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Updated: 6 Jun 2022

Best shower drain unblockers

We've all seen the tangled mess of a drain clogged up with hair. Sort it quickly with our top choices of bathroom drain unblockers
Joey Willoughby-Rainsford

In May 2021 we tested seven popular shower drain unblockers including Mr Muscle, Ecozone and Buster, as well as a home remedy of bicarbonate soda, salt and vinegar, to see which method dealt with hairballs the quickest. 

The products below are primarily for bathrooms, so if your sink and drain is clogged with food rather than hair, take a look at our results of the best kitchen drain unblockers.

As with any bleach-based products, make sure you always wear gloves, old clothes and follow the instructions carefully.

Pricing and availability last checked: 6 June 2022.


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The best shower drain unblockers from our test

Best Buy/Great Value: Buster Bathroom Plughole Unblocker

Buster Bathroom Plughole Unblocker

Cheapest price: £2.50 available at Sainsbury's, Morrisons, also available at ASDA, Homebase (in store only), Ocado, Tesco, Waitrose.

Size: 300ml

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Clears the pipes, worked in 15 minutes, easy-to-read instructions

Cons: Single-use plastic bottle 

Our verdict: A fast and effective product which cleared the pipes of hair.

Buster Bathroom Plughole Unblocker proved itself a worthy Best Buy with its fast-acting cleaning power. 

The two large hairballs we'd made from a combination of different types of tangled hair were shrunk down and able to pass through the U-bend without further issue during our tests.  

Best Buy/Great Value: Mr Muscle Power Gel Drain Unblocker

Mr Muscle Power Gel Drain Unblocker

Cheapest price: £3.25 available at Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, also available at Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, Wilko.

Size: 500ml, also comes in 1 litre

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Clears the pipes, works on hair within 20 minutes

Cons: With the smaller size it is single-use per bottle

Our verdict: This was a very effective product and really affected the hair, turning it into a horrible black sludge. 

Due to the tough nature of a hairball clog, we allowed this product 20 minutes during our tests and found it seemed to work even faster than that. 

We did this as the product states to leave it for longer for tougher clogs.

It's also a Best Buy in our kitchen drain unblocker tests, so we feel this is a very useful product to have in the cleaning cupboard.

How the rest of the bathroom drain unblockers we tested fare

Here's our verdict on the other kitchen drain unblockers we tested, listed alphabetically.

Bathroom Blocks Away Plughole Unblocker

Bathroom Blocks Away Plughole Unblocker

Only available at Lakeland: £5.99.

Size: 250ml

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Two uses per bottle

Cons: Required a plunger to get rid of the hairball, creates a very overpowering scent, takes at least six hours

Our verdict: We still needed a plunger to dislodge the hairball after waiting for the unblocker to work overnight.

It also creates a very pungent and lingering smell of burnt hair. 

Between the wait time, the stench and how it needed extra help on both occasions in our tests, we weren't impressed with this unblocker. 

Ecozone Plughole Hair Unblocker

Ecozone Plughole Hair Unblocker

Cheapest price: £7.99 available at Ecozone Direct, also available at Amazon.

Size: 250 ml

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Two uses per bottle, simple and easy-to-read instructions

Cons: Required a plunger to get rid of the hairball, creates a strong and unpleasant scent, takes 12 hours

Our verdict: Slow but effective and somewhat pungent.

This unblocker needed 12 hours to work and during that time the area around the sink had an unpleasant burnt hair smell. 

After the 12 hours had passed the hairball was removed with the aid of a plunger, on both occasions.

Flexisnake

Flexisnake

Only available at Amazon: £14.74, similar products available from a variety of retailers.

Length: 45.72 cm

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Reusable, quick and easy to use

Cons: Hard to clean, a bit messy

Our verdict: This reusable tool is a chemical-free option that's ideal for eco-conscious households wanting to avoid chemicals.

Those with more crude tastes may find a simple joy in extricating hair clogs from the plughole with this type of unblocker tool. 

For others, this process may be somewhat gross. Either way, this tool is easy to use and effective. 

HG Hair Unblocker

HG Hair Unblocker

Cheapest price: £5.70 available at Amazon, also available from Robert Dyas, Tesco.

Size: 450ml

Suitable for a septic tank: No

Pros: Clears the pipes, instructions are clear and easy to follow

Cons: Single-use bottle, the product is two plastic bottles in a cardboard box

Our verdict: A large box filled with an effective package.

This larger product comes in a lot of packaging. HG Hair Unblocker is made up of two bottles which you pour into your drain one at a time. 

It takes around an hour for the unblocker to work and on both occasions the hairballs flushed through our U-bends. 

Soda Crystals

Dri Pak Soda Crystals

Cheapest price: 80p available at Ocado, also available at Morrisons.

