How to Clean a Clogged Faucet Aerator

Sink faucet with clogged aerator with low water flow

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

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, straight stream of water. But aerators may become 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:

  • Be careful not to damage the aerator when you're taking it off.
  • 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. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Channel-lock pliers
  • Small screwdriver
  • Sewing needle
  • Toothbrush


  • Masking tape
  • Toothpick or paper clip
  • Vinegar


Materials and tools to fix a clogged faucet aerator

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  1. Remove the Aerator

    Grip the aerator with your hand and unthread it counterclockwise (when viewed downward from above) to remove it from the end of the faucet spout. If the aerator is stuck and won't turn, use a pair of pliers, preferably channel-lock pliers, to carefully loosen it. Do not squeeze the pliers too hard or you may damage the aerator. Some aerators are made of plastic and can be easily cracked. 


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

    Faucet aerator removed with pliers

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  2. Check for Deposits and Debris

    Use your little finger or a small screwdriver to check inside the faucet spout for any parts that may be stuck inside. If they are stuck in place with mineral deposits, you may need to pry out the parts with a screwdriver. Also, clear out any deposits or debris from inside the spout.

    Screwdriver checking faucet spout for debris or mineral deposits

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  3. Disassemble and Clean the Parts

    Disassemble the aerator, using a toothpick or paperclip, taking note 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.

    Faucet aerator disassembled and cleaned with toothpick

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  4. Soak Parts in Vinegar

    Soak the screen and other aerator parts in vinegar or CLR to dissolve mineral deposits (scale). It's best if you can leave the parts submerged in the vinegar overnight, but at the very least, soak them until the deposits are soft enough to be removed with a toothbrush or toothpick. You can also soak the aerator in CLR to remove mineral deposits.

    Faucet aerator and screen soaked in glass jar with vinegar

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  5. Rinse and Reassemble the Aerator

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

    Aerator rinsed under running faucet water

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

  6. Reattach the Aerator

    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 the aerator a bit more with the pliers.

    Faucet aerator screwed back on faucet end

    The Spruce / Adrienne Legault