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How to Clean Your Shower Head, And Why It’s So Important

shower head and running water
en-bryant / Getty Images

Your shower head is one of the hardest-working devices in your household, but also one of the most overlooked when it comes to regular cleaning.  While it’s probably one of the least appealing household tasks, we’ll show you how to clean your shower head easily using a few basic ingredients.

While it’s tasked with spraying soothing streams of warm water over your body each morning, dirty shower heads are often clogged with myriad bacteria and mineral buildup that can pose a threat to your health. According to a study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology in 2018, nearly 200 species of bacteria can set up shop in your shower head and form a nasty biofilm. While most of these bacteria are considered harmless, that’s not always the case.

Bacterial concerns aside, if your water is loaded with minerals such as lime, calcium, silica, and magnesium, your shower head may not spray with the water pressure it once did. Its tiny spray holes may have gotten clogged, forcing water to squirt in random directions or not at all. Learn how to clean your shower head and avoid these problems.

How to clean your shower head in 5 steps

Most shower heads can easily be removed for cleaning, which will allow you to more readily rid them of debris and clear the filter screen. Follow these steps and you’ll have a clean shower head year-round.

Step 1: Remove the unit

Most often, this is as simple as twisting counterclockwise with a cloth wrapped around the connecting nut. Apply even pressure, but don’t be overzealous. If your shower head isn’t twisting off easily, you can check the manufacturer’s website for exact instructions on how to safely remove it.

Step 2: Extract the filter screen

This contraption is usually found close to where the head unit screws onto the shower pipe. It looks like a round metal mesh disc within a rubber gasket. It’s there to catch larger sediment and to help stop leaks. If you don’t see it, consult the manufacturers’ website. You may need a pair of needle-nosed pliers or tweezers to get it out. Once removed, give it a gentle scrub with a brush and rinse it.

Step 3: Let it soak

Pour five cups of white distilled vinegar in a medium bowl and submerge the shower head, making sure the nozzles are completely covered by vinegar. Let soak for an hour or two.

Step 4: Give it a scrub and a wipe

Once you’ve softened those mineral deposits, give your shower head a scrub with a small brush. The deposits should fall away readily. If necessary, clear clogged nozzles with a paperclip.  Rinse under warm water and use a spray cleaner to disinfect the entire unit. Wipe and polish with a soft cloth to restore your shower head’s luster.

Step 5: Reattach the shower head

Reinstall the filter screen back where you removed it, then carefully thread the showerhead back onto the pipe. Be gentle, as over-rotating or breaking the threads can lead to leaks. Twist clockwise until finger tight. Turn on the water and check to see if any water is spraying or dripping from the connection bolt. If so, gently twist it with a wrench placed over a thin cloth until it’s drip free.

Have a fixed shower head? Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Fill a plastic bag with vinegar

Choose a sturdy bag that will easily fit over your shower head and fill it with about two cups of white distilled vinegar.

Step 2: Attach the bag to your shower head

Hold the bag up to your unit and pull it up and around, so your entire shower head is submerged. Secure the bag around the shower pipe with a zip tie.

Step 3: Let it soak

Leave this in place for an hour or two.

Step 4: Rinse

Remove the bag and let hot water blast through your shower head nozzles to clear out interior mineral deposits.

Step 5: Scrub and rinse again

Give the face of the unit a scrub with a small brush. Blast hot water through again and repeat until the head is clean. Finish with a bathroom cleaner and polish with a soft cloth.

Products and tools you’ll need to clean your shower head

  • White distilled vinegar: This time-tested product is masterful at dissolving hard water deposits and bacteria on shower heads.
  • Small brush: A small brush with soft stiff bristles will remove hard-to-reach debris but won’t scratch surfaces.
  • Soft microfiber cloth: Polish the surface of your shower head with reusable microfiber cleaning cloths.
  • Plastic sandwich bags: Choose easily manageable plastic bags that can stand up to a long soak in vinegar.
  • Surface cleaner: Look for gentle spray cleaners made with plant-based ingredients, including lactic acid and lemon peel oil. They’ll safely remove hard water stains and restore a luster to your shower head.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to clean your shower head naturally

If you have stubborn mineral deposits, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda to your white vinegar to create carbonic acid.  It will bubble dramatically and entertain you for a minute but don’t add too much, or you can clog the nozzles. You can also add a few drops of tea tree, lavender, or rosemary essential oils to boost the antimicrobial action of the natural vinegar.

The bottom line on cleaning your shower head

Your bathroom should be a place where you can feel restored and renewed. Bacteria, mineral buildup, and low water pressure can get out of control, transforming this space into one that is uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. It only takes a few simple steps on a regular basis to keep your shower head clean and in good shape for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove limescale from a shower head?

Soaking your shower head in distilled white vinegar for about an hour is the quickest way to remove limescale. This can be done by either removing the shower head from its pipe and cleaning the screen, or by leaving it in place and attaching a plastic bag filled with white vinegar.

Do you need to clean a shower head?

A dirty shower head can be home to countless bacteria and may not work as well as it once did. To keep your shower head clean, safe, and functioning, you should clean it regularly.

How often should you clean a shower head?

If the water in your home is particularly hard, you may need to clean your shower head thoroughly by soaking it once a month. For homes with soft water, you can get by with weekly maintenance and a thorough cleaning every three or four months or whenever you notice a drop in your water pressure.

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