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Prop Drilling in React - An Anti-Pattern to Watch Out For

by David Yates

In the world of React, prop drilling is a common anti-pattern that can lead to messy code. It’s not the end of the world if you find it in your codebase, but consider it a sign to refactor and improve.

Understanding Prop Drilling

Prop drilling is the process of passing data from one part of the React Component tree to another by going through other parts that do not need the data, but merely pass it along. It’s like being the middleman in a game of ‘pass the parcel’ where the parcel is of no use to you, but you still have to handle it.

Here’s a simple example:

function Grandparent() {
  const [state, setState] = useState("Hello, World!");
  return <Parent state={state} />;

function Parent({ state }) {
  return <Child state={state} />;

function Child({ state }) {
  return <p>{state}</p>;

In this example, the Parent component is the unnecessary middleman, passing the state prop from Grandparent to Child without using it for anything useful.

The Trouble with Prop Drilling

Prop drilling might seem harmless in small doses, but in larger applications, it’s like trying to thread a needle while riding the bus - unnecessarily complicated and prone to errors. It leads to a lack of modularity, making components harder to reuse and maintain. It’s like having a tangled ball of yarn; pull one string, and the whole thing comes undone.

Avoiding Prop Drilling: The Better Way

So, how do we avoid turning our code into a tangled mess? Here are a few strategies:

Context API

The Context API is like having a direct line to every component. It allows you to share values between all components in your application, without having to pass a prop through every level of the tree. This is a built-in way in React to share value like these between components


Redux is like a well-organized switchboard operator, efficiently directing calls (or in this case, data) to the right places in large applications. Redux is a predictable state container for JavaScript apps. It helps you write applications that behave consistently, run in different environments (client, server, and native), and are easy to test.

React Query and SWR

These libraries are like having a courier service at your disposal. They help with fetching, caching, synchronizing and updating server state in your React applications.

React Query is a powerful data synchronization library for React that enables efficient server state management and caching. It provides out-of-the-box features like caching, background updates, and stale data handling.

SWR is a React Hooks library for remote data fetching. It provides a simple API for fetching data from remote sources and caching it in memory.

Remember, each solution has its own use cases and trade-offs. The key is to understand your application’s needs and choose the right tool for the job.

To sum up, prop drilling is an anti-pattern that we should strive to avoid for maintainable, modular code.

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