How to Unclog a Showerhead: A Guide to Getting Your Flow Back

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated August 1, 2022
Shower head running water
Photo: bennnn / Adobe Stock

Clean a showerhead by submerging it in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda

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While it seems like your showerhead should always be the cleanest thing in your household—it's what gets you clean, after all—even it can get dirty due to the gradual buildup of grime and mineral deposits. Eventually, these foreign substances will affect the showerhead’s performance, leading to a weaker flow and making it more difficult to rinse off.

Whether you’ve got a special rain showerhead or a standard model, clogged showerheads are no fun. Fortunately, cleaning them isn't as hard as you might think.

Why Is My Showerhead Clogged?

Showerheads clog over time because of a buildup of mineral deposits—specifically calcium. You may notice water spraying out of the nozzle in random directions, part of your showerhead is completely clogged, or poor water pressure. If you have hard water, you’re particularly vulnerable and may need to clean your showerhead more often. Signs of hard water include:

  • Residue or buildup on shower glass or around sinks

  • White mineral deposits on dishware

  • Difficulty lathering soap

  • Hair that feels heavy rather than clean despite washing

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Showerhead?

The cost of replacing a showerhead is generally no more than $300, with about $100 of that going to labor. If plumbing issues are to blame, repairing those will come at a higher cost. You could pay anywhere from $75 for a basic twist-on showerhead replacement to more than $4,000 if you need to replace or reroute plumbing to stop the drips that cause clogs. The latter isn’t typical, and the average cost to replace a clogged showerhead is usually around $330.

In general, expect to pay $45 to $200 per hour for a pro to change a showerhead, though a professional plumber will conduct a consultation and provide you with a more accurate quote.

Materials and Tools

Before you clean your showerhead, you’ll need to create a powerful cleaning solution using:

  • Three parts vinegar

  • One part baking soda

Vinegar does a great job of cutting through grime because of its acidic qualities. Baking soda is also important for cleaning showerheads because of its basic pH balance, which neutralizes the acid from the vinegar. You’ll also need: 

  • A plastic bag

  • A large bowl for mixing

  • Rubber bands

How to DIY Unclog a Showerhead

Figuring out how to clean a showerhead attached to your wall can leave you scratching your head. Luckily, this method will help you get a deep clean.

How to Unclog a Showerhead on the Wall

1. Make Your Cleaning Solution

Mix your cleaning solution (one part baking soda for every three parts vinegar) in the large mixing bowl. For example, you can add 1/4 cup baking soda and 3/4 cup vinegar. Pour the mixture into a plastic bag, which you'll use to submerge your whole showerhead.

2. Tie the Bag to the Showerhead

Wrap the bag around the showerhead, so it’s completely submerged in the cleaning solution. Use a rubber band to secure the bag to the pipe attached to the showerhead.

3. Let the Showerhead Soak in the Bag

Let your showerhead soak for at least an hour—or overnight, if possible. After soaking, remove the bag and let the shower run for a few minutes until all of the solution clears from the nozzles.

How to Unclog a Showerhead by Detaching It

Cleaning shower head
Photo: IvanSemenovych / Adobe Stock

If you can detach the showerhead from the wall, you can take a different approach to cleaning it.

1. Remove the Showerhead

Detach the showerhead from the fixture. You can probably do this by loosening the nut that keeps it fixed to the pipe and then unscrewing the head. If not, follow the manufacturer’s directions. You can’t easily remove some showerheads, so if that's the case, you’ll need to revert to the first cleaning method.

2. Rinse the Showerhead Thoroughly

Run the showerhead under a faucet so you can rinse as much debris and grime out of the nozzle as possible.

3. Make Your Cleaning Solution

Combine the baking soda and vinegar in a container large enough to completely submerge the showerhead. Again, use three parts vinegar to one part baking soda.

4. Submerge and Soak Your Showerhead

Submerge the showerhead in the solution for at least an hour, and ideally longer, especially if there’s a lot of buildup. The longer it sits, the more it will loosen the grime.

5. Rinse, Wipe Down, and Reinstall the Showerhead

Rinse the showerhead to remove all of the solution, and wipe it down. Then, reinstall the showerhead and run your shower to see if you’ve cleared the clog or restored water pressure.

How to Prevent Showerhead Buildup

If you have hard water, it may be difficult to prevent buildup. Eventually, your showerhead might get clogged, and you’ll have to clean it. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to minimize calcium deposits.

1. Fix Drips

Slow drips are a killer for showerheads. It gives minerals a better chance to build up in the nozzle and cause serious clogs. If you have a drippy showerhead, either replace the showerhead on your own or hire a plumber to fix the problem.

2. Regularly Clean Your Showerhead

If you regularly clean your showerhead, there’s less of a chance that minerals will build up enough to cause a clog. Instead of vinegar, you can use a shower spray specifically meant to stave off mineral buildup.

3. Install a Water Softener

If hard water is causing problems in your home, you may want to consider installing a water softener. For most homeowners, a water softener system costs between $500 and $3,000. This isn’t a simple DIY fix, and you’ll need to hire a plumber. Luckily, if you don’t need to replace pipes, a pro can install a water softener quickly, so labor costs are typically low.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Using a DIY fix to unclog your showerhead will only cost you around $10 or less, especially if you already have the tools and supplies around your home. However, if you’re still having problems with your showerhead despite multiple cleanings with the method described above, it may be time to get a pro involved. 

You may need to replace your showerhead. While that’s sometimes a simple DIY, you may have deeper issues with your plumbing if a replacement doesn't solve the problem. Rather than handling shower problems on your own, contact a shower repair pro near you to inspect your plumbing. 

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