How to Unclog a Shower Drain

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How to Unclog a Shower Drain

One of the worst things that can happen during your 15-minute morning shower is when you realize that the shower drain is clogged. It may seem like a minor annoyance at first, and you think that the water that’s pooled up on the floor in the shower enclosure will drain by itself by the time you get home from school or work. By the time you do get back home, the shower floor is now a pool of dirty, murky, scummy water that came from the morning shower rituals of every one in your home. It’s disgusting, unappealing, and potentially dangerous.

Cleaning and unclogging your shower drain may not be the easiest part of home repair, but you can’t allow the shower floor to turn into a shallow pool of brown matter where you clean yourself. Here are some ways to remove the stuff that clogs up your shower drain.

Causes of Clogged Shower Drains

  • Hair and dead skin cells. You shed hundreds of loose hair strands and millions of dead skin cells every time you take a shower. All these particles eventually collect in the shower drain, and cause the drain to get clogged. Natural oils found in your body can also clog up the shower drain.
  • Soap scum. Bath soap, bath scrubs, and some brands of shampoo and conditioner can build up sediment and other waste that will eventually cause clogging.
  • Trash. Sometimes you throw shampoo bottle caps, the corners of a foil sachet, or the flaps of a box of soap onto the shower floor, and they eventually make it inside the shower drain and cause it to clog.
  • Structure of the shower drain. Another common reason for clogged shower drains is drain holes that are too small, or the curvature of the drain pipe not allowing proper drainage.

Unclogging Shower Drains With Chemicals

Most clogged shower drains can be unclogged simply by removing the debris that have collected on the strainer or drain cover. Sometimes the cause of the clogged drain may be found deep within the drain pipe. If this happens, you need to dissolve the stuff that clogs and backs it up:

  • Muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid, is a very effective way to dissolve material that clogs up the drain. Muriatic acid is highly corrosive and can cause suffocation, so do not let it come into contact with metal surfaces. Do not inhale the vapors of muriatic acid. Muriatic acid can cause severe chemical burns when it comes into contact with bare skin.
  • Commercial drain cleaner is made from sulfuric acid, and is weaker than hydrochloric acid. Commercial drain cleaners are more convenient to handle than hydrochloric acid, although the risk of corrosion and skin irritation still remains.

When using a commercial drain cleaner, carefully follow the instructions indicated on the bottle. Drain cleaner only works if you have plastic or PVC pipes. Do not use drain cleaner on plumbing outfitted with metal pipes. Remember to always wear protective rubber gloves and a face mask when using drain cleaner.

Unclogging Shower Drains Without Chemicals

While cleaning chemicals are very effective at cleaning and unclogging shower drains, they can harm the environment and put you at risk of skin irritation or suffocation. If you do not want to put yourself or the environment in harm’s way when you’re cleaning and unclogging the shower drain, here are some ways to do it without chemicals:

  • Hot water. Pouring a kettle full of hot water straight into the clogged shower drain can help unclog shower drains, and dissolve clogging caused by body oils and soap scum. You may need to use a lot of hot boiling water to completely melt and dislodge the clogged material.
  • Plunger. With a bit of force and a lot of patience, a plunger’s sucking action can help draw out the cause of the clogged drain, which you can then clean up and dispose of properly.
  • Straightened wire hanger. Sometimes you need to coax and hook out the stuff that clogs your drain, especially if it’s hair or trash that made its way deep into a shower drain. Remove the drain cover, and use the straightened wire hanger to gouge out or remove the blockage.

Redesigning Plumbing

If you have recurring problems with clogged shower drains, you may want to hire the services of a professional plumber to reconfigure and redesign your plumbing. Chances are that the pipe descends too high, too low, or that the capillarity (draining power) of the pipe is not up to the task. Redesigning the plumbing system will take a lot of time and money, but the investment is well worth it if the plumber designs the drainage and sewage system properly to prevent further clogging problems.

Whether it’s a long hot bath or a 10-minute shower, a clean shower drain makes all the difference between cleanliness and just plain disgusting shower rooms. With these tips to help you clean a clogged shower drain, you’ll never have to take a shower in a pool of brown, murky water again.

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