How to Clean Your Showerhead

closeup of a shower head

The Spruce / Ria Osborne

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

If you've ever had a brand new showerhead, you know how luxurious it feels to have a powerful stream of water during a shower. Then one day you notice that the showerhead is delivering something more like a trickle or a misty spritz. This is a sign that it's time to clean your showerhead.

The minerals in water can build up and block the openings just as they build up on shower doors. The blockage can even prevent the interior of the showerhead from drying completely between uses, encouraging mold, mildew, and bacteria to grow.

How Often to Clean a Showerhead

A showerhead should be cleaned at the first indication of reduced water flow. The frequency is highly dependent on your water supply. If you live in an area with hard water or water with a high level of calcium and magnesium, you'll have problems with a clogged showerhead more often.

Once you have done a thorough cleaning of the showerhead, a bi-weekly or monthly cleaning with a commercial cleaner like CLR or distilled white vinegar will keep minerals at bay. Simply spray the solution on the showerhead, scrub the spray nozzles with an old toothbrush to dislodge any minerals, and run the shower for a few minutes to rinse it all away. The good news is that the vinegar will also help remove any soap scum that may have accumulated on the showerhead fixtures.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Wrench or lockable pliers
  • Soft cloth
  • Microwavable container or saucepan
  • Deep bowl or bucket
  • Old toothbrush
  • Needle-nose pliers (optional)

Materials

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Toothpick, paper clip, safety pin, or sewing needle
  • PTFE or plumber's thread sealant tape

Instructions

How to Clean a Removable Showerhead

It's best to remove the showerhead from the shower arm, if possible, for cleaning. This process will also work for handheld showerheads.

  1. Remove the Showerhead

    Use a soft cloth to cover the nut or ring connecting the showerhead to the shower arm to prevent scratching the finish. With the cloth in place, use an appropriately-sized wrench or locking pliers to loosen the nut.

  2. Submerge and Cover

    Place the showerhead in a deep dish or bucket. In another microwaveable bowl or saucepan, pour enough vinegar to completely cover the showerhead. Heat the vinegar until warm to the touch, but it does not need to boil.

  3. Soak the Showerhead

    Pour the warm vinegar over the showerhead in the bowl. Be sure the entire head is submerged and allow the vinegar to work for at least 30 minutes.

  4. Scrub Lightly

    Remove the showerhead from the vinegar. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away any stubborn deposits still visible in the nozzle openings. A toothpick, paper clip, the tip of a safety pin, or a sewing needle will help to clear any deposits from the jet holes. This is a good time to remove and clean any filter screens that may be located in the head. If the deposits do not come off easily, repeat the soaking process with fresh vinegar.

    Remove and clean any filter screens that may be located in the head. Take it out carefully with tweezers or needle-nose pliers, scrub with vinegar or liquid dish soap to remove a sticky film.

  5. Replace and Rinse

    When the showerhead is clean, replace it on the shower arm. Remove any old plumbing tape and apply new tape around the thread on the shower arm to ensure that there are no leaks and that you have a good seal. Tighten the showerhead first with your hand, then finish with a wrench.

How to Clean a Non-Removable Showerhead

Quite often the showerhead joint is so crusted with mineral deposits that it is impossible to remove it from the shower arm and also makes it difficult to access the screen inside the head. With a bit of patience, you can still give the jet openings a good cleaning.

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Plastic food storage bag
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Rubber band or masking tape
  • Toothpick, paper clip, safety pin, or sewing needle

Tools

  • Soft cleaning cloth
  • Old toothbrush
items for cleaning a showerhead
The Spruce / Ria Osborne
  1. Prepare the Cleaning Bag

    Pour at least one cup of distilled white vinegar into a large heavy-duty plastic bag (a food storage bag is a good choice). Use enough vinegar and a bag that is large enough so the entire showerhead is completely covered.

    pouring white vinegar into a ziplock bag
    ​The Spruce / Ria Osborne
  2. Secure the Cleaning Bag

    Secure the bag to the shower arm with a rubber band or masking tape. If you are using tape, try to keep it away from the metal finishes of the fixture. It can be difficult to remove and may mar the finish.

    securing the bag of vinegar around the shower head
    ​The Spruce / Ria Osborne 
  3. Soak the Showerhead

    Allow the showerhead to soak in the vinegar for at least four hours, but overnight is even better. Cleaning takes a bit longer since the vinegar cannot be heated.

    submerging the shower head in a bag filled with vinegar
    ​The Spruce / Ria Osborne 
  4. Remove the Bag and Lightly Scrub

    Remove the bag and wipe down the showerhead with a soft cloth. If mineral deposits are still visible, scrub the openings with the old toothbrush dipped in some vinegar. Use a toothpick, paper clip, the tip of a safety pin, or a sewing needle to remove any deposits clogging small jet openings.

    scrubbing the shower head with a toothbrush
    ​The Spruce / Ria Osborne 
  5. Rinse and Repeat

    Turn on the shower for a few minutes to rinse away any remaining debris. If the showerhead is still clogged, repeat the steps with fresh vinegar.

    running the shower
    ​The Spruce / Ria Osborne

Tips to Keep Your Showerhead Clean Longer

  • Don't scrub too aggressively when cleaning or you run the risk of scratching the showerhead's finish.
  • Keep a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water in your bathroom so you can spray it on the showerhead's nozzles after every shower. That may cut down on the clogs.
  • Though often debated, the bacteria living in your showerhead is normal and typically harmless to your health. But for extra precaution, opt for metal showerheads over plastic models which bacteria may prefer, and consider a showerhead filter to create healthier water flow.