Plunging Shower or Bathtub Drain Made It Worse? (Solution!)

Updated: | Author: Brad Javernick | Affiliate links may be present.

A plunger is a very useful tool for a backed-up toilet, but did you know it’s not recommended to use it on your shower, bathtub, or kitchen drain? People who make this mistake often notice that it makes the situation worse somehow.

Plunging a drain can end up compacting a clog even more, thus making it worse and more difficult to fix. You should always opt for a drain snake or liquid drain cleaner instead.

Why You Shouldn’t Plunge a Drain

When you use a plunger on a toilet, it causes the water in the pipes to exert pressure on the clog. Because the clog is being forced out by water, it doesn’t usually compact and will simply flow right through the drain.

Oftentimes, there’s not enough water in a shower, sink, or bathtub drain to attain the kind of pressure needed to force a clog out. Most drains have a trap at the top to prevent overflow. Using a plunger on the drain will just force the clog further into the trap.

You may find that your drain that used to drain slowly is now completely stopped up.

Common Clog Causes and How to Fix Them

The solution for your clog is going to depend on what you believe is blocking your drain.

Hair

By far the most common cause of shower and bathtub clogs, hair building up in the drain can be a difficult (and gross) clog to clear.

To fix this, you need to remove any drain cover or plug apparatus. You may be able to pull the mass of hair out with your fingers. If it’s too far into the drain to reach with your hands, use a drain snake.

The small prongs on the snake will be able to grab enough of the hair to pull the whole clog out.

Foreign Objects/Food

Hopefully, you won’t come across a food clog in your shower or bathtub, but your kitchen sink can swallow a whole mess of strange objects if you’re not careful.

If it’s a non-soluble object, such as a fork or a kid’s toy, you may need to remove the s-shape pipe below your sink to retrieve it. It’s not recommended to try and force the foreign object through your pipes as it can cause further damage to other plumbing.

If it’s a soluble object, such as food or grease, you will need to use either a chemical drain cleaner like Drano for kitchen sinks or soap and hot water. Dish soap is formulated to break down grease, and hot water will re-liquify the grease enough to help it flow through the rest of your pipes.

You can also take a hair dryer to the outside of the pipes to assist with heating up the clog.

Soap Scum

This will be a problem if your house has hard water. Over time, soap scum can start causing drains not to work efficiently, and at high enough levels, it can completely block your drain.

Across the home improvement forums, baking soda, vinegar and hot water is the best remedy for removing soap scum buildup from drains. Start by pouring a liberal amount of baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar.

Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it with hot water. It may take several treatments to completely dissolve the built-up soap scum.

Preventing Future Clogs

Once you’ve cleared your clogged drain, you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

For shower and bathtub drains, invest in a mesh hair catcher to play on top of the drain and avoid future issues. You may also need to invest in a better water softener to prevent soap scum buildup.

For kitchen sinks, you should always avoid pouring grease down the drain. You can treat your sink drain once a month with an enzymatic cleaner to help cut down on any grease or oil buildup.

Final Thoughts

It is usually best to avoid using a plunger on sink and bathroom drains. It can make the clog worse and cause further damage to your pipes with the pressure it causes.

Clear your clog with the tried and true mechanical methods and if need be, grab yourself a bottle of Drano on your next trip to Wal-Mart.

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About Brad Javernick

Brad is a licensed home inspector and the editor of Home Oomph. He's a massive DIYer, and loves to take on new home renovation projects!

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