If water from your faucet is squirting to one side or you’ve noticed the flow of water has slowed to a dribble, then it might be a clogged aerator that needs replacing. Faucet aerators come in several designs: housing, integrated thread, or special design models. On some faucets, it’s impossible to replace the aerator at all, and other faucets don’t have one to fix. Learn more about your options depending on the type of faucet and how to replace your aerator yourself.
Saturday skill builder.
Just a short shopping trip (or online order).
What you'll need:
- Expandable pliers with protective rubber jaws
- Wire bristle brush or old toothbrush
- Slot-headed screwdriver
- Teflon or silicone lubricant
- White vinegar to clean deposits
- Paper towels or an old rag
- The correct aerator for your specific faucet
Remove the Old Aerator
Thankfully, faucet aerators are inexpensive and easy to remove. You can easily DIY without the need to hire a professional plumber. But sometimes, you may need a little elbow grease or small tools. You will need a special tool to remove a cache aerator. The device is size-specific and comes with your new aerator.
Remove It By Hand
Try unscrewing the old aerator from the faucet spout by hand. As aerators are threaded, they often unscrew quite easily. To get a good grip, make sure the faucet spout is dry.
If unscrewing the aerator doesn’t work by hand, you may want to try pliers. Make sure the pliers are protected with rubber jaws so you don’t scratch the surface of your faucet spout. Or, you wrap masking tape around your fixture to protect it.
Turn the aerator counter-clockwise to unscrew it from the spout. If it doesn’t budge, try unscrewing it from a new position. Try not to grip the aerator too tightly as the metal may bend, making your job harder.
Heat It Up
If the aerator still won’t budge, or you’ve accidentally bent it a bit, you may need to resort to heat. Using a hairdryer, you might be able to expand the metal, making it possible to loosen the metal aerator. Don’t try this on plastic aerators, and don’t use high heat as any rubber washer or plastic parts may melt.
Grab the Oil
You can also try oil, such as WD-40 or a similar product, which costs about $6 at your local hardware store. Spray it on the threads and let it sit for a few minutes, then use pliers to loosen the aerator. The oil makes the metal slippery, so it may take a couple of tries.
Find the Right Type of Aerator For Your FaucetDougal Waters/DigitalVision via Getty Images
If the metal screen or other parts on your aerator are rusted or damaged, it’s best to buy a replacement aerator assembly. You’ll find a variety of options at the store, so be sure to choose the right size and type for your faucet.
These are the most common. They screw into the end (tip) of the faucet spout and, as the name implies, don’t move.
Male or Female Aerators
If an aerator has threads on the inside, it’s a female aerator. Female aerators are installed on male faucet spouts that have threads on the outside. If the aerator has external threads, it is a male aerator and will be connected to a faucet spout with internal threads.
These aerators have both female and male threads, usually separated by a split washer inside the aerator.
Standard aerators are visible because they extend from the faucet spout.
These aerators are hidden up inside the faucet and are typically found in high-end faucets.
With a swivel aerator, you can direct the water in different directions, either by retracting or pulling it. Swivel aerators are usually found in smart or modern kitchen or bath faucets. Some swivel aerators have a small outlet on the side for attaching a hose. This allows you to use the aerator while diverting water to a filter.
Determine the Right Size AeratorManu Vega/Moment via Getty Images
Faucet aerators are not universal. You will need to determine the size of your old aerator before replacing it.
Standard aerators come in three sizes. Remove the old aerator from your faucet and lay it on a flat surface next to a quarter, dime, or nickel.
If the aerator is the size of a nickel, you will likely need a Tom Thumb-size aerator. The average cost is about $3–$5.
If the old aerator is the size of a dime, you will need a junior-size aerator. The average price is $4–$8.
If the aerator is quarter-size, you will need a regular-sized aerator at about $3–$6 each.
Cache aerators come in four different sizes, so you’ll need to pick a pocket for a penny too. Each of the measurements above applies to cache aerators also, except for aerators that are the size of a penny. If your old aerator is the size of a penny, you will need a tiny junior-size aerator, which costs about $4 to $8.
Choose the Water Stream You Need
Depending on what the faucet is used for, there are three different types of water streams to consider.
These are the most common type of faucet aerators. They work by introducing air into the water to produce a whiter and broader stream.
Spray stream aerators provide wide coverage.
These aerators are all water with no air mixed in. They are typically non-splashing and best for faucets where high water flow is needed.
Replace Your Faucet Aerator
Replacing a faucet aerator is much easier than replacing your kitchen or bathroom faucet, and sometimes all you need to do to see improved water flow. After you’ve removed your old aerator and found the right size and type for your specific faucet, you can now take these steps to install your new aerator.
Plug or Cover the Drain
When you’ve chosen the correct aerator and have it in hand, the last thing you need to do is lose it down the drain.
Run the Water
To remove any lingering debris in your faucet, turn on the water full blast for a few seconds to flush out any particles.
Screw in the New Aerator
Screw in the new aerator slowly to avoid bending, denting, or cross-threading it.
Tighten your new aerator as tight as possible with your fingers. Check the flow of water by turning on the faucet just a bit. If you notice leaking around the aerator threads, tighten the aerator slightly more using your pliers with a protective rubber covering. You can also wrap the end of your faucet and aerator with tape to protect the finish.
If you are replacing your aerator with a cache aerator, you will need to use the special tool that came with the aerator to tighten it.