The 6 Best Ways to Unclog Shower Heads – A Home Guide

We all know the feeling of standing under a stream of clean, freshwater. However, sometimes we forget or neglect to maintain our showerheads and they become clogged with calcium and other minerals left behind from hard water. This build-up not only affects appearance but also makes for less-than-ideal showers.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to unclog showerheads and get them back in working order.

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The first solution is to run white (or apple cider) vinegar or a product such as ACV through your showerhead. Both of these products are safe for most materials and will eat away at the calcium build-up. 

Simply attach the showerhead with an adjustable wrench, place it in a jar, and fill it with vinegar or ACV to submerge the head completely. After roughly an hour, remove the showerhead and rinse it cleans with water again.

2. Clean it manually using a brush

If your shower head is clogged but can’t be submerged completely, you might consider manually cleaning it. First, remove the head from its current position and take it apart completely. You’ll want to inspect each individual part for calcium or mineral build-up, then use vinegar (or ACV) and a bristle brush to clean the parts. 

Finally, soak them in some more vinegar (or ACV) before reassembling and reattaching it to your shower.

3. Check the aerator

Occasionally, calcium build-ups will occur in the aerator screen of your shower, which means you’ll need to check it. Unscrew the faucet aerator by hand with an adjustable wrench or pliers and remove any excess mineral deposits. Sometimes a toothpick can be used to help scrape away these minerals, too. 

Finally, try to get a toothbrush into the area and scrub it clean. You’ll want to re-attach the aerator and turn your water on for a minute or so to check if the clog is gone. If it returns, you’ll need to take more drastic measures.

4. Run Calcium Lime Rust cleaner (CLR) through it

Another way of unclogging a showerhead is by using CLR. CLR can be sprayed or poured through the showerhead and allowed to sit for at least an hour. This allows the cleaner to break down lime and calcium deposits over time. When you return, you should be able to easily remove the clog with a toothpick or other similar tool. 

Ensure that you have CLR in a well-ventilated area when using it, and only spray it directly onto the showerhead. You should also rinse down your showerhead with water afterward.

5. Use distilled water for best results

The key to preventing showerhead clogs is to use distilled water in your home. Distilled or demineralized water doesn’t have excess minerals but it’s also free from the chemical treatments that many a tap water has, which can cause mineral build-ups. 

Cleaning your showerhead regularly should be enough to prevent the need for vinegar or other cleaning methods. If you’re still experiencing clogs, though, then consider using distilled water.

6. Use a bag to tie hot sauce over your showerhead

Recently came across this method of unclogging a showerhead and have tried it a few times now with great results. Hot sauce is a natural acid that breaks down the mineral deposits of calcium, lime and rust. It’s been said to work on pretty much every type of showerhead build-up no matter how bad it is.

Place your shower head in a Ziploc bag or plastic container large enough for it to fit inside. Next up, fill the bag or container with hot sauce and make sure the showerhead is submerged completely. Leave it in hot sauce for roughly 30 minutes, then remove it and rinse off the accumulation of calcium or lime with warm water.

how to unclog a shower head

Bonus tips

  1. The mineral build-up will be worse in specific water conditions.
  2. Some showerheads are not meant to come apart! If it does not, do NOT try to force it open. This might damage the joints and cause leakage issues.
  3. It is very important that you rinse your showerhead well after using any of these methods so you don’t get any residue left behind (which may require you to go through the process again).
  4. Please note that some substances will damage your showerhead over time. Follow directions and use at your own risk.

If all else fails, there’s no shame in taking your showerhead to a hardware store. Hardware stores should carry tools that you can use to remove mineral build-ups. The best bet is to talk with an employee at your hardware store about the methods you’ve tried and see if they have any suggestions for other ways to prevent or remove build-up. If this fails, he might suggest replacing it altogether.

Final thoughts

Unclogging showerheads can often be a tedious task, but it offers an opportunity to take some time to think about your water usage. If you have hard water, you will have to clean out your showerheads more frequently. 

On the other hand, if you want to stop calcium build-ups or any future damage, consider installing a water filter for drinking and cooking that uses a reverse osmosis system.

And there you have it; the best ways to unclog showerheads! Good luck

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