Friday, April 30, 2021

How to Unclog My Shower Room Drain

A few weeks ago the floor drain in my shower room started to have trouble draining properly. Unclogging it was quite the experience so I tweeted about it. I didn't post pictures because is cursed enough already, but more than one sicko has asked to see them, so here you go, the full story in detail. It's gross, you've been warned. Hopefully this helps at least one other person out there make sense of the drainage system in Japanese apartment bathrooms and avoid a similar surprise.

In the past whenever my drain showed signs of getting stopped up, I poured pipe cleaner (or "pipeman") or fizzy cleaner tablets down the problem area, rinsed it after a while, and that did the trick. This time, dumping tablets and cleaner in the sink, shower, and floor drains wasn't enough. I had to go deeper.

Pipeman couldn't save me this time.

Here's what the drains look like, with some residual grossness from drain water that overflowed while I was experimenting.

Raw and unfiltered.

The floor drain trap (circle on the lower right) holds standing water. There's a grate over it, which is supposed to keep stuff from getting into the inner part with the water, which has a cylindrical plastic piece you can remove for cleaning. It's icky, but I'd pulled bits of hair and gunk out of there during routine cleanings in the past. I could see two holes on the "north" and "west" sides of the inside of the trap after taking the center cylindrical  piece out, so I got a long wire brush at the 100 yen store to poke inside them. I figured the arrangement was something like this:

I tried swishing the wire brush through both holes, but it came back clean. There was no blockage there!

I felt around the inside of the drain trap some more, confident that I'd disassembled it as much as I could. I could feel an edge around the inner "ring" of the trap, but no way to get my fingers any further.

Then, while fishing around randomly with the brush, I found another opening. A third hole, beyond the inner ring.

After pulling back the wirebrush from this hidden opening, it had some hair and soap gunk on it. Bingo. I pulled at the hair, which peeled off from around the whole ring. After a few more passes of the wirebrush, I had pulled out the following monstrosity.

Gross, but fulfilling to remove. Like clipping off a big toenail.

It actually didn't smell much, maybe due to all the pipe cleaner and orangey fresh tablets I'd put in earlier. I threw it away and ran the faucet to check.

But the drain still clogged almost just as fast as before!

I put the brush down the hidden opening again, as far as it would go, fishing out sometimes a few hairs, but not much. I jammed it in there repeatedly, trying to dig out something, anything besides frustration.

Then I landed the big one. Another big wad of scummy hair strands. They must have been plastered against the piping this whole time, dodging all past jabs of the wire brush. I kept pulling at them, getting more and more horrified as the mess kept going. This was the final boss, I could feel it. The final pile of ropey soapy slimy grimy gunkberg hair is pictured below.

Hard to tell with it all coiled up like that, but this thing had the mass of a small household pet.

It was basically a full head of hair. I could have sold this thing to a wig shop.

With the exorcism complete, I ran the faucet for a minute to verify (for real this time), threw away the demon, and went to go tell the long-haired human I live with that they're on dish duty for the next month.

TL;DR the drain arrangement is actually like this:

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