We’re Stuck

Figuratively and literally. And we need your help.

Last week the drain in our bathtub started to act up a bit. Nothing too alarming since growing up with three sisters taught me that shower drains periodically get a little hairy and need some cleaning to keep going with the flow. Well, then our plumbing world came to a halt. The drain went from slowly letting water through to a no-drop-shall-pass policy in the course of one post-basement-painting shower.

Annoyed, but mostly unphased, we broke out some tried and true de-clogging techniques:

  • Fishing around with our fingers (gross, we know) dislodged a decent-sized Sherr-ball, but didn’t open the floodgates as we expected.
  • Plunging released a few more items we’d rather not have seen again, but still no change in water level.
  • Even our 25 foot-long drain snake (i.e. auger) was a waste of time (though we had low expectations for it anyways).
  • So then we broke out the boiling water trick that had saved our kitchen sink last year. After five attempts we had only succeeded in adding more water to our tub.
  • That’s when we turned to a technique suggested by some of you, a half-cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar. We did that, watched our little drain volcano fizz, let it sit for five minutes, then flushed with hot water. Still no luck. Even our second attempt provided no relief, just more science project flashbacks.
  • Sherry even tried the $3 As Seen On TV quality Zip-It tool that someone suggested online. It didn’t yield anywhere close to the über disgusting results shown in the video that we found below (THIS IS NOT ME, AND THAT IS NOT OUR HAIRBALL- in fact our Zip-It came out totally clean)- which we’re half grateful for and half frustrated by.

We had renewed hope this weekend after detailing our issue to an expert at the hardware store. He weighed a couple of options for us, and ended up recommending an 100% biodegradable enzyme product called Roebic Laboratories Bacterial Drain Cleaner. It involved mixing two tiny capfulls into 12oz of warm water then dumping it down the drain to sit overnight. The next morning we were pleased to see the twelve ounces of water solution was completely gone (as in, some water had slowly drained!). But our smiles disappeared as soon as the tub started filling up again when we turned on the faucet.

So after two nights of trying the Roebic solution and more showers-turned-baths than we’d like to admit (each followed by manually emptying the water that collected in the tub with a bucket, sigh) – we’re just about ready to call in professional help….

… unless, of course, you guys have any genius solutions for us! Seriously, we’ll try anything (well, anything within reason). Please shower us with suggestions – wait, scratch that water metaphor. Please inundate us with any drain unclogging tips that have worked for you (which we hope will end up solving this case and thereby serving as a great resource for anyone else with drainage issues). You know we’d love to DIY this bugger and declare victory over our clog-that-won’t-quit and we’re not ones to give up without a fight. Fingers crossed we’ll get ’em in round six!

Update: Oh no we di’innnnnt! We just unclogged the dastardly drain. Woo to the hoo. Here are the details


  1. Christina says

    You may have tree roots in clogging your shower line in your yard, its about 300 bucks for a plumber to come clear this all out.

  2. Amy says

    I think you need professional help… sounds like it is not clogged from the tub end of the drain. I think it’s clogged from the outside. We had a rental house that had a similar issue (and was a similar age) and the pipes had tree roots growing in them out in the yard. So no amount of drano or snaking from the tub side would have fixed it. Good luck!

  3. Dana Miller says

    Ok, so our first home was built in the 1950’s. We had a similar problem with our kitchen sink. The smell was awful! We are TOTAL DIYers but in the end had to call in professional help. Boo, I know. Even though it was our kitchen sink that was clogging, the clog was about 50 ft away in plumbing underneath our kitchen… we would have NEVER cleared it ourselves. Apparently, it’s a problem with older homes. What did people used to put down those drains anyway??? I have empathy for your situation. It was a total bummer not to be able to fix it ourselves but glad that someone could do it. Good luck!

  4. Ann says

    Hopefully, your problem is not as bad as ours. We, meaning my husband, tried everything. We got the nasty chemicals out, the gross hairballs out, etc. Nothing worked.

    We ended up calling a Rotorooter plumber (who had to drive 50 miles, because no one local could fix it)and there was a crack in the pipe leading out to the street and soil and a few tree roots decided to cause problems by slowly seeping into the pipe. The water couldn’t get through. It does now.

