Give your old shower head new life and better water efficiency using our simple instructions on how to clean a shower head.

How to Clean a Shower Head

Give your old shower head new life and better water efficiency using our simple instructions for cleaning a shower head

The Hard Truth About Mineral Deposits

Dirty shower head with mineral buildup

If you find your shower head looking dingy, you're losing spray power, or there's random jets shooting all over, it's probably time to clean your shower head. Even if you don't have hard water, many people experience a build up of mineral deposits on their shower head after a while. Aside from making your shower head look dirty, these deposits can often times block the jet openings on the shower head preventing it from producing the desired spray. A good soak and scrub can eliminate this in just a few minutes. But, before reaching for a harsh, toxic chemical to clean your shower head, consider using a more eco-friendly cleaning method.

As we're sure you're aware, many common household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that are toxic when in contact with your skin or eyes, and your lungs when sprayed into the air. Using such chemicals can cause allergic reactions for some, but there's good news! Many of these chemical cleaners can be replaced with common kitchen items, like vinegar. Vinegar is safe for you and your family, and when used properly can be a powerful tool in your cleaning arsenal. In addition, vinegar is very inexpensive when compared to household cleaners. You can find a gallon of vinegar at the grocery store for a fraction of the price of one small bottle of chemical cleaner.


The Easy Way to Clean Your Shower Head

Removing the shower head to clean it is by far the most effective method, and is relatively easy. However, it is important that you use caution and monitor the process closely if you have a shower head with a designer finish like oil rubbed bronze, brushed nickel, or antique copper. Chrome will stand up to straight table vinegar with no problems, but if you have any other finish we recommend taking a cotton swab and testing a small, inconspicuous area for up to 30 minutes before you use this method on your whole shower head.

Shower head soaking in pot of vinegar

What You'll Need:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bucket or other container
  • Cleaning rags
  • Old toothbrush
  • Paperclip
  • Pliers or wrench

Step 1
Remove the shower head from the shower arm and place it in a bucket or other container deep enough so the head will be covered with the cleaning material. Use a rag to cover the nut connecting the shower head to the shower arm. With the rag in place use some locking pliers or a wrench to loosen the nut. For more information about removing your shower head, view how to remove/replace a shower head.

Step 2
Heat up some distilled white vinegar in a saucepan or in the microwave. You don't need to get it really hot, and certainly not boiling, just warm.

Step 3
Pour your warmed vinegar over the shower head, making sure the vinegar covers the shower head completely, and let the shower head soak for about 30 minutes.

Step 4
Remove the shower head from the vinegar, and wipe it off with a rag. The mineral deposits should wipe right off. If the deposits do not come off easily try soaking the shower head again for another 30 minutes or so. Also, for stubborn deposits or stains, use an old toothbrush to scrub them gently. A paperclip can also be used to clear the little jet holes in the shower head.

Step 5
Replace the shower head on the shower arm. Be sure to remove any old PTFE tape and re-apply new tape before putting the shower head back on to help ensure you get a good seal with no leaks.

Quick Tip: A great way to prevent or reduce the volume of mineral deposits on your shower head is to add a shower head filter.


The Slightly More Tricky Yet Still Effective Way to Clean Your Shower Head

If you don't feel up to the task of removing the shower head to clean it, or for some reason you cannot remove your shower head, you can still effectively clean the mineral buildup off your shower head while it is on the shower arm. Be aware, however, that usually this method will take quite a bit longer since you don't heat the vinegar.

Shower head soaking in plastic bag of vinegar

What You'll Need:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Plastic baggies
  • Tape or rubber band
  • Old toothbrush
  • Paperclip

Step 1
Pour 8-12 oz. of distilled white vinegar into a plastic baggie.

Step 2
Cover your shower head with the baggie, and make sure the vinegar is covering the shower head.

Step 3
Use some tape, or if your shower head is small enough you can use a rubber band, and secure the bag around the shower head. Keep the tape on the plastic! Tape is really hard to remove from metal surfaces and may damage the finish of your shower arm or head.

Step 4
Let the shower head soak in the vinegar for a few hours. Some find it easy to do this at night and let the shower head soak over night.

Step 5
Remove the baggie. Wipe off the shower head with a cleaning rag. If the shower head is still dirty, try scrubbing gently with an old toothbrush or cleaning the jets with a paperclip. If you find your shower head has really stubborn deposits or stains, try repeating this process until all of the deposits are gone.


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Please note: The information provided here is intended to give a basic knowledge of plumbing related cleaning methods. This information is general, and may not suit all applications. If you are at all unsure of your abilities to complete one of these projects, please consult a professional.


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