De-mane the drain

Updated Oct 12 2015
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I need some cute and friendly on this post, cause drains ick me out. Photo by criminalintent, used under Creative Commons license.

Melanie needs help!

My mane is a formidable opponent to my shower drain. After a few weeks of hair washing my nightly showers turn into shaths — that uncomfortable combination of showering and wading in backed up bath water.

I feel like I'm doing a great disservice to the environment by reaching for the Drano, and often envision a whale keeling over when I use it. I was wondering if any Homies have some proven natural concoctions for drain unclogging.

I have one, but you need a REALLY STRONG STOMACH to use it.

Get a Zip It — a little plastic thingie with teeth. Stick it down your drain and wriggle it around until it catches all the hair. Pull it up. Resist urge to hurl. Also resist urge to throw the entire thing away — clean it off, and toss the hair. Following up with lots of hot water down the drain helps loads, too.

I've heard lots of tales of eco-friendly baking soda concoctions made to clear drains, but I've never gotten one to work. Anyone? Have a success story?

  1. I've used baking soda and vinegar on my sink, but never on the tub/shower. For the sink I use equal parts. Put 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain (push it in with your fingers). Then, pour 1/2 cup white vinegar down the trail and seal it off so no air escapes. Wait 15-30 minutes and then pour an entire kettle of boiling water down the drain. I've had to do it twice once before. This seems to work well for our sink, but like I said, never tried it on a tub. Maybe using 1 cup of each would work better for that.

    • My husband and I both have long hair and I have successfully used this trick on our tub drain twice and unsuccessfully once (had to resort to drano then). I figure if I'm cutting down my expensive chemical use by 2/3rds that's still worthwhile, right?

      To note, you do still need to pull out as much hair as you can manually first.

    • I've had the best success on our tub drains using baking soda and vinegar. Just grab as much gunk out as you can (I used rubber gloves) then use equal parts BS and V. I just smashed my hand over the drain to force the fizz down and flushed later with hot water.

  2. Those zip-its are MAGICAL. They work wonders. Just be aware that it's going to be GROSS. If that doesn't help, go back to second grade science–pour baking soda down the drain, top off with vinegar, push down the drain stopper. THERE'S A VOLCANO IN THERE SOMEWHERE.

    Now, what can you do in the future? There are cute little cups that slip down into your drain that will help catch the hair.
    Another pro tip? Don't leave your soap bars in the shower. Set them in a dish on the lip of your tub where water doesn't hit, and only have them in the water long enough to lather up. The soap melts in the water and travels down the drain, clinging to any hair present to form a nasty gloop. Another bonus? You'll have to clean your shower less!

  3. To help prevent some hair going down the drain I try to pull as much as I can out when I shampoo and condition rub it into a ball in my hands and stick it to the weth shower wall until I get out and can throw it away.

    • We have a stopper very similar to this and it is amazing. It's 8 bucks on amazon but I'm pretty sure I picked it up at the grocery store for 2 or 3. I just clean it out after I shower – no more clogged drains.
      An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in this case.

      • I'll second this. Up until quite recently I had ridiculously thick hip-length hair that could clog a drain in about a week, and using one of those things saved me many a gross afternoon of fishing hair out of my drain.

  4. Vinegar and baking soda are great on kitchen sink drains, but I've never found them effective enough for all of the thick hair I shed in the shower. I, too, mostly just try to prevent the hair from washing away by pulling it out (try a hairbrush or comb while conditioning) and gathering it in a clump. Gross, I know, but very helpful.

    When my drain does get clogged I try the Zip-It first. Once in a great while I still need Drano, but I really try to limit its use because it's such toxic stuff. I don't think it's very good for pipes (especially in an older house) not to mention the environment.

  5. I actually just took the whole assembly out yesterday and cleaned it off. I wanted to die a little, because I have teen-aged step-sons, but it is now clean and drains like a thing that drains really well.

