How to Clean Your Shower Head (and Why You Should)

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Are you telling me that shower heads don’t clean themselves? What’s next, drying towels?

There’s nothing quite like a proper shower after a long day. But if weak water pressure and irregular spray patterns are preventing you from washing away your troubles, then it might be time to give your shower head a deep clean.

Discovering that the thing meant to be cleaning you is itself dirty is akin to discovering you’ve been drinking out of a moldy water bottle. Plus, shower heads are one of those appliances you might consider self-cleaning. (I’m reminded of Nick Miller’s logic about washing towels on New Girl.) It’s an easy place to skip over when you’re busy cleaning high-profile items like the toilet or sink. However, the shower head deserves as much as attention as many other trouble spots in your bathroom.

Why you need to clean your shower head

Even though shower heads aren’t contaminated with people touching them all the time, they can still fall victim to mold, mineral buildup, and even bacteria. And if you live in an area with hard water, you’ll almost certainly notice when mineral deposits like limescale can build up and clog the holes in your shower head.

When you need to clean your shower head

Sources vary on how regularly your need to clean your shower head, but the general consensus online is to use the following soaking method about once a month. Otherwise, it’s wise to incorporate your shower head into your regular deep-clean routine.

Regardless of your existing bathroom cleaning habits, a good indicator that it’s time to remove and soak your shower head is when it has significantly weakened or sporadic water pressure, which could be due to the sort of buildups described above.

What you need to clean your shower head

If you can remove it

Fully dislodging your shower head is the easiest way to soak it thoroughly. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 cups of white vinegar (or enough to submerge the shower head)
  • 1/2 cup of baking soda (optional)
  • 1 cup of water
  • A large container or tub
  • Optional: a toothbrush or scrub brush of some kind

If you can’t remove it

You can still soak your shower head even if you can’t remove it, but you’ll need some the following materials in addition to those listed above:

  • Large plastic baggie (that can fit around shower head)
  • Rubber bands or zip ties

Step-by-step guide to clean your shower head

  1. Remove the shower head. Many will twist off manually, but you might need a wrench to get it loose.
  2. Pour the vinegar, baking soda (optional), and water into the large container or tub.
  3. Submerge the shower head completely.
  4. Soak. It’s not a perfect science, so how long you soak depends on how deep a clean you need. You can safely leave it overnight, but even an hour or two should do the trick.
  5. Optional: After soaking, spot clean any remaining buildup with a toothbrush or scrub brush.
  6. Rinse the shower head to wash away any excess vinegar. Allow water to run through it completely, so you don’t end up showering yourself in vinegar once you reconnect the shower head.
  7. Wipe down with a soft rag. You can safely pour the leftover vinegar mixture down the drain.
  8. Reattach the shower head to the main fixture. Run the shower until the vinegar smell fades away.

How to clean a non-removable shower head

If you’re unable to dislodge your shower head, you can still soak it via plastic bag.

  1. Prep some rubber bands or zip ties around the base of your shower head.
  2. Pour the vinegar, baking soda, and water into a large plastic bag. Make sure the bag is large enough that it won’t overflow once the shower head is submerged.
  3. Fasten the bag around the shower head, making sure it’s completely submerged. Use the rubber bands already in place to secure the bag (to use a phrase).
  4. Follow steps four through seven outlined above.

Note: If you have a brass, gold, or nickel-coated shower head, remove it from the vinegar after 30 minutes, as any longer than this could damage the finish.

Keep your shower head clean

The best way to keep buildup at bay is to stay on top of it. Keep some diluted vinegar (one part vinegar, one part water) in a spray bottle and incorporate a good shower head spritz into your regular bathroom cleaning routine.

Now go enjoy some high-quality water pressure to celebrate a job well done.