We’ve all been there: you’re enjoying a nice relaxing shower, when you suddenly notice the water isn’t going down, or is draining very slowly — even without any visible obstructions.
Before you start panicking or thinking you need to (gulp) call a plumber, check out these DIY tips for unclogging your drain with minimal time and effort.
Tip: Before you drive yourself nuts, check to see which repairs are covered in the terms of your lease agreement. Every lease is different, so it’s possible that your landlord may be able to help here. Of course, tenant laws vary in every state, and some leases require tenants to make repairs on their own. The point is to always know what is and isn’t covered on your lease, just so you can be prepared.
Why is My Drain Clogged?
Even the cleanest of bathrooms can experience a clog or two from time to time. Just think of all the stuff that’s being washed down the drain, from bath products to hair and other normal shower residue. All of this may build up over time (especially where you can’t see it), so the first thing to do if you suspect your drain is blocked is to check for any type of obstruction.
To do this, carefully remove your drain cap (you may have to unscrew it, or simply lift it out, depending on the drain). You should be able to see any visible obstructions immediately, so simply remove them and test the drain to see if that did the trick.
Tip: This is not for the faint of heart, as drain obstructions can be…gross. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to avoid touching anything with your bare hands.
It’s Still Not Draining. What Next?
If you’ve cleared out all visible obstructions and water still doesn’t seem to be going down, the next step is to try out some of these handy DIY tips. Be prepared, as some of these may not work on their own. You may find that it takes a combination of strategies to get that drain flowing again.
The Right Tools for the Job
You may not be able to remove all obstructions by hand if the clog is in deeper the pipe and not simply hanging out around the drain itself. A quick trip to your neighborhood hardware store is a great place to find some extremely useful tools to help you get to those pesky pipe clogs. One such tool is a plumbers’ snake, a retractable tool that’s ideal for hard-to-reach clogs. Simply send the snake’s metal wire down to either break up or pull out the clog. If you are subject to frequent clogs, it may be a good idea to have one of these guys around. Otherwise, most hardware stores also sell small, plastic hooks that may aid in the extraction process.
Believe it or not, a plunger may also work to unclog your shower drain. Simply add enough water to your tub to submerge the plunger head and begin plunging rapidly. If the clog is especially deep, however, you may not be able to get the necessary suction to remove the clog.
Tip: Always be sure to use the proper tools when unclogging a shower drain, as homemade hooks (like bent coat hangers) may scratch or damage your pipe.
It may seem counterintuitive to pour liquids down the drain when it’s clogged, but there are actually several things you can try that may do the trick if you’re unable to remove the obstruction with your hands or a plumbing tool.
If you’re nervous about pouring chemicals down your drain, try using boiling water first. If the blockage is from built-up products, this method may help to break it apart. Simply boil water on your stovetop and carefully pour it down the drain. Use a funnel if you don’t want to spill any.
Another alternative to chemicals is to use a baking soda/vinegar combo. Begin by using the above method for pouring boiling water down the drain, then add about a half-cup of baking soda. Let it sit for a few moments before adding in a cup of vinegar and another cup of hot water. Now sit back and wait for about 10 minutes. Chances are, this science experiment treatment will work wonders towards loosening the build-up. Finish it all off with another pot of boiling water to help flush out the rest of the gunk.
If all else fails, there are plenty of store-bought solutions you can pour down the drain to help move those clogs along. Just be sure to carefully follow all of the instructions when using them, and that there are no pets or small children around while the chemicals are doing their thing.
Tip: Chemical unclogging solutions can damage plastic pipes. Always ask your landlord first before using chemicals to unclog anything.
If All Else Fails…
If any or all of the above methods fail to get your water flowing again, there may be a larger problem. Start by contacting your landlord to see if they can send a professional out to inspect the drain. They may even want to hire a plumber to address the issue. Again, your lease may not cover minor repairs like simple blockages or clogs, but in the event of a serious plumbing problem, your landlord will need to intervene and call a professional to diagnose and fix the issue.
Tip: Always contact your landlord before calling a plumber yourself. They own (or run) the building and will want a say in what kind of plumbing work is being done. They also most likely have a go-to person for dealing with exactly these types of issues.
If you find yourself standing ankle-deep in water during a routine shower, it may be a sign that your drain is clogged. Don’t panic. It’s just what drains do. Chances are you’ll be able to solve the problem yourself with a combination of good old-fashioned elbow grease and a thorough flushing out. Also, a little prevention goes a long way. Always be sure to clean the hair out of your drain to help keep it from getting clogged. Every little bit helps, and you’ll be glad you made the extra effort if and when your drain does get blocked in the future.