  6. Zip-it, for sure. Absolutely gross, but fast, effective and chemical-free. They're only about $3, and while the package says they're disposable, it's not rocket science to clean one off and reuse it. I also brush my hair really well before I get in the shower, which helps a bit. Good luck!

    • This works like a charm. I still have to go in and pull out hair from time to time, but WAY less often (1x every 6 months or so). So worth the few dollars spent!

  7. Brush your hair really good before getting in the shower. This helps eliminate some of the hair loss you'll have when shampooing. Also, get a mesh drain cover to catch any hairs before they go down the drain. Something like this

  8. Baking soda and vinegar is great for soap and goo, but won't dissolve hair. If your house is older, Drano can eat through the pipes. So…I'd start with the Zip-it, too, then keep the hair out with one of screens. You may still find yourself taking shaths, because those screens clog up pretty fast.

    • I have a LOT of hair that comes out every shower, since I don't comb it out when it's dry (combing/brushing curly hair = a huge FRO.) That means I have to pick it up off the plastic shower catcher a couple times during my shower and toss it in the trash can. I make sure to keep a little trash can right next to the shower. Sure, I wouldn't have this "shaths" problem if I just cut my waist-length hair, but I'm far too vain for that….

  9. Yeah, I just try to do my best to clean the drain every time I shower. I find it easiest (read: least yucky) to let the hair dry and then clean the drain before I begin my next shower. Something about the hair-soap-gunk mixture being wet really hits my gag reflex. My drain has a cap on it that collects most of the hair and other gunk, but I still get a little bit of shath every time so it's probably getting time for a use of the zip-it.

  10. I have a really old house with really crappy drains. Once a month I put a box of baking soda and 5 cups vinegar down the tub, then i split another box among all our other drains plus 1 cup vinegar. This keeps them flowing nicely. Run SUPER hot water for a while before and after to get all the gunk moving. If I skip a month or two our toilet backs up inevitably….When I moved into the house in 2007 the plumber who came to look at our toilet said we would need to replace the line from our house to the sewer ($$$$!!!) and this has managed to free up our sewer line enough to let us hold off on replacing it while we try to save up!

  11. Prevention all the way.

    I have a hair guard, too. It's kind of rubber, so it doesn't get clogged itself – you just lift the hair off it after each shower. Easy.

    I still use the scary drain unclogging stuff, but now it's maybe a couple of times a year instead of ALL the time.

  12. I have mega long hair. And honestly, no one wants to hear it, but the only way I've found to REALLY clean the drain is to pull the hair out. Most drains have a removeable top, so remove that, get some needle-nosed pliers and get to pulling. It's gross. Wear gloves. Seriously, it's literally the stuff, minus some feces, that is in a cesspool.

    Then, once that's done, wash your hands, wash some hot water down the drain, and you're done. Or, pour some baking soda down, top it off with a cup of vinegar, cap the drain for a few minutes, THEN wash that all down with some hot water for some extra fresh action.

    But really, remove the hair. Anything that can liquify human hair probably isn't safe for the enviroment, period.

  13. I don't know if this works for showers, but I work at a shelter that ALWAYS seemed to get clogged toilets and finally found a way to fix the clog without Drano. A bit of dish soap and a kettle (or two or three) of really hot water (poured as directly down the hole as possible) seemed to do the trick magically (plunging often wasn't even necessary after that). I heard boiling water is bad for pipe sealant (the waxy stuff keeping your toilet from leaking), so I try not to let it get THAT hot, but I haven't had any problems yet.

    We were using those things you stick in the bottom of the shower to "catch" the hair, but our clients kept pulling them out and losing them or just not using them. Anyone know of any that are permanent and/or really tricky to remove?

    • Depends on the type of drain you have, but you might just invest in some fine mesh, then cut it to the size of the drain hole and install UNDER the top drain. This will require probably a flat head screwdriver and some sharp scissors.

