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How to Remove a Shower Drain: the DIY Way

If your shower isn’t draining properly, don’t ignore it. Learn how to unclog it to avoid problems.

Shower drains are necessary but notorious for getting clogged. And cleaning or replacing the shower drain is a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

Some might think drain removal is easy peasy, but you’ll need different approaches based on the type of drain.

So, we’ll teach you how to remove a shower drain depending on the type you have. This way, you can avoid plumbing issues or gunk build-up in your shower.

Key Takeaways

  • Unclog the drain first using a drain snake or a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and hot water.
  • For drains with screws, use needle-nose pliers and a flathead screwdriver to remove the drain.
  • For drains without screws, identify the type of cover (e.g., pop-up, snap-in, toe-touch) and follow the appropriate removal method.
  • If the drain cover is stuck, try using baking soda and vinegar or a plunger to loosen the clog before attempting to remove the cover again.

Can You Replace a Shower Drain Yourself?

You can replace a shower drain yourself. But every project is unique, from fiberglass to plastic drains and mobile homes to large houses. So, it pays to be prepared for any unexpected issues that may arise during a shower drain installation.

Even though replacing a drain or plug should only take a couple of hours, you’ll want to give yourself some extra time and bring various tools. If you don’t know how to remove a shower drain cover, that’s okay. Just keep following along.

Some of these unpredictable situations could include:

  • Discrepancies in pipe sizes.
  • Having to work in tight spots.
  • Having to replace the whole trap.

How To Unclog a Shower Drain

Home bath tub drain clogged by long stain of clumped hairs

If you notice that the water in your bathtub or shower is draining slowly, that means it’s time to unclog the drain before you remove it. Failing to do so before attempting to remove the drain can result in fixture damage. There are several DIY ways you can do it, but a drain snake works best.

A drain snake is a handy plumbing tool that can easily pull out hair from the drain alongside other residues that cause the blockage.

Side Note

Another solution for those who don’t own a drain snake is to pour baking soda, vinegar, and hot water down the drain. However, if the drain is clogged with hair, this won’t work (tried and tested by yours truly).

How to Unclog a Shower Drain

It’s a pretty simple process if you have a drain snake. If you’ve got one of those, then follow the steps below.

What You’ll Need

1. Remove Drain Cover

Some shower drain covers just pop out with your fingers. Others need to be wedged out with a knife or flathead screwdriver, and some might have screws holding it in place. Whichever kind you have, remove the cover to gain access to the drain.

2. Feed Snake Down the Drain

Take the pointed end of the snake and start feeding it down the drain until you feel it hit the clog.

3. Twist

Start twisting. The barbs on the length of the snake and on the tip will grab whatever’s clogging the drain.

4. Pull

Gently pull the snake back out of the drain. Clean it of gunk and hair with a cloth and dispose of it properly.

5. Repeat

You might have to repeat it once or twice more if it’s a nasty, stubborn clog. Once you run water and it quickly goes down the drain, you know it’s unclogged.

How To Remove a Shower Drain With Screws

Shower drains with screws are the easiest to remove, as they have the most easily-identifiable system to keep the drain in place.

What You’ll Need:

  • Two pairs of needle-nose pliers.
  • Flathead screwdriver.
  • Lubricant.
  • Small empty container.

1. Lubricate the Drain

Use WD-40 or a silicone-based lubricant for this step. Apply the lubricant to all the visible parts of the drain.

Pour some lubricant down the drain to cover parts that are not visible. Allow the lubricant to sit for about 10 minutes.

2. Unscrew the Drain

Examine the drain to see if there are any screws. Use a flathead screwdriver to take them out. Place them all inside a container, so you don’t lose them.

3. Lift the Drain Out

Grab the two pairs of needle-nose pliers and place them on opposing sides of the drain. With the pliers in place, turn the drain counterclockwise.

Continue turning until the drain is unscrewed. If it doesn’t come off and you have to force it, add more lubricant instead of elbow grease.

How To Remove Shower Drains Without Screws

Not all shower drains have exposed screws, so here’s how to take off a shower drain based on other connection mechanisms.

Pop-Up Drain Covers

These drain covers can be easily lifted using hand or foot pressure. To remove one of these covers, you are going to have to open the drain by pressing it.

Twist off the lid and use a flathead screwdriver to remove the screw at the base of the drain. This should allow you to lift the cover completely.

Snap-In Drain Covers

For snap-in drain covers, you’re likely going to need a lubricant. Make sure to apply it generously so that the solutions end up in the less exposed parts of the drain. Allow the lubricant to sit for two minutes before attempting to remove the cover.

You’ll need needle nose pliers to remove a snap-in drain cover. Spin the drain to the left as you hold it using the pliers. This will force the adhesive to come off.

Toe Touch Covers

Toe-touch covers have a functioning mechanism that’s identical to a pop-up drain cap. That means if you want to remove them, you are going to have to use the same method described for pop-up drain covers.

Lift-and-Turn Covers

These types of drain covers are pretty common. They are designed with a small knob located on the top side, which you can twist to open or close the stopper.

You have to lift it to the open position to remove this drain. Turn the base counterclockwise without turning the knob at the top.

When you notice a tiny screw at the base of the drain, unscrew it. You should now be able to remove the cover.

Push-and-Pull Covers

Similar in design to toe-touch models, push-and-pull covers are meant to be pulled when you want to open them and pushed when you want to close them.

If you find yourself having to remove one of these covers, pull the drain stopper to open it. Unscrew the knob at the top.

Removing the knob should reveal a square opening. Place a screwdriver inside and rotate counterclockwise. This should loosen the cover and allow you to remove it.

Flip-It Covers

These drain covers are very easy to install and remove. They can be recognized due to the tiny lever located on the top, which allows you to open and close the drain with a “flip of the switch.”

Flip it open, pull it slightly to reveal the groove, insert a flathead screwdriver into it, and lift it by applying a little pressure.

Shower Drain Cover Won’t Come Off?

In certain situations, a stubborn shower drain cover may refuse to come off even when you’ve done everything by the book. It could be that the drain is really old, or the grate is stuck in place.

Here are a couple more tips that might prove helpful for those looking to learn how to remove a stubborn shower drain cover.

Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

This is a non-toxic alternative to conventional drain cleaners that can help break up sludge that is preventing your drain cover from coming off.

Take a quarter cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Allow these two to fizz for 15 to 20 minutes. Next, boil a big pot of water and, when the 20 minutes are up, pour it down the drain.

Use a Plunger

When clogs are not visible, a plunger can help you out. Add roughly two inches of water to the overflow plate, cover it using a wet rag, and put the plunger on top.

Pump it forcefully a few times and check the draining capacity. Repeat the process up to four times, if needed. Once you’ve managed to remove the debris clogging the drain, you should be able to remove the cover with ease.


What is a Shower Drain Flange?

A shower drain flange is a piece mounted inside the drain to provide plumbing fittings attachments. A drain flange is a great component in a drainage system if you want to avoid any potential leaks.

How Do You Remove a Shower Drain Cover That is Grouted In?

To remove a shower drain that’s grouted in tile, you need to use a utility knife around the drain to remove the grout that’s keeping it in place. You can then pry the cover away from the drain with a removal tool to get rid of it.

Final Words

Shower drain removal is easy and requires minimal tools. And, now that you know how to unscrew a shower drain yourself, there’s really no excuse to let a build-up of hair turn your shower into a bath.

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About the Author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Interior Designer. Using her years of hands-on experience, she now writes about design and DIY. She currently resides on the rocky East Coast of Canada with her family and slobbery bulldog.