Is your shower head not working the way it used to? Mineral deposits can, over time, build up in your shower head. The water spewed out everyday contains calcium as well as other minerals, and it is natural that after a while, these minerals will add up and disrupt the flow of water. The flow direction may also be changed, and as result, the shower head will squirt in just about every direction. If you are not lucky, limestone could eventually clog the nozzles completely.
To address this problem, there are corrosive products which have been developed to blast away the calcium, rust and lime buildups. Sadly, most of the times, these are not very effective, and some are even problematic for your health. In this article I’ll disclose what you need to do to clear this buildup of minerals and ensure that your shower head serves you as it used to when it was brand new. Moreover, since we’re already here, discussing how to clean shower heads, I’ll also target shower curtains. The IMO go hand-in-hand, I always clean these together and I bet most of you feel the same.
Cleaning the shower head
Method 1: Cleaning with simmered vinegar
Using distilled white vinegar is not only safe, but also inexpensive and highly effective. Use the steps below to clean your shower head once and for all:
- Check your shower head to see if it has mineral deposits.
- If you notice obvious discolorations as well as deposits of minerals, you have your work cut out.
- Fill a saucepan with distilled white vinegar.
- Remove the front plastic case of the shower head by unscrewing it:
- Remove the deposits from the top of the water hose:
- Completely submerge the shower head in a saucepan:
- Put the saucepan on a stove. Let it simmer for some minutes. The time required depends on how much buildup you plan to remove. If it is a lot, you need to heat it for a bit longer. However, take care not to boil the vinegar or turn the heat too high, as this might melt the pieces. Ensure they are not sitting at the base of the saucepan, but floating.
- Finish by washing off the deposits. When you feel that the shower head has simmered sufficiently, remove it from the saucepan and then rinse it using clean water. You can then screw it back on. To ensure that all the minerals are rinsed away completely, turn on the water and let it run for a few minutes.
Method 2: Tool-free cleaning
In case you are unable to remove the shower head or you just want to skip the step, this method is for you. This works best if your shower head is made of stainless steel, chrome or other protected metal surfaces. You will need the following:
- A zippered bag or even a sandwich bag (if you don’t have one, you could just use a normal bag)
- Hair elastic, tie wrap or an elastic band
- White vinegar
Have the bag filled with white vinegar about halfway and then fasten the bag to the shower head. To do this, enclose the mouth of the bag over your shower head and then fasten it tightly in place using the tie. Make sure that the head is completely submerged in the vinegar. It must be completely immersed for the method to work. If it hangs on a hose, take it down and allow it to sit on the tub. Leave it there for 12+ hours (even for a whole day if the deposits are very crusty). You could use an alternative shower head in the meantime:
When finished, just remove your bag and then dump the drain away. Take care not to drop vinegar on your eyes or nose. To be even sassier, throw some baking powder on your drain prior to dumping out the vinegar. This will also clean your drain! Allow the shower head to run hot water for one minute before you get in, and you will be amazed at your workmanship. Your shower will be working like a brand new one!
In case you have stubborn stain problems, you may need to soak your shower head. You could even use baking powder to rub the small nozzles with the help of a cleaning tooth brush. This breaks down the limescale and also removes the discoloration. Hopefully, you will see a big difference once you have rinsed it clean.
Method 3: Advanced cleaning
If vinegar alone cannot remove the mineral deposits, it will be necessary to remove the shower head so as to clean it more thoroughly.
- Disconnect it – Unscrew the nut that holds the shower arm. Make sure you do not harm the finish of the fixture. Do not use a pliers but a wrench. While working, make sure that you cushion your tools with a rag.
- Rinse it – Direct a sharp sprout of water through your shower head by gripping it upside down below a faucet. Your target is to rinse loose debris out via the opening connecting to the shower.
- Dismantle and clean – If at this point you still see mineral deposits, you may want to scrub the shower head using vinegar and a toothbrush to loosen up debris. Use a safety pin or a toothpick to poke out the stubborn deposits: After that, have the parts soaked into the vinegar and leave it there overnight. Rinse again.
- Use special solutions – Although not as effective and safe as the vinegar, if you still see mineral deposits at this point, you may want to use some more powerful commercial solutions from Scotch-Brite or even a metal polish from Ultrashine.
- Reassemble and then reinstall – Begin by wrapping new plumbing tape over the shower arm threads to ensure a tight seal. After that, re-attach the shower head on to the shower arm by using a wrench.
Cleaning the Filter Screen
You will want to consult your shower head instruction manual when cleaning the filter screen. If you have misplaced it, don’t worry. You can always contact customer care or even browse the website of the manufacturer. Generally, the filter screen is found in the section connecting the pipe to the shower head. In order to reach the filter screen, you will want to remove the head from the pipe.
