How To Clean A Shower Head And Why You Should

Clean

It’s not just neat-freaks who need to know how to clean a shower head: everyone should make a point to do this at least once a season for the sake of their health and their plumbing.

How to Clean a Shower Head (and why you should)

How to Clean a Shower Head

Although a nice, long shower is a great place to relax or even come up with some of your most creative ideas, if you haven’t cleaned your shower head lately, you are not getting nearly as clean as you think.

But there’s more to it than that.

One-third of shower heads tested by researchers were found to contain a bacteria associated with pulmonary disease. Dirty shower heads are also related to the spread of Legionnaires disease.

Fortunately, cleaning your shower head isn’t tricky. The payoff — besides a healthier bathing environment — is a better, stronger spray of water! Here’s how to clean yours.

Start with a Deep Cleaning

If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your shower head, or if you’ve never cleaned it at all, start with a deep cleaning.

NOTE: If your showerhead is made of nickel, omit the vinegar.

  1. Combine 3 cups of very hot water and 1 cup of white vinegar in a large bowl.
  2. Remove your showerhead (usually by unscrewing) and shake out any excess water.
  3. Put the showerhead in the vinegar water and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Use an old toothbrush or bottle brush to scrub the showerhead inside and out. Swirl to dislodge additional gunk and allow it to sit an extra 5-10 minutes.
  5. Give it one more scrub, drain the water, and rinse it thoroughly.
  6. Let the showerhead fully air dry. Now is an excellent time to use the brush on the shower pipe’s threads to remove any buildup there, too. You may want to wrap Teflon plumber’s tape around the tube a few times to ensure a tight seal. Reattach the showerhead when it is completely dry.

Monthly Maintenance Cleaning

Once you’ve deep-cleaned your showerhead, you don’t need to remove it again unless you see significant buildup.

Just spray it monthly with a vinegar-based cleaning solution (like this daily shower spray) and scrub the spray nozzles to dislodge residue and bio-film. Run the shower to rinse the spray head, and you’re done.

NOTE: If your showerhead is made of nickel, clean it monthly with hot, soapy water and an old toothbrush. Using vinegar may cause discoloration.

How to Clean a Shower Head - Fill a plastic bag with water and vinegar and attach it to your shower head

Using Vinegar and a Bag on Your Shower Head

If your showerhead does acquire stubborn buildup between deep cleanings, you can soak it in place to loosen the gunk before scrubbing.

  1. Combine equal parts of white vinegar and hot water in a plastic bag. (For nickel showerheads, use plain water with a squirt of dish soap.)
  2. Attach the bag to your showerhead with a rubber band.
  3. Let that sit in place an hour, or even overnight, and scrub it with a brush to get it clean again.

(Related: How to Clean Your Tub When Your Back Hurts.)

34 Comments

  1. Kelly @ Eclectically Vintage says:

    My poor shower head is crying out of a cleaning -the shame!!
    Kelly

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Don’t feel bad, Kelly. I didn’t know how important it was to clean the thing until my husband started chemotherapy. The doctor’s office gave me a long list of trouble-zones for immune-compromised people, and this was one of them. Before that? I never gave the shower head a single thought!

  2. Are there any spray products to clean mold in the shower that I can get at the grocery store??

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I believe Clorox makes a line of them.

    2. Could you buy an empty spray bottle and put vinegar in it?

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Sure! I stash spray bottles filled with my homemade cleaning mixes under the sinks in every bathroom and the kitchen.

  3. Great tips! The Shower head came up a treat! Stupidly been using standard “bathroom cleaner” previously and could never get mould off. Goes to show – the old ways are the best ways – hooray for vinegar! Just a pity it makes my bathroom stink while you are soaking.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yep, that’s definitely a drawback to using vinegar. You can always cut the smell by adding a few drops of essential oils. 🙂

  4. Micobacterium Avium Complex lives in shower heads. This is a serious illness if inhaled by the lungs. But it’s rare to acquire. I was one of the unlucky ones. I don’t know where I even picked it up, but I used to work with the public. Clean your shower heads.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      What a horrible experience you went through! I hope you’ve fully recovered, and thank you for warning others about these risks.

