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How to Keep Shower Drains From Clogging

Ever wonder, "Why does my shower drain keep clogging?" Here's some helpful tips on how to keep it from clogging.

Ever wonder, "Why does my shower drain keep clogging?" Here's some helpful tips on how to keep it from clogging.

Keep Drains Clear

Trouble with slow shower drains? Hair and soap scum can build up and cause shower drains to slow or stop. I have long hair and so do my four daughters, so our two shower drains have plenty of chances to clog. I'm just a mom, not a plumber, but despite that, I've fixed plenty of clogged drains before. That means that you might be able to fix them too!

Here are a few of my simple tricks to fix the situation.

Easy Strainer From Mesh

I knew that lots of hair was going down the drain, and I must have put in lots of drain chemicals and called the plumber before I figured out another plan.

I tried using both wire mesh and plastic drain covers. Those worked when I had a tub shower, but they floated away in our tile showers. So, I decided I'd have to make a mesh cover for the drain myself.

Materials Needed

  1. Fiberglass screen (the kind used for window screens)
  2. Screwdriver
  3. Scissors
  4. Sharpie
  5. Plastic snake to take out hair (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Time needed: 15 minutes

  1. Use a screwdriver to take the screws out that hold the drain cover on. Be careful to set the screws so they won't fall down the drain.
  2. While the cover is off, you might want to use a drain snake to get out any hair that is already in there.
  3. Take the drain cover and put it on the fiberglass screen. Use a sharpie to draw a circle about 1/4 to 1/2-inch larger than the drain (or eyeball it).
  4. Cut along that circle.
  5. Put the drain cover on top of the screen and use the tip of the scissors to poke a hole where the screws go through.
  6. Put the screen down on the drain hole. Put the drain cover on top. Make sure the screen is held down on all sides by the drain cover and pokes out a bit all around the edge. The fiberglass is soft so that it won't hurt anyone's feet.
  7. Screw the screws back in tightly.
  8. You are done. Check regularly to clean off the hair. I've found that it needs to be cleaned every day or two and am amazed at how much hair I clean off that would otherwise be going down the drain! In addition, this catches lint and even globs of soap which really has helped keep my drains clean and problem free.

Tips for Using Mesh Barriers

I've been using these for over two years and seen a significant change in the drains. I do need to change these at least once a week, but I don't mind that because it means they are working! Most of the time, I've wiped off the scum and re-used them, but yesterday, I bought a roll of the mesh from Walmart and decided to cut the whole thing up into drain strainers.

In about 15 minutes, I'd cut about 100 of these, enough for my two showers for a year. That means I can just throw them away when I take them off and that will both save me a few minutes and also make it easier to get my kids to do the job (they didn't like to touch the gunk on the mesh). I keep a small screwdriver and a Ziploc bag of these in my bathroom cupboard to make the job easy and fast. Mesh and screwdrivers cost less than $10. Great fix for a pretty cheap price!

Using Enzymes to Break Down Scum

Another important part of keeping drains clear is dissolving the soap scum. After having one plumber come to my house several times for the same problem, I finally asked him if there was anything that would help keep the drains clear. He told me to use the Zep Enzymes regularly. When I use these once a month, my drains stay clear. When I forget, I get clogs again. I've used several different enzyme mixtures over the years, and they seem to work the same. Some are already mixed, but for most of them you need to:

  1. Mix dry enzymes in warm water. The package will tell you the amount to use.
  2. Run warm water into the drain to get it ready.
  3. Pour down enzymes into all drains (shower, sink, and toilet) right before bed. You flush the toilet but just let the others sit.
  4. In the morning, you can just use the drains as usual, or if they have been draining slowly, you can pour down some boiling water to get them cleared out.

