How to Unclog a Shower or Bath Drain

Having a clogged drain in your bathroom, even if it’s just a partial clog, can be incredibly frustrating as your ability to use the sink or bathroom becomes compromised due to slow drainage. This guide will explain how to quickly remove your clogged drain – and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Clogged drains can be one of the biggest household annoyances, right up there with overflowing toilets and roof leaks. The majority of the time you’ll find the clog is caused by an accumulation of hair going down the drain and getting fused into an obstructive hairball.

The good news is, normally it’s relatively easy to unclog them.

The thing that works in my experience close to 99% of the time is a simple plunger.

Let the bath or sink fill up with enough water to cover the plunger head, then pull and push the plunger up and down. If done correctly, you should be able to feel a surge of pressure amongst the water swishing around. Try not to let any air get through to the sink area as this will cause you to just compress the air and will reduce the resistance, which you need to dislodge the object in the drain. This diagram shows the basic technique of using the plunger.

I’ve found that this works in nearly all cases. I remember on one occasion when I was living in an apartment, I had a clog in my shower drain and poured every chemical I could think of down that drain – from Draino, to caustic soda, to Momar Mo-Flo. Nothing worked. The only effect was a very toxic smelling bathroom and lots of headaches. After about two weeks of trying this, I decided to just try a plunger. I pushed the plunger down once over the drain, pulled up and the hairball came out immediately. Needless to say, I felt like a right royal idiot.

If the plunger technique doesn’t work for you, however, the next thing you can try is either a piece of wire or what’s referred to as a ‘drain snake’. A drain snake is used to go down the drain to feel for the blockage and manually dislodge it.

You can use the drain snake one of two ways. You can try and stick the snake directly down the drain, but to do this it’s a lot easier if the grate on your drain can be removed. Most modern ones don’t come off, but you might be in luck.

Once the snake is down the drain, it’s just a simple matter of fishing around for it until you find the blockage, and then twisting the snake’s handle clockwise to try and get a hook on the clog.

When the blockage has been successfully hooked, twist and push the blockage back and forth until you dislodge it or break it up. Once done, flush the drain with water to ensure it’s flowing.

If this technique doesn’t work, you might have to access the trap under the sink, as in the below picture:

Before you do this, make sure you have a bucket in place to catch waste water.

Check to see if there is a clean-out plug within the trap. A clean-out plug will normally be a square or hexagonal plug in the base of the bend. If it is there, remove it and push the piece of wire or drain snake into the trap to try and remove the blockage, as described in the above section.

If the trap doesn’t have a clean-out plug, loosen the two couplings that hold the trap in place. Next, hold the trap over the bucket and insert the piece of wire or drain snake into the trap to try and clear the blockage.

If none of the above techniques work, I have sympathy for you – you’ve got one nasty blockage.

For further ideas and more solutions for unclogging blockages in your drain, I suggest you visit the website of Dr Drip, a Sydney based plumber, which has some fantastic plumbing advice.

You might want to try chemicals as a last resort, but just keep in mind that flushing corrosive chemicals down your drain might strip away the plastic or chrome in the bath, and cause more damage than it fixes. If you decide to go the chemical route, Draino or Momar Mo-Flo are two of the best chemicals for clearing away debris and blockages in your drain. Just don’t get any on your skin.

photo credit: only alice via photopin cc
Image Credit: Bunnings

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