How to Clean a Shower Head with Vinegar in Simple Steps

How to Clean a Shower Head with Vinegar In Simple Steps

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Has your shower head been spraying water in all directions recently? If you want your shower head to work like new, all you need is white vinegar, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar (ACV). Vinegar is one of the best cleaning agents that you can use to remove grime, soap scum, and mineral deposits. Not sure where to start? Keep reading our detailed guide on how to clean a shower head with vinegar at home.

Why Is Your Shower Head Clogged?

Your shower head needs cleaning if you notice decreasing water pressure when showering. The shower head starts blocking when elemental buildups accumulate over time. It would be best to clean the buildup to restore good water pressure, so your shower head works like new. Here are reasons why your shower heads get clogged.

  1. When your house has hard water, it means the water has higher levels of calcium and magnesium, plus other metallic elements. Hard water leads to scaling, and these elements build up to block your pipes and shower heads. Luckily, a vinegar solution can dissolve the scaling to leave you with better water flow. When the scaling is too much, you can also add a little baking soda that can help dissolve the buildup faster. Alternatively, you can invest in the best water softener showerheads to mitigate the damage.
  2. Your pipes have debris. Besides scaling, other debris could also clog the showerhead. For instance, smaller elements like rubber gaskets can degrade and start clogging your showerhead. Over time, degrading will manifest as small particles forming over the filter screen to decrease water flow effectively.
  3. Your shower has a flow restrictor. Sometimes, your shower head could have reduced water pressure if you had installed a flow restrictor to save water. While this device will lower your water bill, it might need replacing if it lowers the flow so much also to affect your shower experience.

Supplies You Need to Clean Your Shower Head with Vinegar

When cleaning a shower head, you can follow two main methods for a removable and non-removable shower head. But, whichever method you choose, here are all the supplies your need.

  1. White vinegar
  2. Baking soda (optional)
  3. Plastic or nylon scrub brush or old toothbrush
  4. Scissors
  5. Paper towels or microfiber cloth
  6. Rubber gloves
  7. Bucket or standard plastic bag, or Ziploc bag
  8. Tape or twist tie

How to Clean Removable Shower Heads

How to Clean Removable Shower Heads

If you want to clean a removable shower head, you need to make sure you can remove the unit without damaging pipes or your wall. Here is how to remove the shower head.

  1. First, you need to shut off both hot and cold water supply valves inside your walls.
  2. Twist the shower head counterclockwise to remove it from the shower arm.
  3. If you struggle to twist it with your hand, you can use a wrench to twist it faster. But, you may need to wrap a cloth or rag over the showerhead surface to prevent damaging the finish.
  4. When the shower head comes off, here is how to clean it of all scum and mineral buildup.

You will need these supplies for this process;

  1. a small bucket
  2. gloves
  3. vinegar
  4. old toothbrush
  5. soft cloth

You can clean a shower head following these steps.

Step 1. Put your showerhead into the bucket or pot. The bucket or container you use needs to be small enough so that it can soak your showerhead without you using too much vinegar.

Step 2. Add your vinegar to the small bucket. Add enough vinegar to cover the showerhead to soften the mineral deposits sitting in the spray holes.

Step 3. Decide how long you need to soak the showerhead in the vinegar mixture. You have two factors to help you decide here;

  • If the shower head has a brass, nickel, or gold finish, you will need to rinse it after 30 minutes. Leaving the showerhead in the mixture any longer can also damage the finish, thus leaving you with an unsightly shower head. If the buildup does not dissolve completely, you can rinse the shower head and soak it again. Not to worry, as long as you observe how long you soak the showerhead, you will ot damage the finish.
  • If your showerhead is made of metal, you can choose to leave it soaking for a few hours or overnight. An overnight shower head soak will remove most mineral deposits from the spray holes without you having to brush the surface a lot. Additionally, you might also prefer to soak it in a pot so you can have it simmer for a few minutes. The simmering method is best for extremely soiled metal shower heads, and it helps the buildup dissolve faster.

