How to Clear a Blocked Shower Drain

how to clear a blocked shower drain

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One of the most common issues in plumbing is a blocked shower drain. Few people realise that shower drains expel much more than just water down the drain; soap scum, hair, excess skin particles, and dirt all contribute to clogged shower drains. Thankfully, a wide range of techniques can be used to successfully unblock a clogged shower drain.

With this in mind, how exactly do your clear a blocked shower drain?

The most effective and reliable method to clear a blocked shower drain is to call a professional plumbing company. Some DIY methods you can try are plunging, drain cleaners, baking soda, and vinegar solution, or running scalding hot water down the drain.

Are you currently trying to figure out how to clear a clogged shower drain? If so, this article is for you. In this guide, we will offer advice on how to remove the clog using a variety of common methods, many of which are natural and chemical-free. We will also provide details on how plumbing professionals unclog a shower drain with specialised tools. Read on to find out solutions to this common and frustrating plumbing issue.

What Causes a Blocked Drain in the Shower?

It is common to think that a shower drain is hard to clog when compared to something like a kitchen sink drain. In the kitchen, food and oils can clog a drainage pipe quickly due to the organic texture of the substances.

But the same thing applies with a shower drain as well.

Shower drains have five primary culprits when it comes to clogs: soap, shampoos, hair, dead skin, and dirt.

Let’s take a closer look at each and how it contributes to clogs.

Soap Scum

Soap is made from rich and thick oils in addition to various cleansers and scents that leave behind a residue known as soap scum. This residue is not really a problem on its own, but when the residue mixes with the calcification and mineralisation that is caused by hard water, a chemical reaction occurs and leaves behind scum.

This substance builds up over time in the lining of drain walls causing blockages. Additionally, soap scum contains bacteria that can cause mold and mildew and spread throughout your drains and drainage system.


Shampoos are similar to soap in how it can build up over time and lead to a residue that contributes to clogs in the shower drain.

Shampoo or liquid body washes is not as problematic as something like bar soap but the same issues apply to hair soap especially if you have hard water coming into your home.


Hair is perhaps the most common and preventable culprit for a clogged drain.

When you shampoo and condition your hair, some strands are released through the process that gets sucked into the water down the drain.

Over time, hair begins to clump in the drain and typically forms into messy hairballs that prevent the free flow of drain water. This can become worse when hair and soap begin to clump together since the soapy hairball can become so compact that it causes a complete and total blockage where water will not escape down the drain at all.

Dead Skin

Every time we shower, we are essentially removing skin cells and particles that have dried out on the surface level of the skin.

These skin cells will typically drain fine but they are almost always combined with soap or shampoo which leads to a residue that can thicken over time and form into clumps along the walls of the drain pipes.


Obviously, showering and bathing remove dirt from the surface of the body.

Unless you do work that leaves large deposits of dirt and grim on the body, it will typically take time for the light traces of dirt to cause deposits large enough in drains to cause a blockage.

But as with all these culprits, everything typically mixes and leads to the clog that causes the blockage.

How Do I Unblock a Shower Drain?

There are many different ways to unclog a shower drain. But in this section, we will discuss two of the most popular methods that many people utilise with mixed results.

Drain Cleaners

Commercial drain chemicals can be purchased over-the-counter and work by using various chemicals that help to break down a clog.

Chemical drain products may work or the products may not remove the clog, it really is a roll of the dice with these products. Additionally, chemical drain products could potentially cause damage to the interior of your drainage pipes and are a health hazard if the fumes are inhaled or the chemicals touch your skin.

You won’t find many professional plumbers that stand behind these products due to these reasons. But the truth of the matter is–you may have success as long as you follow the label directions and wear safety gear, but most of the time, severe clogs in a shower drain are not going to respond to the chemicals and all you will be left with is a toxic mess–and your drain will remain clogged.

Use a Lubricant

Alternatively, many people choose to use some sort of lubricant to loosen the clog.

You could try something like petroleum jelly or a hair conditioner that you pour into the drain and allow the lubricant to sit for about 30 minutes.

Then, you flush the petroleum jelly or lubricant of your choice with hot water and hopefully, this has loosened the clog to the point that it flushes down the drain.

Again, this method could work or not, but it’s worth a try.

How Do I Unblock a Shower Drain Naturally?

The best methods to use for clearing a blocked drain in the shower are chemical-free and completely natural. Let’s explore each of these procedures.

Use Your Hand

The most basic method is to just use your hand to try and clear the clog.

This will not get you far, but if the clog is close enough to the drain cover, you may be able to remove the clog with your fingers.

If you can see or feel the clog, be sure to circle your fingers around the entire perimeter of the pipe to make sure you remove all the residue causing the clog.

Be sure to wear rubber gloves or thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

Use a Coat Hanger

Another great method to try is to use a coat hanger to break up the clog.

You will want to use a wire coat hanger and untwine the wire from the tip until you have a vertical metal rod that can clip way down into the drain until you hit the clog.

Twist and turn the coat hanger until you penetrate through the clog and the clump is not fully compacted. It may help to break up the clog as much as possible and then flush with hot water between each session with the coat hanger.

Use a Plunger

Using a plunger is one of the easiest and most reliable methods available for homeowners who want to try and clear a clog on their own.

Using a plunger works by causing suction that creates a force between the surface water and the clog down in the drain. If water has backed up into the shower, take the plunger, place it over the drain, and push up and down several times.