With most of the brands, you can remove the filter screen by gently brushing out the filter. Alternatively, you can use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to remove the screen from the pivot ball. After completing this step, have the screen run under water for some minutes so that any buildup is flushed out. You may even use an old toothbrush to slowly brush out all the mineral deposits. After that, replace back the filter screen into the pivot ball and then reinstall the shower.
If vinegar does not clean your shower head the way you want it, don’t try a commercial cleaner just yet. A good alternative is to use a mixture of warm water and baking soda. Make a mix of baking soda with water and rub this paste onto any remaining limescale residue which vinegar failed to eliminate. You will still require putting on gloves because of the abrasive nature of baking soda. After a vigorous scrub, rinse your shower head thoroughly because leaving the baking soda to dry in the tiny nozzle holes is almost the same as not cleaning it at all.
Key Tips To Remember
Gather supplies and be prepared
Generally, any action which involves cleaning chrome, aluminum and stainless steel against limestone or any other mineral deposits presumes that you will need most of the following supplies:
- Rubber gloves
- Some commercial cleaning products
- A stiff brush
- Some decent rags and a few microfiber cloths
- An old toothbrush
- A harsh sponge
- A few elastic bands and some plastic bags
- A bottle of white vinegar and some baking soda.
Use your common sense
Make sure to ventilate the room when cleaning a shower head. Also, wear rubber gloves and most importantly, carefully follow instructions contained on your selected cleaning product. Soaking is critical to eradicating soap scum and limescale buildups. Choose the right cleaning solution. Select a cleaning product that can be used on stainless steel, ceramic, and plastic. Cif Cream Lemon is an example of a good cleaning solution. Finally, rinse everything. Using your newly cleaned shower head, make sure that you rinse everything thoroughly. Make sure no vinegar or baking soda remains on the unit.
Pay attention to maintenance
In order to ensure that your shower always performs at an optimum level, you need to not only take care of its head, but of the entire kit. Here are some things to get you started:
Be careful not to twist or bend the shower hose, because this can result to blockages which ultimately affect the shower’s performance. On electric showers, bending or twisting the shower can lead to the activation of PRD (Pressure Relief Device).
For thermostatic mixer showers, regularly turn the temperature from hot to cold while the water is running. Doing this not only activates internal cleaning mechanisms, but also inhibits any buildup of scale. The sudden change in temperature produces violent dilatation and contraction phenomena which break loose the mineral deposits.
Regularly disinfect the shower head, at least once every 3 months. This process is important, as it kills dangerous bacteria that might cause diseases. Below are some simple steps for disinfecting a shower head:
- Remove the shower head from the shower stem or horse. Don’t throw the rubber seals, put them in a safe place.
- Dismantle the shower head and then put it in a deep tray or a bucket containing a detergent. The dissolution rate should be 1:2 with warm water. Leave it there for at least 5 minutes.
- Rinse using cold water and then reassemble.
Cleaning the shower curtains
You can successfully wash your shower liner or curtain on your washing machine. All you need are two bath towels as well as gentle setting. To your chosen cleaning detergent, add a half a cup of baking soda during the wash cycle. Add another half a cup of vinegar when you are rinsing. Do not put the curtain in the dryer but allow it to drip-dry.
Using a bleaching agent can help you rid your shower curtains of any mold and mildew. Wash them together with two or three bath towels (these prevent them from crinkling) in warm water. Use a half a cup of chlorine bleach plus a quarter cup of ordinary laundry detergent. Allow the washer to run for some minutes prior to loading. The shower curtains as well as the towels should be put on the dryer on the least temperature setting for about 10 minutes. You can then hang-dry it immediately.
The ugly mildew stains found on the shower curtain plastic can be cleaned just by putting the shower curtain plus some bath towels in the washing machine. After that, add a half a cup of laundry detergent and another half a cup of baking soda to the load. Wash this in warm water using the regular cycle. On your first rinse, add one cup of white vinegar. Remove the curtain and then get it out for hand-drying just before the washing machine enters the spin cycle mode.
By its very nature, water contains calcium and other minerals. This is not bad because we need the minerals for our body to function properly. In fact, calcium is what gives us strong bones and teeth. The problem however is that the buildup of these minerals can lead to blockage or clogging of the showerhead. This causes the water to flow slower and even from different directions. The result is that you will have a less-than savory bath. And with all the humidity around curtains, mold is inevitable. Luckily, I’ve showed you here some simple things you can do to remedy these situations. If you have any other tips for our readers, or by the contrary, if you have questions, I would love to hear from you.