Using her master's in sustainable development, Susette helps Southern California water agencies carry out their water conservation projects.
Is Your Showerhead Malfunctioning?
For many people, basking in a hot shower is one of the most pleasurable events of the day. It's especially nice on an icy day when the shower is steaming hot, or on a stressful day when the water pounds on your shoulders like a rough massage, or a dirty or depressing day when you soap all up and the shower washes you all out, both inside and out.
Hence, there is nothing so frustrating as a showerhead that doesn't work right—one that's partly blocked, is rusted out, or is broken or using too much water. This article will show you how to turn around those situations. I'll explain how to clean the showerhead or completely replace it.
How to Clean a Showerhead
Showerheads get clogged when particles in the water pipe escape the house water filter and are caught by the showerhead screen. If the particle is dirt, water pouring through the showerhead will eventually dissolve it, but if the particle is rock, it won't dissolve. Blocks are also caused by accumulated scale and other deposits. All shower heads benefit from periodic cleaning, and cleaning is easy to do.
If your showerhead really needs cleaning and is the kind that screws off, this is what you do.
- Gather the materials you'll need: crescent wrench, soft cloth, large bowl, plumber's tape (or putty) and scissors, old toothbrush, toothpicks, baking soda, and vinegar.
- Unscrew the showerhead from its shower arm. Use the wrench, placing the soft cloth between it and the shower nut, so you don't scratch the chrome. Turn the showerhead left (counterclockwise) until it comes off.
- Dislodge any rocks blocking the holes. Turn the showerhead upside down in the sink and blast water through it, washing any rocks back out the way they came. Use a toothpick to poke through holes that are still blocked.
- Clean any encrustations off the showerhead. Use the toothbrush and baking soda to scrub the bottom side of the showerhead where the water comes out. Turn it upside down again and run water through to rinse out the baking soda.
- Dissolve scale from the inside and any on the outside that hasn't already come off. Fill the large bowl with enough water to cover the showerhead, then add about 1/4 cup of vinegar. Stir and let sit for at least an hour.
- Clean and shine it up. Dump the contents of the bowl. Run water through the showerhead. Use the soft cloth to dry and buff it up.
- Screw the showerhead back on. Wrap a few layers of plumber's tape around the shower arm threads (or smear on the putty lightly). Screw the showerhead back on, turning to the right (clockwise). Tighten with the wrench. Turn the water on to make sure it doesn't leak. Pour yourself a celebratory glass of wine.
Use a soft cloth under the crescent wrench to keep your chrome from being scratched.
Cleaning a Fixed Showerhead
If your showerhead does not screw off, the best you can do is to clean off any scale or other deposits by soaking. This is easier than the procedure above, but if the showerhead has somehow become clogged, you'll likely have to replace it (see below). To soak off the deposits:
- Gather the materials you need: plastic baggie that will fit over the showerhead, thick rubber band, white vinegar, soft cloth.
- Soak the showerhead in vinegar. Fill the plastic baggie with vinegar. Carefully insert it over the showerhead and secure it with the rubber band. Leave it on to soak for 6–8 hours.
- Rinse off the vinegar. Take the baggie off. Dump the vinegar and fill the baggie with water. Pour it over the showerhead. Run the shower for a minute to clear out the inside.
- Dry and polish it up. Use the soft cloth to clean off anything remaining and shine up the chrome.
Purchasing a Showerhead
The actual showerhead replacement process is easy. It's the choosing beforehand that requires the greatest attention. What are you looking for? Considering all the benefits a good showerhead can bring and the variations in cost, it's worth it to take the time to weigh them well:
- Some showerheads can help you save money on monthly water bills, which could counteract a higher, upfront purchase price.
- A few have built-in chlorine filters, which can improve your health & increase vitality.
- Different heads have different intensities of flow.
- Some are easier to clean than others.
- There are a ton of different prices to choose between.
The first step in choosing is to identify factors that are important to you. Here is a little exercise to help with that:
- Imagine the best shower you've ever taken. What was so great about it? Write the answer down.
- If your water supplier uses chlorine to sanitize the water, look up the negative effects of chlorine on a body and see if you are showing some of those symptoms.
- How long do you like to shower and how high are your water bills? Should you be using less water?
- Is variability of flow important to you? Do you sometimes like a hard shower and other times a soft one?
- Consider any other factors that are important to you, including price and budget.
- Go back through everything you've written. What are the three or four items that stand out? These will be your criteria for selecting a new showerhead.
Breathing chlorine in the shower can affect your health more than you think.
Assistants Can Help You Choose
Now you're ready to shop. There are plenty of places to buy showerheads, both online and offline. Some quality brands to look for are Niagara, Kohler, AKDY, and Speakman.
If you would like someone to guide you to the right one for you, take your criteria to a hardware store where the assistants know what they're doing: Orchard, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware are a few on the USA's west coast.
Once you've bought your new showerhead, remove it from its packaging and get ready to install it:
- Gather your materials: New shower head, crescent wrench, soft cloth, and plumber's tape.
- Take the old shower head off - Use the wrench to unscrew the old showerhead, turning it to the left (counterclockwise).
- Put the new shower head on - Wrap a few layers of plumbing tape around the shower arm threads. Make sure the washer and all components are inside the new shower head. Screw it onto the shower arm, turning to the right (clockwise). Use the crescent wrench, with the soft cloth protecting the showerhead, to tighten it on.
- Test and shine everything up - Step away and turn the water on to check for leaks. If everything's cool, use the soft cloth to polish up the showerhead and shower arm.
Good job. Now for the reward of a great shower—finally the perfect one with many awesome, good feeling showers to come. Congratulations! Time for wine!
How to Replace Your Hand-Held Showerhead
Using a diverter valve, you can change a single handheld showerhead to a combination fixed showerhead and handheld showerhead. Try it!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Susette Horspool (author) from Pasadena CA on July 08, 2014:
Thanks Kevin and Eric - Just writing it made me want to go shower. Unfortunately, we're having quite the drought here in California. And that was the only conflict I felt writing this. Why am I encouraging a good shower, when there is such a shortage of water supply?
The Examiner-1 on July 07, 2014:
Very useful. Greatly written down to the detail and much helpful. I definitely gave it a thumbs up and shared it.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 07, 2014:
A great hub, nothing beats a great shower.