How to Clear a Clogged Shower Head
Few morning experiences can be more frustrating than turning on the shower and expecting a nice, hot stream of water—yet getting a lukewarm trickle that barely does the job. Your shower head has likely become clogged over a period of months or years, a situation that you have long been meaning to address. Now is the time. Reasons for the clogged shower head will vary, but solutions are always easy and inexpensive.
Reasons Why Your Shower Head Is Clogged
Your House Has Hard Water
Hard water is a term that means that your water has high levels of calcium, magnesium and, sometimes divalent and trivalent metallic elements. Indicators of hard water around the house include stiff laundry, white mineral deposits on dishware, soap that refuses to lather up, and scale build-up in sinks and appliances.
Hard water also results in scale build-up in water heaters and pipes. When this scale is moved by force of water to the faucet, the scale gets trapped behind the shower head's wire or plastic screen.
Other Debris Is Clogging Your Shower Head
While scale deposits are the primary type of debris clogging shower heads, there are other types of debris unrelated to water quality that may be the source of the problem.
Other types of debris may clog the shower head, as well. Over time, the rubber gasket between the shower head and the water pipe may degrade, sending small rubber particles up against the filter screen, where they remain. Additionally, other parts of the shower head may degrade and fall apart over time.
Your Shower Head Has a Flow Restrictor
Some shower heads have a built-in flow restrictor designed to save water and energy. These simple plastic disks do save water but at the expense of water pressure. Older flow restrictors can be easily removed, but new models may not be able to be removed.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Channel-lock style wrench
- Clean rag
- Old toothbrush
- Needle-nose pliers
- Latex or nitrile gloves
- Teflon pipe tape
- Disposable plastic container
- Old towel
- Calcium, lime, and rust remover solution
- Fresh water, both warm and cool
How to Clear a Clogged Shower Head
Clearing a clogged shower head is easy enough for a beginner and won't cost you more than $20, depending on what tools and materials you may already have. You can expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes clearing your shower head.
Remove the Shower Head
First, try to remove the shower head by hand. Do this by turning the top section of the shower head counter-clockwise. Do not turn the head itself, as the head is designed to rotate. If you cannot remove the shower head by hand, wrap the top section with the rag and very gently turn it off with the wrench.
Disassemble the Shower Head
Lay the towel out on a table and disassemble the shower head. The large flared, cone section of the shower head will not disassemble, but the smaller ball joint area that attaches to the pipe should come apart, revealing a screen and gasket.
Remove the Flow Restrictor (Optional)
Shower head flow rates may be mandated by law in your area. If you have a flow restrictor and wish to remove it, first check to see if this is possible where you live. Use the needle-nose pliers to grab the side of the flow restrictor and pull it out. The flow restrictor may not remove easily: If this is the case, you may need to leave it in.
Clean the Shower Head Parts
Put on the latex or nitrile gloves. Pour enough of the calcium, lime, and rust remover in the plastic container to immerse the entire shower head. Add an equal amount of warm water. Place the shower head and all of the removed parts into this solution.
Soak the Parts in Solution
Let the parts soak for no more than two minutes or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Rinse and Brush-Clean
Pour out the solution and rinse the parts thoroughly in cool, fresh water. Rub the toothbrush gently on the screen, gasket, and flow restrictor (if you plan to re-install it). Gently knock out the shower head upside-down onto the towel. Hard particles of scale or other debris may fall out.
Reassemble the Shower Head
Rinse again, reassemble the shower head, and replace it. Be sure to first wrap the water supply pipe several times with Teflon thread tape before screwing the shower head in place.
Try the Shower Head
With the shower head firmly in place, turn on the water and test out the water flow.
Dispose of the toothbrush, gloves, and the plastic container; be sure that they do not get used again. The towel can be washed and used again for household projects again. Because the lactic acid and the lauramine oxide in the solution are irritants, be sure not to use the towel for bathing and skin contact.