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How to Clean a Shower Head

Your shower keeps you clean every day—are you returning the favor? Shower heads need to be cleaned regularly to perform optimally and stay bacteria-free. Fortunately, keeping them clean is an easy, set-it-and-forget-it task.

A clean silver shower head in a mosaic shower. Nat Rea

While most people regularly clean their shower walls and floor, there’s an essential part of every shower that typically gets overlooked: the shower head. But this is one part of the shower that can certainly benefit from some attention.

Think about it: Water comes through the shower head every day, sometimes several times a day, which can lead to the buildup of mineral deposits commonly found in water, such as calcium and magnesium.

Why Does a Shower Head Need to be Cleaned?

In addition to mineral deposits, the shower head can be prone to mildew since it’s consistently wet. This is especially true if the bathroom isn’t well ventilated. Bacteria that grow in the fixture can lead to lung infections, particularly in immunocompromised people and those with certain health conditions.

Therefore, it’s important to make sure your shower head is properly cleaned at least once a month. The good news is that cleaning it can be a cinch, and all you need are common household materials:

For those who get around to cleaning their shower head often, scrubbing its face with a toothbrush and a bathroom cleaning product will go a long way in preventing mineral and bacteria buildup. But for those who simply don’t get to this task very often, the following method for a deeper clean may be necessary.

Steps for Cleaning a Shower Head

Here’s what to do with a shower head that’s due for a thorough cleaning.

Step 1: Pour vinegar into gallon storage bag

  • Pour about one cup of vinegar into a gallon storage bag, making sure that the amount can cover the entire shower head.
  • Position the bag over the shower head so that the whole head is immersed in the vinegar. Then secure the bag in place by tying a rubber band or two around the pipe that’s attached to the shower head.
  • Before you let go of the bag, double-check that the weight of the liquid won’t cause the bag to fall. Alternatively, detach the shower head from the pipe and place it into the bag of vinegar.

Step 2: Let it soak

  • Let the shower head soak in the vinegar for at least eight hours. (Overnight is a good idea because no one will need to use the shower during that time.)
  • One caveat is that fixtures that are coated in a finish such as nickel, brass, or gold shouldn’t soak for longer than half an hour, as the vinegar can be too harsh for these materials.
  • Check the manual or manufacturer website if you’re not sure about your shower head’s finish.

Step 3: Remove and rinse

  • Remove the bag from the shower head and pour the vinegar down the drain.
  • Turn the hot water on and use full pressure to rinse the vinegar out, along with any leftover mineral deposits.

Step 4: Gently scrub buildup

  • If you can still see buildup, particularly in the nozzle area, gently scrub it off with a toothbrush.
  • If necessary, use a sewing needle to poke out stubborn particles. Finally, use a soft cloth to buff the shower head until it gleams like new.

How to Remove Limescale

If these four easy steps don’t get your shower head completely clean, you may be dealing with the bigger problem of lime buildup, which requires some additional effort to remove.

In this case, carefully detach the shower head from the pipe and use a pair of needle-nose pliers to remove the filter screen that’s located inside the fixture. With a toothbrush and all-purpose cleaner, scrub the filter clean and then reinstall it into the head.

By taking these steps, you should be left with a shower head that won’t be a breeding area for harmful bacteria—and appears brand new to boot. Happy Showering!