The Only Two Ways You Should be Unclogging Your Shower Drain

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Whether it's caused by soap scum or impossibly tangled up strands of hair (yuck!), if taking a shower leaves you standing ankle-deep in water, it's time for an unclogging of your shower drain. Commonly used methods like using a plunger, pouring drain cleaner, and boiling water or baking soda and white vinegar unfortunately don't usually work on shower drains, which tend to have much more stubborn clogs. So, how exactly do you solve this very gross problem?

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By far, the best methods for unclogging a shower drain are to use a Zip-It tool or a drain snake. Though many homeowners call in their plumber to tackle this job, this is a DIY project that anyone can handle.

Method 1: Use a Zip-It

Found at local hardware stores everywhere, Zip-It is an excellent tool for unclogging drains. Resembling a large zip tie, Zip-It is a 2-foot-long, skinny length of plastic with barbed sides. When you pull the handle, the barbs on the side of the Zip-It tool grab hair and other clogs to break them apart. Zip-It is the brand name of one such tool, sometimes called a hair snare or stick cleaner.

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If you don't have a Zip-It tool, you can try straightening a wire coat hanger or another piece of sturdy wire. Form a hook at the end of the wire to catch the clog and pull it out.

Step 1: Remove the drain cover

Most drain covers have a screw in the center that you simply loosen with a screwdriver. Some drain covers lack a screw and instead snap into place. You can remove these covers by carefully prying at their edges with a small flat-head screwdriver or by pulling them up with needle-nose pliers.

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Step 2: Slide the Zip-It tool

Grasp the Zip-It tool by the handle and slide it into your shower drain. Push the tool into the drain as far as it will go.

Step 3: Wiggle the tool

Wiggle and twist the tool a bit. This helps the tool get a good grip on the clog.

Step 4: Pull the tool out of the drain

Pull the Zip-It out of the drain slowly. As you do, grab hold of any hair or gunk that comes out of the drain with it and throw it away.

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Step 5: Repeat

Repeat this process a few times until parts of the clog stop coming out of the drain along with your Zip-It. Clean the tool before every new trip into the pipe.

Step 6: Check the drainage

Flush the drain with hot water and verify that it now works properly

Method 2: Use a Snake

When a Zip-It isn't enough, you'll need to snake your drain. Homeowners can purchase a drain snake, also called a drum auger, at any local hardware store. A snake has a turning drum and a long steel cable with a corkscrew tip that grabs hair and breaks up soap clogs in the drain line.

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Step 1: Remove the drain cover

This may take a bit of muscle or a screwdriver if it's really stuck.

Step 2: Feed the drain snake into the pipe

Depending on the model of the drain snake you have, you may need to turn a thumbscrew or flip a lever to free the cable.

Step 3: Continue feeding until you feel resistance

This is your clog or a bend in the pipe.

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Step 4: Lock the cable

Turn the thumbscrew or flip the lever on the snake to lock the cable into place. Hold the drum about 6 inches above the drain and turn the handle clockwise while pushing down gently. This rotates the cable down inside the drain to break up the clog or work through the bend. A clog feels like moderate resistance, while a bend feels more like the cable is hitting a wall. Keep turning and pushing until the cable advances further.

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Step 5: Pull the cable out

When you've gone several feet down the drain line, loosen the thumbscrew and begin pulling the cable out of the drain, feeding it back into the drum. The cable will be covered in nasty drain gunk, so wipe it down with a rag as you pull it out. Some drain snakes will automatically pull the wire back out of the drain for you. On these units, turn the handle counterclockwise to pull the snake back out of the pipe. When you get to the end of the snake, you should see the clog or parts of it hanging off the end. Remove this debris and dispose of it.

Step 6: Flush the drain

Flush the drain with hot water to see if the water flows more quickly. If it's not quite where you would like it to be, snake it again.

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