Size: 1kg

Suitable for a septic tank: Yes

Pros: Offers lots of cleaning options

Cons: Required a plunger, seemed to make no difference to the hairball, this product requires more preparation than the others

Our verdict: Soda Crystals have many uses, but removing hair from a shower's plughole doesn't seem to be one of them. 

The Soda Crystals seemed to do nothing to the hairballs on either occasion in our tests. We were left having to unclog the sink with a plunger.

How to unblock a shower drain

Unblocking a shower drain
  • As most of these shower drain unblockers are bleach based, we recommend wearing gloves over a long-sleeved top for your protection. Just make sure it's not a piece of clothing you are emotionally attached to in case of any staining.
  • To start, pour 500ml of hot tap water down the drain. If this doesn't drain away, use a plunger to force it through. 
  • Then take your unblocker of choice and following the instructions, pour it down the shower drain and leave it for the amount of time the manufacturer recommends. 
  • Afterwards, pour another 500ml of hot tap water down the drain.

Does bicarbonate soda, salt and vinegar work?

Bicarbonate soda, salt and vinegar

On the internet you might see advice claiming that bicarbonate soda, salt and vinegar can help to unclog blocked pipes. 

We wanted to see if it's true so we tried it out. 

This concoction made from equal parts bicarbonate soda (125g), salt (125g) and vinegar (125ml) failed both attempts to remove the hairball. 

We were forced to use a plunger to force the clogs out. 

How to stop hair getting stuck down the drain

Prevention is the best cure. Our tips below will help to stop a hairball clogging your drains in the first place:

  • Combing your hair - try to brush your hair before a shower or bath to prevent hair from going down the drain.
  • Pop-up plugs - if you have a pop-up plug, unscrew it every now and again to check and remove any debris. Run water down the drain while the plug is still unscrewed.
  • Drain protectors - an affordable option to have an extra layer of defence between loose hair and the plughole. 
  • Hair Catcher - it looks like a drain protector but it's designed especially for hair.
  • Enzyme sticks - a cleaning product you put down the plughole around once a month which should work overtime but won't clear a severe blockage.

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What are the chemical hazard symbols and what do they mean?

Many drain unblockers contain chemicals that are hazardous to us and the environment. 

Below you can see the symbols found on some products, what they mean and the safety advice for handling them. 

Chemical hazard symbols and what they mean
Explosive (symbol: exploding bomb)
Explosive (symbol: exploding bomb)
A substance that under defined test conditions when dry or under the effect of flame or heat may explode.
  • Read and use instructions for the given material.
  • Ensure containers are stored in a cool, well-ventilated place with tight-fitting lids.
  • Store away from sources of heat and ignition. 
  • Ensure the material and its containers are disposed of in a safe manner.
Flammable (symbol: flame)
Flammable (symbol: flame)
Flammable if exposed to ignition sources, sparks or heat. Some substances with this symbol may give off flammable gases in contact with water. 
  • Avoid ignition sources (sparks, flames and heat). 
  • Keep your distance. 
  • Wear protective clothing.
Oxidising (symbol: flame over circle)
Oxidising (symbol: flame over circle)
May cause explosion, fire or damage to living tissue resulting in chemical burns. Reacts with other substances to produce a highly exothermic reaction.
  • Read and use instructions for the given material. 
  • Ensure containers are stored in a cool, well-ventilated place with tight-fitting lids. 
  • Store away from sources of heat and ignition. 
  • Ensure the material and its container are disposed of in a safe manner.
Corrosive (symbol: corrosion)
Corrosive (symbol: corrosion)

How we tested shower drain unblockers

To find out which of our selected drain unblockers was the best, we put the whole selection through the following test. 

MCALPINE ADJUSTABLE INLET TUBULAR 'P' TRAP WHITE 40MM

The setup

We had a freestanding catering sink and used one 44mm U-bend per test, which was stuffed with a hairball we made from equal parts straight, wavy and curly human hair mixed with shampoo. 

500ml of boiling water was poured into the plughole before the tests began to ensure each clog was firmly lodged in place.

The products were then applied following their instructions and left for the minimum required time for tough clogs. 

Afterwards, the U-bends were flushed through with eight litres of hot tap water. 

If necessary a plunger was used at this point. We have noted above when a plunger was needed. 

The Fellie Kitchen Sink Stainless Steel Sink Catering Single Sink

The test

The pipes were examined with a tube camera before and after the products were applied to see how well the unblocker had worked. 

Then we timed how long it took for eight litres of cold tap water to pass through the U-bend and pipes. 

We compared these timings to a test using an unused U-bend. The quicker the water passed through the better the unblocker had worked.

Each unblocker was tested twice. 

How we choose these kitchen drain unblockers

We selected one drain unblocker per brand, looking for products available in national retailers. 

We purchased all the products we tested.