How to Remove the Flow Restrictor from a Shower Head

Many shower heads are fitted with a flow restrictor in an attempt to save water and energy. Regulations stipulate that showerheads must produce no more than a flow of 2.5 gallons per minute (1).

While this is good news for your water usage and energy bills, it might not be so good for your shower experience. A flow restrictor is designed to slow down the flow of water from your shower (2). This is bad news if you live in a home that doesn’t have good water pressure to begin with.

Keep in mind

If you decide to remove a flow restrictor from your shower, your water usage and bills might increase.

Table of Contents

    What Does a Flow Restrictor Look Like?

    The flow restrictor is usually plastic, and is circular, flat and has a star-shaped metal center. It’s generally located behind the metal screw-off part in a fixed shower head. They can vary in color and have open inserts close to their edge.

    In a handheld shower head, the restrictor could be at the edge of the handle where it attaches to the flexible hose, behind the shower head, or inside the top or bottom of the hose. Your manufacturer’s shower manual might tell you where to find it.

    How to Remove the Restrictor Valve

    You will need:

    • Adjustable wrench.
    • Cloth or towel.
    • Paper clip.
    • Plumber’s tape.
    • Needle-nose pliers.
    • Screwdrivers.

    Removing Fixed Shower Head Flow Restrictors

    1. Disconnect the Shower Head from the Arm

    To remove the shower head from the arm pipe that connects it to the wall, unscrew it. You might be able to do this by hand; if not, use a wrench.

    • Cloth: To protect the finish on your shower head or the arm, wrap a cloth or towel around it.
    • The nut: Secure the nut before using the wrench.
    • Unscrew: Turn the shower head counter-clockwise to unscrew it.

    2. Remove the Shower Screen

    Sometimes there may be a mesh screen inside the shower head to catch any sediment or impurities in your water. Look to see if your shower head has one, and remove it. You might need to gently tap the shower head to dislodge it or use your needle-nose pliers.

    3. Remove the O-Ring or Gasket

    Inside the shower head, there should be a rubber O-ring (gasket). Take your paperclip and unbend it. Use it to pry out the O-ring.

    Warning

    Be careful not to damage the O-ring; if you do, you’ll need to replace it.

    4. Take out the Flow Restrictor

    You should now be able to see the star-shaped metal restrictor inside the plastic ring.

    Using your unbent paper clip, place it under one part of the flow restrictor. Twist it, and pry it up to remove it.

    Quick Tip

    If you can’t get the flow restrictor out with a paper clip, try using a screwdriver, or needle-nose pliers.

    5. Replace the O-Ring and Shower Screen

    Pop the O-ring you removed earlier, or a new one if necessary, into the shower head. Make sure it slides into the seat it came from.

    If you removed a shower screen, place this back in too.

    Tips
    • Clean: Clean the shower screen by running it under some fresh water to remove any gunk before replacing it. If there’s any scale build-up, you could soak it in some vinegar and water to remove it. Use four parts water to one part vinegar (3).
    • Lubricate: You could grease the O-ring with some silicone grease like this one from Trident. It will lubricate and protect your O-ring and help form the seal.

    6. Reattach Your Shower Head

    • Remove tape and clean: Before screwing your shower head back into place, clean any old plumber’s tape from the shower arm threads. To do this, wipe them with a damp cloth. Remove stubborn deposits by scrubbing the grooves of the threads with an old toothbrush.
    • Apply new tape: Wrap some new plumber’s tape around the threads of the shower arm. Make sure you wrap it clockwise so that it doesn’t unravel when you screw the shower head back on. Apply a few layers so that you get a good seal, and make sure all the threads are covered.
    • Reattach shower head: Screw the shower head back on clockwise until it’s hand tight, and turn the water on to check for leaks. You can always tighten it more by using the wrench with the cloth to take it a further quarter turn — but be careful not to over-tighten it.

    Quick Tip

    There may be more than one flow restrictor in your shower system. Make sure you check the owner’s manual to locate and remove them all.

    Removing a Handheld Shower Head Flow Restrictor

    Firstly, check your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer has highlighted where the flow restrictor is located. This could save you time having to disconnect two different places to check.

    Method #1: If the Restrictor’s in the Handle

    • Remove handle: Using a wrench and covering the nut with a cloth, unscrew the handle from the hose.
    • Remove components and replace handle: Following steps 2–6 listed above, remove the shower screen, O-ring, and restrictor, then replace the handle.

    Quick Tip

    If your shower head looks gunked up, soak it in a vinegar and water solution overnight before replacing it on the handle. This should help remove any scale (4).

    Method #2: If the Restrictor’s in the Hose

    The method for this is the same as the previous two, except you’ll be removing it from the holder at the top or bottom of the hose. Remember to protect the finish of the hose and nuts, and to replace any old plumber’s tape with new tape.

    Method #3: If the Restrictor’s Behind the Shower Head

    Removing a restrictor located between the shower head and the handle is the same as removing one from a fixed shower head in steps 1–6 above.


    Increase Your Water Flow

    A water flow restrictor is fitted to shower appliances to help conserve water. It reduces the flow to a set amount of gallons per minute, but can also reduce the amount of pressure you get from your shower.

    Following the steps above, you can remove the restrictor and increase water flow through your shower head. Remember, this could also increase your water usage and bills.

    At any stage, don’t be afraid to call in a plumber if you don’t trust your DIY skills. Also, be aware that removing the flow restrictor may void any warranties covering your shower head.

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