How to Clean a Clogged Faucet Aerator

Bathroom Faucet
Nicolas Loran / Getty Images
Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 24 hrs
  • 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

Materials

  • Masking tape
  • Toothpick or paper clip
  • Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Remove the Aerator

    Grip the aerator with your hand and unthread it clockwise (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. 

    Tip

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

    Steve Hallo
  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.

    Steve Hallo
  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.

    Steve Hallo
  4. Soak Parts in Vinegar

    Soak the screen and other aerator parts in vinegar 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.

    Steve Hallo
  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. 

    Steve Hallo
  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.

    Steve Hallo