Drain Cleaning Tips »
How Do I Unclog a Shower or Floor Drain?
To unclog a walk-in shower or floor drain, try the easiest, least expensive options first.
Note: different steps are required to unclog a bathtub.
- First, try an accordion style plunger to unclog a shower or floor drain.
- Accordion style plungers can be purchased online and in hardware stores for around $10.
- Look for a high-efficiency accordion plunger that's designed just for shower and floor drains, sinks and tubs, with a broad circular base to seal against the drain opening.
- Check to make sure the bottom of the plunger is sized to seal properly against the drain opening.
- Work with caution and wear chemical resistant gloves and eye protection if working on a drain where chemical drain cleaners may have been used.
- Note: if several plumbing fixtures in different rooms are clogged, see our tips to unclog a main sewer drain.
- Next try a handheld drum auger to unclog the shower or floor drain if the plunger doesn't work.
- A 25 foot handheld drum auger can be purchased for around $30.
- This is a good second choice, since the auger can break through many clogs that are further away from the drain opening.
- The spiral tip can usually pass through the drain trap and any small-diameter elbows and transitions in the lateral line that runs from the drain opening to the main drain. And, if the clog contains hair or fibers the spiral tip can often pull out some of the residue.
- To unclog a shower or floor drain using a handheld auger:
- Read and follow the drum auger safety instructions, then put on work gloves and eye protection.
- Remove the drain cover and then feed the auger into the drain by locking the cable, turning the drum in a clockwise direction, and then unlocking and feeding the cable as needed to pass the auger tip through elbows and obstructions.
- After you have inserted the drum auger all the way into the drain, pull out the auger cable as you feed it back into the drum. It may take several attempts before the sink is unclogged.
- Use extra caution when working on any plumbing fixture where chemical drain cleaners may have been used to avoid splashing liquid on yourself and surrounding areas.
- Try using a sewer jetter if the clog keeps coming back.
- A Needle Nose™ drain cleaner is a sewer jetter with a tougher, braided steel jacket and a special compact nozzle tip that allows it to pass through almost as many drain elbows and transitions as a hand-held auger.
- Important: you should try a sewer jetter only if you were able to insert the drum auger its full 25 foot length into the shower or floor drain. And, you should have an alternate, clogged drain opening available that's upstream of the shower or floor drain in case the sewer jetter can't pass through the floor trap.
- Unlike a mechanical auger, a sewer jetter scrubs the sides of dirty pipes and flushes out greasy residue so fewer clogs come back. You can see the differences between a mechanical auger and the sewer jetter as they both take on a greasy clog in this 2 minute video.
- To clean a clogged shower or floor drain with the Needle Nose drain cleaner:
- Put on fluid resistant work gloves and eye protection. Use extra care if you believe the drain might contain drain cleaning chemicals.
- Make sure the work area is well ventilated. And, if you're using a gas-powered pressure washer, only operate it outdoors.
- Connect the drain cleaner to your pressure washer trigger gun. Then, to avoid getting water on indoor floors, while you're outside check your trigger gun and supply hoses for leaks.
- Start your pressure washer, and then guide the nozzle about a foot into the drain opening before you squeeze the trigger to start the flow of water.
- After you have finished cleaning the drain, pull the drain cleaner out. Use care to release the trigger to stop the flow of water before the nozzle reaches the drain opening. Then replace the drain cover.
- If you're not comfortable performing any of these steps, hiring a good, licensed plumber could save you money in the long run. To find a good plumber in your area:
- Start by asking family, friends and co-workers to recommend a licensed plumber who has performed similar services for them.
- If you are unable to find a good recommendation from someone you know, search local directories like Google Maps, Yelp and CitySearch for licensed plumbers nearby who have good online reviews. Don't always trust reviews from individuals who published very few other reviews, or from people who give only positive reviews to everyone. Be aware that good service providers sometimes get a small number of negative reviews for reasons that might not be relevant to your situation. Look for a company with several reviews that tell a positive, believable story about repairs that are similar to yours.
- After you find one or more licensed plumbers who seem to have a good reputation, search online for the company name and the names of individuals at the company, if known. Take into account both the positive and negative information that you find about the company.
- Be aware that good plumbers sometimes have a backlog of several days during peak times when there are low temperatures, heavy rainfall or holidays. Sometimes heavy demand can be a sign of a company with lots of repeat customers.
If you have questions or comments please contact us.