Hard water deposits are the bane of any faucet, shower head, and plumbing fixture. Really, anything that relies on water can be damaged by hard water deposits, including things like washing machines and dishwashers. One of the more common ways that hard water build ups can manifest themselves is through clogged shower heads. Thankfully, a clogged shower head is not that difficult to fix if you know what you are doing. However, not everyone knows how to properly clean a shower head, so we are here to show you exactly what to do. Be warned, that properly cleaning a shower head requires some materials that you probably do not keep around the house, so get ready to make a trip to the local hardware store.
Simply put, hard water is water with a high mineral content. “Minerals” in this case usually refers to magnesium and calcium, which come from limestone and chalk. This is picked up by ground water as it goes through the water cycle. Ground water is not actually that harmful to drink (although the water can taste funny), but it can certainly cause a lot of problems for your water using appliances. In the case of shower heads, the hard water minerals congeal and harden in the little holes of the shower head, which reduces water pressure, and in many cases, actually clogs the shower head.
Hard water problems can be hard to spot, you need to keep your eye out for discolouration on appliances and fixtures. For example, stains of a bluish or greenish nature are sure sign that your water is slightly acidic. If you notice brown stains, then chances are your water has a high magnesium content in it.
Alright, now that we know what hard water is, let’s get down to actually cleaning the clogged shower head.
Generally, whenever working on something related to electricity or water, you want to shut off the water or electricity before starting your work. So, if possible locate the shut off valve for the area of the house that controls the water supply to the shower or bathroom, and shut it off. If you do not have the ability to shut off the water supply to a certain area of the house, then just shut off the entire house’s water supply.
Now, usually when it comes to unclogging a shower head, most people will not disconnect the shower head. Instead they will fill a bag or a bowl full of vinegar or a cleaning solution, and then hold it up to the shower head, or wrap it around. That can work, and it often does. But, in order to get the shower head really clean, you need to remove the shower head and disassemble it. It is a lot more work, but it ensures that the shower head is thoroughly clean and is the best way to get rid of really caked on clogs.
If you do not know how to take apart your particular shower head, you should be able to find a guide easily enough online. You will almost certainly need a screwdriver (for unscrewing the swivel ball) and a wrench (for completely disconnecting the shower head from the pipe). If you do not have either of those, jump out to the local hardware store. Also, if you do take apart the shower head, make sure you make a mental note of the way the shower head went together, otherwise putting it back together will be a major hassle.
Vinegar tends to be the most commonly used cleaning solution when it comes to unclogging shower heads. Although you can buy some commercial cleaning solutions, the best bet is to make your own. You can do this easily by mixing ½ cup of baking soda with a full cup of vinegar and a full cup of boiling water; the baking soda and vinegar work together to create a powerful unclogging solution (you can also use this on your drains and sinks to unclog those). Some people also prefer to bring the solution to a boil, then put the shower head in before the solution cools down.
Take all the disassembled parts and submerse them in the cleaning solution you put in the bowl. Leave for it some hours (there’s no set time that you have to leave it in there, it varies depending on the severity of the buildup), after around 4 hours, you can take out the shower head parts and let them dry. You may think that only the shower head mesh needs to be cleaned, but it is a good idea to submerse everything in the cleaning solution, as hard water buildups can damage other parts of the shower head as well.
You are not done yet, take the shower head’s screen mesh and give it an individual cleaning. You can use anything you want, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, cotton swabs, etc. You are going to want to really clean all the holes, to make sure any leftover hard water deposits have been completely wiped away.
After everything is dry, it is time to reassemble the shower head (hopefully you remember how to do that) and screw it back into place.
If after all this, your shower head still is not working properly, then there is likely a bigger internal problem with your shower head. It is recommended that you get a professional to fix it or replace it completely. You can fix shower heads, but usually they require tools and parts that many people do not have, and usually it is just cheaper and quicker to replace the shower head rather than try and fix it.