The best way to avoid trapped hair in the shower drain is to install a drain cover. But, no matter how careful you are, there always seems to be some hair in the drain. We don’t tend to notice this until the water starts to drain slowly and we are ankle deep in dirty water. In more extreme cases, the shower drain will clog entirely and the drain contents will back up into the tub or shower stall. When this occurs, many people call their local professional plumber immediately to solve the problem for them. But, there are five effective methods that you can try yourself before you call the plumber.
A Cautionary Note on Chemical Drain Cleaners
Many people reach for a chemical drain cleaning product automatically when the drain slows or becomes blocked. This is a bad idea, a professional plumber will always prefer a manual removal method because it’s a safer option for your plumbing system. The problem with these drain cleaners is that they contain caustic chemicals that are harsh on your exposed skin and the surfaces of your plumbing pipes. The damage that chemical drain cleaners cause can lead to water leaks, corrosion and burst pipes. Dissolving hair may be possible with a natural cleaner that you can make with household ingredients (more on this later). But, always attempt a manual removal first to prevent damage to your pipes and fixtures and to extend the useful lifespan of your plumbing system.
1. The Simple Hair Snake Approach
Hair snakes are great tools to have in any home plumbing DIY toolkit. They are inexpensive and effective and you don’t need any special training to use them. Simply insert the hair snake into the drain, twist at the obstruction and then pull it out. A hair snake will not catch all the hair in one go and you may need a few attempts to get it all. But, each attempt takes less than a minute and it’s a great option for a fast fix.
2. Manual Removal with Hands or Tweezers
If your shower drain has a removable cover or it’s easy to access, then you can try to remove the hair clog by hand or with tweezers. But, it’s important to understand that the hair can contain a lot of harmful bacteria and you should avoid touching it. When you remove material from the drain with your hands, always wear rubber gloves.
Start by removing the drain cover, some covers can be pried open with a screwdriver or it may be possible to lift them clear with your hands. Take a flashlight, look in the drain and you may see the clump of hair near the entrance. If you can reach the drain clog with your hands, simply pull it clear and place it in the trash. If the clog is further in the drain, it’s time to use the tweezers or a piece of wire to tease it clear.
The process can be repeated multiple times until you are satisfied that the drain is clear again. But, if you cannot get the drain working properly the cause may be a buildup of limescale caused by hard water. You can attempt to remove the clog with your homemade baking soda cleaner or contact a local professional plumber for expert help.
3. Baking Soda Cleaner
Baking soda can be used as the basis for many cleaning techniques because it’s gentle and effective. But, baking soda also acts as a disinfectant to kill bacteria, fungi and bad odors. As an added bonus, if you spill baking soda on exposed skin it will not cause chemical burns and harmful fumes.
To clean the shower drain, pour in a cup of baking soda and follow with a cup of white vinegar. A chemical reaction will take place, the white mixture will fizz and this is when the magic happens. Leave the mixture to work for at least five minutes and then pour two quarts of hot (not boiling) water into the drain. Then, turn on the cold water faucet, run it for a short while to make sure the water is draining away.
If the drain is still clogged, you can repeat the entire process as many times as you like. If the clog is exceptionally stubborn, try leaving the baking soda and a half cup of salt in the drain overnight. Flush the drain with hot water the next day to see if it’s draining properly. If you’ve tried this approach a few times with no success, try another method on our list or contact a local plumber.
4. The Plumbing Snake
A plumbing augur or “snake” is an inexpensive clog removal tool that you can find in a variety of sizes at your local home improvement store. When you put together a DIY plumbing toolkit, it’s a good idea to have a couple of differently sized plumbing snakes. A plumbing snake is a flexible cable with a drill bit at one end and a crank at the other. Feed the snake into the drain until it hits the clog, turn the handle and break it apart. After each attempt, run the cold water to check if the drain is draining properly. If it isn’t, you can repeat this process a few times or try a different method on our list.
5. A Cup Plunger or Cupped Hand Approach
Many people have a simple cup plunger in their homes and it’s possible to simulate the action using a cupped hand. This method changes the pressure inside the pipe to force any clogged material loose. Start by running the faucet to get some cold water into the drain and cover the drain with the cup plunger or your hand. Once you have a tight seal, move the plunger up and down quickly to get some extra pressure into the drain. Again, if you’re using your hands wear rubber gloves because gunk can come up out of the drain. This process can be repeated multiple times, but don’t be too vigorous or you may damage the drain and pipe.
If you tried these five methods and they didn’t work, contact your local certified and licensed plumber. There may be an underlying reason why your drains are not working correctly and this must be fixed before you can restore normal draining.