How to Clean Your Shower Head, and Why It's Important

Nobody likes a gunked up shower head.

Is your shower head’s performance starting to drop, leaving you wondering about a replacement? It’s essential to keep your shower head clean. But mineral deposits build up over time, clogging the holes, preventing water from exiting.

Luckily, if you know how to clean and descale your shower head, it shouldn’t take much time or effort. There’s a range of methods you can try. Simply choose from the options below and off you go.

How to Clean Shower Head Using Vinegar

Before cleaning, make sure you have the following items to hand:

  • White vinegar.
  • Baking soda.
  • Deep sink or bowl.
  • Cloth or toothbrush.
  • Gloves (optional).

1. Remove the Shower Head

Begin by disconnecting the shower head from the hose. Most come undone by simply turning the connecting nut. However, if you’re unsure, check your owner’s manual, especially if you have a warranty.

2. Prepare the Vinegar Bath

  • Measure: If you have a deep sink, close the drain and pour an adequate amount of white vinegar into it. Use a cup to measure how much vinegar you’re using, as you’ll need to balance it with baking soda.
  • Enough to submerge: Pour enough vinegar to submerge the shower head completely. If you don’t have a deep sink, you can use a deep bowl.
  • Add in baking soda: Then, grab your baking soda, and add a third of a cup for every cup of vinegar you’ve used. When you pour in baking soda, the vinegar should begin to bubble and sizzle.

3. Immerse the Shower Head

Once the bath is ready, take your shower head and place it into the mixture. Ensure that at least the holes are completely submerged, and leave it for an hour. If the clogging is severe, consider letting it sit for longer — you can even allow it to work overnight.

You want to make sure that it’ll stay immersed for the whole period. If it rises to the surface, weight it down with a heavy object.

4. Rinse and Test

  • Remove from the solution: When the time is up, remove the shower head and rinse it under running water.
  • Wipe or scrub: If the clogging isn’t too severe, you can use a cloth to wipe it down. If it requires some scrubbing, grab an old toothbrush and clean the holes.
  • Reconnect: After rinsing it thoroughly, reconnect it to the hose.
  • Test: Let the water flow and see if it’s improved. If it’s still a little clogged, you can repeat the treatment, or try a commercial cleaner.

How to Clean an Attached Shower Head

If your shower head can’t be removed from its fixture, this method could work well for you.

Before you start, get these items handy:

  • Plastic bag.
  • White vinegar.
  • Baking soda (optional).
  • A zip tie, hair elastic or shoelace.

1. Fill the Bag

Take the plastic bag and fill it with enough vinegar to cover the shower head — remember to measure by cups. Make sure you use a sturdy container that can hold the weight. Then, mix in a third of a cup of baking soda for every cup of vinegar you’ve used.

2. Attach the Bag

This is the tricky part — it may take a few tries, and perhaps even a second pair of hands to get right.

  • Immerse in the solution: Take the bag, and raise it over the shower head so that it touches the vinegar solution. Continue elevating it until it’s completely immersed.
  • Tie: Carefully use either a zip tie, shoelace or hair elastic to secure the bag. This is where an extra pair of hands come in handy. Make sure that it’s fastened and won’t fall when you let go.
  • Wait: Once secure, leave it to work for at least one hour. For a deeper clean, let it sit overnight.

4. Remove and Rinse

  • Remove the bag: After it’s been sizzling the scale away, carefully remove the bag.
  • Wipe: You can run an old toothbrush or a cloth over the jet holes for added cleaning power.
  • Run the water: Open the water and let it run for a minute to remove the vinegar odor.

How to Clean Shower Head Using Commercial Cleaner

You’ll need the following items for this method:

  • Gloves and other protective gear.
  • Your preferred commercial cleaner, for example, Simple Green or CLR.
  • Old toothbrush.


When using commercial cleaners, be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and an apron to protect your skin and clothing.

1. Grab Your Cleaner

Take your favorite cleaner, and follow the directions for application. Most will have you spray it on the affected area. Be careful if you’re spraying upwards, so you don’t get chemicals in your eyes.

Then, let the cleaner work for as long as directed.

2. Scrub

Once it’s time to remove the treatment, take your old toothbrush and scrub the holes. If the buildup wasn’t too severe, you could skip this step.

3. Rinse with Water

Run clean water through the shower head for about a minute to rinse out the chemicals. Make sure you do this before taking a shower.

How Often Should You Clean Your Shower Head?

Sadly, we’re probably all guilty of neglecting the shower head when cleaning the bathroom. However, it’s an important task to remember.

Depending on how hard your water is, try cleaning it once every month to once every three months. You can also clean as soon as you notice a reduction in water flow and the signs of buildup around the jets.

Prevention Is Key

A good tip is to have a mild cleaner ready. Then, every time you do a bathroom wipe down, spray some onto the shower head to prevent blockages and regain shine.

Can a Dirty Shower Head Make You Sick?

Cleaning your shower head may also save you from a dose of unwanted bacteria. A study found that domestic shower heads could be harboring a bacteria known as Mycobacterium avium (1). This is the culprit behind nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), a lung disease spread through the environment (2).

Fortunately, regularly cleaning and replacing the shower head will prevent the bacteria from settling in (3).

Disinfect With Bleach?

You can disinfect the shower head with a solution of bleach and water in a spray bottle. However, avoid using this as your weekly cleaner. Too much bleach can damage the shower head.

Keep It Clean

Keeping your shower head clean is not only to prevent clogged holes but also to preserve your health. Learning how to clean a shower head is very easy once you’re familiar with the basics. For optimal results, do a deep clean anywhere from once every month to every 3 months.

White vinegar and baking soda are the perfect ingredients for a natural, thorough treatment. However, if the build-up is severe, try a commercial cleaner — but remember to follow directions and wear gloves.

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About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.