How To Clean A Shower Head And Why You Should

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Your shower head can harbor mold, harmful bacteria, and crusty mineral buildup. Time to clean it.

Closeup of mineral buildup and mold on dirty shower head.

It seems like your showerhead ought to be self-cleaning, but it’s not. All that water coursing through it carries minerals, especially if you live in a hard water area, and those can build up in the nozzles. Your showerhead provides a warm, damp area in between uses — the perfect breeding spot for mold. In fact, scientists have found that residential showerheads harbor mycobacterium, which can cause lung disease.

Signs Your Shower Head Needs Cleaning

You may not be able to spot bacteria and slime buildup in your shower head, but there are other signs that it’s time to give it a deep cleaning:

  • Water sprays in a different direction than it should
  • Some nozzles in the shower head don’t spray at all
  • The pressure coming out of the showerhead is low even with the water turned on all the way
  • You see pink or orange slime around the nozzles, or
  • There’s gray, green, or white crust growing on the showerhead.

How to Deep Clean Your Shower Head

If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your shower head, or if you’ve never cleaned it at all, this method will get rid of the buildup and get your showerhead working like new.

Materials Needed

  • Deep bowl
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Dry rags
  • Tweezers (optional)
  • Wrench (optional)

Steps

  1. Remove your shower head by unscrewing it, using a wrench if necessary. Shake out any excess water.
  2. Use the tweezers to remove the filter screen. This is located at the end of the showerhead, where it attaches to the pipe. Rinse the filter screen on both sides to dislodge any mineral buildup, then set it aside.
  3. Sprinkle the showerhead inside and out with 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda. Dip your toothbrush in water and use this to scrub the surface of the showerhead lightly. Do not rinse.
  4. Submerge the showerhead into a bowl filled with 2 inches of vinegar. This will foam a bit, and the foaming action will dislodge more buildup. Let the showerhead soak in the vinegar for a few hours or even overnight.
  5. Scrub the showerhead gently with a toothbrush and rinse it with plain water. Let it fully air dry, then reinstall the filter screen. Reattach the shower head to the pipe.

Alternative Method

If you can’t remove your showerhead, you can clean it in place by slipping a plastic bag filled with vinegar over the head. Fasten the bag to the shower pipe with a rubber band. Let this sit for an hour, remove the bag, wipe the showerhead with a rag, and run the water to rinse away any residue.

Cleaning Hand-Held Shower Sprayers

You can clean hand-held shower sprayers and their hoses following the steps above. If you can’t fit the hose into a large bowl, a deep pot or even your bathtub will work. Submerge the sprayer and hose in vinegar for at least an hour, then rinse well, shake out excess water, and let it completely dry overnight.

Keeping Your Shower Head Clean

How often you’ll need to clean your showerhead depends on how quickly mildew and mineral buildup returns, but usually, once or twice a year is enough. You can keep mildew from growing on your shower head by misting it with a homemade daily shower cleaning spray, which helps prevent mineral buildup, too.

Never use bleach on your shower head since it can damage the gasket and filter screen. Bleach can also permanently discolor some metals, so stick with the vinegar and baking soda method to clean your showerhead instead.

More Info You Might Like:

Weekly Bathroom Cleaning Checklist
Homemade Bathroom Disinfectant
How To Clean Stinky Drains

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11 Comments

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

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

    2. Katie Berry says:

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

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