A pleasant shower experience typically involves a steady stream of hot water washing away the day’s stresses, the stream’s pressure easing achy joints or delivering an invigorating morning wake-up blast.
Me? I’m just happy when all the water goes down a clear drain in fewer than 10 seconds. For years, a clear drain was a luxury, as the curly strands of hair I shed after regular detangling sessions started to lock together, creating an ever-growing hairball that clogged the pipes. My straight-haired friends rarely have this problem. Their hair slinks down the drain, never latching together to form a water-repellent barrier. It sails away playfully to the sewers, with not a care in the world.
We curly girls, however, have to tangle with the clogs that form regularly in our showers, bathtubs, sinks or other places where we conditioner-wash our hair. And those all-important curly hair conditioner products that make our hair look and feel nice are a hairball’s dream – the substances attach to strands, creating an oily, greasy seal that only traps more water inside.
When I lived in an apartment, I called the main office for a plumber when, every three months or so, the shower water started draining ever more slowly, pooling at my feet. Once it hit my ankles, I knew I could wait no longer. And let’s not mention the potential slip-and-fall danger of a conditioner-coated tub!
The plumber would arrive, work his magic, and emerge from the bathroom 10 minutes later with his big catch — a huge, slimy hairy ball of “ick” that wouldn’t have surprised me if it had sprouted legs and began crawling away. The blissful sound of water coursing freely through the pipes returned briefly, only to disappear when I started the washing-and-detangling cycle again days later.
When I bought a home, I lost access to my free plumber. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life paying for seasonal hairball removal, so I needed an alternative solution.
Solution 1: Looking back, I could’ve prevented the problem by purchasing a hair-catching gadget to place over my bathtub drain and removing the gathered hair after each shower. The same type of cover exists for shower stalls with a flat drain, trapping the natural curly hair on top while allowing the water to drain out. Even a piece of cloth placed over the drain could’ve helped.
Solution 2: Or you could learn DIY plumbing, as I did. A sister curly told me about a tool that would save my shower and my sanity — a plastic, disposable “snake” that pulls the hair out. Plumbers used a sturdier, metal version of this tool, I was told. I bought five. When I got home I immediately tried one out, slipping its slender body into a slot on the drain cover. I pushed it as deep as it could go then pulled it back up with all my might. After seeing the hairball that emerged, I wondered how my old plumber put up with me.
Solution 3: Find a wire hanger and clip off the corners with pliers. Create a hook by bending one of the ends, and use it to fish hair from your drain. Tweezers and pliers are also helpful in a pinch.
Solution 4: Liquid drain cleaners can help dissolve oil, grease and other icky stuff you’ve rinsed from your head. If you don’t want to try the chemical-laden commercial versions available at most stores, there are some baking soda and vinegar concoctions that could be just as effective, making sure whatever you pour down your drain is safe for your health and the health of your pipes!
Written By: Shannon Shelton Miller
Since going natural in college more than 10 years ago (wow, time flies), Shannons hair journey has taken her through life in humid and dry climates, product junkie-ism, hair show modeling, wedding-hair styling and now, the world of “mom” hair. Shannon lives in Ohio with her husband and 1-year-old son, and continues to enjoy exploring the world of curly hair.