How to Unblock A Bath

Close up image of a pluner next to a bath plughole
Published: 4th April 2019
Author: Des Roberts

Blockages in your shower or bath drain can be a nightmare. You’ll know you’ve got a problem when you’re taking a shower and find yourself standing in an inch or two of water, or your bath water is taking forever to disappear.

The most common cause of these blockages is a build-up of hair, grease and soap scum. Left untreated, slow draining water can leave a slippery surface to your bath or shower, creating a potential hazard.

To help you unblock your bath or shower we’ve put together some top tips to solve your problem.

Try And Remove the Blockage

Close up image of hair clogging a bath plughole

As most blockages are caused by a build-up of hair in your plumbing, a good place to start trying to clear them is manually removing the problem.

Pull any visible and reachable hair free of the plug hole. Test to see if this has resolved the issue by pouring water down the drain.

Use A Plumber’s Snake

Cut out image of a plumber's snake

If the blockage still remains, try using a plumber’s snake to dislodge it. You will be able to find a snake at most hardware stores and some supermarkets. A plumber’s snake is made up of a thin, flexible cable, with a handle at one end, that can be fed down a plughole.

Once you’ve fed the snake into your problem plug, move it from side to side and up and down to break down your blockage. As you pull the snake back out of the plug, it should bring your blockages up with it.

Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)

Close up image of a jar of bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, a cloth, a toothbrush and a sponge

Once you have tried to manually remove the issue, you might have to look at something else to dislodge the blockage if your problem persists.

Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a great place to start. Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a bubbling reaction that can help shift build-ups.

This simple household trick is a cheap and safe alternative to stronger chemicals. To use it to unblock a bath:

  1. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain
  2. Put 8 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda down the drain
  3. Follow this by pouring about 250ml of white vinegar down the drain, and another splash of boiling water
  4. Leave for 5 to 10 minutes
  5. Flush out with another kettle of boiling water

Try Chemical Alternatives

Close up image of several bottles of chemical cleaning products

If your drain is still stubbornly blocked after following our previous method, you may need to resort to stronger chemicals. Use these with a lot of care and only in well-ventilated spaces as they can be extremely harmful to your lungs.

When using these products, always follow all product instructions to the letter and wear protective clothing. Common chemical options for unblocking baths include sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid.

Sodium Hydrochloride

Sodium hydrochloride, also known as caustic soda or lye, can be found in most supermarkets as either crystals or drain unblocking gel. Combined with boiling water, sodium hydrochloride can dissolve grease, oils, and fats. This can help dislodge really stubborn blockages. The product is highly corrosive and should be handled with a lot of care and caution.

Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid, also known as muriatic acid, is a common ingredient in drain unblockers. The acid is highly corrosive and should only be used if you have copper drainage pipes. It can cause serious burns and harm your respiratory system if its vapours are inhaled. So, only use it in very well-ventilated areas and with someone else in the house in case you run into trouble.

Do not try to use a plumber’s snake after adding chemical solutions, as this could result in acidic splashback and cause injury.

Call A Plumber

If you are still finding issues after following these steps, it is time to ring a professional plumber. Should you find that the issue runs deep and has done damage to your plumbing or bath or shower waste, it may be worth looking into repair and replacement. You can find a wide range of bath and shower wastes here at Sanctuary Bathrooms.