Fix-It Friday: How To Unclog A Blocked Shower Drain

Fix-It FridayHome Improvement 20 Comments

This past week I had my family visiting for a fun in the sun vacation at my Nevada home. In and out of the pool and river each day, we went through more showers, towels, and wash loads than I care to remember (although I’m sure to be reminded when the water bill comes). My three nieces, who I love to death, all prefer to shower in Auntie Norma’s bathroom because of the large walk-in shower stall.

Norma with her niecesI’m totally fine with them using my bathroom, that is, until the day after they left. After loading the 14th wash load, bed linens in queue, I finally got the chance to indulge in a long leisurely shower – not the rinse and runs of the past week with a busy house full. Alas, my bathing bliss was bitterly cut short as I looked down to find I was ankle deep in murky drain water. Echhh! I can tell you, there are few things I hate more in life than showering, to get clean, while my feet are soaking in dirty drain water.

My three gorgeous nieces, God bless them, all with legs up to their necks, also have hair down to their butts. Hair being the number one culprit of bathroom drain clogs, I knew immediately what I had to do… and what I was in store for (sorry in advance for the graphic details… although the image above is about as graphic as these things come).

Here’s the thing about hair clogs, it’s better to physically remove the clog rather than use caustic chemical to break it down – it’s safer, faster, cheaper, non-toxic, etc. However, what you pull out of there will likely be one of the most shockingly disgusting things you’ll ever lay eyes on. I’ve unclogged dozens of drains, yet each time I’m still surprised by the huge and offensive beast I yank out. This time around was no different.

Liquid PlumbrThe sludge accumulated under the strainer was thick and smelled like pond scum. And that was just to start. The hair/sludge mass… slimy, oozing… looked like it was writhing as I pulled it out… I could swear the thing had a spine and teeth. All that said, once it’s out (oddly enough the process is cathartic), and your drain runs clear, your sense of satisfaction will be well worth the gross factor.

For the fix, I had a bottle of Liquid-Plumr® Double Impact® Snake + Gel System on hand – works great for bathroom sink, shower and bath clogs. The “snake” is what you use to fish out the beast, and the gel is poured down to clean away remaining gunk (bio-film and soap scum residue).

Here’s a quick video on how to use this product in a sink. (quick note: for a shower, the strainer must be removed FIRST… instructions for that below.)

Unclogging a Shower Stall Drain… Gorilla Style

If you don’t have a product like the one I just showed you, the drain fix is still as easy as a trip to the closet – where you’ll grab a wire hanger to use as a snake.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • waterproof gloves
  • plastic bag
  • paper towel
  • anti-bacterial spray household cleaner
  • wire coat hanger
  • phillips or flat head screw driver
  • needle-nose and cutting pliers
  • boiling water

Here’s what to do:

  1. Unscrew or pry off the strainer – don’t let the screws fall down the drain! Be careful not to bend or crack the strainer when you pull it off.
  2. Clean off the bottom of the strainer – it will likely have gunk build-up on the bottom of it, so use some anti-bacterial spray cleaner to wipe it down and disinfect it.
  3. Cut the wire hanger and bend it into a straight length. On one end, with the pliers, bend a ¾ inch hook.
  4. Stick the hanger down the drain and start fishing.
  5. The hanger will get caught on hair – start to pull it out. Discard your catch in the plastic bag and go back for more.
  6. Keep going back for more – you’ll most probably hit the mother load at some point. If it tries to pull you in, run for your life!
  7. Once the hanger isn’t getting caught on any debris, pour boiling water down the drain.
  8. Screw/snap the strainer back on.

DrainboDid someone say ECO?

A word about eco-friendly de-clogger products. I love to use a non-toxic product called Drainbo® Natural Drain Cleaner. It’s formulated from bacteria that literally eat clogs away. Just pour it in, let it work over night, and ta-da, clog gone!

However, it does not work on hair clogs, so perfect in the kitchen, not so much in the bath.

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.


Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • gargouille

    As usual, Toolbelt Diva, I appreciate the way you put it all into perspective–even hairy drain monsters. I’ve got a shower with very (maybe even veeeerrrrryyyy) old plumbing. The drain has a metal cross with a hole in the middle built down into it that looks like it used to hold the stopper, which itself disappeared before I moved into the house 13 years ago. The drain also seems to have a hard right angle about 2 inches down, as though the pipe runs out rather than down from the tub. With the metal insert (not removable) and the angle, I have a really hard time getting a snake down into it. Any advice? Thanks in advance!

    • Norma

      Hi gargouille! Glad you appreciate the info and thanks for your comments! About your particular drain monster, lol, first let me verify, is that shower in a tub? If so, that angle you’re describing makes sense and if that’s the case, you may have better luck snaking from the overflow.
      I’d try to use a plunger first. When you plunge the tub, stop up the overflow with a wet rag so the air won’t escape, fill the tub with enough water so the rubber cup of the plunger is submerged, then give it some powerful thrusts.
      BUT FIRST, have you used any chemical de-clogger that hasn’t worked? If so….don’t snake or plunge because if that stuff is still in the pipes, you can risk chemical burns if water splashes out. Yikes.
      So you know, there is a way to remove that metal cross you mention (cross-hair) in the drain, but it may be more difficult than trying these other methods first.
      Lemme know how it works out! Cheers!

  • Jen Jones

    Norma… I am so with you in this being cathartic. Any time I have ever wrestled the hair/sludge drain beast 3 things happen: 1) I start to involuntarily gag during the entire process 2) when I pull that very last piece of gunk out of the drain, the gagging immediately ceases and this feeling of utter euphoria takes over my entire being 3) then when I run the water and listen to that perfect, magical gurgle that you can only get from a spanking clean drain, I do a victory dance! SATISFACTION at its finest. Thanks for making this another info packed, easy-to-do Fix-It Friday!

    • Norma

      You’re welcome, Jen! Yes, that magical gurgle from a cleared drain…it’s like music to our ears! So glad you can relate 🙂

  • Ryan

    Here are some common culprits and simple solutions as well.

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  • bill

    How To Fix A Clogged Bathroom Sink Drain / Waste Pipe Stopper Disassemble Reassemble Instructions

  • showmesplfd

    You can also clean out hair clogs very nicely by unscrewing the cover of the overflow (often the round silver disc that is on the wall of the tub a little below the rim)-just run that coat hanger or hair catcher down that hole and fish out the clog. It helps to prevent them by placing a hair catcher over the drain-they come in various sizes and shapes and some work better than others but anything that is caught is less hair to clog that drain.

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  • Jack

    I have come across a cool tool – DrainFX. I heard about it on the Gary Sullivan show. I was able to clear all of my drains using no chemicals! It’s ecofriendly and turned my faucet into a mini pressure washer. You can purchase it online.

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  • Leigh

    Norma-we have a walk in shower and when you shower you can hear the toilet(4 ft away)bubble up and then the shower backs up-it will drain but very slowly-so we tried Draino , baking Soda and vinegar then hot water – also the toilet will not drain when after you shower-so we got the plunger and it did not work- we finally got out the snake and I can not get it past the p-trap – help what can I do next – we are a little handy and willing to try something else