How to Clear a Blocked Shower Drain

Dealing with a clogged drain in a shower or bathtub is a common problem for householders. At best, it will be an irritating issue to have to fix; at worst, it can be the sign of a more serious drainage issue that could cause significant damage to your home.

As such, it can be helpful to know the basic methods of clearing blocked drains, as this will help you to resolve any minor problems with your shower drain on your own. This will also make it easier for you to recognise when you might need to call in professional help.

Here, the drainage experts at Lanes Group offer advice on the most effective ways to deal with blocked bath or shower drains.

How will I know if my bath or shower drain is blocked?

There are a number of telltale signs that you can see, hear and smell if you are dealing with a blocked drain in the bathroom:

  • You are experiencing a slow-draining bath, or the water is not draining at all when the plug is pulled. If you are observing the latter, it suggests the blockage may be more serious
  • You can hear gurgling sounds and other unusual noises coming from the pipes connected to the bath or shower
  • You can smell a foul odour coming from the plughole

You can find out more about how to recognise the signs of a blocked drain here.

Unblocking a shower drain or bath drain

If you are faced with an unpleasant blockage in your bathroom, there are a range of strategies you can try to solve the problem and get water flowing away. With issues like blockages, it might be a simple fix or it could be indicative of a deeper issue, in which case don’t hesitate to call out a professional.

Remove blockages from the plug hole by hand

In many cases, a blocked shower drain is caused by a buildup of hair and soap scum, which can accumulate in the plughole over time and result in a clogged bathtub. In these instances, it should be easy enough to remove the blockage by hand- make sure to wear rubber gloves if you don’t want to touch it directly!

This will be easiest to do if you remove the drain cover itself, giving you easier access to the pipe. You can then use a torch to take a look inside the pipes to make sure you’ve removed all of the hair or soap scum that you can see.

Use a coat hanger or unblocking device to clear obstacles in the pipes

Sometimes, it will not be possible to reach all of the obstacles causing your blocked drain using your hands alone. In these cases, there are a number of devices that you can use to reach further into the pipe and reach blockages that are lodged deeper down, including:

  • A basic wire coat hanger that has been straightened out, allowing you to hook out any hair, soap scum or other debris
  • A drain claw or plumber’s snake, which you can cheaply purchase from most DIY stores. These devices are designed specifically to reach down into the pipes to fish out solid clumps and help to shake the blockage loose

Any of these tools can be a useful means of removing the largest visible objects from the drains, allowing the water to start flowing through the bathtub drain once again. If you are trying to unblock a bath or shower drain using this method, you should be careful not to apply too much force, or you could risk causing scratching or damage to the pipes.

Unblock with the toilet plunger

Sometimes, it will not be possible to remove blockages from the bath or shower drain by hand, either because they are too deep inside the pipes, or because the bathtub is full of water that will not drain. In these cases, a basic toilet plunger can be a useful solution.

First, make sure the overflow plate is sealed or covered using duct tape or a dishcloth, as this will prevent air from escaping while you work. Then, place the plunger head over the drain cover and press up and down rapidly on the handle to create suction, which should help to dislodge the blockage.

You should do this for around 30 seconds before checking to see whether you have succeeded; if not, then you should repeat the process several times to see if the method can be effective before moving on to a different solution.

Chemical drain cleaner and homemade solutions – a good idea?

For many householders, the first port of call when dealing with a clogged drain will be to use harsh chemical drain cleaners, or a homemade solution for unblocking drains. Popular home remedies include a combination of baking soda and vinegar, which – along with commercial drain cleaners – function by creating a powerful chemical reaction to melt blockages inside the pipe.

However, these methods are not recommended. Many people mistakenly choose to use bleach, which is not an effective tool for unblocking drains, while other drain cleaning chemicals are known for corroding and damaging the pipes over time, potentially leading to bigger and more expensive problems later down the line.

Even homemade DIY methods that use baking soda and white vinegar pose a similar corrosion risk; moreover, all of these methods can generate toxic fumes and skin irritation, which means that you should avoid them and find a different solution to unblock your drains.

Additionally, many people may try to pour hot or boiling water down the shower drain to see if this will help to dislodge or soften up a blockage. This is unlikely to harm the pipes in the same way as a drain cleaner product or vinegar/baking soda solution might, but it is also unlikely to have enough of an impact to remove a stubborn blockage.

Call in the professionals

If you are dealing with a blocked drain that you cannot easily fix on your own, it is always best to call on the help of a professional drainage expert.

Companies like Lanes Group will be able to examine blocked bathtubs or shower drains and quickly diagnose the root cause, whether this is a simple accumulation of shower waste in the drain pipes, a more serious blockage, or infrastructure damage further into the pipe network. We will then be able to fix this problem, bring your drainage system back to top condition, and offer advice on how best to keep your bath or shower drain in good working order for the long term.

Learn more about our domestic drain cleaning and unblocking services, or give us a call on 0800 526 488 to find out how we can help you.