You could have a clogged drain if water is pooling in your shower or draining slowly. While your first thought may be to call a plumber, a professional might not be available for days, and once they are, their services are costly.
Although unclogging a shower can seem intimidating, it's often a straightforward process. Try one of these DIY tricks to resolve the issue quickly and save your rainy day fund.
It's normal to shed between 50 and 100 strands of hair daily, if not more. In the shower, you stimulate your scalp. When using shampoo and conditioner, hairs ready to fall out often get the nudge they need and end up in your drain. While it can be a slightly stomach-turning experience, you can easily pull clumps of hair out by hand. Unscrew the drain cap and fish out the blockage. Depending on the severity, this should only take a minute or two.
A wire hanger is practical if you can't reach the clogging culprit with your fingers or your drain is severely blocked. Start by straightening out your wire hanger. Next, bend the bottom of the hanger so that it resembles a hook. Dip the wire, hook-side down, into the drain. Do your best to scoop out clumps of hair and whatever else comes along for the ride. After dipping and lifting for a couple of minutes, your shower drain should be clear.
Boiling water is an excellent chemical-free solution to help break up and dissolve the gunk in your drain, but only if you have metal pipes. Scorching hot water could loosen the joints when dealing with PVC piping. Check the main line that runs to the primary shut-off valve to confirm. If everything checks out, you're good to go. Pour a kettle of boiled water down the drain in small increments and wait 10-15 minutes. Turn on the faucet to test. You may need to repeat this process several times for serious clogs.
You have to pull out the big guns when water isn't enough. For stubborn clogs, turn to the classic combination of vinegar and baking soda. While this foaming mixture may remind you of grade eight science class (shout out to paper mache volcanoes), it doubles as a powerful home cleaner and unclogger. Mix equal parts of each ingredient in a heat-resistant container, but do so over the problematic drain. The mixture will start to fizz immediately. Pour the solution down and allow it to sit for at least one hour. Flush with hot water.
Sometimes, you must opt for a specialty product like Drano or something similar—several different brands exist. Start by checking the bottle's recommended pouring amount (which typically depends on the severity of the clog). On average, users allow the product to do its thing for 15 minutes before flushing with hot water. If you're dealing with a tough blockage, wait at least 30 minutes. Again, do not use this product on PVC pipes because of its corrosive nature. If you have any left, never use it on your toilet.
A plumber's snake is a specialized tool for the most resilient clogs. A manual auger requires you to turn a handle by hand, whereas an electric version requires a power drill. Insert the snake until you hit the clog, then turn the handle clockwise. Once you feel resistance, you know the snake is doing its job. Once the tension lessens, that means you have cleared the clog. Slowly turn the handle counterclockwise to remove the debris. Yeah, it's not glamorous, but it works.
This option only works if you have a wet/dry shop vacuum. Once on the liquid vacuuming setting, remove the drain stopper, insert the hose into the drain, turn it on, and hope for the best. The suction may be enough to dislodge the clog, depending on the unit's power.
Turn on the faucet to see if the shop vac did the trick. If it worked, there's always the potential for some serious gunk blowback, so have towels ready. NEVER use a normal vacuum for this purpose.
You may suspect a clog when your shower keeps flooding, but the underlying cause could be something else. For example, your shower head's pressure may be too powerful for your drain's size and shape. If you think this could be the issue, do some light detective work by adjusting the pressure setting. If the once-pooling water physically drains, it wasn't a clog you were dealing with but a shower head that was too mighty for your poor, overworked drain.
A toilet plunger is a safe bet when you need a no-frills solution. Remove the drain cover and place the rubber plunger cup over the opening. You want to achieve a tight seal, so spread petroleum jelly on the edge. Run enough water to cover the lip of the cup. Then it's plungin' time. Plunge vigorously 10-15 times to force out the clog. Repeat this until the blockage is cleared. This method is ideal when you first notice signs of slowing drainage. Taking immediate action can help prevent a worsening issue.
The old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies to this scenario. If you successfully unclogged your drain using one of the previous suggestions, congratulations. Now, it's time to transition to a preventative mindset. Since hair is a common cause of clogs, you'll likely experience this problem again.
Before heading into the shower, brush your hair to ensure fewer strands wash down your drain. You should also invest in a hair catcher. Conduct a weekly flush to help eliminate any residue, gunk, or oil that's starting to build up.