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Seniors’ Guide: The Truth About Suction Grab Bars

Using suction grab bars in your shower or bathtub can work depending on the surface they are attached to, the weight of the person using them and the length of time they’ve been up. From a safety standpoint, we recommend to avoid use suction grab bars because of their limitations.

Most suction grab bars are made out of plastic and have two metal plates with a rubber gasket in between. The user is supposed to push down on the bar to create a vacuum seal between the bar and the wall/tub surface.

The problem is that over time, shower surfaces can get wet, soapy, or oily, which can reduce the suction power.

Also, if someone leans or hangs on the grab bar for too long, it can cause the vacuum seal to break and the grab bar to come loose.

Weight is also a factor to consider.

If someone who weighs more than 250 pounds uses a suction grab bar, there’s a greater chance that the bar will come loose.

So, while suction grab bars can be helpful in providing extra support in the shower, they’re not 100% reliable and shouldn’t be the only support you use.

Are Suction Grab Bars Safe?

Suction grab bars can work for some individuals but they do tend to lose their grip after a while so for safety’s sake – we recommend not to use them.

This is especially true of the person(s) using them will be elderly adults.

What Makes Suction Grab Bars Unsafe?

There are a few limitations that suction grab bars present that are the reason we say they are unsafe to use on a constant basis.

  • They must be placed on a dry, flat, non-porous and smooth surface. Not every shower or bathtub wall offers this.
  • These will not work on drywall or painted walls.
  • It’s recommended that every single time you go to use this bar that you test it to ensure that it’s still holding. Many seniors will not think to do this every time.
  • Like most all items with a suction cup – they will lose their grip after some time and need to be re-attached.
  • They are not intended to support the full weight of someone and are meant only to provide support to help with balance issues.
  • Suction grab bars are not approved by the ADA to work as a standard grab bar

When Are Suction Grab Bars A Good Choice?

I would recommend suction grab bars as a temporary solution for someone who simply needs something to hold on to while stepping over a barrier or performing a task while standing in the shower.

Otherwise, if the person is a senior and they currently need some assistance now with balance issues then the problem will most likely only get worse so I recommend to invest in a standard wall mounted grab bar.

If the person intends to use this bar (now or in the future) to help themselves to stand up or to help hold them up – then I recommend the standard wall mounted grab bar.

How Much Weight Can A Suction Grab Bar Hold?

The amount of weight that a suction grab bar can hold depends on each individual product. But they seem to range between 180 lbs up to 250 lbs.

WARNING: But again – suction grab bars are NOT intended to support the full weight of a person. They are only meant to help someone with balance issues.

How Do You Make Suction Grab Bars Stick?

There are a few things you can do to make sure your suction grab bars stick:

1. Make sure the surface you’re attaching the grab bar to is clean and dry. Any dirt or moisture will make it harder for the suction cups to adhere.

2. Make sure you are adhering the suction cups to a smooth surface. Avoid grout lines and textured tiles.

3. Wash the suction cup with soap and water before applying it.

4. Apply pressure to the center of each suction cup as you attach the grab bar. This will help create a tight seal.

5. Use the locking levers (if your grab bar has them) to create an extra secure connection.

6. If you’re still having trouble, try using suction cups with stronger adhesive or silicone. Of course, this will make it more permanent.

With a little effort, you can make sure your suction grab bars are securely attached and ready to provide support when you need it.

Do Suction Grab Bars Work On Fiberglass Showers?

Absolutely yes. Remember, the suction cups must be adhered to a smooth, flat non-porous surface and that is exactly the type of surface that suction cups work best on.

If your fiberglass shower is textured, the suction cups may not adhere as well. In this case, you can use toggle bolts (also called butterfly anchors) which will give you a much more secure grip.

Toggle bolts work by spreading out behind the wall or surface that you’re attaching them to and “locking” into place. This gives them a much stronger grip and can support more weight than suction cups alone.

If you’re worried about your grab bars coming loose, using toggle bolts is a great way to give yourself some extra security.

What Is The Best Suction Grab Bar For The Shower? did a very nice review of suction grab bars for bathroom use and I have to concur with their results.

Offering The Best Grip

Changing Lifestyles Safe-er-Grip

The Best Small Grab Bar

Moen Home Care 12-inch Bar

Best Swivel Version

DMI Shower Grab Bar

Again – we caution you to be very careful when using a suction grab bar.

What Surfaces Are Best For Suction Grab Bars?

The types of surfaces that are non-porous and flat include:

  • Flat tile (no texture and large enough to accommodate the suction cup so that it can avoid any grout lines)
  • Glass
  • Acrylic
  • Fiberglass

So if you were wondering if you could install a grab bar in a fiberglass shower the answer is Yes!

How Do You Install Suction Cup Grab Bars?

These are very easy to install and can be done by most anyone.

Here are the easy steps on how to install a suction grab bar.

  1. Installation should only be on flat, dry, non-porous surfaces.
  2. Should not be installed over any textured area or grout lines.
  3. Clean the area with a solvent cleaner or alcohol.
  4. Make sure the area is dry.
  5. Place the grab bar where you want it placed and in the position you want it in.
  6. Press down on one side of the bar and if there’s an indication light it should turn green. When this happens then lock that side of the bar.
  7. Repeat the process with the other side of the bar.

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