How to Clean a Faucet Head to Prevent Water Spots and Fight Calcium Buildup

These quick and easy cleaning solutions will have your faucet looking (and working) like new.

Hard water residue, lime, and calcium buildup can be frustratingly hard to clean, and a quick wipe-down with a rag before company comes won't always work. So we tapped Angela Brown, CEO of Savvy Cleaner, to learn how to clean a faucet head.

According to Brown, a few items you probably already have at home will tackle grime, but the trick is to keep it from coming back. "The secret to keeping your faucets looking nice is cleaning them daily," says Brown. Remove water spots and buildup with the tips below, then apply regular TLC to keep them looking clean. "Remember to always dry the faucets and knobs after use to prevent water with trace minerals drying on them."

faucet meyers kitchen sink
John Gruen

How to Clean a Faucet Head with Soap

According to Brown, mild dish soap and a soft-bristle scrub brush or non-scratch scrub sponge will keep minerals from collecting around the faucet head when used frequently. Brown notes that an especially good time to do this is when the faucet is already damp, like when steam has collected after a shower in the bathroom or from doing dishes in the kitchen sink.

How to Clean a Faucet Head with Steam

For hard water spots, lime scale, or even rust buildup, Brown suggests steam cleaning. "A handheld steamer with a soft-bristled attachment can remove the buildup without damaging the finish and without using strong chemicals," Brown says.

How to Clean a Faucet Head with Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is a popular cleaning solution around the home, but Brown recommends caution when considering it for faucet heads. Brown notes that while steel can handle strong chemicals and acids, top coatings, like those found on today's modern gold and bronze faucets, cannot. "The white cleaning vinegar is a pH of 2.5, which is a very strong acid. And while it may eat away the gunk that is on the showerhead or faucet, it can also dissolve the finish from the hardware leaving it dull or a different color altogether."

If you feel confident that your faucet's material can withstand the acidic cleaner, fill a plastic bag with equal parts water and white vinegar. Submerge the faucet head and secure the bag to the faucet with a rubber band or a zip tie and let it soak. Wait 30 minutes to an hour, then remove the bag. Run the faucet to dislodge anything loosened inside the faucet head, then rinse and dry.

How to Clean a Faucet Aerator

If water flow is inconsistent, or the faucet has only a partial spray, you might need to clean the aerator in the faucet head. During one of the above cleaning methods, be sure to use a toothbrush or soft-bristle brush to loosen up mineral deposits on the aerator screen. If that doesn't open things up, check to see if the aerator is removable. If it is, cover or close the drain so that you don't lose any pieces, then remove the aerator, being sure to note the order of any pieces. Soak the aerator in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar, then use a brush to dislodge what's caught in the aerator screen. Finish by putting the faucet back together.

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