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How To Fix a Clogged Shower Drain

a shower head

Everyone has likely experienced a slightly clogged shower drain at least once in their lifetime. Often, the clog isn’t severe, and you can take care of it yourself with little fuss. Other times, you will need to contact a professional plumber.

Let’s look at the best ways you can clear a clogged drain yourself first. Your clog might be from debris such as hair, grease or soap, or it could be from a buildup of minerals in the drain, depending on how hard your water is. It could even result from little tree roots pushing through the pipes. Start with the easiest method to get things moving again and progress from there if you don’t have success.

Take Off the Drain Cover

The first thing you will want to do is remove your drain cover. Some drains have a pull-up stopper that can be easily removed so you can access the larger opening. Still, others have a grate-type cover that takes more work to remove. You will want to be careful when working on the grate, as some can have sharp edges and pose cut hazards, and might even require you to protect your eyes.

A good first attempt at removing whatever is plugging up the line is to slowly pour boiling water down the drain to break up the matter. You don’t even need to remove the drain grate for that in most instances. Do not try this method if you have PVC pipes, as you could cause further damage.

Give It a Hand

If that doesn’t work, you may have to manually remove any built-up hair from the grate and pull even more out of the drain itself. If you can’t get your fingers far enough down the drain, get a wire hanger and untwist it enough so that you can use one end to fish out the debris. Once you have pulled out everything you can, try another kettle of boiling water. Skip this step if you have PVC pipes. Then turn on the shower water and see if things are flowing again.

DIY Cleaner

Still no luck? Grab one-third cup vinegar and one-third cup baking soda. Pour the baking soda down the drain, and then slowly pour the vinegar down the drain. Let it fizz and sit for about an hour. Then, run hot (not boiling) water down the drain and see if things have sorted themselves out.

Take the Plunge

If your clog is very stubborn, you might still have a problem at this point. Did you know you can also use a plunger for a drain, not just for a toilet? The concept is the same. Take off the drain cover and place the plunger over the opening, getting a good seal. Add some petroleum jelly if you have trouble getting a good enough seal. Run just enough water to cover the lip of the plunger, then use short, forceful motions up and down to leverage suction to remove the clog. Again, run the shower faucet before replacing the shower drain to be sure everything is cleared up.

Getting Serious

If you are still all plugged up at this point, you will probably need to bring in a drain snake. You might want to bring in an actual plumbing professional at this point as well. If you choose to try it yourself, either hand-crank the manual augur or run your power drill with an auger attachment. However you do it, run the auger until it hits the clog. Resistance means the auger is encountering clogs; when things are cranking more easily, it means the auger has cleared a clog. Speed isn’t your friend here. Take it slow, and when you think you have all the clogs, turn the auger the other way, slowly, to pull everything back up. As before, run hot water down the drain to be sure the clogs are out before you replace the grate and take a shower.

a bathroom with a toilet and shower

Toilet Bubbling When Shower Drains

Sometimes when your shower is draining, you will notice the water in your toilet starts to bubble. This can be alarming if you don’t understand why it’s happening. This is called wet venting. Some folks might even notice their toilet bubbles when it’s flushed. All parts of your bathroom’s plumbing are at least somewhat connected, so even though the toilet, sink and shower should have their own vents, those vents might be close together. And, one pipe might be providing water to more than one of those plumbing parts.

So, if you are hearing water bubbling in your toilet when you are draining the shower or something else in the bathroom, it means a vent is blocked somewhere, either pushing air out or sucking air into the toilet. You will have to clear that blockage to stop the bubbling. You will probably need to try clearing the drains first, in the ways we have already discussed. Then, you will want to be sure the air vent isn’t covered in leaves or other debris. This is a good job for a professional as it will involve getting on the roof.

All of your home’s plumbing connects in some way, and fixing a problem in one place often can mean checking your plumbing in a couple of other spots. Bubbling drains could also indicate a far more serious issue, so contacting a professional plumber is your safest bet to avoid common plumbing mistakes.

a toilet in a bathroom

Toilet and Shower Clogged at Same Time

Sometimes, your shower will back up, and when you flush the toilet, it won’t go down either. What is happening here isn’t two separate clogs: Your main sewer drain is clogged somewhere. In these situations, you should turn off the water supply completely because water might not be the only thing that backs up into your home.

Where the water is rising can be a helpful hint. If it’s in the toilet and shower, your best bet is that the clog is occurring downstream from where both of them connect to the main sewage line. You won’t have a clump of hair clogging the line. You might have a dead animal, a tree root or something else. And, getting a dead animal or the like out of your sewage line is not as easy as pulling out a hair clog from your tub.

This kind of plumbing problem is one for a licensed plumber. They have seen it many times and know what to look for. They can locate the problem quickly and safely. You will have the peace of mind of knowing you aren’t causing more damage by trying to fix the problem yourself.

Don’t just call on the experts for help when you are in a plumbing crisis. Annual inspections of your plumbing and sewage lines can ward off major problems before they pop up. Our experts are there for you in times of trouble or when you’re having a common plumbing problem.

ABC Can Help With Your Toilet and Shower Problems

When dealing with plumbing problems, it’s not worth making a mess yourself. Instead of trying to learn the ins and outs of plumbing, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our licensed plumbing professionals can efficiently diagnose and repair any plumbing issue you may be having.

Jim Brant

Jim Brant is the Plumbing Director for ABC Dallas and Fort Worth branches and has been with the company for five years. Jim has 30 years of experience in the plumbing industry and 14 as a master plumber. When Jim isn't addressing plumbing issues in the Metroplex and beyond, he enjoys off-roading in his Jeep.

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