What catches hair in a drain?

Hair catching in drains is a common annoyance in bathrooms. As hair sheds naturally or is washed down the drain, it can accumulate over time and cause clogged pipes, slow drainage, and blockages. Understanding what catches hair in drains and how to prevent buildup can help homeowners maintain clear, functioning plumbing.

Some key factors that contribute to hair getting caught in bathroom drains include:

The Shape of Hair Strands

Human hair has a tapered shape and can coil, tangle, and weave together into snarls and knots. The slender tips can slide into narrow drain openings and gaps but then bunch up when more hair piles in behind it. Drain strainers and plugs can temporarily catch shed hair before it goes down the pipes, but eventually strands work their way past these barriers.

Drain and Pipe Materials

The materials that make up drain assemblies can inadvertently grab hair and accumulate buildup. Older metal drains often have rough edges, seams, protruding parts, and crossbars that snag debris passing through. Plastic and vinyl pipes generate static electricity that attracts hair. Pipe joints and elbows provide transitions and edges for hair to cling to. Any texture or irregularity in drains can allow strands to cling and tangle.

Water Flow

How hair moves through sink and tub drains depends on water volume, speed, and direction. Large volumes of hair shed during showering get driven down the drain by heavy water flow. However, low, lazy draining after a bath or sink use allows hair to settle and stick to pipe walls rather than flushing down. Single direction downward flow presses hair directly onto waiting snags and obstructions.

What Accumulates Hair in Different Drains

Hair catch and accumulate problems occur in all types of bathroom drains, but the specific mechanisms and trouble spots depend on the drain type.

Bathtub Drains

Bathtub drains have some of the highest hair catching potential due to the large volumes of hair shed during bathing and showering. Here are key bathtub drain features that catch hair:

– Drain covers/strainers – Holes and slots intended to catch larger debris still allow smaller hairs through. Over time, strainer holes get obstructed and clogged by wads of hair.

– Crossbars – Many tub drain strainers secure to crossbars inside the drain. These provide ledges and transitions for hair to snag on.

– Drain collars – The tub drain collar provides an abrupt pipe size transition and edge for hair to cling to as it enters the drain. Stuck hair then accumulates here.

– Overflow plate – Hair gets wedged between the overflow plate and the tub wall, out of the direct flow path. Mounds of hair packed into this void are hidden from view.

– P-traps – The p-trap loop design causes hair to settle and collect rather than flow out to the main pipes. Layers of hair build up in p-traps over time.

Bathroom Sink Drains

Though bathroom sink drains see less total hair volume than tubs, they still have problematic hair catch areas, including:

– Pop-up stoppers – Hair works its way into gaps around popup sink stoppers, and gets trapped when the stopper closes. Stoppers can become clogged and stuck shut with hair buildup.

– Tailpieces – The sink tailpiece is anchored by washers and gaskets that create obstructions for hair to cling to at direction changes in the piping.

– P-traps – Like tub drains, sink p-traps are problematic due to hair settling out and accumulating in trap bends. Sink p-traps are more accessible for cleaning than tub p-traps, however.

– Bottle traps – Vintage sinks with bottle traps under the basin rely on small passages and 90-degree bends to create p-trap functionality, making them very prone to hair clogs.

Shower Drains

Modern shower drains often have grate coverings and catch basins designed to retain shed hair before it enters the pipes. Still, problematic areas include:

– Pipe size transition – Narrowing pipe width in the drain throat creates changes in water velocity and flow direction perfect for accumulating hair.

– Drain collars – Much like on tubs, the drain collar edge provides an ideal place for hair to cling and pile up.

– Grate gaps – Hair works into gaps around and under shower drain grates, building up gradually inside the drain body.

– P-traps – Shower p-traps are especially prone to hair collection due to high volumes of water and hair flow in a short period of time.

Prevention of Hair Clogs

Certain maintenance habits and drain fixture choices can help minimize hair clogging problems. Suggestions include:

Remove Hair from Drains Regularly

Eliminating accumulated hair from drains, strainers, and overflows before it can form significant clogs is key. Using drain snakes or pipe cleaners monthly helps clear drains. Taking apart p-traps under sinks provides access for thorough hair removal.

Choose Hair-Resistant Drain Covers

Open grates or screens allow hair through easily. Opt for sink drain pop-up stoppers and tub drain covers with smaller perforations to filter out more hair from entering the pipes.

