Help, my shower drain is clogged! - No Chemicals Required!

3:23 PM

Clearing the shower drain

Apparently my shower drain is on about a 3 year schedule.  Every time I have to clear it I look up and update this post.  I originally created this post in 2012.  Updated in August of 2014.  I cleared the drain again today (August 2017)

Showers will vary and some people may have a harder time than I did. All I can tell you is that this is how I fixed my slow/non-draining shower with no chemicals.  We have 3 curious kids in the house so I’m not big on keeping lots of chemicals around.

For this job you will need used:
- Plunger
- Heavy Duty Rubber Gloves
- Plastic grocery bag
- Pencil or screw driver
- Drain Snake (Optional)
- Zip it Tool Drain Cleaner (Optional)

First things first:
There are lots of different ways to tackle this job. To figure out what tools you'll need you answer 2 questions:

1-  what is the most likely cause of the clog. 
2 - what kind of drain are you clearing.

My husband is bald and I have dreadlocks so there's not a lot of loose hair floating around our bathroom.  I knew immediately that I was probably not dealing with a hair clog.

Hair is not a factor for us

Our master bath has a shower stall and not a tub.  Shower stalls are usually easier to unclog
I'll deal with tubs later in this post.
Shower pans are easier to unclog

Clearing a shower drain  (shower stall version)

Remove the cover from the shower drain.  I was able to insert a pencil and pop off the cover.

Use a pencil to remove the drain cover
What I discovered was disgusting gunk!


Using a supermarket bag I scooped out as much of the clog as I could - which wasn't much.  

Partially removed clog
After I scooped out what I could, the drain looked a little better but was definitely not all clear.

A little better

Next I ran some hot water into the shower and plunged the drain.

Plunging the drain
Things looked, sounded and smelled terrible!  

Plunging is disgusting - but effective
For me - for today - that did the trick!  The drain was clear.

Plan A worked!


If you suspect that you have a hair based clog, grab your Zip Tool.

Zip Tool

A zip tool is a long thin piece of plastic that will fit easily down your drain.  It's GREAT for snagging hair based clogs and pulling them out.

Hair Clog on a zip tool
 Zip tools are available in the plumbing aisle of any hardware store.  They're only about $3 and they're a real life saver when it comes to clogs.
Zip then plunge
After you've used the zip tool, run hot water down the drain and plunge again.  See if the drain is clear.  Hopefully that did the trick.


If plunging the drain or zipping the drain didn't work, it's time to pull out the big guns.  The drain snake.

Drain Snake

A drain snake (also called a drain auger) should clear most any kind of clog.  While wearing gloves, loosen the screw near the cable (nose of the auger) and feed the line down the drain.  Tighten the screw.  Crank the handle back and forth a few turns.  Loosen the screw again and feel more line down the drain.  Tighten the screw and turn the handle several turns.  Continue to feed the line down the drain until you've cleared the clog.

Hair from a shower drain
   Once the clog is cleared pull the cable from the drain and feed is back into the auger storage drum.  Whatever was causing the clog will likely be on the auger.

Bathtub Edition

Clearing a bathtub is not that different than clearing a shower.  The main difference is where you snake and how to plunge.

When plunging a shower, be sure to cover the overflow valve so that you get good suction.  Follow the steps for Plan A (above).

Cover the overflow

When snaking a bathtub drain, insert the snake into the overflow.  Follow the steps from Plan C (above). 

Snaking a shower
Once the water is flowing easily again, flush the drain with hot water for about 5 minutes.  Clean the shower or tub and your tools.  You're all set!!




If your drain is still clogged - don't panic
Here are a few questions to consider when working to clear a clog.

How extensive is the problem?
If these steps don't work to clear the drain check other fixtures in your house.  You'll need to determine if you're dealing with fixture problem or a system problem.  If just 1 fixture is clogged/draining slowly then the problem is at or near that fixture.  If several fixtures in the same portion of the house are clogged then there is a problem in that portion of the plumbing.  If all of the drains in the house are clogged/draining slowly, you've likely got a sewer line problem.

I've done several posts on clearing a sewer line (main line).



If these steps don't work - call a plumber!!  Professional plumbers are there for a reason.  It's GREAT to save money on a DIY job but you also have to know when to pick up the phone and call a professional!

When to call a professional!



1.  Drain Wig
If you experience frequent hair clogs consider getting a drain wig.  A drain wig is a plastic device that catches hair before it can wash down the drain.

Drain Wig

Drain wigs are available on Amazon and other retailers.  They are reusable or disposable - your choice.

Clean and use again or toss every 6 months 

2. Use Body Wash/Shower Gel instead of bar soap
I love bar soap but it leaves shower reside and clogs drains.  If you get soaps clogs consider switching to body wash.  You'll need to clean the shower less often and you won't get  soapy clogs.

Body Wash = Fewer Clogs


A word about CHEMICAL drain cleaners.  I'm NOT a fan of chemical drain cleaners and here's why:

1.  They're toxic.  We have children in the house and I would not want the kids or pets to get into them.
2.  They've damaged our pipes and cost us LOTs of money.
3.  They caused our pipes to clog more frequently!

I had heard that chemical drain cleaners could damage pipes and makes clogs worse but honestly, I didn't really believe it.  After all they are inexpensive, quick and (mostly) worked.  Our kitchen sink used to clog from time to time.  Before I learned to snake the kitchen sink I'd pour a little drain cleaner, wait a while and the drain was cleared.

Last summer we discovered a terrible funky smell in our house.  Day by day the smell got worse.  After a few weeks an insurance adjuster discovered a large pool of black water in our crawl space (we didn't even know that we had a crawl space).  Liquid drain cleaner had eaten through the waste water pipe in our kitchen.

Drain cleaner and pipes
Each time I poured drain cleaner down the kitchen sink the chemicals would clear the clog but would leave behind a thick chemical residue.  The grease or food clog was gone, leaving drain cleaner residue in its place.  The residue clogged pipe clogged more often causing me to use more drain cleaner.

The reside didn't just sit there harmlessly.  It actually corroded my pipes.  They eventually leaked and poured water into our crawl space for several weeks.

Diagnosing the problem took several plumbers and cost us about $400.  The repair was another $600!  All in all that cheap and easy chemical drain cleaner cost me $1000!!  Never again!

For more home repair tips and tricks, CLICK HERE!

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  1. Sounds like you had a handful of plumbing tasks that week! Anyway, what matters most was you got them done and over with, right? You know, I can’t picture myself getting the gunk barehanded. Even that plastic bag would surely do, as long as you have your hands covered. Next time though, wear some rubber gloves before scooping it with the plastic. You can never know what you’d get, and it might include some sharp objects next time.

    1. Rubber gloves! That's a great idea! thanks for the tip!

  2. Good job! Clearing clogged drains is what I consider one of the easiest plumbing problems in the household to solve. With the help of a DIY guide, anyone can unclog a drain. It’s not the most fun thing in the world, but it’s a handy thing to know. Anyway, thanks for your DIY plumbing tips, I’m sure these will be very useful for everybody at some point in time.

    Levi Eslinger

  3. Yeah, we don't tolerate the use of chemical-based cleaning products as well. Good thing unclogging shower drains works almost the same as with other plumbing outlets! I normally use all the materials in your list plus a piece of stiff wire. I plunge it hand in hand with the snake. And a plunger, I almost forgot. Some pressure really helps. :)