Keep your showerhead clean and flowing freely by removing mineral deposits like limescale. You'll be surprised by how much buildup natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda can remove.

By BH&G Editors
Updated September 08, 2020
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If your showerhead is spraying every which way or not providing a consistent water pressure, chances are it could use a good cleaning. Showerheads often spray unevenly because their tiny holes have gotten plugged with mineral deposits. In order for water to flow freely, you need to remove these deposits.

Cleaning your showerhead is also good for your family's health. Wet environments like the one inside a showerhead are breeding grounds for bacteria. In fact, a recent study by researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences found that residential showerheads often contain abundant amounts of Mycobacterium (a bacteria known to cause lung disease) growing in the slimy film that lives inside your shower nozzle.

Fortunately, you can descale your showerhead using a handful of household items. To learn how to clean a showerhead, follow one of our two expert-recommended methods. Both will clean your showerhead overnight while you sleep, and one doesn't even require using any tools!

corner shower with glass doors and blue accent tile
Credit: Emily Followill

Before you start cleaning a showerhead, figure out just how bad the blockage is. If water is still coming out of the nozzle and most of the tiny holes seem clear, you probably won't need to remove the showerhead for deep cleaning. If the water flow is very restricted and the buildup seems severe, or if you tried cleaning the showerhead without removing it but are still having water pressure issues, you might need to remove the head from the shower arm. Also, if your showerhead has a chrome, stainless steel, or other protected metal surface, try cleaning your showerhead while it's still attached first. Tools can scratch those delicate finishes so avoid them if you can.

How to Clean a Showerhead Without Removing It

If you can't remove your showerhead or simply want to skip that step, you can remove surface mineral deposits with this little trick that requires nothing more than a rubber band, a plastic bag, and some vinegar.

placing bag of solution over shower head
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 1: Secure Bag with Vinegar

First, slip a rubber band over the top of the showerhead. You might want to loop it around the shower arm once or twice so it's tight on the water pipe. Fill a plastic bag with distilled white vinegar. Attach the bag to the showerhead by slipping the top edge of the bag underneath the rubber band.

tying cleaning solution bag to shower head
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 2: Wait and Rinse

Wait one hour, then remove the bag and turn on the water to flush. Polish with a soft cloth.

How to Deep Clean a Showerhead

If mineral deposits prove to be beyond the power of vinegar alone, you will need to remove the showerhead to do a more thorough cleaning.

using wrench on shower head
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 1: Disconnect the Showerhead

To disconnect the showerhead, unscrew the nut at the shower arm. Take care not to damage the fixture's finish. Use a wrench rather than pliers. Cushion your tool with a rag while you work to avoid scratching.

scrubbing shower head with green toothbrush
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 2: Rinse the Showerhead

Run a sharp blast of water through the showerhead by holding it upside down underneath a faucet. Your goal is to rinse loosened debris out through the opening that connects to the shower arm. If there are still mineral deposits, you can scrub the showerhead with an old toothbrush and vinegar to loosen debris.

using toothpicks to clean shower head
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 3: Dismantle and Clean the Showerhead

Use a toothpick or safety pin to poke out additional deposits. (If you have a showerhead with pliable plastic nubbins, you can likely manipulate them with your fingers to break calcium deposits loose.)

Step 4: Soak the Parts in Vinegar Overnight

Immerse the showerhead completely in vinegar to dissolve and remaining limescale deposits. For extra cleaning power, scoop a few tablespoons of baking soda in the vinegar before soaking them. The natural abrasive will help release clogged passages. Rinse again.

placing white tape over shower head pipe
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Step 4: Reassemble and Reinstall Your Showerhead

First, wrap new plumbing tape ($1, The Home Depot) around the threads of the shower arm to ensure a good seal. Reattach the showerhead to the shower arm using a wrench. Protect the fixture's finish with soft rags or towels while you're working.

More Showerhead Cleaning Tips

To keep your water pressure steady and strong and keep bacterial growth to a minimum, plan to thoroughly clean your showerhead at least once a month. Make surface cleaning with vinegar part of your bathroom cleaning routine on a weekly basis. A few other words of advice for cleaning a showerhead:

  • Don't use bleach to clean a showerhead. In the CIRES showerhead study, researchers found that chlorine bleach actually increased the production of harmful bacteria in one of the showerheads studied. Plus, bleach can be caustic and ruin clothes, so it's better to avoid it.
  • Don't use a hard-bristle brush. If your showerhead has a chrome or protected metal finish, it might be susceptible to scratching and scuffing.
  • Do work in a well-ventilated space. If you're using any cleaner with strong fumes, be sure the space has proper ventilation. This can include vinegar as well as commercial cleaning products. Everyone reacts differently to fumes, but it's best to open a window or turn on a ventilation fan whenever you're cleaning your shower.

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