Use Hair Catchers

Metal or plastic hair catchers placed over sink and tub drains trap shed hair before it goes down the drain. These are reusable and easy to clean out. Disposable hair catchers are also available.

Hair Catcher Type Pros Cons
Reusable plastic or metal – Inexpensive
– Long-lasting
– Easy to clean
– Can still let some hair through into drain
– Needs periodic rinsing out
– Might not fit all drain sizes/shapes
Disposable plastic – Very effective hair catching
– Fits drain opening precisely
– No cleaning needed
– More expensive over time
– Single-use only
– Extra waste produced

Minimize Hair Going Down the Drain

Reducing the amount of hair going into bathroom drains reduces potential clogs. Brush or comb hair before washing to remove loose strands. Dispose of excess hair removed by brushes/combs in the trash, not down the drain. Limit washing pets in bathroom sinks or tubs. Consider inexpensive silicone drain covers to hold shed hair in the basin rather than letting it flow down.

Use Drain Maintenance Products

Regular use of enzyme cleaner, hair digester liquids, or foaming drain cleaners keeps drains free of organic buildup like hair and soap scum. These products break down hair and debris naturally over time. Just flush down the drain on a monthly basis.

Removing Existing Hair Clogs

If bathroom drains become slow or completely clogged with hair, several methods exist for removing the blockage:

Mechanical Cleaning

Tools like small plastic drain snakes, pipe cleaners, hooked wires, or a Zip-It drain cleaning tool can manually pull out hair. This works best for clearing sink drains or tub/shower drain strainers and immediate pipe sections. Mechanical cleaning won’t clear clogs farther down the pipes.


Using a sink or toilet plunger over tub and sink drains can force out soft hair clogs. Plunging dislodges hair wads and pushes them down through the p-trap. Repeat plunges may be needed to clear all hair. Caution – plunging too vigorously can damage pipes/seals or dislodge the p-trap.

Boiling Water

Pouring a kettle or pot of boiling water down the drain can help melt and flush away hair grease that may be bonding hair strands together. This is most effective for sink drains. Caution – don’t use with metal pipes, as boiling water can damage plastic pipe joints.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

A simple homemade drain cleaner is baking soda and vinegar. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, follow with 1/2 cup vinegar – the foaming chemical reaction helps break up hair. Let sit 30 minutes, then flush with hot water. Repeat if needed.

Chemical Hair Dissolvers

Liquid drain cleaner chemicals with enzymes or lye specifically target hair and grease clogs. These are stronger and more hazardous than homemade recipes. Follow product usage directions closely. Avoid using these chemicals with metal or old pipes.

Drain Auger (Snake)

A manual crank or motorized auger/snake feeds a long flexible rotating metal wire down pipes to hook and dislodge clogs. This can clear hair much farther down the pipes beyond p-traps. Useful for severe tub or shower clogs, but shouldn’t be used in sinks due to potential basin damage.

Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting services use high-pressure water blasted through pipes to scour and flush out hair and debris. This requires professional equipment but is very effective for chronic hair-prone drains.

When to Call a Professional

While many hair clogs can be cleared using the methods above, calling in a professional plumber or drain cleaning service may be wise in certain situations:

– Complete drain blockage that cannot be loosened by DIY methods

– Frequent repeat clogging issues despite efforts to clear and maintain drains

– Need for hydro jetting services to fully clear all pipes

– Suspected issues deeper in the main waste/vent lines beyond just p-traps

– Presence of tree roots or major grease/soap buildup mixed with hair

– Need access to problematic overflow ports or under-sink bottle traps

– Concerns about risk of chemical or mechanical drain cleaners to pipes

– Lack of time or physical ability to do intensive drain cleaning personally


Hair catching in drains is a nuisance but also avoidable with vigilance. Understanding what causes hair to grab and accumulate in bathroom plumbing is the first step. Installing hair-blocking drain covers, regularly cleaning pipes, and using hair-dissolving products prevents major clog formation. For existing problems, methods like snakes, plunging, or water flushing can clear out hair wads. However, if sluggish drains persist despite best efforts, calling a professional plumber or drain cleaning service may be required. With routine maintenance and quick action when needed, hair clogs can be minimized for smooth flowing bathroom drains.

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