How to Fix a Leaking Shower Head

Female plumber fixing shower head
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We all love a long, hot shower, but leaking shower heads can easily ruin what is supposed to be the best part of our day. While leaks can be serious, consider trying the following DIY fixes before you call a pro. You could save hundreds of dollars!

Should I Fix the Shower Head or the Faucet?

Shower leaks begin with the shower head or faucet. Sadly, you won’t know the cause of the leak until you get behind the wall.

Therefore, you should consider attempting to fix both faucet and head before calling a plumber.

Fixing the Shower Head

Even though there are multiple shower head types that cost from as low as $25 to as high as $250, the process to fix a leak is constant. If the issue falls within the shower head, the following steps will clear it up in no time.

Supplies Needed

  • Towel
  • Plastic washer
  • Rubber O-ring
  • Pliers
  • Crescent wrench
  • Large bowl
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Old toothbrush
  • Teflon tape

How to Stop a Leak in Your Shower Head

  1. Shut off the water supply. You should be able to turn the water off to just the shower, but if not, you’ll have shut the water off to the entire house.
  2. Cover the drain and bottom of the shower with a large towel.
  3. Remove the shower head. First try unscrewing with your hands. If you can’t remove, take your pliers and crescent wrench to remove from the wall.
  4. Replace washers and/or rubber O-rings inside shower head if they look worn or damaged.
  1. If washer and O-ring are in good shape, rewrap the threads on the pipe with Teflon tape. This tape seals the gaps with the shower head and piping.

Clean the Shower Head

  1. Clean your shower head while it’s off the wall.
  2. Submerge the shower head in a bowl of vinegar. Let it sit for two hours.
  3. Rinse the shower head with hot water. Use an old toothbrush to scrub between the nozzles. Then, dry the shower head with a clean towel.

    Reattach the Shower Head

    1. Reattach the shower head. When you can’t turn by hand anymore, use the pliers and wrench to tighten until snug. Do not fasten too tightly if you plan on frequently cleaning the shower head.
    2. Turn the water back on and see if shower still leaks. If it does, continue to the following steps for another possible solution.

    Fixing the Faucet

    For this, you’ll have to replace the cartridge within the faucet.

    Note: the following steps are for single-handle faucets.

    Supplies Needed

    • Towel
    • Replacement cartridge
    • Phillips and flat head screwdrivers
    • Pocket knife or awl
    • Hair dryer
    • Handle puller
    • Cartridge puller
    • Adjustable wrench

    How to Replace the Faucet Cartridge

    1. Shut off the water supply.
    2. Cover the drain and bottom of the shower with a large towel.
    3. Remove handle cap in the middle of the faucet with a small pocketknife or awl. It should come off with a little bit of pressure. You should see a screw now.
    4. Remove the handle screw with an appropriate screwdriver. If the handle does not come off, dry blowing it with a hair dryer or using a handle puller.
    5. Remove the retaining clip, which looks like a small metal horseshoe, on top of the cartridge. You have to remove this retaining clip to replace the cartridge. Lift it up with a small screwdriver. Then, remove the washer surrounding the middle bar.
    1. Unscrew the hex screw and nut with your wrench.
    2. Pull out the existing cartridge. You may need pliers to actually remove it from the wall. Some stores include special cartridge pullers with new cartridges. Pullers are unique to the faucet.
    3. Make sure the replacement cartridge is the exact same as the one you just removed.
    4. Align the new cartridge in place and install using the preceding steps in reverse order.
    5. Turn the water back on. Turn the shower on and make sure there are no leaks.

    At this point, you have done all you can to fix a leaking shower head. If the problem persists, contact a local plumber so you can get back to the long and luxurious showers you deserve.