Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Clogged Shower Drain?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Unclogging a Shower?
- 3 What Are The Different Ways to Unclog a Shower Drain?
- 4 When Should You Hire A Professional To Unclog Your Shower Drain?
- 5 How Much Does Unclogging a Shower Drain Cost?
- 6 What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
What Is a Clogged Shower Drain?
Like all fixtures throughout your home, your shower is connected to your main water line and to your main sewer line. These connections allow water to flow through your shower head when you need water and drain out the bottom after the water is used.
The water exits through the shower or bathtub drain, flows through the trap, moves through a series of pipes behind your walls or under your floor, and then finally exits your home via your main waste line.
A clogged drain occurs in your tub or shower when the drain fails to let water flow down and out of the bath or shower body. A shower clog occurs when any portion of the trap, drain line, or sewer line becomes clogged with some type of debris, which then limits how quickly the used water can drain.
What Do You Need To Know About Unclogging a Shower?
Whether you plan on attempting a DIY unclogging or hiring a professional, it helps to understand how your drain works, where the issue is likely occurring, how to prevent future shower clogs from occurring, and why the plumbing problem may be more severe than it seems.
How Does a Shower Drain Work?
You’ve likely noticed the physical drain in your shower, but you may not have considered where the water goes once it leaves the tub. Once the water exits the bathing area, it falls into a PVC pipe that extends down to an S-trap or, in some cases, a P-trap.
The trap is a section of piping that dips down, bows back up in a U-shape, and then extends downward once again.
The trap allows excess water to flow through, but some water gets trapped in the upward-facing U-shaped section. This small amount of water acts as a barrier to prevent dangerous and unpleasant sewer gases from entering your home.
The drain on each plumbing fixture in your house eventually leads to your main sewer line and connects either to your public sewer system, your cesspool, or your septic tank. The gases from these areas could rise up through your plumbing pipes and seep into your living area, leaving behind foul odors that could combust.
Excess water that fills the trap and flows over the downward-facing U-shaped section flows through the rest of your drain pipes and exits the house.
Why Do Showers Get Clogged?
Most shower drains get clogged from human hair that comes out during showers and baths, as well as soap fat that can adhere to the hair. Hair inevitably falls through the drain and can get stuck on the drain mechanism or build up in the trap.
Over time, enough hair and soap scum can accumulate to impede the flow of water through the drain and the trap.
If left without the proper plumbing repair, the clog will get worse to the point where water backs up into your tub or shower while the fixture is in use. Complete clogs in the trap are rare, but they can lead to a shower drain that fails to empty at all.
How Do You Prevent Shower Drains From Clogging?
The best way to prevent a shower drain from clogging is to limit the amount of hair that makes its way down the drain. Brushing your hair before entering the bathing area will help remove loose hair that could come out during your shower or bath.
This is especially important for those with long hair, which can very easily get tangled up on the drain mechanism or in the trap.
It’s also a good idea to invest in a drain cover, protector, or strainer. These devices fit in or over your shower drain and add another layer of protection to keep hair from making its way down into the plumbing pipes.
Whether you purchase a drain protector or not, you should plan on removing any visible hair above the shower drain before and after every shower or bath. Hair that accumulates on top of the drain will eventually fall through during future showers and contribute to clogging.
Is a Clogged Shower Drain a Severe Problem?
Most homeowners believe that a clogged shower drain is nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and in many cases, this is true. However, repeated clogging or water backing up into your shower can signify a much more serious problem that requires professional help.
Repeated clogging even after you clean out or snake a drain usually means that the clog is located beyond your trap. Deeper blockages are inherently more dangerous because they’re more difficult to clear and become worse the longer it’s left in your drainpipe.
If water regularly backs up into your shower, it could also be a sign that you have a main sewer line clog. The clog prevents water from moving through the waste line, and fixtures in use add water to the system that can’t drain properly. Eventually, the wastewater backs up to your shower.
It’s a severe health hazard and should be considered an emergency if discolored water bubbles up from your shower drain. This is a sign that sewage is backing up into your fixtures, which is a significant health hazard.
What Are The Different Ways to Unclog a Shower Drain?
There are several different methods you can use to unclog a shower drain, some of which should be reserved for a professional plumber. We’ll discuss each of the strategies below.
Boiling Water, Baking Soda, and Vinegar
One of the simplest and most affordable solutions to a clogged shower drain is to use boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar to clean out the drain. Begin by pouring a gallon of hot water down the drain, followed by a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar.
Let the solution sit in the drain for about fifteen minutes before adding another gallon of boiling water to the drain.
This isn’t the most effective solution, but it can be helpful for clearing minor clogs. Once you’re done, test to see if the clog is cleared by running your tub faucet or shower head and taking note of how quickly the water drains.
Using a Drain Cleaner
Some homeowners resort to using chemical drain cleaners that are designed to eat away at the clogged material.
These are not only dangerous to use because they can cause severe burns and eye irritation, but they can also damage the PVC piping that drains water toward your sewer line. We strongly recommend against using these, especially on a repeated basis.
Plunging the Shower Drain
Similar to a toilet clog, a shower drain clog can sometimes be dislodged using a plunger. Purchase a small sink plunger rather than using your toilet plunger, run the shower until about an inch of water builds up in the tub, and then gently plunge the drain.
Be very careful not to exert too much pressure or plunge too forcefully, as doing so can damage the PVC pipes and create enough pressure to crack the couplings that keep your trap working as intended.