  5. Ashley B says

    We had this happen a couple weeks ago… showered in the morning, didn’t pay attention to the tub draining, and right before leaving for work realized it wasn’t draining. We didn’t have time to work on it much then, other than the plunging thing that gave the same results you’ve gotten. We left it, intending to come back after work and take care of it (fingers crossed nothing happened during the day, of course). When we got home, the tub had drained on it’s own and was fine. We ran some super-duty drain cleaner through it and haven’t had a problem (knock on wood) since. I can’t remember the name of the drain cleaner, but we got it from Home Depot for about $8-10, and it was in a plastic bag due to the hazardous chemicals. I hope this helps!

  6. Andrea says

    See if the tub will drain completely (say after a couple of hours or non-use.) If not, still okay.

    Squeeze a BUNCH of Dawn detergent (the plain old kind) over the drain, let sit for an hour or so, then get a bunch of really hot (i.e., boiling) water and pour over the drain area. Time after time, this has unclogged my drain due to Dawn’s amazing grease/grime-fighting abilities.

  7. Sandra says

    Home Depot sells a professional drain clogger that is very much not ecofriendly nor green, but it’s potent and it works. A plumber once poured this into our clogged drain and charged us x2 retail + $50 for the visit. If you end up exhausting all your planet friendly options, this is probably what a plumber would do next anyway.

    I don’t know the exact name, but it’s something generic like “professional drain cleaner” and it comes in tiny granulated pellets, not liquid or powder. It’s a hard black plastic container covered in a clear plastic bag with lots of toxicity warnings. You dump it into your drain and let it sit as long as you can manage. We used it overnight, and in the morning the bathroom smelt like burnt hair. Gross, but if you do really get desperate, there ya go.

    As far as prevention, get some “stop a clog” drain covers for your shower, and pick the icky hair up off of the drain cover and throw it in the trash or flush it down the toilet after every shower. Two drain clogs, and picking hair off of them right after every shower, has completely prevented us from needing that super toxic stuff since we started the habit.

    Good luck!

  8. Andrea says

    P.S. Are you having problems with other drains? If so, it could be your main sewer line…in the fall and spring, I always get tree roots blocking the main line.

    • says

      Keep those ideas coming everyone!

      To those asking about / suggesting tree roots: we thought about that, but so far it’s the only drain in the house that’s been clogged so we had self-diagnosed (and got this backed by the plumbing department guy) that it’s probably not an issue with the main line. But who knows at this point!

      Thanks again for all the suggestions.


  9. Sandra says

    And in response to the folks who are suggesting tree roots, we’ve had this same problem too. But you’d have slow drains all over the house, not just the tub.

    But if you do determine that to be the case, the toxic stuff I commented on previously has treated our root problem by dumping it down the toilet rather than the bathtub drain.

  10. says

    I agree… it maybe roots. Such a pain, but fixable. I think you may have to have someone out to check it and make sure, but there are things you can use to keep your pipes clear of them in the future.

    Good luck!!!!

  11. Kristen says

    I second the recommendation for using boiling water, although I haven’t tried it with Dawn soap. When this happens to our drain that’s what we do. We typically use our largest pot and boil the water, add it to the drain, and repeat the process another time. Works like a charm almost every time in our 100+ year old home. We only had to get professional help one time at the beginning of our home ownership but since that time our boiling water remedy has worked.

  12. Sandra says

    Our house is 70 years old and we are all too familiar with plumbing issues. At this point, it probably is in your best interest to call someone out there to take a look at it. We recently had to have someone come out because our drains were backip up. We were sure that it had something to do with tree roots in the sewage line. Thank goodness, it was just a clog outside of the house that was easily taken care of with this handy tool the plumber brought (and then let us keep!). My suggestions to you since you are in an older home – use Root Kill every 4 to 6 months (or as directed) and use the same plumber/plumbing company every time you need to have someone come out because they will be familiar with the history. Good luck!

  13. Meghan says

    I had this problem and tried every single eco-friendly method out there. I finally got fed up and bought the cheapest, most toxic drain-o on the market. Much to my dismay it worked like a charm.

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