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Thread: Clogged shower drain

  1. #1

    Default Clogged shower drain

    The plumbing fun never ends at my place. Now it's a clogged shower drain. Let me give you what led up to this. I am on a slab so I don't have access to any of these drain pipes. At the same time the shower started getting slow (a few days ago), food from the kitchen garbage disposal and wastewater from the washing machine was coming up the bathtub in the other bathroom. The tub was not draining at all. I snaked out this pipe using a 25 foot hand auger. I could not negotiate the P trap with a beefier 50 foot auger. I pulled out a bunch of hair, and eventually the tub drained. It was slow for a little bit, but now it drains quickly.

    The shower never improved though. In fact it got worse. I wonder if I pushed part of the bathtub clog into the shower pipe. It is a drain in the middle of the floor of a shower stall. The toilets, sinks and washer all seem okay, it's just this one shower now. It is a PVC drain in the floor. I can't figure out how to get around this trap and get the snake into the pipe. On plumber's advice I used 16 oz sulfuric acid drain opener. Carefully poured it into the standing water in the drain, and allowed to sit for 1/2 hour. Initially it looked promising, the standing water was gone when I came back, and I was able to run the shower for 60 seconds with no water accumulating, but eventually the water did come back and is now standing in the same spot again.

    Is it time to throw in the towel? I'm out of ideas at this point unless I can figure out how to get a snake into this drain.

    Last edited by Terry; 04-18-2009 at 11:03 AM.

  2. #2
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Use a drain cleaning machine and throw the cable in reverse, stab the trap, once you think you've managed somewhat into the trap, throw the machine back in forward and you'll probably get through it.

    If water can get through it, so can that cable....just takes time.

    Bend the end of the cable if you have to.....it makes a difference sometimes.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  3. #3
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    I sometimes use water under pressure to help clear clogs. Each of your drains runs to a common line somewhere, but one or another of them might first join up with another and make it possible for the two to "interact" if the clog is downline from there. Water from a garden hose can force a clog on through, and you can temporarily block the drain for an inter-connected fixture on the same line if necessary ... and in the case of a tub, you would also have to somehow block the overflow tube.

    Here are a couple of ways to get pressurized water into a drain line:
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  4. #4
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    #1 do not use the above mentioned balloon unless you understand plumbing DW systems and their associated venting systems and how they work.

    You could end up flooding your home.

    Other than continuing to try with a snake you may want to call a plumber or rooter type company to open it with a power snake. If you call a plumber you must tell him you used sulfuric acid. No plumber I know would have recomended sulfuric acid.

    How old is the home.

  5. #5
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    I second that, sulphuric acid eats clogs.
    It also eats cast iron, copper drains...I've seen some nightmares after drilling up concrete slab to find the source of drainage leaks.
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  6. #6
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cass
    #1 do not use the above mentioned balloon unless you understand plumbing DW systems and their associated venting systems and how they work.

    You could end up flooding your home.
    Ah, yes, I forgot about that. I have only used water pressure in older houses with short-run, unvented drains.

    Thank you for the correction!

  7. #7
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyPlumber
    ... sulphuric acid eats clogs ... cast iron, copper drains...
    ... and I believe that was also what once destroyed the porcelain in a tub before I finally called the landlord to get a plumber!

  8. #8
    Licensed Grump GrumpyPlumber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leejosepho
    ... and I believe that was also what once destroyed the porcelain in a tub before I finally called the landlord to get a plumber!

    Humorous mental image of you and the landlord discussing: "Gee...I have no idea how that happened!"
    "The biggest regrets we have in life are the chances we never took."

  9. #9
    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyPlumber
    Humorous mental image of you and the landlord discussing ...
    Yeah ... and I felt like an idiot. I had ignored the warning on the bottle, but she allowed me to refinish the tub with a high-quality epoxy coating rather than requiring me to replace it. And of course, the plumber was in and out of there in only about 30 minutes of work to clear that drain!

  10. #10
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Default Rarely answers in a bottle

    But I've seen and heard of certain drain cleaning products that "bide time" before mechanical cleaning of drain is performed.

    There is only product I use/sell to customers that does have an effective result. Thrift drain cleaner. Sodium Hydroxide chips. Add hot water and you'll watch the science experiment activate and literally hear it go through the drain. Eats anything organic and some detergents (food grease, vegetation, mild soap buildups)


    One trick that works quite well when an older flush valve assembly with the lift wires breaks a overflow tube at the fine threads in the bottom:


    Pour muriatic acid in and around that opening where the stuck piece of threads from the overflow tube are. There will be about 1" of water left in the tank that will increase the strength of the acid the more you put in the tank. *Leave the ball sitting in the opening of the flush valve, otherwise the muriatic acid/water solution won't reach the level of the overflow tube opening.*

    Add acid maybe two or three times over a course of a few minutes, the solution will literally eat all the buildup on that connection,

    clean the tank like it was brand new and

    you'll remove that broke off piece without distorting the threads of the flush valve assembly. I did this thursday and worked like a charm. Only used maybe 8oz. of acid. Years ago the only method was replacement of the entire flush valve or painstaking work to remove the broken piece, praying you didn't damage the fine threads on the assembly.
    Last edited by Dunbar Plumbing; 07-07-2007 at 06:24 AM.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  11. #11

    Default

    Hmm, I asked if lye or sulfuric acid was better for clogs and the answer I got was sulfuric acid, especially since I didn't have any metal or porcelain to worry about.

    Is it safe to go ahead and try the lye chips? I think the acid is gone, and if it were, the lye should neutralize with it, but leaving a problem residue? (I guess H2SO4 + NaOH => 2H2O + NaSO2 ??)

    The place is about 35 years old...

  12. #12
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    why can you snake a 1.5" tub drain but not a 2" shower drain? Is this worth answering?

    David
    p.s. how are your drain pipes arranged that they enable kitchen food waste to come back out at the bathroom drains? (Here's why Wyes are good!)
    p.p.s. i am not much help on Lye chips or acid. i don't drop either one.

  13. #13
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Do not add lye after using acid, or vice versa, they are at opposite ends of the PH spectrum and can cause an explosion of sorts spraying you and the room with lye acid water and creating fumes that only Hannibal Lecter would enjoy..........

    How do you know the acid is gone?

  14. #14

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    I figured it was gone since the water ran for a while before coming back up and I didn't smell rotten eggs anymore... but it sounds like it's not worth the risk to find out.

    I'm not sure exactly how kitchen and washer waste comes up the bathtub. It is on a slab so I can only imagine how things are routed underneath.

    Maybe what I really have is a venting problem? Should I snake out the vents from the roof before calling it quits?

  15. #15
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default drain

    It is not a venting problem. You have a clogged drain past the point where the two drains connect together.

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