How to Diagnose a Shower Drain That Is Not Draining

Hair, soap and cosmetics can build up in your shower's pipes over time, leading to slower drainage and, eventually, a shower that feels more like a bath. When your shower is not draining properly, diagnose the problem by starting with superficial causes and working your way deeper into the plumbing. As a last resort, you can reach for the caustic chemicals, but be prepared to call in a professional if you can't diagnose the problem yourself.

Step 1

Remove any hair or other debris covering the shower drain's perforations. Even a small amount of blockage in these perforations can significantly slow drainage.

Step 2

Use a screwdriver to remove all screws holding your drain cover in place. Pick out any hair, scum and debris immediately beneath the drain cover. Wear rubber gloves or use tweezers if you prefer not to touch the blockage directly.

Step 3

Shine a flashlight down the opened drain and try to spot any deeper clogs. Unravel a wire hanger and stick it into the drain, pulling up any visible clogs. Take care not to push the clog deeper into the pipes.

Step 4

Coat the rim of the base of a toilet plunger with petroleum jelly. Place the plunger over the drain, creating a tight seal. Fill the shower with water up to the top level of the plunger's base. Firmly and rapidly push the plunger downward. Stop when the water drains freely.

Step 5

Pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Pour two cups of white vinegar on top of it. Let the two substances foam and react for about five minutes, then flush the drain with hot water for a few minutes.

Step 6

Feed a 25-foot quarter-inch plumbing snake into the drain until you hit a clog. Turn the snake's crank to catch the clog and pull it out of the pipes.

Step 7

Purchase a commercially available chemical drain cleaner. Follow the instructions directed by the product's manufacturer. Always do this step last, as it's dangerous to root around in a drain after you have flushed it with the caustic chemicals in these products.

Step 8

Contact a professional, licensed plumber if none of the above steps help you determine the cause of your shower's blockage.


  • Notify the plumber if you have used any chemical drain cleaners in your shower within the past 24 hours, as they can pose a hazard during the plumber's work.

About the Author

Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.