How to Clean a Showerhead Using Basic Pantry Ingredients

Keep your showerhead flowing freely by removing mineral deposits like limescale.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5

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 the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences found that residential showerheads often contain abundant amounts of Mycobacterium (a genus of 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!

Before Getting Started

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.

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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning a Showerhead Without Removing It

  • Soft cloth

Deep Cleaning a Showerhead

  • Wrench
  • Plumbing tape


Cleaning a Showerhead Without Removing It

  • Rubber band
  • Plastic Bag
  • Distilled white vinegar

Deep Cleaning a Showerhead

  • Rag
  • Old toothbrush
  • Vinegar
  • Toothpick or safety pin
  • Baking soda


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.

  1. placing bag of solution over shower head
    Jason Donnelly

    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.

  2. tying cleaning solution bag to shower head
    Jason Donnelly

    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.

  1. using wrench on shower head
    Jason Donnelly

    Disconnect 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.

  2. scrubbing shower head with green toothbrush
    Jason Donnelly

    Rinse 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.

  3. using toothpicks to clean shower head
    Jason Donnelly

    Dismantle and Clean 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.)

  4. Soak Parts in Vinegar

    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.

  5. placing white tape over shower head pipe
    Jason Donnelly

    Reassemble Showerhead

    First, wrap new plumbing tape 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can vinegar damage my showerhead?

    Because it’s acidic, prolonged exposure to vinegar can damage the finish of chrome, brass, or nickel showerheads. Don’t soak these finishes in vinegar for longer than recommended.

  • What does calcium buildup on a shower head look like?

    Calcium buildup on a shower head will look like a white, crusty substance. This differs from how it looks on glass or ceramic, where it can leave spots and have a brown or off-white color.

  • How often should you clean a showerhead?

    Ideally, cleaning your showerhead once a month would be best to keep calcium and lime deposit buildup from occurring and possibly damaging your showerhead’s water spouts.

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