  14. I agree with everyone else about trying to stop it going down the drain to begin with. I find loose hair gets tangled in my fingers anyway when I'm working in conditioner, so I just pull it out then. We also have a cover on the drain to catch most of what does fall in. Like someone else said it's less gross if you let it dry and remove it before your next shower.

    As far as cleaning the drain goes I've found that a generous squirt of dishwashing liquid followed by a kettle of boiling water does the job. Environmental effects will vary by brand of course.

  15. our drain cover looks like this:
    so, we can't use a drop-in strainer thing. i usually collect my hair and stick it to the wall to flush later, like a earlier commenter said. every few weeks, i glove up and pull out the hair that got stuck on the drain cover. works well and if you do it often enough, the yuck factor is waaaay less. i think my tolerance for ick might be a little higher for a regularly maintained shower drain because i used to work at starbucks and cleaning the floor drains there was siiiiiiiiiick.

    • Please don't flush your hair down the toilet! It ends up at the waste water treatment plants and can cause major problems with the machinery. Try to put excess hair in the trash can. Your sewage treatment plant people will be grateful.

  16. I have about 3 1/2 feet of hair. I brush my hair before showering, and brush it while conditioning, and stick the hair to the walls to throw away later. For most of my life, the drain in my tub was the kind that didn't work with a drain protector, but if yours does, get one!

    And it's good to have a drain snake on hand. Those zip-it things or a wire coat hanger work as a drain snake, and are often sturdier than the actual drain snakes.

  17. Once upon a time, i had a little girl ferret. She l-o-v-e-d picking at drains. I think it was the similarity of a hole in the ground that made the drain an amazing way to 1.) keep her occupied and 2.) cleaned my drain. she would tare up every little piece of hair she could get at. I would take some courage to pick up the mess when she was done, but totally worth it. Weird, i know, but it was a fair trade;)

  18. We were given a ZipIt by our landlady, and I'm sure it would be great, but our shower drain is VERY shallow. So I went to Target and picked up a pair of cute, flower-shaped, dome drain strainers.

    I would love to know where to find that octopus-drain-strainer. (IT'S SO CUTE!!)

  19. I shop-vac my drains when they get clogged! It's loud but chemical free. I have the blessing of my friend who is a Master Plumber.

  20. If its really that bad maybe it might be worth getting a plumber round to snake the drain once, to get it really super clear and then the preventative measures like the drain covers and home remedies will probably stop it ever getting so bad again

  21. We have the pop and turn covers, so the drain covers don't work, but this video helped a lot when we needed to unclog it.
    I'd love to know if anyone knows of a drain cover that will fit on one of those. I just asked my husband extra sweetly to do the job. It was nasty, but effective.

  22. In the super gross category, a snake is $30 at home depot and a basic plumbing wrench is $10. I have pulled the pipes apart under the bathroom sink and snaked into the wall. The disgustingness that came out was rather shocking…but my $40 investment saved a $200 house call. And I've used the snake many times over in the tub and kitchen sink. Seems like they need it once a year even with drain covers everywhere. Also, the baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water is good.

  23. The most eco solution I know for this – get a sieve/net thingy for your drain (at the hardware store, I'd assume). Simply clean that out every time/every other time/however often you're comfortable with. We've got one, and I never ever drano our drain.

  24. Just an FYI – Drain-o is not only bad for the environment, but it also burns holes in your pipes.

    I had a landlord who was also a plumber and he wrote it into his lease that the tenants were not allowed to use draino in the apartment because he was tired of replacing holey pipes.

  25. I use a hair catcher that you can buy in stores, but if I forget to use it I can always use a crochet hook to do pretty much the same thing as the Zip-it. Still gross, but it works!

  26. I have a lot of thick, curly hair. I use a small craft hook to dig out all the hair (I know, ew, but it works), and follow that with a mix of 1/2 c. salt and 1/2 c. baking soda, washed down with a full kettle of boiling water, and left to sit for fifteen minutes.

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