Step 4. With your gloves on, remove the showerhead from the vinegar solution and rinse it. While rinsing, you will see the buildup falling off. But, if there is remaining residue, you can scrub it off using an old toothbrush. Focus the toothbrush bristles around the spray holes to unblock them. In addition, you will want to brush your shower head under running water, so the residue comes off easily. If there is still residue left in the holes, you can use a safety pin to poke holes through the buildup to allow water flow.

Step 5. When you remove all the residue, you will use a soft cloth to dry the shower head. Additionally, you can wipe the whole surface with the microfiber cloth to remove any water stains before reinstalling the unit.

Step 6. You can now reinstall it on the wall pipe when the shower head is clean. First, ensure you wrap some plumbing tape on the threaded area before screwing it in.

Step 7. Test the water flow to see how well it works after cleaning. Doing so is also good to clear any remaining residue before your shower.

How to Clean Non-Removable Shower heads

How to Clean Non-Removable Shower heads

Not certain you can remove the showerhead without a plumber? Don't worry; you can wash it with vinegar from its position. All you need is;

  • vinegar
  • plastic bag
  • an old toothbrush
  • a string, twist tie, or rubber band
  • a microfiber cloth

When you have your supplies ready, here are the steps to clean a shower head without removing it from the wall pipe.

Step 1. Turn off the hot water line.

Step 2. Add the vinegar partway into the plastic bag. Avoid filling it all the way up lest it pours as you try to attach it to the shower nozzle.

Step 3. Place the plastic bag under the shower head, then pull it upward until the shower head is submerged in the vinegar. You will also need to adjust your vinegar level as needed in this step.

Step 4. Once the showerhead is submerged, you need to tie it at the neck of the shower head using a string, rubber band, or twist tie. After tightening the string, let go of the bag slowly to prevent spilling the vinegar.

Step 5. Let the shower head soak for 30minutes to overnight. However, observe the outer finish to determine how long to soak it.

A brass, gold, or nickel shower head needs to soak for 30 minutes at most, so the finish does not get damaged. Even when there is any residue left, you can soak the shower head again or gently brush it with a toothbrush to clean it thoroughly.

But, if the shower head is metallic, you can leave it to soak overnight to dissolve all mineral deposits.

Step 6. After you have soaked the shower head enough, it is time to remove the plastic bag. To do so, hold the bag with one hand, then use the other to untie the string. Once it is untied, gently bring it down and spill the vinegar. When doing so, you need to keep the bag at a safe distance as the vinegar smell can be very strong.

Step 7. You now need to run water for a few minutes to rinse the shower head. Doing so will clear out the dissolved calcium deposits to leave the spray holes clean and unclogged. If you notice clogged holes, you can use a toothbrush to clear them. After brushing, run the water again to rinse the remaining residue.

Step 8. When the water pressure is better, use a microfiber cloth to wipe hard water stains off to leave your shower head sparkling.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can vinegar damage my shower head?

Vinegar is a safe bathroom cleaner when you want to remove mineral deposits, rust, and soap scum. It is an acidic solution that easily breaks these elements down while disinfecting the surfaces. Vinegar will not damage your shower head when you soak it. However, you will need to understand how long you can leave the shower head in the solution. If your shower heads have delicate finishes like nickel or brass, you will need to rinse them after 30 minutes to protect the finish.

Will baking soda help when cleaning my shower head?

If your shower head is too soiled, you might consider washing it with baking soda. It is a natural abrasive that can help dissolve buildup to unclog the holes. But, you will need to add a safe amount of baking soda to your vinegar mixture to ensure it does not also book the holes while soaking.

Which is the best vinegar for cleaning a shower head?

While any vinegar can help dissolve clogging debris, white vinegar is more effective than apple cider vinegar and distilled white vinegar. It is better than apple cider vinegar since it is not colored, while it is also more acidic to break down the debris.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.