How to Fix a Leaky Showerhead in 7 Easy Steps

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Updated May 12, 2022
Modern bathroom with rainhead shower
Photo: boris / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Simple

Saturday skill builder.

Time to complete

3 hours

Cost

$5–$100

Put your money toward future projects

Repairing a dripping shower may be easier than you think

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Soft cloth
  • Scouring pad
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen wrenches
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Tongue and groove pliers
  • 8-inch pipe wrench
  • Adjustable strap wrench
  • Valve seat wrench
  • Rubber band

SUPPLIES

  • Showerhead gasket
  • PTFE thread tape
  • Replacement valve cartridge
  • Shower handle rebuild kit
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Plastic bag
  • New showerhead
  • New shower arm

A dripping showerhead is not only an annoyance. Regardless of what type of showerhead you have, if it drips while you’re showering, you’re probably also seeing uneven or misdirected water flow that gets everything wet except you. Leaking showers that continue dripping well after your shower waste large amounts of water. 

The solution to your leaky showerhead depends entirely on what the problem is. This guide explains how to repair any trouble your showerhead throws at you. You’ll only need the tools and supplies that apply to your situation.

  1. Diagnose the Problem

    The first step toward repairing a malfunctioning showerhead is to identify the symptoms. Once you know what’s wrong, you can skip to the actions to fix that problem.  

    1. If your showerhead is dripping, has lower-than-normal water flow, or is spraying water in unintended directions, continue to step two to solve the problem.

    2. Water dripping from where the showerhead meets the shower arm while the shower is on means you’ll need a new gasket. Skip to steps three and four. 

    3. If the shower is on and water drips from the showerhead swivel point, the showerhead needs replacing. Find the fix in step five. 

    4. If the showerhead is relatively new, the gasket is in good shape, and the threads have a good seal, you may need a new shower arm. Learn how to replace it in step six. 

    5. If your showerhead or tub spout drips continuously after turning off the water, see step seven to learn how to replace the components inside of the shower control valve.

  2. Clean the Showerhead

    Mineral deposits can build up in any shower regardless of water quality or hardness level. You can unclog your showerhead yourself when needed or as part of a regular maintenance task. 

    1. Mix three parts white vinegar to one part baking soda in a plastic bag that’s large enough to fit your showerhead. 

    2. Using a rubber band, secure the bag over the showerhead to the junction with the shower arm. 

    3. Allow the submerged showerhead to soak for at least one hour. Then remove the bag. 

    4. Gently use a scouring pad to break free any deposits that didn’t dissolve, and wipe it clean with a soft cloth. 

    5. You can also remove the showerhead and soak it in the same vinegar and soda mix to achieve the same results.

  3. Replace the Gasket

    A showerhead gasket is nothing more than a rubber washer with a small piece of screen. It rests between the showerhead and the shower arm to make a watertight connection and sift debris from the water. Showerhead gaskets are available at any hardware store. 

    1. Wrap a cloth around the joint where the showerhead meets the shower arm. 

    2. Using a small pipe wrench or tongue and groove pliers, twist the showerhead counterclockwise to remove it from the shower arm.

    3. With a small screwdriver, pry the old gasket out of its seat and replace it with a new one. 

    4. Proceed to step four to reattach the showerhead.

  4. Seal Tape the Threads

    Whenever you remove the showerhead or shower arm, seal the pipe threads with PTFE thread seal tape (PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, but you may know this product by the name Teflon) when you’re re-installing them. 

    1. Clean old PTFE from the threads if applicable. 

    2. Remove any dirt or debris from the threads.

    3. Wipe the threads dry with a cloth.

    4. Wrap the PTFE tape clockwise or in the thread direction three times around the pipe.

    5. Rip or cut the tape, and press it firmly around the pipe threads.

    6. Twist the pipe threads clockwise into the fitting until it’s tight. 

  5. Replace the Showerhead

    You can fix most leaking or dripping problems without replacing the showerhead. However, sometimes it’s necessary to replace a malfunctioning showerhead. You may also like to replace it for aesthetics or install a newer style to conserve water and save money.

    1. Use a cloth and tongue and groove pliers to remove the showerhead as described in step three. 

    2. Use PTFE tape as described in step four. 

    3. Protect the new showerhead attachment fitting with a cloth. 

    4. Twist the showerhead clockwise onto the shower arm until it’s hand-tight. Then twist it with tongue and groove pliers over the cloth an additional 1/4 to 1/2 turn.

  6. Replace the Shower Arm

    In rare cases, the shower arm threads may show signs of damage. The easiest fix is to replace it. Shower arms in almost any finish are available at hardware stores.

    1. Remove the showerhead as described in step three. 

    2. Slide the escutcheon plate (also known as a cover plate) away from the wall on the arm.

    3. With a small pipe wrench or tongue and groove pliers, twist the shower arm counterclockwise to remove it from the pipe fitting in the wall. Place the tool as close to the wall as possible without damaging it. 

    4. Apply PTFE tape to both ends of a new shower arm. 

    5. Install the new shower arm by twisting it clockwise into the pipe fitting in the wall. The longer side of the arm will be the side that goes into the wall. 

    6. Slide the escutcheon plate back into place and reinstall the showerhead as explained in steps four and five.

  7. Replace the Valve Components

    If your shower or tub spout continues to drip after your shower, the problem is most likely due to a worn-out cartridge or worn valves, depending on your shower faucet. 

    1. Turn off the water to the house or the shower valve, if you have designated valves to the bath. Turning off the shower isn’t enough for this project.

    2. Remove the handle screw with a screwdriver or Allen wrench, if you have a single-handle shower control. You may have to pry the plastic index tab from the handle to access the screw. 

    3. Repeat the above step for all three knobs for multiple-handle shower controls.

    4. Pry the handles from the valves, and set them aside. 

    5. Loosen and remove the trim plate or escutcheon. 

    6. Depending on what kind of valves your shower has, you’ll need to do one of the following: 

      1. Remove the retaining clip with the needle-nose pliers or a small screwdriver and slide out the valve or cartridge.

      2. Twist the valve component counterclockwise to remove it from the valve body with a strap wrench.

      3. Remove the valves from the stems with an adjustable wrench. 

      4. Remove the valve stem seats with a seat wrench if applicable.

    7. Purchase a shower valve rebuild kit or replacement cartridge appropriate for your shower. 

    8. Install the cartridge or valve components following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

    9. Reinstall the handle or handles and test for leaks.

Repairing a Leaky Showerhead Yourself vs. Hiring a Pro

No matter why your showerhead is dripping, a DIY fix is mostly figuring out what the problem is and attacking it head-on. Home repair beginners will have no trouble fixing many showerhead problems, while intermediate DIYers can easily replace valve components. The fix may cost as little as $5 or up to $100, depending on what needs replacing. 

Working with plumbing of any kind can be intimidating. If you’re not comfortable with taking apart an essential part of your bathroom, a local plumber or plumbing handyperson near you can complete the job quickly for less than $300 in most cases. 

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