How to Clean Your Shower Drain Trap

Close up of a silver shower drain trap with a few strands of hair

​Pooling water at your feet when you are showering is an unwelcome sight. When the water won’t go down the drain, it is a red flag sign your drain is clogged. Not to worry. You can learn how to clean a shower drain trap and eliminate standing water in your shower.

​What to Do Before ​Cleaning Your Shower Drain Trap

​There are a variety of reasons to clean out your shower drain. While we all often wait until the clogging starts, you want to try to get in the habit of cleaning it before that happens. In the future, you can clean out the trap at the same time you clean your shower floor

Lets walk through the steps necessary to prepare for drain trap cleaning:

​Secure the Screws and Fastenings

​Before you begin cleaning, you will need to remove the drain tap or any plugs you have in your tub. The best thing you can do is have a resealable plastic bag handy to put any screws, drain plugs, or other small drain parts in. This will save you the “Where did I put that?” headache later.

For most non-combination tub/shower drains you will need a screwdriver to remove two or three screws that are holding the drain trap into place. Make sure you pull up all of the screws and place them in a resealable bag or a safe place away from the drain and the shower floor before you remove the metal grate. If a screw falls down the drain, it can be almost impossible to pull it back up.

If you are working from a bathtub, you can pull up any drain plug. You may need to turn it to unscrew the plug.

Sometimes, the screws are very difficult to remove. This is common in old shower floors, ​where the screws have set in over time. It might be good to combine this project with replacing or repairing your shower floor.

Close up of a silver shower drain trap with a few strands of hair

​Pull Out What You Can

​Now is the time to put on some rubber or latex gloves. You can also use your bare hands as there isn’t any risk of skin agitation. However, gloves are recommended because the stuff you will be pulling up can be gross. You might not want to touch it.

If you are pulling up a clogged plug, the chances are a large wad of hair and shower scum will come up. If you are just lifting the shower drain grate, you will need to reach your hand down in there.

Try to pull up as much of the clogged hair and shower scum you can comfortably reach. This is why it's important to ​regularly clean your tile shower or bathtub ​to avoid any​ of the debris to fall into the drain and clog it.

If you begin pulling and feel a large clog that is difficult to pull out, hold the tension and slowly pull it up. Pulling slowly will help the clog stay intact and allow you to pull up as much of the clogged gunk by hand.

While you may be pulling up seriously large and gross amounts of stuff, there is still a good chance there is more buried deep in the pipes that you cannot reach. To make sure you are pulling out all the clog, you will want to move on to the next more invasive step.

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​Extend Your Reach

​When you can no longer reach the clog, you will need a longer reaching item. There are a few different bathroom products you can purchase at the store or make your own from a few items found around the house.

Related: The Complete Guide to Cleaning the Bathroom

​Zip Tie

​If you have a few zip ties around the house, it can save you a trip to the store to purchase a similar object. Ideally, you will want a longer zip tie. You need at least a foot long to be able to reach deep into the drain to pull out any clogs.

Take the zip tie and a sharp pair of scissors. Cut short angled notches into the zip tie. Cut at an upwards angle to create little barb like notches.

When you push the zip tie into the drain it will slide into it without any problem. Once you begin to pull it out, the notches will grab hold of any hair or clumps of gunk and work to carry it out.

Plumber's Snake

A plumber’s snake is essentially the same as the zip tie trick. You can buy ​this ​19.6 Inch Drain Snake Clog Remover Cleaning Tool from Vastar​. These simple and easy to use drain snakes have little barbs on the sides and don’t cost much.

For a more in-depth plumbing need, there is a wheelhouse snake that can extend up to 25 feet. These drain snakes are the type that plumbers use to dealt with more serious clogs.

For an at home DIY fix, you will only need a simple drain snake.

​How to Clean a Shower Drain Trap

​Once you have cleared the clog in your drain, you will want to pour a cleaner down it. This will loosen up and push down any remaining soap scum, dirt, or other buildup.

One of the best shower cleaners you can use is probably already in your home. Baking soda can work wonders on a clogged shower drain, and combined with vinegar, the two make an amazing one-two punch.

Together​ the baking soda and vinegar ​become great natural cleaners, acting as a double-acting ingredient that can be used in other areas of your house, such as floors and even carpet.

  • Liberally sprinkle some baking soda down your shower drain. It’s okay if a little spills around the edge. Try to sweep it into the drain for maximum effect.
  • Next, pour about a cup of pure white vinegar down into the drain.​ They will begin reacting quickly, so don’t pour too slowly.
  • Finally, cover your drain with a folded washcloth. This will encourage the reaction to bubble down into the drain, not back up again.
  • Let this powerful cleaner work undisturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • ​Remove the washcloth and run some water. Your shower should be draining without any hiccups now.

Find that super handy resealable bag with your cover and screws and replace your shower drain trap.

Related: How to Clean a Wool Rug with Baking Soda

If your drain is still not clearing the water, you may need to try using a longer drain snake or calling a plumber. It could be an issue with your septic tank backing up.

Whirlpool of water going down a bathtub drain

​How Often Should You Clean Your Shower Drain

​To help you avoid another frustrating shower that doesn’t drain, you should incorporate a regular shower drain cleaning schedule.

If your family is blessed with lots of long hair, you will want to clean the shower and its drain traps on a monthly basis to reduce clogging, ​and avoid formation of rust or other mineral build up.

For average individuals you can get away with only cleaning your shower drain once every three months.

Installing a great handheld shower head makes routine cleaning a lot easier - you can pull the shower unit off the wall and direct the water where you want it to go, making cleaning a lot easier.

​Conclusion

Now that you know the ins and outs of how to clean a shower drain trap, you can no longer be intimidated by a stubborn clog that ruins your shower.

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