Buildup and hard water deposits can impact your showerhead's functionality, but with a few cleaning materials you likely already have on hand, the fixture can be restored to its former glory.
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While there are plenty of areas in your bathroom you likely clean regularly—your sink, toilet, and tile floors to name a few—there is one area of the space you may often overlook: your showerhead. "Showerhead cleaning is crucial because the slime that has built up over time from minerals and debris, sits inside the nozzle and will clog the shower holes if left uncleaned," say Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of Aspen Clean. "Over time this will reduce the performance and water pressure of your showerhead." 

But what, exactly is that buildup made of? Hard water deposits consist of mostly calcium and magnesium minerals that exist within all water supplies, says Brian Campbell, water quality expert at Water Filter Guru. When these minerals collect in and around your showerhead, they leave behind a chalky residue called limescale. In addition to looking dirty, this film can impact your water pressure and become a plumbing issue. "Sooner or later, buildup can clog the holes in the showerhead and eventually become a happy home for bacteria," says Gerald Carpenter, professional plumber and founder of Sanitary Review.

Beyond cleaning your showerhead for optimal performance, it's also important to do so for your health. According to Sokolowski, if you leave your showerhead uncleaned for a very long time, it can harbor hazardous bacteria. "Mycobacterium, along with other germs, thrives in hot and humid environments, meaning your showerhead is the perfect home for this bacteria to form," she says. "Once your showerhead is turned on, the pressure will release these bacteria-filled water droplets into the air, making them easy to be inhaled."

To ensure your showerhead is running to the best of its ability and to protect yourself from harmful bacteria, be sure to add this maintenance step to your regular bathroom cleaning checklist. 

sShower Head With Running Water
Credit: Mohd Hafiez Mohd Razali / EyeEm / Getty Images

How Regularly You Should Clean Your Showerhead

How frequently you clean your showerhead depends on the hardness of your water, Sokolowski says. In general, she recommends cleaning the device at least once a month, but if you have hard water, you may need to do so more regularly. "Since hard water is rich in calcium and lime, it will clog up your showerhead faster than soft water," she says. "In that case, I would check your showerhead every three weeks and clean it if necessary." 

Materials Needed to Clean a Showerhead 

While it may seem like a high maintenance chore, cleaning your showerhead is a simple task when you have the right equipment handy. Some of the necessary materials will vary depending on the type of showerhead you have—detachable or non-detachable. 

  • Microfiber cloth
  • White vinegar
  • Old toothbrush or scrubber
  • Toothpick or safety pin (to unclog if necessary)
  • Natural Dish soap 
  • Basin or bucket (for a detachable showerhead)
  • Zip-tie bag (for a non-detachable showerhead)
  • Hair tie or rubber band (for a non-detachable showerhead)

How to Clean a Showerhead 

Once you've gathered the appropriate materials and have determined the style of showerhead you have, it's time to get cleaning. 

1. Make a Cleaning Solution

Start by making a solution that is equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Melissa Poepping, founder of The Chemical Free Home, says she prefers using cleaning grade vinegar rather than standard food grade, since it is a bit more acidic and goes the extra mile for cleaning. You can also substitute white vinegar for lemon juice or apple cider vinegar if you're in a pinch, also mixing with equal parts water. 

2. Let It Soak

If your showerhead is detachable, unscrew it and submerge it in a bucket filled with the water-vinegar solution. "Don't worry if your showerhead is not detachable—you can also submerge the showerhead in a Ziplock bag filled with an equal solution of water and white vinegar and tie it with a rubber band or a hair tie," says Sokolowski. According to Carpenter, you should let both iterations soak for at least four hours.

3. Rinse and Scrub Clean

After soaking, Carpenter says to run hot water through the nozzles of your showerhead for a few minutes to wash away the now-softened deposits. Next, scrub the plumbing fixture with a toothbrush or scrubber until all of the limescale has been removed.

4. Deep Clean the Nozzles

If you're having a hard time getting the nozzles completely clean, Sokolowski says to make a paste using baking soda and water and scrub them with an old toothbrush. When you're satisfied, wipe the showerhead clean with a microfiber cloth. 

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead

While the steps outlined above should be enough to remove any clogs, there are other methods that also do the trick if you're still having trouble. Poepping says a simple solution of baking soda, vinegar, and tea tree oil—which she notes is a natural degreaser that leaves surfaces spot free—should do the trick. Scrub the solution onto the showerhead nozzles using a toothbrush then clear the holes with a sewing needle. Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth when you're done.

How to Clean a Showerhead Filter Screen

If you have soaked, scrubbed, and cleaned the nozzles of your showerhead and it's still not working properly, it's possible that you need to clean the filter screen. "In order to do this, you will have to unscrew the showerhead, as [the filter screen] is located between the showerhead and the water pipe," Sokolowski says.

  1. Start by carefully removing the filter screen with tweezers, then clean it with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water; scrub with an old toothbrush.
  2. "Run under water for one minute and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth," says Sokolowski.
  3. Place the filter back—again, using your tweezers—and screw the showerhead back on.

Sokolowski notes that your shower filter screen should be replaced every 12 months to ensure it's purifying water properly. 

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