What To Do When Your Shower Won’t Drain

Whether you’re doing your best to wake up and get your bearings at the start of a long day or relaxing at the end of it, a shower is one of life’s simple pleasures. That pleasure can be hard to sustain, however, if you notice that water is collecting around your feet and rising.

If your shower won’t drain, that doesn’t automatically mean that you have a major problem. There are several steps you can take to address standing water in your shower, and you don’t have to be an experienced do-it-yourselfer to try these simple solutions.

Why Is My Shower Not Draining Properly?

If water is backing up in your shower, something is preventing it from clearing. There are several possible causes of this problem, and one (or combination) may resolve the problem.

  • Soap Residue: Fat from dissolved soap can mix with minerals in the water to form residue that can clog your pipes.
  • Hair: Hair can mix with soap residue or other greasy or sticky material and form clogs. If there are several persons in your household with long hair, you might have reason to suspect that this is a factor.
  • Minerals: The minerals in your water can also collect in your pipes and create masses that prevent the flow of water.
  • Tree Roots: Tree roots can penetrate small cracks in your pipes. Once inside the pipe, they continue to grow and create significant blockage. While there are some products that can help prevent the growth of roots, this is a problem for a plumber to address.

Unclogging a Shower Drain with Boiling Water

If your drain is blocked by accumulations of soap or other fat or grease from body wash, conditioner, hair treatments, etc., you may be able to solve your problem with boiling water. It’s a good idea to use a funnel when you pour the water down the drain, to control the flow. Even if this is not enough to clear the drain, it’s a first step that can improve your chances of getting a result.

Using a Plunger

If boiling water didn’t produce a result, you may be able to loosen a clog with a plunger. Hopefully, the hot water caused it to begin to dislodge or break up to some extent. If your shower does not have standing water in it, add enough to cover the end of the plunger. If you have petroleum jelly handy, you can spread it along the bottom of the plunger before you place the plunger over the drain to create a better seal. Use a forceful upward and downward movements, keeping the plunger handle perpendicular to the floor of the shower. Do this about six times and then pull the plunger off. If you’ve succeeded, the shower will now drain.

Clearing a Drain Without Chemicals

Chemical drain cleaners can be effective, but there are reasons to save them until other options have failed. These materials are extremely toxic. Bringing them into your home creates an element of risk, to you and to children. They contaminate the water supply, and they also have the potential to damage your pipes if used too often. Baking soda and vinegar offer a non-toxic option. First, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. After a few minutes, pour a cup of vinegar down the drain. Next, wait for a couple of hours and then pour boiling water down the drain. Run some water in the shower and watch to see if it is now draining properly.

Pulling Out a Drain Clog by Hand

It may be possible for you to simply grasp a hair clog and pull it out. First, remove the drain cover. You may have to remove a screw, or you may be able to lift it off with a screwdriver. Shine a flashlight down the drain. If you see a clog within reach, pull it out. If the clog is too far away for you to get hold of it by hand, you can try using a hook made from a wire coat hanger. Lower it into the drain and see if you get under the clog and remove it. It’s also possible you will break it up and clear your shower drain.

Using a Plumber’s Snake

If the clog is further down the pipe, you may be able to reach it with a plumber’s snake. Gradually push the snake down the drain and keep going until you feel the blockage. Now turn the handle of the snake. You may be able to feel the clog breaking up or moving away. Pull the snake out and run water down the drain to test the flow. If the shower is still not draining as you would like, you can repeat this step.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

A variety of chemical drain cleaners are available at supermarkets and hardware stores. These products must be used carefully, in the amounts specified on the containers. You should wear both gloves and goggles when you apply them. Open the container carefully and pour the cleaner down the drain. Pay attention to how you close the container. If more product remains, make sure you store it in a safe place that is out of reach of children or others who might be harmed by exposure to them. Follow all the instructions on the container, which may include flushing with warm water as directed. Unfortunately, these drain cleaners are not particularly effective.

Preventing Clogged Drains

There are many ways to slow the buildup of soap, minerals and hair in your shower drain. These include:

  • Hair Traps: There are a variety of inexpensive devices that can be inserted in or on your drain to prevent hair from entering it. If you use one of these, it’s important to clean it regularly. Otherwise the hair in it will itself create a blockage.
  • Preventative Cleaning: Using either boiling water or baking soda and vinegar about once a week can help prevent the formation of blockages in your drain.
  • Soap Dish: Having and using a functional soap dish can reduce possibility of soap being released into the shower, dissolving and adding to the burden of grease or even slipping down the drain.

When to Call the Plumber

If standing water in your shower is accompanied by water or sewage backing up in other bathroom fixtures, toilets not flushing, or water leaking from the bottom of toilets, you need emergency plumbing help. The experts at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® of Eastern Iowa can quickly resolve any problem you might have. It’s best to contact us as soon as you notice a problem with your shower, as the problem may spread to your other fixtures. We’ll make sure your plumbing gets back to normal and restore your shower, so the water flows out as it should.