When the shower drain starts to slow or it stops draining entirely, it can be annoying. Standing in ankle deep water as you try to take a shower is not the best way to start or end your day. The cause is a clog in the drain and a huge portion of that material is likely to be hair. Our hair is tougher than many people realize and when it binds with sticky soap scum, it can form a formidable clog that blocks the drain. Removing this material can be tricky and many people are tempted to call their local plumber for expert help. In this article, we will look at five methods that you can try first.
Before we begin, it’s important to understand that a natural approach is needed to remove the hair clogs safely. Every professional plumber will prefer a manual removal because it has the least potential for damage to the plumbing pipes and fixtures. For this reason, we cannot recommend the use of chemical drain cleaning products. Chemical drain cleaners contain caustic chemicals that can damage exposed skin and the inner surfaces of your pipes. Over time, this chemical damage can cause pinhole leaks, corrosion, and water leaks that are expensive to fix. Attempting to dissolve the hair with a quick fix is a tempting option, but it’s ineffective in the medium to long-term and it should be avoided. If you cannot remove the clog with the following tips, contact your local professional plumber and ask them to remove it for you.
A pack of hair snakes is inexpensive and having a few on hand is a great way to prepare yourself for a hair clog removal. These are plastic tools that you feed into the drain and the hair gets tangled on the angled tines that run along the entire length. The hair snake can pull out hair clumps and in many cases that may be all you need to get the drain running again. It only takes a couple of minutes to attempt this fix and you have nothing to lose with an attempt. Multiple insertions may remove more hair, but if you don’t have any success it’s time to move on to our next hair removal tip.
If the drain is easy to access and the hair clog is located near the entrance, it may be possible to remove the clog by hand. During this process, it’s advisable to wear rubber gloves and use a pair of tweezers to pull the material out of the drain. The contents of the drain may be slimy and covered with bacteria and you should avoid touching it with your fingers. Prise the drain cover loose with your hands or a screwdriver and locate the hair clog with a flashlight. If you can reach the clog, pull it out with your gloved fingers or the tweezers. Take care to avoid dropping the tweezers in the drain which could make the problem worse. There may be a lot of hair to remove and multiple attempts may be needed until the drain is fully clear. Hair clogs that are further in the drain may be reached with a clothing hanger or a strand of wire. If the clog is located in the tub drain, the cause could be a buildup of minerals which may be removed with the baking soda method (more on this later).
If the clog is still stubbornly refusing to cooperate, it’s likely that it’s more formidable and/or located further into the drain where it’s harder to reach. If the pressure is changed within the drain, it may be possible to shake the clog loose and flush it away. There are two options, you can cup your hand or the better approach is to use a cup plunger. Start by running the faucet and place the plunger over the drain until you get a good seal. Then move the plunger up and down to change the pressure in the pipe. After a few plunges, check the drain to see if any material has appeared or if the drain is draining normally. If the clog has appeared, put on a pair of gloves, remove it, and place it in the trash. If the drain is running, keep the water flowing for a few minutes to ensure that it’s flushed away. This process can be repeated, it’s effective, but if the clog cannot be removed it’s time for the next method.
You can make your own gentle chemical drain cleaner with store cupboard ingredients. Using baking soda and vinegar will not damage the pipes or your exposed skin. The baking soda will dissolve the hair, remove bad odors, kill the bacteria and disinfect the entire drain. Pour a cup of baking soda into the drain and follow up with a cup of white vinegar. A chemical reaction will occur and the mixture will fizz inside and around the drain. Leave the mixture to work for at least 5 minutes and then pour a couple of quarts of hot (not boiling) water into the drain. Turn on the faucet to check if the drain is working and if it isn’t you can repeat the process multiple times. If the clog is very stubborn, add a half cup of salt to the baking soda and leave it in the drain overnight before flushing it with hot water.
A plumbing auger or snake is a simple tool that you can feed into the drain until it hits an obstruction. The business end has a drill bit that you can turn at the handle with a crank. The auger is drilled into the clog to break it apart and then it can be pulled out or flushed away. Plumbing augers are available in a number of sizes and they are relatively inexpensive. Like a cup and a toilet plunger, it’s a great idea to have one or two augers in your DIY plumbing toolkit.
It’s always a good idea to attempt a DIY hair clog removal if you have the time and patience. If you don’t want to deal with the problem yourself or the methods detailed above have not worked, it’s time to contact your local professional plumber. The clog may be located deep in the drain or there could be an underlying issue to fix.