How to Clear a Clogged Shower Drain With a Drain Snake

Plumber Unclogging Bathtub Drain
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Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Shower drains can easily be clogged with hair and other debris, but fortunately, they are among the easiest fixtures to clear using a drain snake. While a normal bathtub drain is usually 1 1/2 inches in diameter, a shower drain is often 2 inches in diameter, making it easier to insert a small drain snake directly into the drain opening and down through the trap, where most clogs are found. Sink and bathtub drains often require that you disassemble the drain trap in order to snake out the clog. A clogged shower drain, on the other hand, is usually even easier to fix.

Before You Begin

Drain snakes are inexpensive tools that come in various sizes and designs. For general home use, a snake with a 1/4- or 5/16-inch cable is a good choice for clearing drains up to 3 inches in diameter. The most popular design uses a round rotating drum with a handle, which contains a 25-foot cable made of tightly coiled steel wire with a wide tip designed to snag clogs in the drain. This type of drain snake is sometimes known as drum auger. It is a versatile tool that every home should have, but it should not be used to clear toilet clogs. For toilets, use an auger with a different design, known as a toilet auger or closet auger.

Before beginning work, make sure that it is only the shower drain that is clogged. If there are fixture drains beyond the shower that are also clogged or running slowly, you may be dealing with a branch drain clog or even a main sewer line clog. These more serious clogs will require work with a larger drain snake, inserted from a main clean-out fitting.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Drain snake
  • Rubber gloves

Materials

  • Rag

Instructions

  1. Remove the Shower Grate

    The metal or plastic grate that covers the drain opening in the shower is usually secured with simple screws. Remove the screws and lift away the grate from the drain opening. Clean off any hair or debris that may be clinging to the grate.

    Warning

    Do not try to send the snake cable down through the openings on the shower grate. The grate may be difficult to get off, but unless you remove it, extracting the snake cable can be very difficult once it is entangled with lots of hair and debris. Drain grates are usually fastened by screws, but sometimes they are just pushed in place and can be removed with a little careful prying.


  2. Insert the Drain Snake

    Wearing rubber gloves, run the cable on a small drain snake down into the drain opening until it meets resistance. Tighten the cable clamp, then begin to rotate the handle slowly to spin the cable in the drain opening. The cable should begin to auger itself down further into the drain. Do not force it too vigorously or the cable may double back on itself.

  3. Auger With the Drain Snake

    As the cable extends into the drain, loosen the handle to extend more cable into the drain opening. Retighten the cable and repeat the augering motion to force the cable further into the drain line. It's rare that you will need to go more than a few feet since most drain clogs are located in the drain trap immediately below the drain opening. You may be able to feel the cable when it encounters the clog; rotate the cable to penetrate the blockage and break it up.

    Keep an eye on nearby drains as you extend the cable. If there is another shower or tub on the other side of the plumbing wall, the end of the snake cable may come up through that drain as you feed it. Have a helper keep an eye on the other drain as you feed the snake.

    If you believe you have broken through the clog, run a small flow of water for a minute or so to see if it runs past the snake cable. If the water quickly backs up again, try running the snake cable further down the line. In most instances, the clog will be found fairly close to the drain opening or in the drain trap immediately below the drain, but occasionally it may be in the branch drain line running horizontally to the main drain stack.

    Tip

    If the stoppage is further down the line and not in the trap, using a manual hand snake may not solve the problem. You can rent an electric snake, but using one requires some experience: If you don't have any, ask the vendor for detailed guidance when you rent the snake or hire a professional to clear the drain.

  4. Extract the Drain Snake

    When you feel the cable move past the clog, reverse the direction of the cable rotation and slowly extract the cable from the drain opening. You likely will see hair and debris entangled at the end of the cable as it emerges from the drain opening.

    Clean off this debris from the tip of the drain snake, then wipe down the drain snake with a rag to dry it and prevent rust.

  5. Flush the Drain

    Run water for a minute or two to test the drain before putting the shower grate back on. This will flush out any debris that was loosened but not extracted by the drain snake. Continue to run water for a few minutes to flush any remaining hair and debris.