How to Unclog a Shower Drain | 7 Proven Methods for Renters | Roost
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7 Ways to unclog a shower drain

Everything you need to know to keep your shower drain clear

You’re taking a nice relaxing shower when suddenly you notice you’re standing ankle-deep in dirty water, and it’s not draining. You have a clogged shower drain, an unwelcome inconvenience when all you want to do is relax. Luckily, you can unclog a shower drain easily. We know you want to get back to enjoying your shower, so we’ve pulled together a list of simple solutions to help you get the “ick” out of your tub drain.

Roost Tip! Once you notice a clogged shower drain, it is important to turn your water off promptly. Showers come in all shapes and sizes, and with some, flooding is a risk. This flooding can cause water damage. The damage is costly to repair and may negatively impact your renters insurance and security deposit refund.

What causes shower drain clogs?

Knowing what kind of clog you have can make it easier to fix. The most common causes are:

  • Hair
  • Soap build-up
  • Mineral build-up
  • Dirt
  • Small objects
  • Tree Roots
Roost Tip! If tree roots cause your clog, you may notice water backing up in all of your apartment’s drains. If this is the case, it is important to consult your lease agreement and contact your landlord. This type of clog may have damaged your apartment’s pipes and often requires help from a professional plumber.

Seven ways to unclog a shower drain

To begin clearing your shower drain, you first need to remove the standing water from your shower. Depending on the severity of your clog, the water may drain slowly. If it is draining too slow or not draining, you may need to scoop the water out with a bucket or other container.

1. Clearing the shower drain by hand 

Once you have the water out, you can visually inspect your drain. If you can see the clog’s source, you may be able to remove it by hand. We recommend wearing gloves because this can be a little (or a lot) disgusting. 

Remove any visible clumps of hair or objects that you can see around the drain. Using a flashlight, look into the drain for hair, objects, or build-up in the pipe. If it appears clear, briefly turn on your shower to see if the water drains properly. 

2. Clearing a tub drain using a sink snake

Drain snake for a drain clog

If you look down your shower drain and see an object that you can’t reach by hand, or if you test your drain and it is still backing up, the next step is to try a sink snake. A sink snake is a 16-18 inch-long tool made for inserting into drains. 

  • Begin by fully inserting the sink snake until it’s in or has met resistance 
  • Then twist it slowly a few turns
  • Twisting it will help it grab onto any clumps of hair that may be blocking the pipe 
  • After twisting it a few times, you may notice some resistance
  • This means the sink snake is becoming wrapped with hair
  • Withdraw the sink snake, and remove any debris from the tool 
  • Repeat these steps until the sink snake comes out of the drain free of debris 
  • Turn on your shower to see if the shower drain now works correctly

3. Clearing a drain using a plunger

If your shower drain is still clogged, the next step is to use a plunger. A plunger works by forcing the blockage out of the smaller shower drain pipe into a larger sewer pipe. 

  • Begin by turning on the water and allowing the water to back up until the drain is slightly covered 
  • Then, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the cup of your plunger 
  • Next, place your plunger over the drain, and begin plunging 
  • If you have never “plunged” before, you simply push the stick about an inch or two repeatedly up and down

Depending on the severity of the blockage, this may take several minutes. If you hear gurgling, or the water you ran into the shower suddenly drains, this usually means you have cleared the clog in your shower drain. 

4. Unclogging a shower drain using baking soda and vinegar 

Using baking soda and vinegar is another easy way to clear your shower drain. These two products release large amounts of carbon dioxide when mixed. Inside your pipes, this creates a lot of pressure and can help unclog a shower drain.

We recommend these steps for using baking soda and vinegar:

  • Pour hot water down your shower drain
  • Next, pour one cup of baking soda down your shower drain
  • Then, mix one cup of hot water with one cup of vinegar and pour down your shower drain
  • After that, cover the shower drain with a drain plug and wait ten minutes (use caution with this step, pressure may build up quite a bit)

Once you have followed these steps, it is time to test your shower drain. Turn on your shower and watch for the water to drain. If the water drains slowly, you may need to repeat the above steps a few more times. 

Roost Tip! In the past, people have sometimes recommended using boiling water to clear a drain. We do not recommend using boiling water because many modern apartments have pipes made of plastic, which will melt. This may cause costly damage to pipes and negatively impact your security deposit refund

5. Clearing a shower drain using a drain auger 

Drain auger for clearing shower drain

A hand-operated drain auger may be useful for certain types of shower drains. Drain augers tend to be more expensive than the options listed above. We recommend you make sure your drain cover is removable and the pipe is at least two inches in diameter before purchasing or using a drain auger.

The hand-operated drain auger is similar to the sink snake but is much longer and can reach deeper into the pipes. If your apartment has the right kind of shower drain, this is an excellent option for clearing a clogged shower drain.

6. Clearing drains using chemicals 

Drain chemicals are another option for clearing clogged shower drains. Many different kinds of chemicals for clearing drains are commercially available. Some are eco-friendly, and some are not.

If you choose to use a drain chemical, we recommend following the bottle’s instructions before using the chemical. We also urge caution in using drain chemicals if you have already tried baking soda and vinegar on your shower drain. These two products can interact with some drain chemicals creating dangerous vapors.

7. Inform your landlord you have a clogged drain

If none of the above solutions unclog your shower drain, you may have a serious problem in your apartment’s plumbing. If this is the case, it’s important to review the maintenance policies in your rental lease agreement. 

Next, follow your landlord’s maintenance process as outlined in your lease agreement. If your contract requires you to contact a plumber, ensure they are licensed and certified appropriately for your area. 

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A few parting tips on preventing future shower drain clogs

We know how annoying a clogged shower drain can be. With that in mind, we would like to offer you these tips for preventing future clogs. 

1. Shower drain hair traps

Shower drain hair trap

Shower drain hair traps are an effective way to prevent hair and small objects from clogging up your drain. They are inexpensive and easy to maintain. A variety of shapes and sizes are available, making finding the right match for your shower a breeze.

2. Enzyme treatments for shower drains

A wide variety of eco-friendly enzyme treatments for shower drains are available commercially. The enzymes eat away at the build-up from soap, minerals, and dirt in your apartment’s pipes. 

We recommend following the manufacturer’s recommendations when using these products. As with any chemical product, we recommend reviewing your lease to ensure there are no restrictions against using drain chemicals in your lease agreement. 

3. Using baking soda and vinegar to treat your shower drain

Treating your shower drain with baking soda and vinegar is an easy and inexpensive way to keep your pipes free of build-up. Using baking soda and vinegar is the same as the method listed above used to clear clogs. Repeat this treatment every other month for the best results. 

Why is it important to keep your shower drain clean?

Taking good care of your shower drain and the plumbing in the rest of your apartment is essential. When you decide to rent a different apartment, your previous landlord may include plumbing in their final inspection. 

If your apartment has clogged pipes when you move out, this may affect your security deposit refund. We recommend reviewing your lease agreement ahead of time when planning to move to ensure there are no surprises. 

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: December 30th, 2020