This past July Fourth week I had my large and lively family stay with me for our annual summer reunion here in Southern Nevada. In and out of the pool, lake and river each day, we went through more showers, towels and wash loads than I could count.
My nieces, God love them, all prefer to shower in Auntie Norma’s bathroom because of the large walk-in shower. I don’t mind them overrunning my bathroom as long as they keep things tidy, which they did. What I failed to warn them about, however, was to be mindful of the shower drain. My gorgeous nieces, all with legs up to their neck, also have hair down to their butt. With hair being the No. 1 cause of bathroom drain clogs, I shouldn’t have been surprised when mine got stopped up.
Stopped and slow-draining showers/bathtubs caused by hair is such a common problem that clearing one is something we should all know how to do. When it comes to hair clogs, it’s better to physically remove them rather than use a caustic chemical to break them up. It’s safer, faster, cheaper, nontoxic, etc. Especially in some of the older homes in Boulder City, chemical drain openers could damage fragile pipes, which is all the more reason why removing the clog is the way to go.
Warning: Never pour chemical drain opener in a standing water clog; the chemical will sink to the bottom of the pipe and could bore a hole right through it. Also, once that caustic chemical is in the drain water, snaking it open becomes dangerous should it splash on the person trying to clear it.
There are many methods of clearing a drain, from a simple plunger to a motorized snake, but I’ve found the one I’m featuring is the best way to remove a common hair clog. Know that what you pull out of drain will likely shock you. I’ve unclogged dozens of drains in my personal and professional lives, yet each time the large, smelly wad of hair and muck that I yank out astounds me.
This time around was no different. That said, once it’s out and your drain runs clear, your sense of satisfaction will be well worth the gross factor.
Do-it-yourself drain unclogging: You’ll need waterproof gloves, a plastic bag, paper towels, antibacterial spray household cleaner, a wire coat hanger, a Phillips or flat-head screwdriver, needle-nose and cutting pliers and boiling water.
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 built up on the bottom of it.
3. Cut the wire hanger and bend it into a straight length. On one end, with the pliers, bend a three-quarter-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 lode at some point.
7. Once the hanger isn’t getting caught on any debris, pour boiling water down the drain.
8. Screw/snap the strainer back on.
A word about eco-friendly declogger products: I love to use a nontoxic product called Drainbo natural drain cleaner. It’s formulated from bacteria that eat clogs away. Pour it in, let it work overnight, and ta da! — clog gone. Note that it won’t break down hair, but it will dissolve the biofilm that holds the clog together.
I use it in my kitchen and bathroom drains as regular maintenance.
Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement. Her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.