08:00a - 4:30p
24hr Emergency Service
View Our Financing
Magnolia, NJ 08049
Mon-Fri: 08:00a - 4:30p
24hr Emergency Service
View Our Financing
Magnolia, NJ 08049

How to Unclog A Shower Drain

Written by Vaughan Comfort Services on . Posted in .

When we shower, we do not think of all the grime and hair follicles from the day that get swept down the drain by the water. All that dirt, hair, and clumpy soap scum gets sent down the drain and can eventually build up and lead to a clog. This clog can force you to shower with a slow drain or, even worse, lead to rancid, standing water.

Whether it’s a kitchen sink drain, bathroom sink drain, or tub drain, dealing with a clogged drain can take time and effort on your part, and all the work might not pay off. Sometimes, no matter what you do, your drain can remain clogged, especially if the clog is deep. If you are suffering with stubborn shower drain clogs that you cannot clear, the professionals at Vaughan Comfort Services are here to remove that clog and let you shower in comfort once more.

What Causes a Clogged Shower Drain?

Your shower drain takes a great deal of punishment every day. When you clean yourself, all your dead skin cells, dirt, grime, soap scum, long hair, gunk, and grime get washed down the drain, as do minerals from hard water. Over time, some of this material inevitably gets stuck to the sides of pipes and creates buildup that, over time, blocks the line. Some of the most common culprits for blocked drains include hair, soaps, body washes, skin dirt, and bath bombs.


When you think of hair clogs in a drain, you immediately think of long hair, but we have hair all over our body, scalp, and face. When you comb, wash your hair, or shave your face, arms, or legs in the shower, that hair goes down the drain and can clump up. Because of how flexible it is, hair can wrap around all the other things that go down the drain and worsen the development of clogs. As it balls up, it accumulates more debris and grows, slowing and stopping water speed.

Soaps and Body Washes

It is ironic, but the very thing that cleans your body can be a primary cause of clogs. Bar soap, shower gel, body wash, shampoo, and other cleansers can contain wax, talc, fat, and other chemicals that, when combined with water, can get sticky and build up inside the pipe walls. When soapy clogs combine with other materials, the clog will form faster. It is possible, however, that soapy cleaners alone can cause the clog. Residue from soaps and cleaners thickens and hardens over time, becoming tricky to remove.

Skin Dirt

The reason you shower is to remove dirt and grime from your skin. This debris means not just actual dirt but dead skin cells, dust, and oils from your body. As these materials go down the drain, they stick to the pipe walls and congeal together, combining with other debris which can slow down water draining down the pipe.

Bath Bombs

Fizzing bath bombs seem fun and offer a relaxing, luxurious pampering experience. They also contain glitter, salt, oils, and even small objects. All these materials you use to feel pampered are the same materials that do not fully dissolve. As they are washed down the drain, they stick to the walls of pipes, combine with other contaminants, and narrow the channels, so water has a harder time going down. Eventually, they can create a blockage that stops drainage completely.

The Best Ways to Unclog a Shower Drain

There are several ways to unclog a shower drain. These range from home remedies to tools you buy in the store to calling professionals.

Home Remedies

Many different home remedies exist for DIY shower drain cleaning. These remedies carry the advantage that you likely do not have to go to the store. You probably have what you need on hand already. They can be very effective, but there are also some pitfalls to avoid.

Store-Bought Tools

Most home improvement, appliance, and hardware stores have a range of tools to clear a bathtub clog. These range from the most simple and time-honored plungers to plumber’s snakes to high-tech augers driven by powerful engines.

The Professionals

If the problem does not clear up quickly, it is usually best to call the professionals. A stubborn clog could mean it is deep in the plumbing, and continuing to dig at it could cause it to clump together tighter or even damage your plumbing. A qualified professional plumber serving South Jersey residents is your best bet in these cases.

Home Remedies to Unclog the Drain

You may have the items at home and on hand to unclog your drain. While these methods are not foolproof, they can be effective on less stubborn clogs. They range from a simple wire coat hanger to baking soda and vinegar, from boiling water to dish detergent, or even just reaching in and pulling it out.

Wire Hanger

A standard wire coat hanger from your closet can sometimes serve as a quick-and-dirty substitute for a drain snake. You will need a pair of needle nose pliers to accomplish this. Unbend the hanger and straighten it as much as possible. Use the pliers to create a quarter-inch-long hook at the end of the wire. Next, remove the drain cover. The process depends on what kind of drain cover you have, but you may need a screwdriver.

Next, thread the coat hanger into the drain opening until it hits the clog. Maneuver it so the hook catches the clog, then pull it out. You may want to wear rubber gloves to avoid touching the clog itself.

A flashlight can help you to look down the drain and see the clog as you work. You may need to repeat the process several times to pull up bits and pieces of the clog before it breaks up and runs free.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda being poured down a drain

Baking soda and vinegar are a time-honored home remedy for clearing clogs, and it also works as a good, safe cleaner for removing stubborn soap scum and other grime from your shower walls and bathtub floor. First, be sure the water has drained through, and the drain is clear. This method will not work for standing water clogs, which need a more robust approach.

Next, pour about 3/4 cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it sit for a few minutes to let it all settle. Third pour about a half cup of vinegar down the drain, followed by about a half cup of hot water. Be sure to use white vinegar. Wine vinegar, malt vinegar, and cider vinegar have additional ingredients that, at best, will make the process less effective and, at worst, can actively inhibit it. The vinegar will create a chemical reaction with the baking soda and begin to fizz.