Main Line Enzymes

Recently, I also heard about using a main Line cleaning enzyme, and I've started treating my lines because it is so easy and inexpensive. The main line cleaner is designed to work on the sludge that enters the drain from the toilets (you know what I mean) and also designed to break down toilet paper. I don't know if you've had the unpleasant scenario (that we have experienced) of having toilet sludge backing up into your showers (yuck!). Main line enzymes are designed to prevent that. These are super easy to use:

  1. Pour 1 cup (8 oz.) of the cleaner in the toilet and flush right before bed. Let the mixture sit in the drains overnight.
  2. Use your toilet and, other plumbing, as usual, the next day.
  3. Repeat the treatment for a total of 4 days.
  4. They suggest that you do the treatment four times a year to keep the enzymes working in the pipes. That's pretty easy in my opinion, and at about $12 a treatment or $48 a year, it is a bargain compared to plumbing bills.

Main Line Sewer Enzyme

What Do Enzymes Do for Drains?

There are several enzyme products on the market, but they all seem to do about the same thing. They are bacteria and enzymes that eat up soap and other scum in the drains and make them able to be flushed away with the water going down the drain. As a result, your drains stay clear. These enzymes don't work as well on hair, which is why it helps to use the drain strainer too.

Tips for Using Enzymes in Drains

You can buy drain enzymes as a liquid or a powder that you mix. The powder is much more economical, and since we have a lot of drains, that is what I usually use. See the instructions on the container for your particular enzyme, but reading threads about these, I've learned these tips:

  1. The drain needs to be flowing for the enzymes to get in to work. If it is completely clogged, you will probably need to clear it first.
  2. Heat the drain by running hot water down before you put in the enzyme mixture.
  3. Mix the dry enzymes with warm water and stir them to dissolve them.
  4. Pour the enzyme mixture down the drain and then leave them for at least 6 hours. For toilets, just flush one scoopful down and then don't use the toilet for 6 or more hours.
  5. If you have a lot of gunk in your drains, then it can help to pour hot, boiling water down the drain to help that gunk get washed away after the enzyme treatment.
  6. When you first do enzyme treatments, you should do 3 days in a row.
  7. To keep enzymes actively working in your drain, do a once a month treatment in all drains and toilets.

Drain Problems

Home Remedies for Clogged Drains

Here are some methods to try if you have a clogged drain. These are natural ingredients you probably already have at home, and none of them can hurt you, so before you call a plumber, you might want to try one of these to see if it will clear your drain.

  1. Drain It Snake: These snakes are fed down through the drain. You move them side to side, and they pick up hair and gunk down the drain that you pull out. Before I put in my drain screens, these were very helpful in getting up hair. They are great for bathtub drains that you can't put a screen on, or sinks.
  2. Baking Soda and Vinegar: Pour 1/2-cup of baking soda down drain. Then pour on 1/2 cup vinegar. Wait 15 minutes. You might remember this as the "volcano" science project you did in grade school. Sometimes this chemical reaction can clear a drain. Pour boiling water down to see if it clears.
  3. Baking Soda, Salt, and Vinegar: Similar to the one above, but you add 1/2 cup salt and wait a full hour. Pour in the boiling water to see if the drain clears.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Virginia Kearney


Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on April 27, 2019:

Thanks, Schoolgirlforreal, I'm glad to know this helped you!

Rosemary Amrhein on April 26, 2019:

Hi Virginia!

Thank you so much for this useful advice, I had a clogged sink that the water was going down slowly all this week, and after putting some vinegar and baking soda and boiling water, it's going fine!

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on May 23, 2014:

Great advice. Drainage, you are in danger. You are so gonna get purified.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on November 16, 2013:

Great tip! I will need to try this for sure as hair is always clogging our shower drain.

Up and more and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 07, 2013:

Thanks for putting together this great resource! I know that clogged drains are a chronic issue for anyone with long hair.

Shasta Matova from USA on November 02, 2013:

This is great advice - we have clogged drains from long hair too. I am definitely going to use the mesh and the enzymes.

Virginia Kearney (author) from United States on November 01, 2013:

Hope this helps teaches--I find that with our drains we have to keep up the enyzmes so that we don't have problems.

Dianna Mendez on November 01, 2013:

What a coincidence, my hubby just unclogged the drain today for about the fourth time this year. He has a little gadget that is handy for this job. However, I am forwarding this to him so we can install the mesh. I think it will do the trick of keeping the drain clear. I will also do the enzyme flush. Sharing with other people who have this trouble at home.