, but don’t be tempted to step into the shower with your shoes on – cubicles aren’t designed for big, cumbersome boots or muddy trainers. And, you know, you’re likely to slip if you’re not careful.
With Your Hands – We’ve talked about this briefly before, but it’s worth remembering that prodding and poking down the drain with your fingers is likely to end in tears. Real ones.
Still not sure where to start? Before you call out the drainage specialists, take a look at the home remedy section here in our guide and give any one of those options a go before you lose your rag – and that extra money you’d reserved for your next family holiday.
Shower Drain Blockage DIYs Gone Wrong
While many of us handymen and women have the very best intentions – somehow we turn into a kind of ‘Superman of the Home’ when our house and possessions are in danger – our DIY efforts can go wrong.
They don’t call it ‘Do It Yourself for Nothing’, with people generally opting to give something a go themselves to save money, or save hassle.
Over on Quora.com, someone did have a go at unblocking a drain – and this is what happened.
First, they tried drain cleaner. But that didn’t work – it must have been a more serious blockage than they perhaps first imagined.
Next on their DIY hit list, then, was the humble toilet plunger – but guess what, that wasn’t successful either. Instead, this hapless DIY-er had to handle gallons of water quickly pouring out of the upper drainage holes. Nice. Thinking fast, he tried to plug said holes with a rag, but didn’t have much luck on this front either.
The fact is, with a lot of home DIY jobs, things can – and often will – go wrong. The key is treading carefully and not rushing into the job. Work out what you need before you get cracking, take a look online for some handy hints and tips and then begin. You’ll be surprised how much more successful the job will turn out if you made the most of the plentiful advice from around the Internet first.
If you’re really struggling, forums are always a good bet. In the meantime, simply put the question out on Facebook, or even Twitter; you’ll be surprised who’ll get back to you. Use relevant hashtags (try #plumbing #DIY #interiors) and wait for some digital assistance.
And if all else fails, maybe it is time to give those professionals a call…
How to Prevent a Future Blockage
So we’ve discovered how easy it is for hair to clog up your shower, and with that in mind, we’ll focus on helping you prevent a future blockage simply by ensuring it doesn’t head straight down your drain.
Grab some Mr Muscle drain unblocker at the very first sign of a problem – and if that doesn’t do it, it’s time to try another solution.
Have you, for example, considered a mesh guard? It slots easily over the drain and stops strands of hair making it down the pipes and causing water to spill out over the sides of the cubicle. Not at all what you want when you’re rushing around in the morning and need to get out of the door to work.
Short of avoiding brushing and combing your hair, a mesh is the only answer to avoid this ever-growing (okay, we’ll stop with the puns) problem. You can even create a makeshift one from any kind of mesh – a hair net or similar – and just pick it out and give it a clean every few days.
Preventing a Future Blockage: Tips for Kids
When it comes to ensuring your shower doesn’t get blocked again, it’s all well and good to follow our handy hints. But what about your little ones? Do they know what to do, too?
If they’re old enough to use the shower themselves, it’s worth relaying some of these tips to them – the main ones being:
- Keep hair bobbles, headbands and grips away from the shower
- Avoid plastic coverings for toiletries in the shower, opening them before you step in to minimise blockage
- Scoop up hair and soap scum as quickly as possible, placing it in a bin next to the shower
- Don’t encourage your kids to sort out the problem themselves by putting hands or fingers down the plug, or using a coat hanger
So there you have it! With a little bit of forward planning, everyone can be ready and waiting to ensure a blockage doesn’t bring the home to a standstill. You could even print out those handy, bullet-pointed tips and stick them on the bathroom door or wall for your kids.
Don’t Let it Happen Again: Quick Tips to Keep in Mind
If you’ve reached the end of this mammoth guide, by now you’ll know all there is to know about unblocking your shower drains. Whether you want to tackle them with a commercial unblocking product, or you’re keen to try a quick, easy and cheap home remedy, you’ll have all the info and tools you need to proceed.
Above all, you’ll want to know what to do to prevent a blockage occurring a second time. So here’s a few tips to bear in mind:
- Showers won’t unblock themselves – keep on top of the build-up of hair, debris and soap scum by regularly giving your shower a clean. Wiping around the plug hole frequently will ensure you can scoop up anything that shouldn’t be sitting there, but it’s a great idea to keep your shower clean regardless.
- Hands aren’t designed for plug holes– don’t try unblocking your drain with your bare hands. We’ve said it a few times in this article for good reason: hands are not tools.
- Hair and debris does not simply wash down the drain – it has to go somewhere, and usually it sits in the pipes and causes a problem. Save yourself the stress and keep an eye on the situation as often as possible.