How to Unclog a
Shower Drain, Sink or Tub

Today we take on the age-old question of how to unclog a drain. We know this is a common problem for thousands of people each month, and here’s why:

  • Top Causes of a Clogged Shower Drain: Hair, Trash, Soap, Hard Water Mineral Deposits
  • Top Causes of a Clogged Sink Drain: Food, Grease, Dirt, Hair, Soap, Foreign Objects
  • Top Causes of a Clogged Toilet: Human Waste, Feminine Products, Diaper Wipes, Foreign Objects

How to Unclog a Drain - Hoffmann Brothers St Louis Plumbers

Families with small children asking how to unclog a toilet drain also found a number of things that didn’t belong down the drain including remote controls, watches, toys, and anything else a little one found that was small, portable, and wasn’t secured!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to sound the gong for new and eco-friendly ways to unclog our drains. So let’s take a look at what we commonly have at our, ahem… disposal.

How to Unclog a Drain Naturally – Common DIY Methods

There are plenty of “Do It Yourself” methods that address how to unclog a drain naturally. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. Eye and face mask protection are often recommended to avoid coming in direct contact with waste products, bacteria, mold or dangerous chemicals.

  • Use Your Hands or Pliers: It could be as easy as taking off the drain cover so you can remove the clogs you can reach with your hands or pliers.
  • How to Unclog a Shower - Hoffmann Brothers St Louis Plumbers

  • Plastic Drain Clog Remover: For under $10, you can usually grab this plastic wand great for clogs in sinks, showers and tubs. Most removers are a 24-inch, flexible barbed tool that is very good at grabbing hair, food and trash. Simply insert the tool into the drain until you reach the clog. Pull out slowly from drain and remove debris. Finish by running water down the drain. Adding soap will help remove any lingering smells brought up with the debris.
  • Boiling water: The simplest solution of them all. Pour boiling water down your drain, give it a few minutes, and see if the clog dissipates.

How to Unclog a Bathtub Drain With Standing Water

The clog has loosened. It has broken up, but it still won’t clear. It may just need a little extra help moving those pieces to a position that will allow it to clear the drain or come up. A plunger could be just the tool you need. Create a seal over the drain with the plunger, pump the plunger for 30–60 seconds. This sometimes can break up problem blockages and free movement for the water to move down the drain again as intended.



How To Unclog A Drain With Baking Soda And Vinegar

Common kitchen products can quickly become a helpful ally for unclogging stubborn drains when boiling water doesn’t do the trick on its own. Many entities including the Department of Health have created recipes for how to unclog a drain with baking soda, vinegar and boiling water.

Recipe for Unclogging Drain

How To Unclog A Drain With Baking Soda And Vinegar - Hoffmann Brothers St Louis Plumbers

  • Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the clogged drain
  • Take 1 cup of vinegar and pour down the drain on top of baking soda – get ready for fizzing reaction to begin immediately!
  • Quickly cover the drain with a plug to let the reaction work throughout drain
  • Leave for 15 minutes – during that time, boil ½ gallon of water
  • After 15 minutes, remove drain plug and carefully pour boiling water down the drain.
  • Repeat twice or as needed for stubborn clogs

How To Use A Snake To Unclog A Drain

Your clogged drain still won’t budge, but you can tell it is loosening up. Once you get a plumber’s snake or auger in your possession, the For Dummies Guide on how to use a snake to unclog a drain recommends these steps:

  1. Insert the snake into the opening of the drain and begin turning the drum handle to allow the auger to move down the drain.
  2. Push the drain snake until you begin to feel resistance, using extra force when you encounter the bend in the pipes.
  3. Continue to rotate the snake through the pipes until you feel it chopping up debris and moving smoothly through the area with the blockage. If you do not feel any change, slowly pull the auger out from the drain. Many times the clog will attach itself to the auger.
  4. Run a strong volume of water for a few minutes to continue clearing final elements of drain.

How to Safely Unclog a Drain: Steps to Remember

drain cleaners St. Louis - Hoffmann Brothers
As you try these DIY solutions, it is important to remember these dos and don’ts:

Important Safety Steps

  • Cover overflow holes
  • Wear gloves
  • Use the right kind of plunger for the job – flat bases are for sinks and tubs; round bases are for toilets

Avoid These Actions

  • Do not Use Drano or Liquid-Plumr
  • Do not Mix chemicals (especially trying one solution, then another); it could lead to dangerous fumes or an explosion.

When to Call a Plumber to Unclog Your Drain

There may come a time when you have exhausted all the DIY options above, and you realize the problem is deeper and bigger than you had initially thought. Some of the most common scenarios for when you know it’s time to call a plumber for a clogged drain include:

  • The Clogged Drain Has Returned – A DIY solution may sometimes only provide a short-term solution to a bigger issue. You might find a quick fix, but if the problem of a clogged drain persists, it’s time to call in the pros.
  • Drain Empties, But Too Slowly – Tough clogs often need tougher solutions. If you’ve partially cleared your drain, that’s a good start. A licensed plumber makes it their job to completely clear your drain and get it flowing like new.
  • Standing Water Levels Are Rising – When water won’t go down the pipes and other methods won’t relieve the issue, calling a plumber for a clogged drain is your strongest next move to get life back on track. Leaving the issue too long could result in long term water damage should the water level rise and spread.

How to Prevent Clogged Drains in the Future

Prevent a clog before it starts. Only allow three things to go down your drains:

  • Water
  • Toilet paper
  • Natural waste

In an effort to protect your pipes and hopefully avoid another quest for how to unclog a sink drain, take these additional preventative measures.

Keep These Items Out of Your Drains

Avoid putting the following things down the drain or through the garbage disposal:

  • Tissues, paper towels and sanitary products: These products are all designed to keep their form, absorb liquid, and/or expand. They will do their job … and they will clog your pipes!
  • Cooking oil and grease: You may think, Oh, those seem fine, that is, until they cool and harden as they make their way down your pipes and cause a blockage.
  • Food: Avoid eggshells down the drain, and while it may be convenient to peel those carrots for your honey’s favorite birthday cake, don’t put them down the drain or garbage disposal. Disposals and pipes are not designed to handle anything more than scraps off your dinner plate. If you have more than scraps to dispose of, it is best to use the trashcan and save yourself the headache.

Remember, whether considering how to unclog a shower drain, bathtub, sink or basement drain, the goal is the same — get it flowing freely without blockages or a slow drain problem. When you’ve exhausted Do It Yourself options or aren’t in a position to dive into them, call a licensed plumber to professionally tackle your clogged drain issues.