How To Thaw A Frozen Shower Drain: A Step-by-Step Guide for a Warm and Working Shower

Shower drains tend to freeze up in cold weather, and it can be quite a hassle when it happens. There are several telltale ways to determine if your drain is frozen and how to melt the ice. We’ll go over everything you’ll need to get your drain draining and you back on track for regular showers (which would definitely be a relief).

Key Points:

  • Shower drains tend to freeze up in cold weather, and it can be quite a hassle when it happens.
  • To determine if your drain is frozen, check if water has slowly started pooling at your feet over the course of a week or so; your drain is probably clogged, not frozen. If greyish-tinted water is backing up, your pipes are frozen.
  • To melt the ice out of a frozen shower drain, you can use baking soda and vinegar or controlled heat. Salt can also help thaw a frozen drain but never use a blowtorch or any open flame to thaw your shower drain, as it never goes well.

At this point, I think we know more people that don’t enjoy winter than do. And if you do, honestly, we have a lot of questions; no judgment, though. What’s not to love about frozen pipes and shower drains? Other than everything, which seems like the obvious answer. Let’s dive in and figure out how to de-winter your drain!

How Do I Know If My Shower Drain Is Frozen?

It can sometimes be challenging to determine if your drain is, in fact, frozen or just clogged. As a general rule of thumb, if water has slowly started pooling at your feet over the course of a week or so, your drain is probably clogged, not frozen.

However, if you go to take a shower and it begins to back up with greyish-tinted water, congratulations, your pipes are frozen (not sure if congratulations are in order, but we figured they might make you feel better).

Is It Bad To Let My Shower Drain Thaw By Itself?

Now, it may be tempting to just step out of the shower, ignore the fact that you’re two inches deep in gross grey water, and go about the rest of your day. For one, you probably need a shower, so maybe not the best idea. Second, letting the drain pipes thaw out by themselves usually does more harm than good, not to mention it takes a long time.

As soon as you notice the pipes beginning to freeze, thaw the drain (we’ll explain how to in just a minute here). The longer you wait to thaw the ice, the more buildup there will be, and the harder it will be to thaw.

Not to mention, as water freezes, it expands, and the pipes are more than likely not equipped to handle a large amount of ice. This will cause the pipe to break or burst, and then rather than a warm mixture down the drain, it will be a call to the plumber.

How Do You Melt A Frozen Shower Drain?

There are a few different ways to melt the ice out of a frozen shower drain. Now, the fun part is that some of it requires a chemical reaction, so here’s to a science project in your bathtub! Let’s take a look.

First things first, never use a blowtorch or any open flame to thaw your shower drain, as it never goes well. The open flame is often too much direct heat and can lead to bigger problems. Another rule of thumb do not throw any random chemicals down the drain, as we are unsure how they would react to each other, and in the end, it causes more harm than good. Now, let’s dive in.

Clearing The Drain

  1. Begin with ½ cup of baking soda. Pour the baking soda down the drain, and follow with a cup of vinegar. A chemical reaction takes place, cleaning the pipe.
  2. Let the mixture sit in the drain and boil a pot of water. Once the water is boiled, add one cup of salt.
  3. Pour the mixture directly down the drain.
  4. Once the pot is empty, turn the shower on to allow hot water to flow through the drain for a few minutes. This ensures that the buildup in the drain is completely thawed.

Congratulations, you did a science project and somehow managed not to blow anything up (we’re remarkably proud).

Using Controlled Heat

While it is probably rather unlikely, you may not have vinegar or baking soda to speak of, and that’s ok (we do have a few questions, but we’ll refrain. If these products are unavailable and going to the store feels like more hassle than it’s worth, you can also use a controlled source of heat (no, not the blowtorch).

Place a space heater in the bathroom as close to the drain without directly hitting any flammable objects. Close off the door to the bathroom, and let the area warm up for 20-30 minutes. This usually gives the frozen drain enough time to thaw.

Will Salt Thaw A Frozen Drain?

Scoop Of Salt

Now comes the next piece, does salt actually help thaw a frozen shower drain? Interestingly enough, it does. Ever notice how in the wintertime, salt is put on frozen walkways to promote freezing? In your shower drain, it does essentially the same thing.

The salt helps thaw a frozen drain because it prevents water from re-freezing onto the ice.

How Do You Prevent A Frozen Shower Drain?

Now that you’ve taken the time to thaw the shower drain, it’s probably not something you’d care to repeat in the near future. Or, if we’re being honest, just the future in general. There are several ways to prevent any future frozen shower drains.


A large piece of preventing any drain or pipe from freezing is to ensure the proper insulation is put into place. For example, any pipes leading to the shower drain located on exterior walls are extremely prone to freezing. Tip of the day? Insulate, insulate, insulate. This helps to prevent any freezing before it even happens.

Continuous Water Flow

A good way to prevent water from freezing up in your drain is to keep a continuous water flow. We don’t mean full force; drain your water heater-type flow. Just a small trickle will prevent the vent pipes from freezing up in the future.

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