How to Unclog a Shower Drain

Taking a long shower with all your favorite products (or as TikTok would call it, the everything shower) is an essential part of a self-care routine — but, all those body washes, exfoliants, shower steamers and buildup from shampoos and of course hair can cause buildup in your shower drain. If water is pooling up at your feet as you take a shower, chances are your drain is clogged.

The reasons you should regularly be cleaning a shower drain go beyond the annoyance of standing in a puddle of water as you shower or waiting for the water to drain down after a shower: Clearing the blockages in your drains and pipes can help keep the water flowing and prevent odors, mold, pests, leaks and pipes from freezing in the wintertime. “Especially during colder months, it’s critical to nip clogs in the bud, since backed-up pipes are prone to freezing and bursting, which can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs,” says Dan DiClerico, director of the Home Improvement & Outdoor Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

So, what can you do to fix it? Luckily for you, we’ve made learning how to unclog a shower drain easy with this step-by-step guide, including how to use a snake to unclog a shower drain and the best methods and tips for blasting through debris and buildup in drains. We’ve also rounded up the best drain cleaners approved by our Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab and products like drain strainers to prevent future buildup.

First, clear any visible debris and hair

Before using any tools, chemical cleaners or homemade cleaning solutions, you must let all the standing water drain down as much as possible. If it’s draining slowly or not at all, try using a plunger to push the water through the pipes.

Once the tub or shower floor is empty, remove any stoppers and drain covers. Either twist or screw off the drain cover and then clean up the hair and any product buildup on the surrounding surface area. Look into the drain and try to clean out loose hairs, debris, soap and any objects that may have fallen into the drain.

Run the water again to check if the drain is still clogged. If it is, continue onto the below steps to defeat a bigger problem and deep clean your drain.

How to unclog a shower drain with a vinegar and baking soda mixture

One at-home solution to unclogging a shower is by making a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. (You can use this to clean the kitchen sink as well!) Follow the instructions below to create and use it as follows:

  1. Mix ½ cup baking soda with ¼ cup table salt.
  2. Pour the mixture down the drain along with 1 cup heated vinegar.
  3. After it foams and bubbles, let it stand for 15 minutes (waiting longer will not produce better results).
  4. Follow by running hot tap water for at least 15 to 30 seconds.

Never use bleach cleaners at the same time as this homemade vinegar mixture.

The chemical reaction between bleach and white vinegar can produce hazardous gasses that are harmful to inhale. Stick to the vinegar and baking soda solution or separately use a chemical cleaning product another day to clean your drains.

How to unclog a shower drain with a plunger

You can use a regular plunger to unclog your shower and sink drains. After removing the drain cover, run a bit of water to cover the bottom of the plunger cup. Then, move the plunger up and down (like you are unclogging a toilet) to unclog the drain.

How to unclog a shower drain with a plumber’s snake

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A plastic drain snake like the Vastar Drain Snake can reach down into the pipes and dislodge items blocking water flow. Slowly insert the snake down the drain until you are stopped by the clog, and twist it around so that the barbs along the tool can grab onto hair and debris.

The snake will either push the blockage down and out or you will be able to pull the source of the clog up and out. “It’s a good idea to keep a few of these on hand since the tool can be enough to clear a clog in seconds,” says DiClerico.

How to unclog a shower drain with a drain cleaner

If these easy at-home methods don’t work, you can always purchase a drain cleaner to flush it out. These tough solvents clear out grease, soaps and debris and can be used regularly to keep your pipes clean.

Our home improvement and cleaning experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute found the best drain cleaners in our Labs to clear out hair, grease and buildup in drains. Chemical cleaners like the Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Liquid-Plumr Hair Clog Eliminator have fast-acting results on shower drains and can clear clogs in standing water. Enzyme cleaners like the Bio-Clean Bacteria Septic Cleaner must be left sitting in the drains overnight, but they are chemical-free solutions for dissolving lodged food or tougher items than a clogged drain’s typical culprits (hair and soaps).

Be sure to follow the brand’s instructions because each chemical drain cleaner is different. Plus, take safety precautions by wearing gloves and opening a window for ventilation.

When to hire a plumber

If your drain is still blocked after exhausting all these at-home options, Carolyn Forté, executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, says it’s time to turn to the pros. “After that, call a professional plumber and tell them what you used.” Letting the plumber know what chemical cleaners and homemade solutions you’ve already tried can avoid any damage to your pipes. “That way, there won’t be any surprises,” says Forté.

How to prevent a clogged drain

After unclogging a shower drain once, you’re not going to want to do it again anytime soon. There are some precautions you can take to prevent a future clog that are simple and effective:

  • Add a drain strainer or cover for your shower drain to prevent fallen hair, body scrubs or pieces of soap from clumping up inside the pipes.
  • Use drain cleaners monthly and follow the directions from the brand.
  • Once a month, you can pour the homemade mixture of vinegar and baking soda mentioned above into the drain to regularly clean out buildup of shampoo, conditioner, body scrubs and soaps you use in the bathroom.

    Isabella (she/her) covers commerce and product-related content in the home, lifestyle, fitness, technology and beauty. She graduated from Binghamton University in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in English: Literature & Rhetoric. Before joining GH, she was an editorial assistant at Prevention, where she covered health topics and celebrity news. 

    Source: Home Ideas -


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