It’s inevitable. One day you step into your shower and notice that the water is sputtering or the stream is weaker than usual. You likely don’t need to replace the shower head, you just need to clean it.
Regularly cleaning your shower head will improve your water flow and keep bacteria from building up inside it. It’s an easy maintenance project that keeps your shower functioning at its best.
Good water flow is first reason for cleaning your shower head. Over time, mineral deposits from the water build up in the holes of the head causing it to spray unevenly. In addition, the holes may become sufficiently clogged to block most of the water from coming out, making the stream thin and sometimes painful.
A second reason – one that we don’t often consider – is that your shower head can become a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. According to the Daily Mail, scientists say that nearly one-third of all shower heads are home to potentially dangerous bacteria. The warm, moist environment inside the shower head creates slime, which helps protect harmful microbes from the chlorine in the water that is meant to kill them.
In a study by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, researchers tested the slime inside 45 shower heads in homes and public buildings in nine U.S. cities. Nearly a third of the shower heads sampled contained Mycobacterium avium, a microbe that can cause tuberculosis. The Daily Mail quoted Professor Norman Pace: “If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy…There have been some precedents for concern regarding pathogens and shower heads.”
Another microbe, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, lives in the black muck in shower heads and taps. This is a bacillus that is causing infections with growing frequency, particularly among those who have weakened immune systems.
The researchers also note that metal shower heads have fewer pathogens than plastic ones.
So how can you keep your shower flowing freely and safeguard your health? With regular cleaning.
Contrary to why you might think, bleach is not an effective product for cleaning your shower head. In fact, scientists found it can increase the number of bacteria. And, while some people might reach for a chemical solution, there are safer, non-toxic methods that are just as effective.
One of the most versatile, safe cleaning products in your home is vinegar, which is also one of the best things to use for cleaning your shower head.
The most efficient way to clean the head is to remove it from the pipe and disassemble it, according to redbeacon.com. Take all the parts and fully submerge them in a bucket of warm white vinegar for about 30 minutes. Remove the pieces from the vinegar and look them over. Use a small brush to dislodge any build-up that you see inside or on the shower head. Rinse well and replace the shower head. If you’re not sure how to take the head off, familyhandyman.com has photos that show you how.
If you can’t take the head off or don’t want to try removing it – maybe you live in an apartment and don’t want to risk damaging the fixture – you can still clean the shower head. Simply fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and tie it over the fixture, fully submerging the head. Leave the bag on the shower head for several hours. After you remove the bag, run the water to dislodge any deposits.
Another method is to use baking soda in combination with the vinegar. As the Denver Post explains, when you mix the two, the soda reacts with the vinegar, causing it to vigorously bubble up. The reaction forms carbonic acid, which is a strong, natural cleaning agent. Use the same method to tie the bag over the shower head and leave it to soak for at least a two to three hours or overnight. After you remove the bag, wipe down the fixture and run the water for a few minutes.
For those who prefer a chemical fix, a variety of commercial products are available to clear your clogged shower head. They all work very effectively but are often toxic. If you choose to use one, make sure that you follow all safety instructions, wear proper protection and keep the area well ventilated.
Whatever method you choose, cleaning your shower head on a regular basis will keep the clean water flowing!