I need some help with my shower drain, which isn’t doing its job lately, so I’m hoping I can find it here among the Teeming Millions. Here are the facts and parameters:
It’s started to drain slowly in the past couple of months. Before that it was fine. It’s been getting progressively worse, although it always drains out pretty fast once I turn off the shower.
The drain hole is about 2 inches in diameter and covered with a screen that has holes about 1/16" across. I can’t remove this screen easily.
Our pipes are some kind of weird plastic stuff (polybutylene or something like that) that’s rather fragile and therefore I don’t want to put anything nasty down there (including a snake, assuming I could fit one) for fear of causing a leak.
We have two cats who like to walk around in the tub, which is another reason I can’t put any nasty chemicals down there.
Is there some safe way I can clear out the obstruction without endangering the pipes or the cats? I figure the obstruction is probably hair. I’d like to avoid calling a plumber if possible.
This is probably a simple question but I’m not very mechanically inclined. Thanks for any help.
If you rent, get the landlord to call the maintenance person in.
If you own (or even if you rent), just pour some liquid drain cleaner down into the drain, when the tub is dry and drained (after the last shower of the day). Use a funnel if you can, so there’s no drain cleaner around the outside of the drain. Keep the cat out of the bathroom for the next couple of hours, then chase the drain opener with a couple of pails of water. It won’t hurt PVC plumbing (it shouldn’t be too hard to find a brand of drain opener that guarantees this right on the label).
I’m somewhat more fortunate, as my shower drain is about 4 inches in diameter, and the strainer plate is easily removed with a slotted screwdriver, so I can get right down in there and pull out nasty globs of soap-scum- covered hairballs. But I still go for a shot of Liquid Plum’r with a water back after I’ve done this. And if it doesn’t work, then I complain to the manager.
Try a more natural method of clearing out the drain. Put about 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda in the drain followed by 1 cup of vinegar. It will bubble and foam like crazy. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and flush the drain with hot water. Do this every couple of weeks or so for preventative maintenance.
We have an ongoing problem with our tub drain. I suspect someone let a big glob a drywall mud fall down there when they were finishing the bathroom.
At any rate, I have had some success with using boiling water. I heat up my teakettle full of water until the thing is shrieking. Then I put on a big oven mitt (to protect me from the steam) and pour the entire contents down the drain. Be careful to hold your face away, too, and don’t have a short-sleeve shirt on–the steam is nasty and you don’t want bare skin to get in its path. The boiling water tends to “melt” the goop enough to get it flowing again. And no chemicals!
I also have ahd some luck with an all-natural enzymatic drain cleaner. I got mine from an organic garden supply site which also sells some natural household cleaners. I use that for regular maintenance and it helps, too. But the boiling water thing is practically free.
I get the opportunity to clear many, many smelly drains every week. I’ve never found an effective drain cleaner for hair clogs, which is likely the problem.
You’ve got to remove the top screen, as mentioned use a screwdriver or something inserted into the holes to pry it up. They can be stubborn because of soap build up.
The most effective tool I’ve found is a refrigerator coil brush but any long moderately stiff brush that will fit down the slots will work. Simply push the brush down as far as it’ll go and pull it back out to investigate a wonderous mass. If you’ve got a weak stomach, hold your breath and make sure to wear rubber gloves. Repeat until the brush comes out clean.
Occasionally clogs will occur past the P-trap, which the brush won’t touch. This is where you need a snake. They are inexpensive and readily available in any hardware store. (3-4 dollars)They won’t hurt your pipes.
BTW, you can use a plunger on a stopped up shower drain, I’ve done this when Drano won’t completely clear a clog. But you need an assistant, you usually can’t do it by yourself. It takes an extra set of hands to take a wet cloth and hold it firmly over the overflow drain. If you don’t block up that drain, your plunger will just blow the air out the overflow, not down the pipes.
Outside there should be a big pipe with a cap on it. That’s where you can clean the drain with a snake or a hose.
Does the toilet drain alright? Are any other drains slow?
Showers usually have a very tight turn at the bottom that you might not be able to do with a snake. Thats when drain cleaner works well & you should be able to aim it right into the drain so the cats don’t get into it.
Yep, this technique works well–and no caustic liquids are needed. I cleared a friend’s clogged shower stall, and as shower stalls don’t have overflow drains that need plugging up, it was a one-man operation.
What I did was turn on the water (yep!), undress, grab a plunger, and then let the stall fill up with about two inches of water. I then placed the plunger square on the hole and did my thing. The mass of mold and hair that the back pressure temporarily sucked INTO the shower stall was horrifying, but then it all flushed down the drain and the clog was totally cleared. She was so impressed that she got in the shower with me.
(Okay, she didn’t, but that’s my recurring fantasy.)