Clogged shower drains can be both frustrating and gross. If you have one, you may also be concerned that you will need to spend a lot of money on a plumber to come to fix it.
Fortunately, many shower clogs can be fixed relatively easily. Most clogs are close enough to the drain that they can be picked up with an inexpensive drain auger.
Here are steps that you can follow to fix a clogged shower drain yourself, without having to spend money on a plumber. Since I bought my house, I have used this method to clear multiple clogged drains.
Gather Your Tools
Clearing a clogged shower drain will require a few different tools. The exact tools needed may vary slightly depending on the design of your shower, but here is a list of tools you will probably need:
- A 25-foot drain auger with 1/4 inch cable
- Nitrile gloves
- Screwdriver (I needed a #2 Phillips)
- Magnetic parts bowl
- A rag (Used to wipe the drain auger’s cable)
- Plastic bag
- Face mask
- Goggles/safety glasses
When attempting to do this do not neglect wearing personal protective equipment. Drains are disgusting places that house all sorts of bacteria. Protecting your hands and face is extremely important.
Remove the Shower Strainer or Plug
Before you attempt to clear the drain clog, you will need to remove the shower strainer. Whatever is clogging your shower drain going to be too large to pull out through the holes in the strainer.
Get a screwdriver and take out the screws. I like to place them in a magnetic parts bowl to make sure that they don’t get lost or fall down the drain. If you lose a screw, you may need to buy a new strainer just for the replacement screws. That is a very frustrating trip to the hardware store.
Look Down the Drain
After you remove the shower strainer, use your flashlight to look down your drain. The main thing you need to look for is hair since it is the most common cause of a clogged shower drain.
If you can grab the clog, go for it, but there is probably more hair past the S-Bend. This is the s-shaped place in the drainpipe that always holds a small amount of water. The water prevents poo-gasses from the sewer from coming into your shower.
If the clog isn’t visible, you will need to use the drain auger.
Insert the Drain Auger
After you remove any easily-accessible hair or other foreign materials, insert your drain auger into the drain. Loosen the lock knob or lever and pull the cable out of the drum. Push it into the drain until it stops.
When it stops, tighten the lock knob or lever and rotate the drum while pressing down slightly. Be sure only a small amount of cable is outside the drain while turning, otherwise the cable will twist around itself. Also, be sure the lock knob or lever is tight. Otherwise, the cable will not spin like it is supposed to.
After the cable moves forward a little, see if you can keep pushing it into the drain. If you feel resistance, turn the drum again, and then pull the cable out. As you pull the cable out and feed it back into the drum, wipe the cable down with a rag.
Inspect Your Work
When the cable is out of the drain, you may have some hair and other very gross stuff on the end of your drain auger. This means that you have found at least part of your problem.
Remove whatever nastiness is attached to your drain auger and put it in a plastic bag for disposal. Try putting some water down the drain. If you can run the water without any problems for a couple of minutes, you may have solved your problem.
If so, skip to the next step. However, if the drain is still clogged, see below.
Run the Drain Auger Again
Place your drain auger back into the drain and repeat the steps from earlier. Your main goal will be to go a little further down the drain than you did on your previous pass.
Try to run the auger into the pipe until you feel resistance. When this happens, turn your drain auger’s drum several times, and then pull it all the way out. You know you have struck gold when you pull out something that looks like a raccoon tail covered in used motor oil.
Turn on the shower and let it run again. If it drains, then yay! If not, keep repeating these steps until you are successful.
After you remove the clog and ensure that the drain is working properly, reinstall the shower strainer onto the top of the pipe. Be sure not to drop a screw down the drain. I did that once, and I learned my lesson.
Also, avoid tightening the screws too tightly. The part that holds the screws and shower strainer in place is probably plastic. Stripping the threads is easy to do and the fix for this may be pricey.
Many inexpensive drain augers like the one that I used in the pictures should not be used over and over again. If the auger’s cable becomes stressed from overuse, it may snap inside of the drain.
This would be an extremely expensive repair that only a plumber would be able to take care of. If your drain auger has any kinks, discard it and purchase another one.
Drain augers are very inexpensive when compared to a plumber’s bill that could cost a few hundred dollars for a simple clog removal or several thousand dollars if they have to tear up the shower and floor to get to a broken auger cable.