How To Unclog A Shower Drain

So you've noticed that your shower seems to be draining a bit more slowly than usual, with the water pooling around your feet as you try to get ready for the day. Or, perhaps your shower isn't draining whatsoever, making it virtually unusable until you remedy the situation. However you discover it, one thing is quickly clear: There's some type of clog, and you need to address it.

Clogged shower drains can arise from a wide variety of reasons, from hair to soap scum and shampoo buildup to hard water deposits, as Meticulous Plumbing Home Services LLC explains, no matter how often you clean your shower. And, a clogged shower drain can be extremely frustrating. However, unlike many other plumbing-related tasks in your home, it's one that you just might be able to fix yourself. Here are 11 methods for unclogging your drain that you can try out next time you're facing a clog.

1. Boiling water

One solution to your clogged drain is plain old boiling water. This fix might be particularly useful for situations where the clog is caused by build-up of products like shampoo or soap scum. Simply boil some water, and then little by little, pour the water down the drain. As Bob Vila warns, you will want to take a quick moment to assess the type of pipes you have in your home; boiling water is just fine for metal pipes, but may cause some loosening in the joints of PVC pipes, so skip this hack if your home has the latter.

2. Baking soda and vinegar

As Liquid Plumr explains, this simple solution made from ingredients you likely already have at home might just be the answer to your clogged drain. Start by flushing things out with boiling water, and then follow that with 1 cup of baking soda and a 2 cup water-vinegar mixture, with equal parts of each substance. Then, cover your drain to allow the ingredients to work together. The powerhouse combination sparks a reaction that creates carbon dioxide, which paired with the water, helps to break things up and hopefully dislodge the clog.

3. Wire hanger

If you suspect the clog might be due to something like hair, but you don't feel like running to the hardware store to buy a plumber's snake or specialty tools, Bob Vila says you can use a wire coat hanger instead. Simply straighten out the hanger until you have a little hook at the end, unscrew the shower drain cover, and go fishing for the clog. As with any solution that requires pulling the clog out rather than breaking it up and flushing it down, this one might be tough for those who are squeamish, but it's also incredibly effective.

4. A plunger

Most people will have a plunger kicking around the house for any clogged toilet emergencies, but did you know, as per Better Homes & Gardens, that the plunger can be a great tool for unclogging your shower drain as well? You'll need to completely cover the shower drain opening with the plunger — using petroleum jelly along the base of the plunger can help create a tighter seal. Then, fill your shower until the plunger's rim is covered and plunge away. This solution may require a little bit of arm strength to really get things moving, but if successful, the pressure can cause those clogs and blockages to start moving.

5. Using your hands

If the thought of touching whatever's causing your shower drain clog, even with rubber-gloved hands, causes you to gag, maybe skip to another idea. However, if you need a quick, easy, and free solution, this suggestion from Den Garden may be one to consider. All you have to do is unscrew the drain cover and, well, try to find the clog. This obviously won't work with any clogs that are further down the pipe, but if the issue is higher up, you should be able to scoop out any hair or small objects that could be causing the clog.

6. A plumbers' snake

If you're willing to buy a tool to make the job easier — or you happen to have bought one when dealing with a previous clog issue in your home — a plumber's snake can be a fantastic way to unclog a shower drain, as Better Homes & Gardens explains. The process is basically the same for using it with a shower drain as it is with a sink or anything else you're trying to unclog — you simply remove the drain cover, lower the cable portion of the tool into the pipe, and then try to grab the clog.

7. Drain cleaner

For particularly stubborn clogs that aren't fixed by your natural solutions, or ones that are in locations within your pipe that you can't easily access or are having trouble grabbing with any tools, you may need to turn to commercial drain cleaners, as Better Homes & Gardens suggests. Many people prefer to avoid these because of all the chemicals they contain, but they can be very effective on certain clogs. Even with powerful drain cleaners, you may need to use the product a few times if the clog is really tricky or particularly large. 

8. Enzyme cleaners

If you're looking for a solution you can just pour down the drain, but you want to avoid harsh drain cleaners, consider an enzyme cleaner, as Sunrise Specialty suggests. These cleaners break down organic material into smaller pieces, as Nyco explains. The bonus of this method is that you don't have to put in any effort — just pour your enzyme cleaner of choice down the drain, that's it. The downside is that it does require a bit of time to do its job, so you'll want to leave the shower undisturbed for several hours after pouring it down your drain. 

9. A wet/dry vacuum and rag

For a solution that doesn't require any chemicals or special plumbing tools, you might want to give this method a try. As Apartment Therapy outlines, you'll need a rag or cloth of some kind and a wet-dry vacuum. Remove the drain cover, get some water pooling, and then simply press your vacuum hose against the drain opening, amplifying its power by adding the damp cloth or rag to create a seal that will help form a tight suction. Then, you'll hopefully be able to just suction up the clog. You may need to repeat the process a few times.

10. ​​A solution of borax, salt, and white vinegar

Borax has a surprising amount of uses around the house, and one of them is as a drain unclogger, as per Well and Good. For this solution, you'll want to take about 1/4 cup of borax and 1/4 cup of salt and pour them down the drain; the borax works its magic, and the salt works as an abrasive agent, helping battle that clog. Then, follow those two with 1/2 cup of vinegar, and close the drain to let the mixture work. After about half an hour, flush it all out with hot water.

11. Call a plumber

For something like a clogged shower drain, you likely don't want to call a plumber immediately — those house calls can be costly, and the clog might end up being far more minor than you initially thought. Most homeowners should try at least one or two of the typical solutions to unclog a drain, to see if they can get that clog to budge. If you've thrown a bunch of solutions at the clog and it's still just as bad as when you started, though, it may be time to bring in the professionals and all their tools and expertise, as Meticulous Plumbing suggests.