How to unclog a shower drain using hot water, a plumber's snake, baking soda, vinegar and more

Enjoy our failsafe methods for how to unclog a shower drain of hair and gunge. Plus, why using drano isn't such a great idea after all

clean shower drain
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You want to take a shower, only to realize that you are taking a foot bath, and it's a pretty gross one at that. So you need to know how to unclog a shower drain fast, and we can help. Sure, it's not the most luxurious household chore out there, but it is easy and of course, very satisfying once done. 

To clarify, yes you can cancel the plumber because you can unblock a shower from hair, soap deposits and the likes, yourself, using ingredients and tools that you may already have at home. 

The hot water method is a solid one, as is unclogging a shower drain with a snake, plus, we've included a natural method using baking soda and vinegar for those who want to know how to unclog a shower drain without drano or other chemical commercial cleaners.

1. How to unclog a shower drain with standing water using boiling water

boiling water in a transparent teakettle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hot water, just off the boil, will almost instantly dissolve and break up what is clogging your drain and causing standing water. How many times you will need to repeat this method depends on the extent of the blockage. Once may be enough, but repeat until the water passes through without leaving any standing water. 

1. Fill a large saucepan or teakettle to the maximum amount with water.

2. Bring it to a boil.

3. Pour the water down the drain. Doing it all at once, carefully so as not to scold yourself, is best for added pressure along with the heat.

Note: this is fine for metal pipes but not for PVC.

2. How to unclog a shower drain with hair using a plunger

shower plunger

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A plunger, much like you'd use to unblock a toilet, can also come in useful to unclog a shower drain. 

1. Remove the drain cover and apply petroleum jelly to the plunger's edge – this will help secure the seal. 

2. Put the plunger cup over the drain opening and run the shower until enough water covers the lip of the plunger. 

3. Next, quickly move the plunger rapidly to bring up the clog. You may have to do this for several minutes.

4. Test run the shower to see that water flows down smoothly before reattaching the drain cover.

3. How to unclog a shower drain with a snake or a wire hanger

wire hangers

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You can remove any hair and debris caught in your drain cover, but if you have standing water then the problem may lie beneath! The wire hanger trick or using a plumbers snake will help you locate and remove the clog once and for all. We recommend you wear gloves doing this.

Unclogging a shower drain using a plumbers snake:

1. How you run your plumbers snake depends on whether it is electric or manual. Start by removing your shower grate and any hair or debris on it.

2. Direct the cable into the drain opening, tightening the clamp and carefully rotating to help the snake auger itself down.

3. You may feel resistance when you reach the clog, and this shouldn't be too far down . Rotate the cable to break up the blockage. 

4. At this stage you can run some water down to check whether it's cleared or not. If it has, bring up the snake and remove any debris attached to it. If not cleared, continue to guide the cable further down.

5. Finish off this process by running hot water down the drain to wash away the broken up debris and reattach the shower drain cover.

Unclogging a shower drain using a wire hanger:

1. Unravel the hanger so it's straight, leaving the hook at the end.

2. Remove your drain cover and weave the hook side through and down the shower pipe.

3. You should feel when you get to a blockage – you can use a flashlight also to take a look – and when you get there, hook onto the hair etc. and pull gently to remove it. Keep going until it's clear, then flush out using the hot water method above.

4. How to unclog a shower drain with baking soda and vinegar

baking soda

(Image credit: Amazon)

An age-old method, which is still a go-to in many households as it works so darn well. Plus, it may have you reminiscing over your science fair baking soda volcano project too – an ideal distraction for not the more glamorous job! 

How this works is the hero household ingredient, baking soda, will dissolve mineral and soap deposits which are gunky and clogging up the pipe. It will also help disinfect the area and eliminate odours from any fungi or lurking bacteria (likely). 

The vinegar is what helps cause the pressurized reaction, but this only happens properly in a sealed environment. Which is why it's best to try cover the drain pipe while this mixture works.

1. Clear the drain of any hair and debris using the drain snake or coat hanger method. 

2. Pour one teakettle full of just off the boil water down (carefully as this may splash).

3. Pour one cup baking soda followed by one cup of vinegar down the shower drain, cover and leave it for minimum 15 minutes, max an hour.

4. Flush through with more hot water to clear it completely.

5. How to unclog a shower drain without using Drano

Photo by Jon'Nathon Stebbe on Unsplash

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Drano is a highly toxic cleaning agent which is harmful to the environment and to health. There is also controversy around whether or not it is a good idea for your plumbing system. Thankfully, you can use the above methods, or try the following way using dish soap and hot water. 

Again, depending on the extent of the blockage, you may need to repeat this method several times until the water runs freely. This is also a good way to finish off method two above, using a snake pipe or wire hanger.

1. Bring two litres/the max amount your teakettle will take to the boil.

2. Add in a few tablespoons of dish soap. 

3. Pour this down your shower drain. 

4. Repeat as needed.

Expert tips on how to unclog a shower drain

Martha Stewart and Calabrese plumbing recommend, "If you can easily remove the drain stopper... you can typically extract the blockage in just a few minutes with the help of needle nose pliers-tweezers work, too."

"While your first inclination may be to pour Drano down the hole and hope for the best, it's wiser to hold off."

Your shower drain unclogging essentials

DrainX Plumbing Snake Drain Auger | 25-Ft Drain Cleaning Cable Plumbers Auger with Work Gloves and Storage Bag

These next-level shower drain de-clogging tools are worth grabbing for your cleaning cupboard. 


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Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar -1 Gallon Bottle (Pack of 2) with By The Cup Swivel Spoons

A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.View Deal

Are you ready to get your shower back to its best?