How to Unblock a Bath or Shower
A blocked bath or shower is one of the most common problems homeowners will experience in the bathroom. Unless this problem is fixed, you can say goodbye to that relaxing soak you had planned!
A clogged drain is caused by a build-up of hair, dirt, grease or soap scum. The end result? You’ll most likely be standing in an inch of dirty water or your cubicle may overflow onto the bathroom floor.
If your water is slow to drain, it will cause a slippery layer of grime to form on the bath or shower tray - posing both a hazard and hygiene risk to anyone who uses it. To help you out, we’ve put together a quick ‘How-to’ guide to assist you in unblocking any drain.
Read through our top tips and you’ll be an expert soap scum remover in no time!
Identify the blockage
The first step is to spot what is causing the blockage, so pull out the plug or remove the chrome cover of your waste to look for clues.
The culprit is usually a build-up of hair and soap scum. If you can spot any hair, pull out as much as you can using your hands, pliers, coat hanger or improvised grabbing tool. Run the water to see if your drain is working after this.
Use a plunger
The next logical step is to use a plunger to remove the blockage. Don’t use any chemicals yet, as a plunging the chemicals may splatter them all over your clothes or skin.
Before you use the plunger, make sure you seal the overflow drain first. Use enough water in the bath or shower tray to submerge just the plunger head. Plunge with a vertical up-and-down motion, keeping the handle straight and vertical. After 20 seconds, take a look at the results.
Repeat this process a couple of times until you see some results. If plunging hasn’t removed the obstruction, you may need to snake the drain.
Use a Snake
A Plumber’s Snake is a thin, flexible auger or a steel cable on a handle. They cost only around £10-£20 and can help dislodge a blockage.
Feed the snake down the drain or bath overflow waste opening until you reach the clog. Turn the snakes handle and bring it back up. Run water to test the drain and to verify that the clog is entirely removed.
If the blockage is too big, keep turning the snake handle inside to break the clog up into smaller chunks, allowing you to pull it out easier.
Baking Soda and vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar is a more natural solution than using chemicals. Baking soda loosens grime and sludge from your drain. When you add vinegar to the baking soda you get a bubbling chemical reaction that should jolt the blockage loose.
This method doesn’t always work for the most severe blockages, but it is cheap and eco-friendly step that is worth trying for a slow-draining bath or shower waste.
- Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.
- Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it settle for a few minutes.
- Follow up with a cup of white vinegar and a little more hot water.
- Leave for 5-10 minutes.
- Flush with boiling water.
Avoid using chemicals if possible
We do not recommend using chemicals to remove a blockage. Strong chemicals may work, but they can be dangerous to use and are damaging to the environment.
- Caustic soda – This chemical breaks down grease and fat. It has a strong exothermic reaction (it heats up) to break down the blockage in the drain. Follow all instructions on the label and make sure you cover your eyes and skin.
- Sulphuric acid – This harsh chemical generates heat to melt blockages and can clear a drain by dissolving almost anything in its path. In the right hands, Sulphuric acid is very effective. HOWEVER, sulphuric acid emits unhealthy fumes, can corrode the skin and has a powerful chemical reaction when it meets water or other drain-cleaning chemicals. It has been known to generate heat and cause explosions and eruptions of toxic fumes. It may melt pipework if it has reacted with sealant or has split the pipework due to the heat created as a by-product. For these reasons, it must only be applied to a dry drain.
Call a plumber
If you are uneasy about taking your drain apart or using chemicals, then call a professional plumber. It may be the least affordable option, but it is also the least trouble.
How to prevent future clogs
Prevention is always better than cure, so make sure to reduce your chances of having another clogged drain. Consider buying a drain protector to catch hair and small objects from falling down the drain. A secure soap dish will also prevent soap dripping from the sides of the bath into the drain.