If the water begins to drain slowly, keep using a plunger in the same pattern until all the surface water has gone down the drain.

To test the drain, turn on the faucets and let the water run. If the drain flows clearly and without backup, you have likely broken up and flushed the clog.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Pouring baking soda and vinegar down the drain is another popular method that works for many people.

Both baking soda and vinegar have enzymes that are capable of breaking down grime and residue, which is the adhesive that clogs bind to inside of the pipe. The baking soda and vinegar will neutralise the enzymes within the clog and help it to break down after you pour the baking soda down the drain.

To try this method, pour a cup of white vinegar and pour one cup of baking soda crystals into a container with boiling water. Mix the cup of white vinegar/soda solution well and pour it into the shower drain.

If excess water is standing in the shower, you may find that it helps to remove as much of this water as possible for the solution to target the plughole once you pour the cup of the solution down the drain.

Allow the solution to work its way through the drain for about 30 minutes, and then dump as much boiling water down the pipe as possible to flush out the blockages. Make sure you allow the solution to sit long enough within the pipes to work to allow it time to clear the blockage.

You may also find that it helps to block the overflow of water at the drain cover with a plug of some sort or, an old dishcloth once you put the vinegar and baking soda down the drain to ensure that the powder solution stays within the clogged pipe and doesn’t pop back up into the sink.

If one cup of baking soda is not enough, repeat the process with another cup as it may take a few different tries to release the clog. Be sure to use rubber gloves when touching the water.

Boiling Water

Sometimes, all it may take is large amounts of boiling water poured down the drain cover.

Boiling water is hot enough to cause particles to disintegrate or break apart once you flush the drain with enough force.

The combination of the force of a pot of boiling water and the incredibly high heat of the water can release some clogs in one go.

Make sure you test the water flow after each flush with the hot water.

How Do Professionals Unblock a Shower Drain?

If you have to call a plumber, and this is usually a good idea since the severity of a clogged shower drain can be much worse than you may think, there are a few go-to methods that professionals use to quickly clear the clog.

Plumber’s Snake

A plumber’s snake is a long, rodlike apparatus that uses a technique similar to what a clothes hanger can do but with much more power and flexibility, and length.

This is usually the first procedure a professional service will use for a drain blockage.

The snake works by using an auger that is placed into the drain that is then uncoiled until the blockage is reached.

Once the auger head reaches the obstruction, a plumber will then move the snake around from side to side and up and down to fully break up and dislodge the blockage.

Once the obstruction is cleared, the snake is removed and the plumber will test the water flow to ensure the blockage has been removed.

Drain Jetting

Drainage jetting is a powerful procedure for blocked drains in the shower due to the flexibility of the jetting hose, which can contour to a wide range of corners and tight spaces, as opposed to bulkier equipment. It takes an adequate amount of experience to effectively navigate the jetting hose, therefore a CCTV drain survey is also beneficial during the jetting process to have an effective visual guide the process.

Additionally, the water pressure needs to be powerful enough to remove the debris causing the blocked drain. The nozzle attached to the hose effectively increases the water pressure to a point where the high-pressure water can shoot out of the nozzle with enough power to move debris.

Drain jetting services are highly recommended when standard techniques like a plumber’s snake simply are not removing a blockage. Water is a powerful element, and when you add high-pressure water to the procedure, the results can be immediately successful.

Drain Cleaning

Sometimes, a blockage can be so widespread within the pipes, that the entire drainage system for the shower needs to be cleaned.

At KJC Drainage, we use a process known as High-Pressure Jet Washing to thoroughly remove stuck debris on the walls of the pipe and to clean the drains.

How Can I Prevent Clogged Shower Drains?

To prevent a clogged shower drain, you can try a few of the different natural procedures we discussed above.

Hair, soap, shampoo, and dirt are all unavoidable facts when it comes to showering. So the best thing to do to prevent a clog is to periodically flush your shower drain with boiling hot water or use the baking soda/vinegar procedure to clean the drain out.

It is the build-up of these substances and particles that leads to the drain becoming clogged. If you prevent the build-up, you can prevent a clogged drain.

Therefore, it helps to perform routine maintenance on the shower drain by flushing the culprits and cleaning the lining of the pipes.

Additionally, you could consider installing mesh drain screens over the drain cover to catch clumps of hair to prevent hair from clogging in the drain. This will not address the problem of soap, shampoo, skin, and dirt, but it can keep one of the primary culprits for blocked shower drains from being allowed to form.

How KJC Drainage Can Help

Although you can try some of the methods we have discussed, we strongly advise against trying to clear a blockage yourself as DIY equipment and chemicals can cause further damage to your pipes, will only act as a temporary solution, and may be harmful to your health. It’s always best to call a plumber.

At KJC Drainage, we have years of experience and the latest tools and technology for unblocking your shower drains. Clearing blocked drains can be easily resolved using a plumber’s snake, high-pressure water jetting, drainage rods, and as a last resort, excavation if the blockage has occurred beyond your reach.

If your shower drains need unblocking and you are based in Hampshire or the surrounding areas, then think KJC Drainage. Give us a call today on 01329 310630 / 07496 771999 or complete our online contact form for a free, no-obligation quote, and we’ll get back to you with our best available price and free, no-obligation, advice.

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