Your toilet backing up into your shower is not only a huge mess, but it can also be a health hazard. In fact, over 7 million cases of waterborne disease occur in the United States every year, many of which are present in wastewater; so while confronting a clogged drain may be the last thing you want to deal with after a long day, doing so is an investment in your continued wellbeing.
In this article, we will address what causes your toilet to back up into your shower or bathtub as well as steps to remedy the situation! We will also address what most commonly causes plumbing blockages as well as ways to unclog your drains.
Why Is My Toilet Backing Up Into Shower/Bath Drains?
It’s bad enough when the toilet overflows—but it’s another beast entirely when your toilet backs up into your shower! So why is the wastewater backing up into the bath?
When you flush your toilet, your waste and the toilet water will be directed into a pipe that ultimately connects to a sewer main line. If you are experiencing wastewater backing up into your shower, this must be because there is a clog somewhere along the sewer main; when this happens, the water will not be able to follow the pipe as your contractor intended, and will be forced elsewhere. Often, your toilet waste will back up into your shower drain because the toilet sits higher off the ground than the shower drain and because water seeks the path of least resistance.
What Causes Most Plumbing Clogs?
There are plenty of reasons why you may be experiencing a clog in your plumbing. While some plumbing clogs are caused by foreign materials like hair, grease, or trash, others are simply the result of old pipes or the material from which the pipes were made. Here are some of the top offenders for causing clogged pipes:
· Hair: Whether we like to admit it or not, humans routinely shed up to 100 hairs from our heads a day. Especially in the enclosed area of your plumbing, this can pose a problem by presenting clogs, especially if coupled with dead skin cells, soap scum, or fat.
· Grease: Likely you’ve been told not to pour bacon fat down the sink. This is because the fat is liquid when it is hot and solid when it cools. Congealed fat in your plumbing is a surefire recipe for a clog!
· Hard Water Deposits: Most homes in America utilize hard water which is rife with mineral deposits. Over the years, these deposits can accumulate within the pipes, causing limescale to form, which will clog your pipes. By installing a water softener, you can reduce the likelihood of this happening in your home!
· “Flushable” Hygiene Wipes: While many hygiene wipes advertise themselves as being flushable, they do not break down within plumbing like regular toilet paper will do.
· Soil Shifting/Building Settling: Extreme weather events can cause the earth around your home to move. This can cause shifting within the structure which may lead to damaged pipes.
· Terracotta or Cast Iron Pipes: Throughout the years, plumbing has seen various trends in terms of material. For example, homes built before 1970 often have old cast iron pipes, which are prone to corrosion. Alternatively, older will sometimes have terra cotta pipes—which is the traditional material most plumbing pipes were made from since the very beginning of the trade. However, tree roots are attracted to terra cotta plumbing, which can damage them in the long term. Starting in around 1960, folks started replacing old terra cotta pipes with plastic, a standard which is widely used today.
How to Unclog Your Drain
If you’ve got severe plumbing problems due to soil settling or the materials from which your pipes were made, you’re likely not going to be able to unclog your drain with some simple DIY hacks. However, for slow or clogged drains, there are several easy solutions you can make using things around the house, especially if you’ve run out of your preferred brand of drain cleaner.
Regardless of what debris-removing ingredients you add to your solution, the first step is to start with boiling water.
The Dish Soap Trick
Especially if you’ve got a clog due to grease or oily residue, you will need dish soap to cut the fat. Coupled with boiling water, this will sometimes free a drain from its clog—but it may take more than one attempt!
The Borax Trick
If you happen to have Borax lying around, this is great for some of the tougher clogs from hair and grease. Boil your 8 cups of water and sprinkle ½ cup of Borax, ½ cup of salt, and 1 cup of white vinegar over the clogged drain. Finish by pouring the boiling water over the top. This may take more than one pot of hot water as well.
The Baking Soda Trick
If you don’t have Borax or dish soap, you might have baking soda. In this scenario, you will likewise need to bring 8 cups of water to a boil; while this is coming up to temperature, whisk together ¼ cup baking soda, ¼ cup salt, and 1 Tablespoon of cream of tartar. Sprinkle this mixture over your drain and top off with the pot of boiling water. Allow the drain to rest for one hour before following with another hot pot of water.
Other Ways to Unclog Your Drain
Of course, it’s not always practical advice to dump gallons of boiling water down a stopped drain—especially if you’re dealing with a backed-up toilet. If you suspect there is a physical blockage in your pipes, it may be time to break out the plunger or the snake.
The Plunger Method
The first tool to reach for if your toilet is backing up into your shower is your plunger. While plungers can work wonders on a surface clog, they do not do as well for deeper clogs as a result of an accumulation of debris or deposits. If you use your plunger 15-20 times without seeing an improvement in the situation, chances are your clog is further along the sewer line.
The Snake Method
Unlike the plunger, which relies on suction, a snake is a physical tool you can insert into plumbing and use to remove clogs. A snake can be fashioned out of an old wire hanger in a pinch—but typically, snakes come in four different types:
· Manual Cable Drain: With this kind of snake, the user will crank the hooked end of the snake into the clog much like a corkscrew going into a wine bottle. Once the clog is hooked, it should be able to come free by reversing the motion.
· Flat Tape: These are small snakes capable of fitting into pipes with a diameter of 2 cm or less.
· Power: For particularly challenging clogs, there is the power snake. This handy tool is connected to a motor, which breaks up the clog and allows the pipe to flow as normal.
· Toilet Closet: This snake, specifically designed for toilet clogs, is made from highly flexible cables and can be either manual or electric.
The Hydro-Jetting Method
For this method, you will most certainly have to call up a professional plumber! Hydro-jetting is a method by which a nozzle is inserted into the pipe which shoots water at up to 4,000 PSI to clear away the clog. Often, this process is aided by the use of CCTV sewer cameras to specifically locate and target the clog. This method is even powerful enough to remove tree roots, and is capable of thoroughly cleaning your pipes—but at the same time, if you have older, more delicate pipes, this might not be a good thing.
Still Got a Backed-Up Drain?
It’s no fun when your toilet backs up into your shower, but the silver lining is that you know roughly where the clog must be: in the main sewer line. Once you have this narrowed down, it becomes much easier to target the clog, uncover the best tactics for approaching it, and eliminate it entirely. If you’re dealing with a clog that is too deep in the pipes for your plunger to reach and that you can’t access with a snake, it may be time to call in the professionals.
Need a professional plumber to tackle your sewer line? Call Rooter John today for a quote!