How to Clean a Shower Drain

Make a list of your least favorite household chores. Is “unclog shower drain” on that list somewhere?

For many people, unclogging or cleaning a drain isn’t something to look forward to doing. But, on the other hand, neither is taking a shower while the water slowly pools around your feet.

A bit of maintenance and upkeep can help keep your drains running clearly. Whether you’ve got a clog or want to prevent one, here’s everything you need to know about how to unclog a shower drain.

How to Get Hair Out of Shower Drain

First things first, what are the common culprits behind drain clogs? Hair and soap scum.

Just hearing those words together might make you gag.

The trick to keeping your shower drain clean and clog-free is to remove the hair before it has a chance to build up and form its own little colony in the drain.

If you’ve got long hair, you might need to practice drain hair removal on a regular basis, such as after every time you wash your hair.

How to unclog a shower drain by removing hair depends in large part on the type of drain cover you have. If you can easily pry off the cover, you can easily reach down in there and pull up the strands of hair before they form a significant old clog.

Use a pair of tweezers (not the same ones you use to pluck your eyebrows!) to carefully pick up and pull out the wayward strands of us.

Yeah, we know, it’s super gross. But it’s less gross than dealing with a big pile-up of hair.

How to Fix a Clogged Shower Drain — Naturally!

OK, maybe you slacked off a bit on the regular drain-hair removal process, and now you’ve got a noticeable clog in the drain. The water starts to rise each time you shower, or it’s slow to drain out after a bath.

Simply pulling out the clump of hair might not work in this case. It’s likely that’s traveled a bit further into the drain and now needs to be flushed out.

Fortunately, you don’t need to break out the heavy equipment or the nasty chemicals to fix a clogged shower drain.

In many cases, the old workhorses distilled white vinegar and baking soda will do the trick of clearing your drain, according to Bob Vila. Here’s how to use them.

What you’ll need:

  • Measuring cup
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar


What to do:


  • Pour about 1/2 cup of vinegar into the measuring cup. Add about 1/2 cup of baking soda. The mixture will bubble and foam and start to rise.
  • Dump the mixture down the shower drain. As the vinegar and baking soda react to each other, they’ll also break up and eat away at the hair and soap scum that’s forming a clog in your drain.
  • Let the mixture sit for about an hour.
  • Rinse the vinegar and baking soda down the drain by turning on warm water. Let the water run for a bit. You should notice that the drain is completely cleared, and the water flows down it quickly.


How to Clean a Shower Drain with a Plunger

Another way to clear a clog from a tub or shower drain is to plunge it away. If you have a plunger handy and a shower or tub that’s full of water, this can be the quickest way to bust up a clog.

Here’s how to unclog a shower drain with a plunger:


  • Remove the cover from the drain.
  • Place the plunger on top of the drain opening, so that the cup of the plunger fully covers the drain opening.
  • Turn the water on. You want the tub or shower to fill up enough that the edge of the plunger is fully submerged. It needs the water to force the clog away.
  • Start plunging. Push the handle of the plunger up and down as hard and as fast as you can to force the clog out and away.



You’ll know that the clog is cleared when the water quickly washes down the drain.

How to Snake a Shower Drain

Sometimes, even the power combo of vinegar and baking soda isn’t enough to completely clear away a clog in a drain, and a plunger might not do the trick.

If the clog is deep enough and big enough, you might need to break out some specialized equipment to do away with it.

That’s right. We’re talking about a drain snake or auger.

You can go out and purchase a drain snake if you anticipate more clogs in your future. Sometimes, people find that a wire coat hanger works just as well.

Here’s what you need:

  • Rubber glove (trust us on this one!)
  • Drain snake or unbent wire coat hanger (like the ones you get from the dry cleaner)

Here’s what to do:


  • Take the drain cover off.
  • Put on your gloves.
  • Bend one end of the wire hanger (if using) into a small hook. The hook will help to catch the clog and yank it out. You can skip this step if you’ve got a regular old drain snake.
  • Thread the snake or the wire hanger into the drain, until it reaches the clog. Try to maneuver the snake or hanger so that it hooks or catches the clog. Gross, we know.
  • Pull the hanger out or wind up the snake so that it comes out of the drain. The clog should go along for the ride.
  • Discard the clog. Aren’t you glad you put those gloves on?


How to Clean a Tub Drain — Should You Ever Use Drain Cleaner?

You might be wondering why you’d bother with a plunger, with vinegar or with a snake when there’s a commercially available product that promises to eliminate clogs in drains with little or no effort.

Yeah, we’re talking about drain cleaner. You’ve probably seen the ads for drain cleaner and been pretty impressed by the product’s ability to blast drains clear, no pushing or heaving lifting on your part needed.

A chemical drain cleaner might make short work of cleaning a shower drain. But they often come at a high price.

We’re not talking about their price tag. The drawbacks of using a drain cleaner include:

  • Their fumes. These products stink to high heaven and can potentially irritate your eyes and nose. The fumes tend to linger long after the drain is cleared, according to Angie’s List.
  • They mess up your pipes. As the Today Show pointed out, pro plumbers advise against using strong chemical drain cleaners because they end up damaging the inside of pipes, as well as the finish on your tub or shower.
  • They harm fish and wildlife. You’re dumping poison down your pipes every time you use a drain cleaner. Plus, any cleaner that remains in the bottle ends up in a landfill, causing severe harm to the environment.

How to Clean a Bathtub Drain with Boiling Water

Sometimes, you don’t need a complicated method of removing a clog from a drain. If you’ve got metal pipes, a pot or two of boiling water might be enough to melt away and break up a clog.

Keep in mind that this option is only for showers and tubs with metal pipes. The heat from the water can loosen up the joints on PVC pipes, warns Bob Vila.

What you’ll need:

  • Kettle or pan
  • Water


What to do:


  • Boil a quart or so of water.
  • Pour a bit of the water into the drain. Don’t pour it all at once. You want to give the heat from the water time to break up the clog.
  • Keep pouring the water until the drain runs clear. Rinse the drain with water from the shower itself.


An Ounce of Prevention: Keep a Shower Drain from Clogging

Short of shaving off all of your hair and not using soap, is there anything you can do to prevent future clogs?

Of course. Along with keeping up with hair removal (as we described above), you can also invest in a product that will keep hair out of the drain.

A hair catcher costs a few dollars and will provide a screen that effectively keeps long hairs out of the drain. Make sure you clean the hair catcher after every shower.

It’s also a good idea to be aware of what you pour down the shower or tub drain. If you’ve had problems with clogs in the past, avoid dumping mop buckets or cleaning buckets, which might be filled with debris, into the tub or shower.

Final Thoughts on How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Whether you end up using boiling water, vinegar, a plunger or a snake, knowing how to unclog a shower drain will help you avoid plumbing headaches and major plumbing bills. Preventative measures can help keep your drains running smoothly, but when things go wrong, it’s important to know how to fix them.