Clearing a Blocked Faucet Aerator

  • 01 of 07

    What Is a Faucet Aerator?

    Steve Hallo

    A faucet aerator is a simple fitting that screws into the end of most bathroom and kitchen faucets. The outside is a hollow metal cylinder with one threaded end that fits the threads on the faucet spout (they're usually inside the spout, so you don't see them). Inside the cylinder is a tiny screen, a rubber washer, a mixer disc and perhaps a few other parts, such as a flow restrictor or an inner plastic housing. 

    The aerator's purpose is to add air to the water flow and create a consistent,...MORE straight stream. If you turn on your faucet with the aerator off, you'll see why it's needed. The only problem with aerators is that they can get clogged with mineral deposits, leading to low water flow or an erratic stream. Cleaning an aerator is one of the simplest household fixes, but you must remember two things: 1) be careful not to damage the aerator when you're taking it off, and 2) make note (or take a photo) of the order of the pieces inside the aerator before you take it apart; they have to go back in exactly the same order. 

    Supplies Needed:

    • Pliers
    • Masking tape or rag
    • Toothpick or paper clip
    • Sewing needle
    • Vinegar
    • Toothbrush
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  • 02 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 1

    Steve Hallo

    Grip the aerator with your hand and unthread it clockwise to remove it from the end of the faucet spout. This is clockwise when viewing the faucet from above. If the aerator is stuck and won't turn, use a pair of pliers, preferably tongue-and-groove pliers (also called channel locks), to carefully loosen it. Do not squeeze the pliers too hard or you will deform the aerator. 

    Tip: Wrap the pliers' jaws with masking tape to prevent scratching the aerator's finish. 

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  • 03 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 2

    Steve Hallo

    Use your pinky or a small screwdriver to check inside the faucet spout for any parts that may be stuck inside. Also clear out any deposits or debris inside the spout. 

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  • 04 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 3

    Steve Hallo

    Disassemble the aerator, using a toothpick or paperclip and keeping track of how the parts go together. Rinse off any large pieces of sediment. If you see blocked holes in the screen or other parts, clean them out with a paper clip or a sewing needle.

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  • 05 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 4

    Steve Hallo

    Soak the screen and other aerator parts (as needed) in vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits (scale). It's best if you can leave the parts submerged in the vinegar overnight, but otherwise soak them until the deposits can be removed with a toothbrush or toothpick. 

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  • 06 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 5

    Steve Hallo

    Run the faucet for a few seconds to flush out loose debris, but watch out: the water comes out fast and may splash up from the sink. Reassemble the aerator in the original order. 

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  • 07 of 07

    How to Clear a Faucet Aerator: Step 6

    Steve Hallo

    Screw the aerator back onto the spout, turning counterclockwise (when viewed from above) and tightening as much as you can by hand. Run the water to check for leaks. If water streams out over the outside of the aerator, tighten it a bit more with the pliers.