How to Use a Plunger to Unclog a Shower Drain in 7 Steps
On a list of the most annoying things in life, a clogged shower drain ranks somewhere between getting stuck in traffic and your neighbor playing their music too loud. But the one good thing is that it’s a nuisance you can actually do something about.
Read on to learn how you can resolve most shower clogs on your own with a classic plumbing tool – the plunger.
What causes shower clogs?
The real question should be, what DOESN’T cause shower clogs? Think about how much soap, shampoo, hair, body oils, dirt, and other gunk goes down the drain while bathing, and it’s not surprising that they can get stuck together. The majority of clogs occur in the trap, which is a curved part of the pipe right below the drain.
The blockage can start off small – and you may notice the drain is flowing slower than normal. But eventually, it will build until there’s a complete clog and no water movement. Not only does this become extremely annoying but it can trigger other, more serious plumbing issues. So it’s always better to take care of the problem early.
What not to try
It may seem like the easiest solution but we highly recommend that you don’t pour liquid or gel drain cleaner down the shower drain. These products contain harsh chemicals that can produce dangerous fumes and can deteriorate your pipes.
Using proper plumbing techniques may take slightly more elbow grease but the results are worth it. You can start by trying a safe combination of baking soda and vinegar. Sometimes that fizzy mixture can be enough to loosen up the clog so it can pass through the trap. But if that doesn’t work, it’s time to pull out the trust plunger.
Steps for plunging a shower drain
- Remove the drain cover or pop-up. Also, unscrew and remove the overflow plate below the faucet.
- Check to make sure any solid object (such as a bath toy or jewelry) didn’t fall down the drain. If anything can be easily retrieved, that’s your best bet. You also don’t want solid items to get pushed down the pipes.
- Place a wet rag in the overflow pipe opening. Make sure it’s snug so air pressure won’t leak through once you start plunging.
- Turn on the faucet and add a few inches of water to the tub (enough to cover the plunger).
- Place the plunger over the open drain. Press down to force air down the drain, then release so the plunger rises back up. Use a smooth plunging rhythm about six times.
- Remove the plunger and see if the water flows down the drain. If the draining is better than before, that’s a good sign that you pushed the blockage through the trap.
- If the water is still backed up or draining slowly, try another set of plunges.
When it’s time to call a professional plumber
If you follow the above steps and you don’t have any luck fixing the clog, then it’s time to bring in a professional plumber. You could have a really stubborn clog or one that’s farther down the pipe, which will require more powerful equipment. It’s also possible that the backed-up drain is due to an issue in your sewer line that will need to be addressed. Either way, you don’t want to force the plunging too much or you’ll risk more damage to your plumbing.