How to Clean Shower Drains – A DIY Guide to Maintaining Drain Hygiene
You woke up early in the morning to get a quick shower, but your bathroom is practically flooding in murky, soapy water. We have all been there. Clogged drains occur as a result of anything, from a small blockage to significant obstruction in the mainline. Many simple and straightforward methods can unclog shower drains. You should find out the source of the blockage as soon as you suspect something might be clogging your shower drain. If the problem requires repairing, only then choose to allow professionals to handle it.
How to know if Your Shower Drain is Clogged
Some tips help to identify if your shower drain is getting clogged or not. These include:
- Water stands in the shower even after you have turned off the faucet
- Some unpleasant odor starts to come from your shower drain
- Bathroom flooding or your floor or walls getting leaks because the main pipe is seeping the standing water through the bricks
Drain Blockage Causes
Plumbing problems can arise from a variety of obstructions and therefore require regular cleaning and maintenance. Some of the contributing factors include:
- Hair (long hair) — a major blocking factor
- Soap scum — it sticks the hair to the drain walls
- Dirt and debris
- Drain mold and mildew growth
- Other small to medium-sized objects, e.g., mineral buildup (due to hard water), toy parts, toilet paper buildup, tree roots, etc.
How to Clean Shower Drains
All you need are the right tools at your disposal, and your clogged shower drain is getting undone in a matter of minutes. Following is a list of the handiest tips to clean shower drains:
- By hand
- Boiling water
- Coat hanger
- Plumber’s snake (also called a toilet jack, or an electric eel)
- Wet/dry vacuum
- Baking soda and vinegar
- Caustic soda
- Commercial drain cleaners
- Calling professional assistance
Using your hands
As uncomfortable as it sounds, you can remove some clogs by hand. You have to dig in the drain and remove all the dirt, hair, soap scum, and debris by hand. Make sure to wear protective rubber gloves before shoving your hands in the drain. Use a screwdriver to take the screws off the drain cap, and then use your hands to clean the drain. You can also use the screwdriver to scrape the walls for extra cleaning, but make sure that it does not grind due to friction. Pour water after.
Pouring Boiling Water down the Drain
Boiling water is great to use on soap and grease that sticks to the sides of the drain cap and walls. There are two simple steps to perform: Boil water on the stove and pour it down the drain. Use a funnel not to spill the boiling water
This method is only going to work if the blockage is not severe, and something minor is choking the drain. So this method can partially unclog the drain, but if the situation is severe, you might need other ways, which are listed below.
Using a Plunger
Remember that if the hair is the predominant reason your shower drain is clogged, plunging might not work effectively. Based on the design of the pipe, if there is no room, plunging will not work as well. However, if the design allows, and the blockage is due to hair, plungers can prove themselves very handy. They also cost minimal and save a lot of time. It is also best to use cup plungers.
Using a Coat Hanger
This technique is another unclogging technique that requires mechanical effort. Use a coat hanger as a thin twisted protrusion hook that can lift the blocking agent out from the drain. While inserting the tool, make a slight twist motion with your arm to get as much debris as possible. Pull your arm out slowly. You should use rubber gloves and a plastic bag to dispose of the hair, waste and soap scum properly.
You can also use a wire hook to unclog your shower drain in the same manner as explained above.
Using a Plumber’s Snake
If plunging and coat hangers have failed you, it is time to use a final mechanical tool to unclog your shower drain. It is called plumber’s snake – a spiral coil that has one handle at your end, which is cranked further into the pipe to push the debris out the other end of the drain. This tool works opposite to that of a plunger. Some plumber’s snakes come with an electric drill at the end you hold to ramp up the power factor and involve less mechanical input. Once you start pushing the snake in the drain, keep pushing until you feel resistance. Rotate the snake against the blockage until it gets free. Flush buckets of water or with full force after using the snake to ensure the drain is fully open.
Using a Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner
Using a particular type of vacuum cleaner is also known to unclog shower drains. This cleaner is called a wet/dry vacuum cleaner. Put the sucking hose of the cleaner on the drain grille and turn it on. Putting on the highest suction setting, hair and other clogs will get sucked in the vacuum cleaner, opening the drain.
Using Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide)
A compound that is quite dangerous and can cause horrible skin burns otherwise can be your only resort to clean your drain. Use this with utmost caution: wear goggles, rubber gloves, and protective clothing before using sodium hydroxide. This chemical is highly effective in cleaning shower drains.
Use three cups of this chemical with cold water, and pour the mixture as soon as the container heats up. If you have to stir the solution, be cautious, and use a wooden stick or spoon. Wait for half an hour before pouring boiling water over it.
Using Baking Soda and Vinegar
A more significant obstruction cannot be undone using a plunger alone. An effective home-made solution is a solution of baking soda and vinegar. This solution naturally dissolves hair clogs. Add a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar after a few minutes, and let the chemical reaction ensue. You should make the solution sit in the drain pipes for a couple of hours. Try rinsing the drain with water with force or with boiling water.
Another variant of this technique is using half a cup of baking soda and pouring it in the drain. Wait for bubbles to form and pour boiling water down the drain.
Using Commercially Available Chemicals
Use this method when the run-of-the-mill soda and vinegar solution does not fix the problem. There are many chemicals available in the market that can effectively unclog your shower drain. These include Instant Power Hair and Grease Drain Opener, Drainbo Drain Cleaner, Unique Super Digest-II Safe Drain Opener, etc., to name a few.
Regular use of these chemicals can be counterproductive in the long run. However, if you use these chemicals for long, they can damage the inner linings of the pipes. They can also be harmful to humans and can be environmental hazards.
Some acids are highly effective against drain clogs, and they are time-tested as they have been in use for centuries. Sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid solutions etc. are a few robust acidic solutions that can help dissolve the clogging agents and keep your shower drain clean and hygienic. Remember always to wear protective wear, goggles, and gloves while using these chemicals due to their highly corrosive properties.
The only drawback is that most of these acids damage the pipes in addition to spreading powerful, pungent odors that can take sometimes days to ward off. Use this solution only when the commercially available drain cleaners have failed.
Calling Professional Help
If all else fails, and the clog does not seem to decrease, or you just cannot get rid of the recurring blockages, it is better to leave it to a plumber. Use this technique as a last resort when you have used every other method.
How to Prevent Future Clogs?
For future purposes, invest in a good quality drain protector to capture debris from falling in and blocking your shower drain. They are usually PVC or steel round plates with concentric holes all over. This protector can cover the drain and retains hair and other debris from falling in.
Regularly use boiling water to pour after you use the shower. If you cannot arrange boiling water, just pour hot water.
You can also use a soap dish to help keep your shower drain cleaner. These soap pieces cluster the rogue hair into clumps that you can easily remove.
Shower drains can get messy with body follicles and other unwanted materials. Not only that, they can accumulate a lot of bacterial growth. Try keeping a regular bathroom cleaning regimen, and use the methods and techniques listed above if you face any unfortunate scenario.