Use a rubber stopper to plug the drain and let it sit for at least an hour. The fizz builds up gas that creates pressure in the drain, pushing the clog free while also dissolving it. Finally, pour more hot water down the drain or run the hot water faucet to clear everything out.

Boiling Water

Boiling water is possibly the easiest trick in the book. Hot water can help to dissolve gunk and break up the clog. It is important, however, that you only use boiling water if you have metal pipes. Hot water can loosen joints in PVC pipes, leading to leaks inside your walls and floor.

The process of using hot water to clear a clog is simple. Boil a tea kettle full of water. Use the entire kettle. Pour the boiling water slowly down the drain. Give it time to work while you pour. Do not just dump it all in at once. After pouring the kettle down the drain, wait ten or fifteen minutes. Turn on the faucet and run water to see if the clog runs clear. If it has not, you need a more robust method of drain cleaning.

Dish Detergent

Dish detergent is best for easy clogs that are not tightly compressed into the pipe. Dish soap is thick, soapy, and slippery. It can sometimes for easy clogs help to loosen the pieces of the clog that are stuck on the interior walls. Pour dish detergent down the tub drain, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then run water down the drain to flush it clear.

Pulling It Out Manually

You can often just reach down the drain, grab the clog, and pull it out. This is especially true with hair clogs near the top of the drain. It may seem gross, but you can always wear gloves and wash your hands later. First, let the water drain. If the water doesn’t drain and you have standing water, you could have a tougher problem requiring one of the methods above.

Remove your drain stopper so you can access the drain. You may need a screwdriver to accomplish this. The specific method will depend on whether the plug is a strainer or a drop stopper. Finally, stick your fingers down there, grab the clog, and pull it free. It might take some effort, and you might have to pull the clog out in clumps, but the water should run free once it is out.

What Other Ways Can I Unclog the Drain Myself?

If the above home remedies do not work, you may have several other options available before calling in the pros. Some of these can actually be combined with the methods above to make them more effective. These include a basic plunger, a drain snake, or the not-recommended drain cleaner option.


Plunger laying in a shower

A basic plunger can be quite effective, particularly for clogs before the trap. It functions by alternate pushing of air and suction to push and pull the clog until it breaks up and comes free. If the clog is very near the surface, the plunger may suck it up so you can grab it and pull it free. You might have to be quick to grab it before it washes back down, but this can be one of the most effective ways to get rid of a drain clog.

Drain Snake

A drain snake works in much the same way as the coat hanger, but it is longer and more flexible, able to snake its way through your plumbing (hence its name). It has barbs on one end, catching the clog and allowing you to pull it free.

Using a drain snake is reasonably straightforward. Just remove your drain cover, thread it through the pipes until it catches the clog, twist it a few times so that the barbs catch hold of the hair and gunk, and wiggle to pull it free. You may want to wear rubber gloves while handling a drain snake, as you will need to dispose of the clog once it is free.

Drain Cleaner

The use of chemical drain cleaners is not recommended. While they can clear clogs by dissolving them and are quite effective, they also use corrosive materials, which can seriously damage your plumbing system, especially if you have older pipes. Drain cleaners only work on hair and soap scum clogs, not on small object clogs or significant mineral buildups. Finally, they are toxic and can be harmful to the environment.

If you use a drain cleaner, wear gloves to protect your hands, and keep your face clear of splashing. Gently pour the drain cleaner, following the instructions on the bottle. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. If you have standing water, you will know it has worked because the water will drain. After this period, flush it clear with either boiling water or hot water from the tap.

How to Fix a Shower Drain When the Clog Is Deep?

If the clog is too deep, in or past the trap, it is unlikely that you will be able to fix it yourself. You will, at this point, need to call in professional plumbing services to take care of the problem. Plumbers have tools you cannot access, allowing them to go deeper into the pipes and quickly clear tough clogs like these.

How to Prevent Shower Drain Clogs

Of course, the best way to keep your shower drain clear is to stop it from getting clogged in the first place. One of the best practices homeowners can use to prevent shower drain clogs is a hair catcher. A hair catcher will stop much of the gunk that causes clogs before it gets down the drain.

Hair catchers are easy to purchase from any home improvement, hardware, or even big box and department store. They may offer hair catchers if a store has a home, bath, or kitchen section. Another simple way to keep a drain clear is to occasionally flush it with boiling water even when there is no clog. This can help to dissolve any gunk building up in the pipes and keep them clear.

Need Help with a Clogged Drain?

If you have a stubborn clog, especially one causing rancid standing water that you cannot seem to get clear, and none of the above solutions are working, Vaughan Comfort Services may be able to help. Our South Jersey pros can come out, diagnose the issue, and fix the problem quickly.

Is There Standing Water in the Tub When You Shower? Get it Fixed!

Standing water is not just unpleasant; it can become rancid and threaten your family. If you have a problematic clog and cannot get it cleared, contact the experienced plumbers at Vaughan Comfort Services. Call us at 856-627-0303 or use our online contact form to schedule an estimate and discuss our pricing today.

NJ LIC. NO.13VH01727600
Robert W. Vaughan,
Master HVACR Contractor Lic. # 5842
Thomas J. Weaver,
Master Plumber Lic # 9521

Contact Info
212 Barrett Avenue
Magnolia, NJ 08049

© Vaughan Comfort Services