How to Unclog an RV Shower Drain

If the drains in your RV have started to plug up or smell bad, there are lots of options available to you

RVs with showers are great! You can stay clean and fresh no matter where you’re camped. However, every drain in an RV can become clogged under the wrong circumstances. That’s why every RVer needs to know how to unclog an RV shower drain.

Heading into your RV after a long day of hiking and being able to take a nice, hot shower is a blissful moment for every RV owner. However, if your feet start slowly becoming submerged in the water and the tub is filling up, it could mean your RV shower drain is clogged. This can happen for a variety of reasons so let’s dig in and learn how to unclog an RV shower drain.

Sewer system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why is the shower not draining in my RV?

There are several reasons why the shower in your RV isn’t draining and as soon as you find the culprit, you’ll be able to choose the appropriate unclogging method. 

When you’re dealing with a shower drain clog, the culprit is probably a mixture of hair, soap scum, and any other dirt/sand/debris that accumulates due to a life on the road. If you’re lucky, the drain will be able to stay clear on its own and will only need to be cleaned occasionally.

However, once the water starts rising and refuses to drain quickly, it’s time to prepare for some drain cleaning. There are several different tactics you can use to tackle this problem.

The first step would be to remove the drain cover if possible (some are held in with a screw or two… others are just pressure-fit into the opening). With it removed, you should be able to see if there’s hair and/or soap scum buildup blocking the flow of water and remove it manually. It’s also easier to use tools or pour things down when there is a clear opening.

Dawn dish soap © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ways to unclog an RV shower drain?

Unclogging an RV shower drain may seem daunting if it’s not something you’ve done before. It’s a pretty easy job to complete though and even water alone can help solve the problem so you don’t need to worry about making a big dent in your bank account.

1. Hot water

Hot water can be useful to get rid of a blockage in an RV shower drain by helping dissolve the build-up of soap scum and allowing it to flush down through the pipes and into the gray water tank. Sometimes it just needs to be loosened up. You might need to repeat this process a few times if you have a substantially large blockage.

It’s best to avoid using boiling water as pouring high-temperature water down into your system can cause damage to pipes and seals. Heat at least 1 gallon of water, more if necessary. If it comes to a boil, let it cool for a few minutes before going ahead and pouring it into the drain.

2. Vinegar and Baking Soda 

A popular method of unclogging an RV shower drain is to use a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda. Not only is this a low-cost method but also avoids putting any harsh chemicals down your drain that could damage the pipes and maybe even the holding tank itself.

Sprinkle ½ cup of baking soda down the drain and follow it up with ½ cup of white vinegar. Let this combo sit for at least 1 hour, then pour hot water down the drain to rinse everything down.

3. Dawn Dish Soap

If water alone can’t fix the issue, you can also add a gentle soap to it. Dawn dish soap and laundry detergent are great additives that can cut through grease and soften up clogs. Add ½ cup of Dawn to a gallon of hot water and pour it down the drain.

Water filter © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Ice

An old-school method to help unclog a blocked shower drain is to use ice. If you have a particularly big blockage this method may not work but it may be worth a try. 

To use this method, pour ice down the clogged drain (pebble ice is best for this purpose) then drive the RV around for a bit to build up friction. This friction supposedly breaks up the clog and melts the ice, prompting everything to move into the holding tank. Other tactics are more reliable but you can give this method a try if you have ice on hand.

5. Chemical drain cleaners

You may need to use a chemical drain cleaner to unclog an RV shower drain. They can be used in your kitchen or bathroom sinks as well. No matter what kind of blockage you’re dealing with a good drain cleaner can help. There are numerous options available but I will describe two of the best.

Water system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drainbo All-Natural Drain Treatment and Cleaner

If you’d prefer a quicker and simpler solution, you can always turn to the wide lineup of Drainbo products. Each of their products is designed to be a gentle and effective RV drain cleaner.

Their cleaners are advertised as all-natural and RV owners have been happily using them for years. This brand also holds the honor of being the only drain cleaner that the Natural Products Association has labeled as safe and all-natural. If this is a priority for you, make sure you explore Drainbo as a possible new cleaner.

Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain & Greese Trap Cleaner

This enzyme-based cleaner from Green Gobbler is another fantastic RV drain cleaner. RV plumbing systems rely on a healthy batch of bacteria to break down waste in the holding tanks. Because of this system, you don’t want to completely kill everything with harsh soaps.

An enzyme cleaner is a perfect solution because it breaks through grime and bad smells but allows the natural processes to continue. This product from Green Gobbler is especially good at cutting through grease and food waste so it can be ideal for treating kitchen sinks.

Some of these will work quickly while others need to sit for a while. Make sure to read the specific directions for each product so you use the appropriate amount for the problem.

Pro tip: DO NOT use harsh cleaners like bleach or Drano—they will do more harm than good

Water system © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Closing Thoughts

You can also prevent clogs from forming (or at least slow the process) by regularly cleaning your shower and drain. Soap scum is another culprit of this problem, so keeping the shower nice and clean will reduce the amount of soap residue that’s left behind.

You can also pour a bit of cleaner down the drain every few weeks as a preventative measure. Some chemical cleaners won’t work against serious clogs but using a bit at a time can help keep the plumbing clear. This is also a simple fix that doesn’t require much effort!

Being aware of how to unclog an RV shower drain can prove useful time and time again as clogs are relatively common in RVs. It’s also worth knowing how to prevent clogs from happening in the first place so you can avoid the rather stinky job of reaching down your pipe to remove hair, debris, and soap scum from the pipes!

For large clogs that have developed over a substantial amount of time, you may need to repeat an unclogging method a few times, or even try a different method to remove the clog. My biggest piece of advice would be to take it slow, and do the job well so you won’t have to repeat it again anytime soon.


Worth Pondering…

Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff. Life’s too short, and the older I get, the shorter it gets. So, just enjoy your life, do the best you can, live according to the Golden Rule and LIVE, LOVE & LAUGH. Have a GREAT day!