How to Deep Clean a Shower Drain (Unclog and Deodorize)

Turning on your shower and being hit with a rotten smell isn’t a great way to start the morning. Stinky shower drains, however unpleasant, are a common household problem. 

The leading cause of shower drain odors and standing water is a build-up of hair and personal products. You can clear these clogs, disinfect, and deodorize the drain with a few DIY remedies. In some cases, the cause of clogs and odors is due to a backup of your sewer pipes and requires immediate attention from a plumber.

How to Clean a Drain Clogged with Hair

How to Clean a Drain Clogged with Hair

Before you can disinfect or deodorize the drain, you need to deal with clogs. All of the methods below work well, although if long hair is the culprit, using a plumber’s snake is the best method.

Clear a Shower Drain Clog with a Toilet Plunger

Your toilet plunger is good for more than clearing a clogged toilet – it also works on shower drains. To unclog your shower with a plunger, run enough water to cover the plunger’s bell, then place it over the drain and start plunging. If water still drains slowly, repeat the process or remove the drain cover and manually pull out the clog with a plumber’s snake.

Use a Plumber’s Snake

A plumber’s snake looks similar to a wire coat hanger and attaches to a drill.

To use a plumber’s snake, start by removing the drain cover. There are three main types of shower drain covers, pop-up, screw-in, and toe top covers. Here’s how to remove each:

  • Pop-Up Covers – These drains are controlled via a lever you pull up and push down on the back of the faucet. You can normally remove pop-up drain covers by pulling them straight up out of the drain, although you might need to gently wiggle as you’re pulling.
  • Screw-in – These drain covers look like mesh and are attached via screws. Find the appropriate size and type of screwdriver to remove this cover.
  • Toe-Top – Toe Top or Toe Touch drains look like pop-up covers, only they’re spring-loaded rather than being controlled by a lever on the faucet. Most toe-top drain covers twist off but sometimes contain screws. If yours doesn’t easily twist off, look for a screw on the side.

With your shower drain cover off, stick the metal piece of the plumber’s snake down the drain hole, and turn the drill on. The hair will wrap around the snake, unclogging the drain.

Dump Boiling Water Down the Drain

Boiling water is effective at flushing drains. But before you try this, use your hands or a plumber’s snake to unclog hair. Then dump a large pot of boiling water in the shower drain to flush leftover pieces.

Use a Chemical Drain Opener

Chemical drain openers can clear clogs caused by hair and soap build-up. If you suspect that’s the cause of your blockage, pick up a drain cleaner for showers or bathtubs. 

There are many products to choose from, and you can find them at your local hardware store, Walmart, or Amazon.

When to Call a Plumber

Call a plumber if you’ve tried the above methods and have yet to clear your drain. It’s even more urgent to call in a professional if more than one sink or shower is having trouble draining – this can indicate a severe blockage.

How to Deep Clean and Deodorize a Shower Drain (Do This Once Per Month and Every Time Your Drain Smells Bad)

Sometimes shower drains smell even if they’re not clogged. Reasons include a build-up of bacteria in the drain pipes or, in the case of showers that are rarely used, a build-up of sewer gas. Dumping boiling water is often enough to clear the smells, but you can take it a step further and deodorize your shower drain with baking soda and vinegar.

To deep clean and deodorize your drain:

  • Dump a pot of boiling water down the drain and allow it to cool
  • Pour one cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar
  • Place a rag over the drain hole and wait 15 minutes
  • Rinse with a second pot of boiling water

To refresh and deodorize your drain:

Do this each time you clean your bathroom. But, skip if you’ve bleached the bathtub – you never want to mix bleach and vinegar.

  • Add 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to the drain.
  • Wait five minutes and flush with hot water.

When you use this combo to clean your drain, the vinegar will kill mold spores, and the baking soda will deodorize.

Tips For Keeping Your Shower Drain Clean

Invest in a mesh hair catcher – These inexpensive tools sit on top of the drain, preventing hair from entering. You can get a mesh hair catcher for a few bucks on Amazon. They’re a shower must-have for those with long hair and will prevent a slow-draining shower or tub.

Don’t pour bleach down the drain – Bleach can corrode your plumbing pipes and mix with other substances, causing a toxic reaction. According to Discover Plumbing and Rooter, bleach doesn’t clear drain clogs and kill off the good bacteria in your septic system.

Stop using chunky toiletries – Oatmeal soaps, exfoliating scrubs, and bath bombs with large chunks can all build up in the drainpipe, causing clogs, sludge, and smells.