How to Unclog a Shower and Tub Drain? | Bill Howe

How to Unclog a Shower and Tub Drain?


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Don’t let a clogged drain slow you down.

Living in San Diego allows us to enjoy beautiful days at the beach. Whether lying on the sand or catching the next set of big waves, we inevitably get sand on our feet and bodies. Over time, this sand, along with hair, soap scum, and mineral deposits, can build up and cause shower and tub drain clogs. As a result, we often find ourselves showering ankle-deep in dirty water.

If you’re tired of standing in a pool of water every time you rinse off or shower, it’s time to take action to fix that blocked drain. Stop ignoring drain clogs; they can lead to more significant plumbing problems in the future. Learning how to correctly unclog shower drains can help minimize drainage issues. We’ve compiled some tips to help you understand how to unclog a shower drain properly.

Identifying the Problem

As we discussed earlier, a clogged drain can be caused by several things, like hair, sand, and soap scum. Knowing how to identify a stopped-up drain can help you take the following steps to fix and prevent it from happening again.

The following are common signs you have a clogged drain:

Slow drainage: If you notice water is draining slower than usual, the bathtub drain may be clogged.

Standing water: If you shower and water collects around the drain and doesn’t go down, the drain is blocked.

Gurgling noises: Does it sound like something is gurgling when you use the shower? The drain is likely clogged.

Foul odors: Does it smell so bad that you want to plug your nose while showering? Something in the drains could be causing a blockage and foul odors.

Soap scum: Have you noticed a continual buildup of soap scum?

Most clogged drains are easy to identify. However, sometimes they can be difficult to repair. Assessing the severity of the clog can help determine how to unclog the shower drain. Some obstructed drains are an easy DIY fix. But if it’s a severe clog, hiring a professional plumber who knows how to unclog shower drains quickly is your best bet.

DIY Methods for Unclogging Shower and Bath Drains

Before you go and call a professional who unclogs shower drains for a living, try the DIY approach. Fortunately, there are several DIY methods that almost anyone can try. Of course, clogged shower drains can be gross and messy, so it’s best to be prepared for some things you may not want to touch, see, or smell. With that said, let’s get to the DIY methods.

Use a plunger

  • With standing water in the tub, grab the plunger.
  • Place the plunger head over the drain.
  • Create an airtight seal.
  • Pump the plunger stick forcefully, going up and down for 15 – 20 seconds.
  • Repeat the process.

Remove debris and hair manually

  • Remove any visible debris and hair with your hands (preferably with gloves on), or you can use needle-nose pliers.
  • Turn the water on. If there’s no standing water, you’ve unclogged the drain. However, it may be just a temporary fix.

Baking soda and vinegar

  • Pour boiling water down the drain.
  • Then, pour about ¼ cup of baking soda.
  • Next, pour about eight fluid ounces of white vinegar.
  • Wait about 20 minutes, then pour more boiling water.

It’s essential to take some safety precautions when trying the DIY methods. Boiling water can cause serious burns. We also recommend wearing gloves for sanitary reasons. Commercial drain cleaners may work for some clogged drains, but most of these products are not eco-friendly and may have ingredients that can damage pipes.

Tools and Equipment Needed

If you’re ready to unclog a shower drain, be sure to have the proper tools and equipment. Of course, the tools and equipment you’ll need will vary depending on your chosen method. With that said, here are some items to consider:

  • Plunger
  • Tea kettle
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Drain snake or auger
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Protective gloves

If you don’t have these tools on hand, your local hardware store or neighborhood market should have most of these products readily available. However, if you’re unsure about using them or the problem persists, it’s worth hiring a professional to ensure the job is done safely and effectively.

Signs You Need to Call a Professional Plumbing Company

There’s no doubt that with the proper knowledge and approach, you can tackle minor plumbing issues. But there comes a time when it makes more sense to call a professional plumber, especially when the drain clog is severe.

The following are signs to call the plumbing experts at Bill Howe:

Low water pressure: Look for weak water flow from your faucets and showerheads. Another sign to look for is uneven water pressure from different areas of your home.

Water heater problems: Look for discolored or foul-smelling hot water, inconsistent water pressure, or odd sounds coming from the water heater.

Burst pipes: Look for a sudden drop in water pressure, water pooling in unexpected spots, damp walls, floors, or ceilings.

Sewer line blockages: Look for multiple drain backups, foul odors in and around your home, and gurgling noises from the drains or toilets.

Reasons to Hire a Professional Plumbing Company

Going the DIY route makes sense for simple drain clogs. However, even simple DIY methods have their drawbacks. For example, you can worsen the problem if you do it wrong. Then there’s the time it takes to do the job. And if you don’t have the right tools, you’ll have to spend more time and money trying to get the right tools.

The following are reasons to hire a professional plumber:

  • A plumbing system has many intricacies. A professional plumber has the expertise and experience to tackle the most challenging jobs.
  • Incorrect use of tools can cause more damage to your home. For instance, using a drain snake improperly can damage pipes.
  • Professional plumbers have all the right equipment and know how to work around electrical systems if there’s a plumbing issue around electrical components.
  • Trained plumbers can fix the problem and quickly restore your plumbing system.
  • A professional plumber provides long-term solutions, whereas a quick DIY fix may not address other underlying plumbing problems.
  • DIY projects often take longer than anticipated. Learning how to use tools, fixing mistakes, and completing the task can consume significant time.
  • High-quality tools can be expensive. Investing in tools you might only use once or twice may not be cost-effective compared to hiring a professional.
  • Without proper training, using tools can lead to accidents and injuries.

Preventive Maintenance Tips

Just because you know how to unclog bathtub drains doesn’t mean you want to do it. While most blocked drains are just a part of daily life, there are things you can do to prevent them from constantly occurring. Next time you go to the beach, rinse yourself off outside and try to get most of the sand off your body!

You can also try these other methods to prevent future clogs:

  • Install drain covers to catch debris and hair.
  • Use a mesh strainer in the bathtub.
  • Schedule an annual drain cleaning service.

Knowing how to unclog shower drains is certainly beneficial. But if you can avoid it, why not try? Being proactive is one of the best ways to prevent plugged drains and larger drain problems down the road.


Don’t ignore a slow drain. If your shower and bathtub drains are constantly clogged or you can’t clear them on your own, call a professional who knows how to unclog shower drains. A clogged drain can become much worse over time and can lead to a host of other plumbing problems.

Our top-rated plumbers specialize in a wide range of services, including clearing stubborn drains so you don’t have to do the dirty work. From thorough plumbing inspections to slab leak repairs and emergency plumbing services, when it comes to plumbing in San Diego, no one does it better than Bill Howe!

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