How to unclog a shower drain – five ways to deal with blockages

Keep the water running freely and avoid flooded floors. This is how to unclog a shower drain

How to unclog a shower drain – shower tray with drain and green tiles
(Image credit: Banner Day Interiors)

Know how to unclog a shower drain and you can solve the problem of a filling shower in a hurry. With a bad blockage, the water level can come precariously close to escaping and flooding the bathroom, so it’s expertise you’ll want to acquire.

The good news is remedying a clogged drain may be annoying but it is a less unwelcome task than unclogging a toilet, and rarely a huge deal. Most shower blockages can be sorted in less than 30 minutes.

Here is how to unclog a shower drain – and the tactics that will make it less likely to block up again.

How to unclog a shower drain

There are a range of ways to tackle clogged shower drains, and many of them involve using items you probably already have around the house. 

‘Ways to deal with any blockage include removing the obstruction by hand, make use of the plumber’s snake, use boiling water, or buy a drain cleaner product and follow the instructions,’ says Ben Chalk, construction manager at GIR Services. ‘Should the problem persist, call in a certified plumber.’

1. Diagnose the problem

‘Check your drain for an obvious visible obstruction by lifting the top of the drain (drain cap) or just investigate the drain if no cap is present. Make use of a flashlight as this will give you a better view,’ says Ben Chalk. 

Some shower drains are fitted with special hair traps to prevent hair and other solids from getting stuck further down the drain. Take a close look at your shower drain and see if there are any parts that can be lifted or twisted out and then cleaned. Likely, a huge clog of smelly hair will come out with the hair trap so brace yourself for that treat!

2. Try the boiling water trick

This may sound a bit too good to be true but if soap buildup is the cause of your plumbing issues, pouring boiling water down the drain might be all you need to do. 

‘Clogs in shower drains are often caused by soap and grease building up over time which can ultimately stick and hold the clog together,’ explains Chris Wootton, managing director of domestic cleaning business, Poppies. ‘Simply place a funnel, or something that will contain the water as you pour, over the drain and pour. 

‘Gradually, you will begin to hear the water flow more easily. It’s important to note, if it’s not just soap and grease causing the blockage, this method may not work on its own.’ 

3. Raid the pantry for vinegar and baking soda

A favorite method for many of us, cleaning with baking soda and vinegar can work just as well as using products you get from the hardware store to unclog a shower drain. 

‘Sprinkle two tablespoons of baking soda in/around the plughole, rinse with vinegar until all residue is dissolved, and finish with a quart (1l) of boiling water. This powerful mixture should dislodge any collected substances, leaving a free-flowing drain once again,’ says Tina Simpson. 


4. Send in the snake to unclog a shower drain

If there is one tool we’d recommend every householder should have to hand, it’s a plumber’s snake (sometimes called a drain auger or drain snake). This, plus knowing how to use a drain snake correctly, will prove handy for unclogging any blocked sink or drain around the home. 

A basic plumber’s snake is essentially a long bendy rod attached to a handle that is turned to slowly screw through the blockage. Some also pick items up as they move through the pipes, pulling them back out when the snake is removed. We like DrainX Drain Auger Pro from Amazon.

‘The most common culprit for clogging shower drains is hair and a plumber’s snake or some other form of hook is the best way to get hold of the clog and remove it,’ explains Trinity Owhe, design expert, Victorian Plumbing.

5. Check your shower drain is clear

If you have followed some or all of these steps, the shower drain should be running freely. The best way to check this before you risk a repeat flooding incident is to simply leave the shower flowing at full power for just a couple of minutes. Watch the water around the plughole; the shower tray should not hold the water for any length of time. 

If the levels start to build up, it is time to admit defeat and call in the professionals. We do not recommend disconnecting the shower drain, shower pan or any pipework without appropriate training.

shower enclosure with marble and exposed shower controls

(Image credit: Ca Pietra/Nicola Harding & Co)

How can I prevent a shower drain from blocking?

There are ways you can help prevent a shower drain from blocking. ‘If you find your shower is constantly getting clogged, then make a few changes to stop it happening again after you unblock it,’ advises David Cruz, plumbing expert at MyJobQuote. ‘A simple sink strainer will prevent hair clogging the drain. And regular drain cleaning with a ready-made cleaner or even just hot water can help keep soap residue at bay.’ 

Shower drain hair traps needn’t cost much, and we like the LEKEYE Drain Hair Catcher from Amazon. Silicone versions, meanwhile, can be washed in the dishwasher and have suction caps to secure them to your shower tray and keep them securely in place. No more sink unclogging necessary.

Why is my shower not draining?

A shower is typically not draining because of an accumulation of a few things. ‘Drain blockages occur when dirt, hair and skin flakes bind to soap suds on pipe walls,’ explains Tina Simpson of Triton Showers. ‘Plug catchers can help to limit debris, particularly hair, that enters the shower drain hole, however this usually delays blockages rather than eliminating them entirely.’

To unclog a shower drain, use hot water, or baking soda and vinegar, or a plumber’s snake.

Linda Clayton

Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.