How to Clean a Shower Head
To keep the water flowing forcefully from your shower head, you should clean it from time to time. Follow these quick, easy instructions for getting your shower head back in tip-top shape.
If you’re looking forward to a hot shower with an invigorating blast of water spray, you’ll understandably be disappointed if water trickles out or spurts sideways from your high-pressure shower head. When new, a shower head delivers a uniform spray of water that’s both vigorous and refreshing, but over time, the minerals found in water can begin to clog the tiny holes in the shower head, reducing the spray force and leaving you with a lackluster shower experience.
Is your shower head failing to perform as well as it once did? If so, then chances are good that it’s time to clean the shower head, eliminating scaly buildup within the fixture in order to restore the strength of its flow. Unclogging shower heads is easy to do, and you’ll be happy that you spent the small amount of time required to complete the task.
The Scrubbing Method
The simplest method for removing mild scale buildup from a shower head is to scrub it. This works well for shower heads that are slightly dirty or those that have hard water stains starting to form on the face where the water holes are located. Scrubbing is just like it sounds—it involves using a cleaner that helps dissolve deposits and a small scrubber with nylon bristles that can get at the tiny nooks and crannies on the face of the shower head.
Advantages to Using the Scrubbing Method
Scrubbing a shower head is a relatively quick step in a deep bathroom cleaning routine, and you don’t need to do it daily or even weekly. If a shower head is scrubbed every month or so, it is unlikely to develop heavy deposit buildup in the first place. This method is suitable for cleaning stationary heads that attach to a shower arm as well as handheld shower heads. It does require removing the head itself, which is simple to do.
The scrubbing method is well suited for removing light soap scum and deposits, but if the shower head has heavy or thick hard water deposits, skip the scrubbing method and check out the soaking method below.
- Remove the shower head from the shower arm by twisting it clockwise, and hold it over a sink basin to clean. If it’s a handheld shower head, twist it off where it connects to the flexible hose.
- Pay attention to the flexible rubber nozzles through which most newer shower heads send water into the stall. Over time, those nozzles become clogged up with mineral deposits that compromise the fixture and worsen its performance. Spray a bit of all-purpose bathroom cleaner on the nozzles, and scrub them with a small brush or toothbrush to dislodge any deposits you can reach. Avoid scrubbing the soft rubber too vigorously. Also, avoid using strong chemical cleaning agents because they can damage the nozzles and leave discoloration on chrome shower heads.
- Disassemble the back portion of the shower head by twisting the two sections apart. (This connection can usually be found near the point where the shower head attaches to the water supply pipe.)
- Remove the screen filter found inside the back section and run it under the faucet while gently scrubbing it with the small brush. For light shower head deposits, that’s usually all that’s needed.
- Once it’s clean, reassemble and reinstall the shower head and test it.
You should notice a big difference unless you have always had a problem with low water pressure in your home. While shower head cleaning will improve the water flow through the head, cleaning the shower head won’t magically overcome weak water pressure.
If the shower head is badly clogged, scrubbing alone may not remove all the deposits. When that’s the case, soaking the shower head first can make a difference.
The Soaking Method
Soaking a shower head involves submerging it in an acidic solution—often, white vinegar is used, as it’s inexpensive and nontoxic. Vinegar, a natural cleaner, will dissolve the hard water stains and deposits that can collect on shower heads and in their spray nozzles. However, it can take a day or longer to dissolve the deposits with vinegar, so if you’re in a hurry, try using a cleaner specifically for removing hard water stains, such as Bring It On Hard Water Removing Cleaner (available from Amazon), to speed up the process.
Advantages to Using the Soaking Method
The nice thing about using the soaking method to clean a shower head is that you can remove the shower head and submerge it in the vinegar or cleaner and then go about your other daily tasks as the liquid works to dissolve the deposits. Avoid using harsh cleaners that are not suitable for use on chrome, however. Some types of rust and lime deposit-removing cleaners (and toilet-bowl cleaners) will permanently mar chrome. So, check the product to see if it’s suitable for use on chrome before soaking the shower head.
- White vinegar (or commercial shower head cleaner)
- Plastic bag or other plastic container
- Zip tie or binder clip (optional)
- Rubber gloves
Soaking can be used by itself or in conjunction with the previous scrubbing method. In addition, the soaking process can be used without removing the shower head from the shower arm, if desired. Soaking a head in place is best suited for removing only mild deposits. For heavier deposits, it’s best to remove the shower head, soak it, and then follow up using the scrubbing method.
- To clean the shower head without taking it off, simply fill a plastic bag with white vinegar or a commercial cleaner, and then fit the bag over the shower head so that the nozzles are entirely submerged. Then, secure the bag in place with a zip tie or binder clip.
- After letting the shower head soak for several hours or overnight, remove the bag (from a still-attached shower head) and turn on the water to test the spray.
- If you plan to soak and then scrub, remove the shower head as described above and place it in a plastic bag or other plastic container filled with vinegar or cleaner and set it in the sink basin.
- After soaking it a few hours or longer, take off the back of the shower head and remove the filter as described in the scrubbing method; use a toothpick if necessary to remove the last bits of residue from the spray nozzles.
- Reattach the shower head.
Tips for Maintaining a Clean Shower Head
It’s always easier to maintain a clean shower head than to disassemble it and do a deep-dive cleaning to remove deposits. The following tips will help you keep your newly cleaned shower head spraying efficiently.
- Make your own shower cleaner. Keep a plastic spray bottle of diluted vinegar handy and spray the shower head after every shower to reduce hard water buildup.
- If you’re not fond of the vinegar smell, spray the shower head (and the shower walls) with a daily shower spray, such as Scrub Free Clean Shower Daily (available from Amazon). This type of cleaner creates a protective film that repels hard water deposits.
- Have drips fixed. A drippy shower head is much more likely to develop hard water deposits where the water is leaking out. If it’s an old shower head that is cracked and won’t stop dripping, it’s time to replace the shower head.
- Install a water softener. A water softener installs in a basement or a utility room near where the water supply enters the home. If your home has hard water, the softener will trap the minerals, such as calcium, lime, and rust, so they won’t leave deposits in the shower head or other fixtures.
FAQs About Shower Head Cleaning
Q. Deep cleaning and regular maintenance isn’t working! Do I need to install a water softener in my home?
Installing a water softener is an excellent idea if your home has naturally hard water. Not only will it help keep shower heads clear, but it will also prolong the useful life of your dishwasher and clothes washer. Plus, sinks, tubs, and showers will all need less cleaning.
Q. What should I use to kill mold on my shower head instantly?
Opt for a natural mold and mildew remover, such as Earthworm Mold Stain and Mildew Treatment.
Q. Can you use distilled vinegar instead of white vinegar to clean a shower head?
You can, but white vinegar is more potent than distilled vinegar, so you may have to let the shower head soak longer if you use distilled vinegar.