How to Clean a Shower Head (and Why You Really Need To)

That thick layer of mineral buildup on your shower head can affect the quality of your scrub down. Here's how to clean your shower head.

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After a sweat session at the gym or a messy day of gardening, nothing sounds better than jumping in the shower to rinse away the grime. And let’s be real: A shower offers a soothing reprieve from the day even if we haven’t done a single thing. Just like a dirty shower curtain, a dirty shower head is a major buzzkill, and not just because it looks grody. Our shower heads can accumulate grime, minerals, and even bacteria, which doesn’t bode well for a relaxing or clean moment. That’s why an important part of cleaning your bathroom is knowing how to clean shower head.

“Over time, shower heads can develop calcium, limescale, and other mineral buildups from hard water,” explains Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid. “The mineral buildup creates a blockage at the end of the shower head, making it difficult for water to pass through.”

How to clean your shower head

If you’re doubting whether you really need to waste time cleaning a shower head, answer this: How regularly and how closely do you look at your shower head? Exactly. And chances are, you clean it even less often.

We get it, though. The shower head is often in an awkward space that requires some odd contortions to get a close look. And to really get it clean, you have to invest time and effort into unscrewing the whole thing.

It sounds tedious, but once you know how to clean a shower head, it really isn’t that bad. Plus, you’ll feel that much better every time you hop in the shower. To learn how to clean a shower head, follow this expert advice.

Cleaning your shower head without removing it

deep cleaning shower headTMB Studio

To do the job quickly, follow these step-by-step instructions for how to clean a shower head:

  1. Fill a plastic bag about halfway full with white vinegar. Use quart-sized bags for faucets and gallon-sized bags for shower heads. (If you have a large shower head, you may need to get creative.) “Vinegar is good to use because it is strong enough to dissolve anything that’s left in the head,” notes Peterson. If you prefer to use something besides vinegar, try lemon juice or an over-the-counter product that specifically targets limescale and shower scum.
  2. Wrap the vinegar-filled bag around the shower head or faucet so that any place where water exits is completely submerged in the vinegar. Hold the bag in place by snapping a rubber band around it, affixing it to the shower head or faucet.
  3. Wait approximately one hour to let the vinegar eat away at any hard-water deposits or calcium buildups. While you’re waiting, learn how to clean the dirtiest items in your home.
  4. After the hour has passed, remove the bag and scrub the faucet or shower head with a toothbrush to clear up any stubborn residue.
  5. Rinse by simply run the shower for a few minutes with hot water.

Pro tip: If you turn the shower on and the individual spray holes in the shower head are still blocked, try poking them with a small tool, like a toothpick. The vinegar will have loosened any buildup so that it can be easily dislodged.

How to deep clean a shower head

cleaning shower head with a toothbrushTMB Studio

While a quick cleaning works, a deep clean should be on your cleaning schedule. Do it two to four times a year to ensure you’re nixing the buildup on the interior of your shower head. Not only will this step-by-step guide deep clean your shower head, but it’ll teach you how to clean a clogged shower head as well.

  1. Detach the shower head. “For best results, remove the shower head using a wrench to unscrew the nut located at the shower arm,” Peterson says. “Practice care in not ruining the fixture’s finish and use a soft rag with your tool to cushion it.”
  2. Next, rinse the loose debris out of the shower head. “Place the shower head upside down and rinse it under the faucet with a blast of water. Then position the shower head to ensure the water flushes out the mineral debris,” advises Peterson.
  3. If you notice mineral deposits still lodged inside, Peterson recommends using a small brush doused in vinegar to scrub the deposits from the showerhead. You’ll probably find yourself completing this step if it’s been a while since your last deep clean.
  4. Let the shower head soak in vinegar overnight.
  5. Reinstall the shower head. Before you do, “wrap plumber’s tape around the shower arm entrance to create a tight seal and use a wrench to reattach the shower head to the shower arm,” says Peterson. “Use a rag to protect the shower arm’s finish.”
  6. Once the shower head is reinstalled, turn on the shower for a few minutes to clear out any residual vinegar. You may want to start with a gentle stream and then increase, just in case the shower head isn’t 100 percent sealed.

What is limescale, and what’s the best way to remove it?

“The buildup of calcium and magnesium minerals in hard water causes limescale,” says Peterson. You can remove some of it with the quick clean method outlined above, or you can remove more of it by following the step-by-step deep clean. To prevent limescale from building up in the first place, Peterson strongly recommends installing a water softener and maintaining it regularly.

How often should you clean your shower head?

Ideally, you should clean the shower head once a month with some vinegar to remove mineral buildup. A deep clean should be done at least two times a year but ideally once every four months. This ensures a cleaner shower head and a more enjoyable showering experience.


Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a Phoenix-based freelance lifestyle reporter who covers home, health, wellness, and travel-related topics for people and their pets. In addition to having two kitties of her own, Wendy loves all animals and is always game for meeting new floofs. She holds a journalism degree from the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism and has a second bachelor's degree in Philosophy. You can follow her on Instagram @wendyrgould.