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Slow Shower Drain? Here’s How to Fix It

BATHROOM, SEWER & DRAIN

Slow Shower Drain? Here's How to Fix It

There are few things worse than standing in an ankle-deep (or higher) puddle of murky water as you shower.

It’s the dreaded half-bath of standing water, and it happens to the best of us. Slow shower drains are often caused by a slimy buildup of everything that runs down the shower drain: soap and shampoo, dirt and debris, dead skin cells, and hair. In fact, most of the blockage we tend to see is the result of a buildup of hair over time.

If you’re lucky, the resulting blockage tends to collect in the drain trap. Otherwise, the buildup may be more difficult to remove.

Regardless of the cause, here are our best tips on how to fix a slow shower drain, from the easiest fixes to more complicated solutions. Put on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and let’s get started.

1. Pour Boiling Water Down the Drain

Right out of the gate, you’ll want to boil some water to pour down the drain. This trick can help fix a slow drain by breaking down some of the more minor clogging substances like soap or grease.

It won’t work on more serious clogs, especially if you have a serious buildup of hair. But even if this tip doesn’t completely clear the blockage, it may speed the drainage to make the tub more usable, helping to leave your shower drain slow but not clogged.

Note: Don’t try this step if you have PVC pipes, as the boiling water can damage them.

How to do it:

  • First, boil water on the stove.
  • Make sure any expensive shower curtains are out of the way.
  • If you have a funnel, you can use it to direct the water as you pour it down the drain. If not, boiling water in a tea kettle may help.
  • Start by pouring just a little water in at a time. Once you’ve used all the water, see if the drain is working a little faster.

2. Use a plunger

We’re used to using plungers with toilet clogs, but this tool is great for your shower drain as well. However, any blockage that’s deep in the pipes may be too entrenched to come out with some simple plunger suction.

How to do it:

  • Run enough water to let it fill the shower base, ensuring that the edge of the plunger is underwater.
  • If you have a hard time getting a good seal, try rubbing some petroleum jelly along the edges of the plunger.
  • Plunge rapidly to try and force the clog out.

3. Try Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you tend to stick with natural household products, baking soda and vinegar mix may be the best way to clear a slow shower drain. This household combo serves as a natural drain cleaner that won’t damage your pipes—if it works.

How to do it:

  • First, pour roughly a cup of baking soda down the drain (no exact measurement needed).
  • After a few minutes, pour an equal amount of vinegar down.
  • Leave the mixture sitting for at least an hour.
  • Follow up with another round of boiling water, and see if the shower is draining faster.

4. Unclog the Drain By Hand

When the options above fail you, this may be your best way forward.

You might want to resort to this as the first course of action if you know for a fact that you’ve been regularly letting hair wash down your drain, or if you know you’ve accumulated a buildup of coarse dirt or grime. Be prepared to get dirty!

How to do it:

  • Grab a pair of gloves.
  • Remove the drain cover. Depending on the drain, you may need to unscrew it or pry it open.
  • Look inside (or feel around) inside the drain until you locate the buildup. You might need a flashlight for this part.
  • Pull out any clogs.
  • If you can’t reach a clog with your hand, you can also try using a piece of wire (such as a deconstructed clothes hanger) as a hook.

5. Use a Plumber’s Snake

This option may be where your mind goes when you envision how to clear a slow shower drain. You can find a plumber’s snake for under $30 at most hardware stores, and it’s a good inexpensive tool to have lying around just in case. Each one works a little differently, and you may need a power drill to run yours.

How to do it:

  • Again, remove the drain cover.
  • Insert the head of the snake into the drain and push it down without forcing it. Depending on the snake, you may rotate it as you go or use a drill to twist it.
  • When you pull the snake back up, it should come up with whatever buildup of hair or grease that it’s trapped. Pull it free. You may need to do this several times to ensure you’ve gotten most of the debris.
  • If you feel resistance at any point, you may have found your block. Try to break up the obstruction without scraping the walls of the pipe.
  • You can follow this up with another round of boiling water.

6. Try Chemical Cleaners

If your blockage is particularly stubborn, you might need to run to the store for a chemical cleaner to unblock the drain. The more powerful recommended cleaners can even clear away tricky bits of hair or caked-in soap scum.

How to do it:

  • Each cleaner is a little different, to be sure to follow the directions on the package.
  • In general, you’ll also want to wear some safety gear like gloves and goggles ss you pour the cleaner down the drain.

7. Call an Expert

When all of the above fails, the slow drainage gets worse, or you’re unsure about doing this yourself, it’s time to call a professional. They’ll know how to fix a slow running shower better than anyone, and it solves the headache of finding methods that work for your specific drainage issues.

Be sure to ask the right questions and choose someone who meets all of your needs.

Clearing and Maintaining Your Slow Shower Drain

Fixing a slow drain isn’t an impossible DIY, and it’s likely you’ll be able to make at least some progress using the methods above.

Once you’re in the clear, though, don’t forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Consider getting a drain cover to catch loose hair or debris, saving you the hassle of future slow shower drains. And if you’re ready to protect your shower in the long-term, check out our guide on protecting your bathroom drains.

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