Exerting too much force can cause leaks that will only make your problem worse.
Cleaning the Trap
As we mentioned before, the shape of the trap located under the drain in your shower helps prevent sewer gas from seeping into your home. However, it also promotes clogging because debris naturally accumulates in the U-shaped pipe.
Most drain clogs occur in the trap, so clearing this area of hair and soap scum will often remove the clog entirely.
The trap for a bathtub isn’t always easy to access because it’s situated beneath the tub and normally runs through the flooring. If your tub or shower is located on your first floor and you have access to an unfinished basement, you can check the area below the shower for an accessible trap.
If you cannot locate the P-trap or S-trap, it’s best to call in a plumber to clear the trap for you. It may require removing sheetrock and working in a very tight space, which can be challenging even for skilled DIYers.
To clean the trap, you’ll simply need to disassemble it using the screw-on couplings, remove the stagnant water and any debris, and then reassemble the PVC piping. Make sure to test your shower for adequate drainage and ensure the reassembled trap isn’t leaking at the joints.
Snaking the Shower Drain
Most homeowners are familiar with a tool called the plumber’s snake, which is a long, flexible piece of metal with a loose coil wrapped around it. A plumbing snake isn’t useful for all drain types, but it can make quick work of shower drain clogs because hair naturally gets caught up on the coils.
Unfortunately, snaking a shower drain isn’t quite as easy as snaking a bathroom or kitchen sink drain, primarily because you cannot insert the snake directly into the drain. Doing so will only get the tool caught on the drain mechanism, making it challenging to remove and impossible to snake your plumbing correctly.
Instead, you’ll need to snake through the overflow, which usually requires that you remove some hardware or access and disassemble the trap to snake directly through the drainpipe.
Once you have the snake safely in the plumbing, feed it through until you feel the clogged material. You can then begin turning the snake with the handle to catch as much material as possible before pulling it out.
For more information on how to snake your shower drain safely, check out the below video:
Professional plumbers use a motorized snake called an auger that can make quick work of shower drain clogs. However, these tools aren’t recommended for DIYers because they can damage your piping if used improperly.
Finally, plumbers have another method called hydro jetting, which is highly effective for clearing shower clogs. The process involves pumping water at high pressure into your drain to force the clogged material further in toward your sewer line.
Hydro jetting can be extremely dangerous if misused, as it can place enough pressure on your piping to burst it or damage the couplings. Hydro jetting should only be done by experienced professionals.
When Should You Hire A Professional To Unclog Your Shower Drain?
Many property owners who are experienced with DIY home improvement solutions won’t have any issues using natural methods, plunging, and even snaking to clear their shower drain.
However, if you feel at all uncomfortable disassembling your shower hardware to expose the plumbing or you need to clean the trap but can’t access it, we strongly recommend calling in a professional. It will cost you more, but the money to have the job done quickly and correctly is worth the investment.
There are several scenarios that should prompt you to call in a professional plumbing company for help. For example, if your shower is ever fully clogged and doesn’t allow any water to drain out of it, you may have a severe clog that requires the attention of an expert. Total blockages may be located deep within your plumbing and require hydro jetting and snaking to clear them effectively.
A plumber will be able to complete a camera inspection to see what is causing such a severe blockage before taking action to clear it.
Additionally, if you have ongoing issues with your shower clogging or if multiple fixtures get backed up, we strongly recommend calling in a plumber. These problems usually indicate a clog in your main sewer line, which causes water to back up throughout your entire plumbing system. These clogs are challenging and dangerous to clear, so you should always rely on a professional for help.
If you find that discolored water backs up into your shower, this is another sign that your main sewer line is clogged, which requires expert help.
How Much Does Unclogging a Shower Drain Cost?
Your total repair cost for unclogging a shower drain will depend on the severity of the clog and how long it takes to remove the clogged material. The national average cost for clearing a shower drain is around $250, which you can expect to pay if you have a moderate clog.
If you have a relatively minor clog that causes somewhat slow draining, your project cost may be as little as $150 if your trap is easily accessible. Some plumbers simply charge a service call for simple clogs, which is the best-case scenario. A complete blockage can be as high as $500, and in rare cases where your sewer line is clogged, you can pay between $500 and $1,000 for an unclogging service.
Keep in mind that none of the above pricing includes replacing sheetrock, spackling, and repainting your walls if they need to be opened to expose the trap or other plumbing. Most plumbers can use an auger and hydro jetting if required to clear your drain without exposing the trap, but some clogs may require full access.
What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
When you’re searching for a plumber to clear your shower drain, you should make sure to choose someone with experience, adequate training, and plumbing certification. General contractors and handymen can offer drain cleaning services, but you may only get a temporary fix with these professionals. A master plumber will be able to assess the situation and provide a permanent solution.
You’ll likely come across plumbers who offer flat rates and those that use an hourly rate. For a job like clearing a shower drain, a flat rate will usually suffice, as a plumber will be able to assess about how long it will take to complete the job.
Choosing a local plumber with a flat rate will guarantee that you don’t get charged for slower work taking longer, so your total cost will typically be lower. Provided you choose an experienced plumber, you’ll likely get a permanent solution to your problem even with a flat rate.
Lastly, we suggest you choose a plumber who offers some kind of warranty or guarantee. Clogged shower drains are often a recurring problem, so a plumber who provides a satisfaction guarantee is the most likely to deliver five-star service and lasting peace of mind.