How to Clean a Shower Head With Vinegar

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Want to clean up your faucets or increase the water pressure from your shower without removing it? Learn how here.

Over time, calcium and hard water buildup can block faucets and shower heads, preventing maximum water flow and hampering water pressure. In extreme cases, it might be necessary to break out your tools and take apart these plumbing fixtures to really dig in and remove all of the gunk. Most of the time, though, faucets and shower heads can be cleaned without removing them, using a few common household items. Read on to learn how to clean a shower head with vinegar.

Why Should You Clean Your Faucet and Shower Head?

The cleaning of faucets and shower heads is an important part of routine bathroom cleaning and good home maintenance. Depending on how hard the water is in your area, cleaning fixtures periodically (about every month or so) prevents mineral deposits from clogging up the works.

Along with improving water flow, proper cleaning also eliminates bacteria, which when coupled with humidity, creates an unhealthy breeding ground for mold and germs.

How Do You Remove Calcium Deposits From a Shower Head?

Chrome clean shower head in the bathroomtartanparty/Shutterstock

Calcium salt deposits are white, crusty crud you often see accumulating at the end of a spout or around the jets on shower heads. It’s caused by an overabundance of minerals left after the water has evaporated.

You can easily remove these stains (also known as limescale) by installing an expensive water-softening or conditioning system, or save time and money and simply follow one of the methods below. An acidic solution is generally your best bet here if you don’t want to install a new system. We’ll show you how to clean a shower head with vinegar, as well as how to do it with a lemon.

How Do You Clean the Buildup on the Faucet or Shower Head?

To clean a faucet or shower head without having to take it completely apart, fill a quart- (for faucets) or a gallon-size plastic bag (for shower heads) halfway up with a calcium-cutting cleaning solution.

How to Clean Shower Heads and Faucets With Vinegar

Tools/Supplies

Directions

  1. Fill a plastic bag about halfway with vinegar. Use a quart-size for faucets and a gallon-size for shower heads. (If you have a large shower head you may need to get creative.)
  2. Wrap the vinegar-filled bag around the shower head or faucet so that any place where water exits are completely submerged in vinegar.
  3. Hold the bag in place by snapping a rubber band around it, affixing it securely to the head or spout.
  4. Wait approximately one hour to let the vinegar eat away at any hard-water deposits or calcium buildups. After an hour or so, take off the rubber band and remove the bag.
  5. Scrub the faucet or shower head with a toothbrush to clear up any stubborn residual deposits.
  6. If you turn the shower on and the individual spray holes in the shower head are clogged, try poking them with a small tool or a toothpick. The vinegar will have loosened any buildup so that it can be easily dislodged.
  7. Rinse clean.
  8. Run water through the opening and jets as a final rinse.

How Long Should You Soak Your Faucet or Shower Head in Vinegar?

a plastic bag filled with vinegar being held onto a kitchen sink faucet with a rubber bandJustine Valentine/Family Handyman

Most experts say to wait a minimum of one-to-two hours in order to let the vinegar dissolve any hard-water deposits.

If you have faucets or shower heads plated with nickel, gold or brass, remove the vinegar after about 30 minutes to avoid damaging the finish.

How to Clean Shower Heads and Faucets With a Lemon

hands with a lemon in a bag around faucet to remove hard water buildupfamily handyman

Tools/Supplies

If you don’t have vinegar on hand or prefer a more “natural” solution, try this:

Directions

  1. Cut a fresh lemon in half.
  2. With one of the halves, use your thumbs to gently open up the center.
  3. Press the lemon onto the end of the faucet.
  4. Put a small plastic bag around the lemon and secure it around the faucet with a rubber band. Be sure the rubber band is cinched tightly and the lemon covers the end of the faucet.
  5. Leave the lemon in place for a few hours to allow the citric acid to work its magic.
  6. After removing the lemon, use a gentle scrubbing pad or a toothbrush to wash off any loosened hard-water buildup.
  7. Wipe the faucet with a damp cloth to remove any leftover lemon juice, and your faucet will be squeaky clean.

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Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a culture and lifestyle writer, reviews expert and DIY enthusiast covering everything from pests to painting to pool cabanas. Based in a medieval hill town in central Italy, when Toni isn’t documenting her travels around Europe, she’s tending her garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.