    2. Alison Ryan says:

      I have just sent off sputum to be tested. My CT scan suggests I might have it. The antibiotic treatment sounds horrible. Did you have them. How did you cope.

    3. Kathy, I have bronchiectasis and now Non-TB MAC. Until now no one ever told me my shower head and hot showers could be the cause. Wow!

    4. Katie Berry says:

      They can also cause “hot tub folliculitis” which resembles skin manifestations of TB, psoriasis, eczema, and boils. Who knew, right?

  5. Jenny Williams says:

    Hi I just discovered my shower head was so filled with mold yuk! I was ready to jump in shower and I had look up and there it was awful creature MOLD. I was wondering why my skin felt so itchy and my face felt like fire.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Isn’t it nasty stuff to find? Glad you got yours cleaned!

    2. Dawn Oconnell says:

      I am being treated for a compromised immune system ..There have been no answers as to what the problem is. I have a dreadful skin rash and lethargy..I often clean my showerhead with the vinegar mixture in a plastic bag as described, after finding the blue stain on the base of the show..I have come home from a few days away and found a huge blue stain on the floor of the shower.I have got the vinegar regime happening again..Is it possible my shower is making sick? I am a cancer survivor Thanks

    3. Katie Berry says:

      I’m not a doctor, so I don’t feel comfortable saying whether your showerhead is to blame or not. But, if you have any reason to wonder, it doesn’t cost much to replace a showerhead — you can find them for as little as $15 and it’s a 5-minute task to replace it. I’d also recommend seeing a dermatologist to find out if a steroid cream could quickly treat it.

  6. Thanks for the help. I removed both the shower head and the flexible hose leading up to it. Does the hose also need cleaning? Can the hose be cleaned the same way?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes!

  7. Orchid Girl says:

    Why not just unscrew the showerhead and place in a bag of vinegar? It isn’t very easy to keep the vinegar from spilling out while trying to get the rubberband around the baggie.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’ll notice that’s the first set of directions that I gave.

  8. Orchid Girl says:

    What brought me here was how to learn how to clean a hand-held shower head and hose.

    Looks like I’m going to have to buy a new hose and place the showerhead inside a bowl full of vinegar. That should be inexpensive. It just hit me that a hand-held and hose must breed a lot of mold.

    Maybe you can address this in a future post.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s something I’ll add to my list. Thanks!

  9. I put the shower head into a small container of bleach mixed with water and soaped it overnight. The next morning I found the container of water turned into black colour with sediments. Can someone explain to me what that is please?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s hard to say. It could be mold or it could be a gasket that’s wearing out.

    2. Barbara G. Sullivan says:

      need to use vinegar, may have been a reaction with plastic metal shower head and bleach. Always use vinegar to clean shower heads, coffee pots, etc.

  10. Great into regarding the nasty (and unhealthy) shower heads around our house. Cleaning them all with vinegar as you’ve suggested. THANKS!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome!

  11. My shower head is made of nickel. Will the vinegar solution stain the shower head? Please advise.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Good question! You should not use vinegar to clean nickel since it will leave the metal looking tarnished and dull.

      Updated to add: I’ve amended the instructions to note methods for cleaning nickel showerheads. They weren’t popular when I initially published this post, but now that brushed nickel is catching on again, I don’t want to leave people with damaged stuff. 🙂

  12. I asked my husband to clean the showerhead with vinegar as you suggested – he instead used Lime-A-Way Turbo Power Reckitt Beneckiser – will that clean the unhealthy bacteria that you post about? Know anything about it? Thank you.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Charlie,
      I haven’t used Lime Away but a quick look at the ingredients makes me think it’s not as effective at killing bacteria, though it should do a great job at getting rid of mineral buildup.

  13. Thank you. I am so embarrassed. I never knew it Should be cleaned. It’s cleaned and a tad tarnished looking for now… Until I get a new shower head with the sprayer. Thank you so much I have a lot of respiratory issues and it could be this nasty shower head. Be well.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      No need to feel embarrassed, Glenda. It’s not one of those things that stands out as needing to be cleaned. After all, it gets rinsed with water every time we shower, right? I hope that descaling yours helps with the respiratory issues and that you feel better soon.

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