How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Is your shower draining slowly? Does the water rise to your ankles while you shower? If your shower drain is clogged, there are several ways to fix it without resorting to potentially dangerous chemical drain cleaners. We’ve pooled our plumbing knowledge together to come up with five natural ways to fix your shower drain to help it function normally. 

5 Methods for Unclogging Your Shower or Tub Drain

Chemical drain cleaners will often eat through the gunk in your drains, but they can cause corrosion issues and generate a lot of potentially damaging heat. Luckily, there are a lot of easy and natural ways to unclog your shower drain.

The first step to unclogging your shower or tub drain is to remove the drain lid or stopper. If you’re unsure how to do this, we’ll go into further instructional detail below. 

Use these methods to clean your clogged shower drain:

  1. Boiling Water: Heat water until it is boiling. Then, pour a little at a time down the shower drain. It will melt through soap or grease that may be blocking the drain, though boiling water does not remove hair.
  2. Plunge the Drain: To plunge the shower drain, run the faucet until the water is deep enough to fill the shower base. When the end of the plunger is underwater, move it up and down quickly to create enough suction to dislodge the clog.
  3. Baking Soda and Vinegar: There are two ways you can do this. Pour about a cup of baking soda down the drain. After a few minutes, pour the same amount of vinegar. Wait an hour, then pour boiling water to rinse the drain.

Another option is to mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of vinegar in a measuring cup (make sure it’s heat resistant). When the mixture starts fizzing, pour it down the drain. Wait an hour, and then run the faucet with hot water to flush the pipes.

  1. Coat Hanger: With rubber gloves on, remove the drain cover and straighten a wire coat hanger. It should have a small hook on one end. Alternatively, you can purchase a hooked drain snake with a dozen tiny hooks along it. Insert the hanger wire into the drain. If you can, pull up any hair, soap scum, or debris. Pour boiling water down to loosen any other material and replace the cover.
  2. Plumber’s Snake: Remove the cover and insert the snake into the drain. Rotate or twist the snake until you reach the clog. Pull it back and remove any buildup it has captured, or keep pushing against any resistance to break up the material. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Removing the Shower Drain Cover or Grate

Removing the shower drain cover or grate can get a little tricky; don’t force anything that isn’t budging to avoid breaking your drain. If you are unsure how to proceed, call a professional plumber. Here is how to remove your shower drain cover or grate so you can get access to the drain for unclogging or repair:

How to Remove a Shower Drain Grate Cover

Here are a few steps for how to remove the shower drain grate cover

  1. Remove Screws: If there are screws, use a Philips head screwdriver and unscrew those first, and place them in a safe location. Don’t let them fall into your drain or from your vanity into the sink drain.
  2. Pry With a Flathead Screwdriver: The plate usually has one or two slight indentations or notches. Gently pry up the drain grate cover with a flathead screwdriver inserted into the notches. Don’t force it and crack the cover if it isn’t coming up. 
  3. Use WD-40: Older drains can get sealed to the tub with mineral buildup. Spray WD-40 (or PTFE or any silicone lubricant) and wait 15 minutes. Then, get pliers (or use a small rope or coat hanger) that fit in your grate, and pull up on the grate at the same time as you pry with the flathead screwdriver. 

Once you have removed your shower drain cover and have repaired or unclogged your drain, we recommend replacing it with a loose, thin mesh cover. The mesh will catch more hair and soap and be much easier to remove and clean. 

How to Remove a Shower Drain Pop-Up Lid

Here are the steps to removing a shower drain pop-up stopper.  There are several different models when it comes to drain pop-up stoppers, each with a different removal method. We’ll discuss three of the most common drain pop-up lid removal methods

  1. Twist-Off Pop-Up Drain Stopper

This one is as simple as turning the pop-up until it comes loose. Don’t tug hard; just exert a small amount of upward pull and twist the pop-up until it comes out. 

  1. Hidden Screw Pop-Up Drain Stopper

Pull up the pop-up as far as it will go, and look for a hidden Phillips screw underneath the lid. Unscrew it, and the stopper should lift right out. 

  1. Hidden Lug Nut Pop-Up Drain Stopper

Pull up the pop-up as far as it will go. Use channel locks to secure the bottom section of the lid. Use vice grips or pliers to hold the top nob. The top nob will then screw off in a standard, counterclockwise direction.

Push the drain down, then use a 12mm socket wrench to remove the rest of the pop-up stopper.

Can’t quite clear the clog? Contact Black Hills Inc. for expert home services. We offer expert shower drain repair and unclogging services in Olympia and Thurston County, Washington. No matter how stubborn the clog is or how niche your drain setup is, we can fix it and ensure your drain is working correctly. Feel free to ask us any questions as we work, and we’ll help you understand your plumbing so that if you get a minor clog in the future, you know how to fix it.