How to clean a shower head for boost in power – with expert tips

Banish limescale and improve your shower experience.

Is your shower head clogged up and delivering a trickle rather than a torrent? We show you how to clean your shower head to remove the limescale and regain a boost in power. 

If you’ve been shimmying under your shower to catch a meagre flow of water, your shower head could need descaling. Over time, mineral deposits build up in the shower head and reduce its efficiency, resulting in a shower experience that’s far from invigorating.  

Shower head in useCredit: Shutterstock/Janny2
A clogged shower head can affect the quality of your shower experience

“Unfortunately, limescale is unavoidable,” says Chris Billingham, head of marketing and innovation at Methven UK. It’s a particular problem for people living in hard water areas, as it has a “higher concentration of calcium in it”. 

But removing mineral deposits is not the only reason why you should regularly clean your shower head. Nigel Bearman at Daily Poppins says: “It is natural for bacteria to grow in an environment that is humid, such as a bathroom. A shower head that’s teeming with bacteria is not something anyone wants to stand under. If you clean your shower head, you will prevent yourself from coming into contact with any irritants.” 

How you clean your shower head will depend on the type of material that it’s made of. If the nozzles are made of rubber they will be easier to clean than if they are stainless steel or chrome. 

Limescale deposits showing on shower headCredit: Shutterstock/Realiia
Limescale builds up on a shower head over time

How to clean a shower head with rubber nozzles

Limescale deposits can be wiped away

You’re in luck if your shower head has rubber nozzles, as limescale is relatively easy to remove. Billingham explains that “most shower heads these days have rubber nozzles which are designed to ‘rub clean’.”  

  1. Simply turn the shower on, run with warm water and rub your hand over the nozzles. Most of the build-up will fall off and flow away with the shower water. 
  2. If the first step doesn’t work, Billingham advises to soak the shower head in hot water overnight and then wipe off the residue with a soft cloth. 

However, he advises against using harsh chemicals, as they will attack the surface finish if left for a long period, especially if the shower head is chrome or has a coloured finish. “Some people have success with natural ingredients such as lemon juice or white vinegar. Never use malt vinegar. But these are acids and can eat away at the chrome finish,” he warns. 

Vinegar cleaning products with gloves and cleaning clothCredit: Shutterstock/Y.P.Photo

How to clean a shower head with vinegar

Keep to white vinegar

Instead of buying off-the-shelf solutions, you can save money by checking in your kitchen store cupboard for white vinegar. According to Mira Showers, it’s the “number one natural cleaning product, making it a simple and affordable way to descale your shower head”. 

However, just like Billingham, Mira does warn against using malt vinegar, as “it isn’t particularly effective, and brown vinegar may stain”. We say it’s best left for your chips.  

Bearman recommends the following steps if cleaning a shower head with white vinegar: 

  1. Remove the shower head. 
  2. Fill a resealable sandwich bag with white vinegar and put the shower head in it, tying it with a rubber band to seal it. 
  3. Leave it in the bathroom sink, still in the bag. 
  4. After a few hours, scrub the remaining limescale off with a soft sponge. 
  5. Remove any embedded grime with a toothpick. 
  6. Reinstall the showerhead. 
  7. Run the shower for a few minutes to remove any remaining grime. 

What if your shower head is not detachable?

If you can’t detach your shower head, Henry Paterson, cleaning expert at Housekeep, says: “You can mix the solution in a plastic sandwich bag and tie this around the shower head. Or you can mix the solution in an empty spray bottle and spray it onto the affected area.” 

Can you use vinegar on chrome?

You may be concerned that vinegar is too harsh a substance to use on chrome. However, if used correctly, it is good at removing limescale. Diluted vinegar is usually OK on chrome,” says Paterson, “but it’s best to avoid soaking it for too long. Only leave it to soak for 15-20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. 

Sliced lemons on a chopping board with citric acid powderCredit: Shutterstock/Ekaterina43
Shop bought citric acid should be used in preference to lemon juice

Can you clean a shower head with lemon juice?

Citric acid is best

As an alternative to white vinegar, lemon juice can be used, as it’s a rich source of citric acid. However, Bearman recommends opting for citric acid when you can, and resorting to lemon juice when it’s not available. He also mentions: “Bottled lemon juice often contains added ingredients, which may not produce as effective of a clean compared to pure citric acid.” 

And, as we’d always recommend when using a cleaning product, read the instructions before use.  

How to clean your shower head with an off-the-shelf product

Make sure you follow the instructions

“Limescale can be removed from shower heads using a variety of products,” says Bearman, “and it usually takes much less time to use these products than vinegar.”  

He warns that it’s important to check the product’s specifications to ensure your shower head won’t be damaged by the harsh solution, then “follow the instructions on the label and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands, if necessary”.  

“Viakal is a great off-the-shelf limescale remover,” says Paterson. But he does warn: “Shop-bought limescale removers tend to be quite strong – so you need to be careful not to get them onto any marble or other sensitive surfaces.”

The application process is usually much quicker than using household alternatives. “These products are usually sprayed directly onto the affected area, left for a few minutes, and then rinsed off with a damp cloth,” says Paterson.  

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Viakal original limescale remover, 500ml (0.9pt)

What causes limescale deposits?

It’s a mix of calcium and magnesium

“Shower heads accumulate mineral residue every time you use your shower,” explains Barrie Cutchie, design director at BC Designs. “Once the water has been shut off, over time these mineral deposits will bond together and create a limescale build-up inside your pipes or shower head. This then results in water struggling to push through the shower nozzles.” 

Limescale is caused by a mix of calcium and magnesium left behind when hard water evaporates. It is a particular problem with hot water appliances, such as kettles and showers, as hot water evaporates off a surface much quicker than cold water.  

What problems does limescale cause?

Limescale reduces your shower’s pressure

As mentioned above, when limescale builds up in your shower it will block the nozzles in your shower head and clog the heater tank on an electric shower. “This will reduce the amount of water that can flow through the shower, giving you a worse experience,” says Billingham, “as you will slowly lose pressure and coverage from the shower over time.”  

Just as limescale reduces the life of an electric shower, it can also reduce the life of your shower head, but limescale “can be cleaned from your shower head relatively easily”. 

How can you prevent the build-up of limescale?

Regular maintenance does the trick

“Unfortunately, there is no way of completely preventing limescale build up,” says Billingham. “The best way is regular maintenance – soak your shower heads every two-three months and give them a good clean and rinse to prevent any significant build-ups.” 

Cutchie also suggests that it’s good practice to “clean and dry your shower head after every use”, particularly if you live in a hard water area. “Building it into your daily routine may mean deposits don’t come back.”  

What to look out for when replacing your shower head?

A self-cleaning nozzle may help

“If you’re thinking of replacing your shower head, look out for designs that feature flexible nozzles to help prevent build-up and are easier to clean”, suggests Ronke Ugbaja, leader, product management, LIXIL EMENA and Grohe UK. 

Self-cleaning models typically push any remaining water through the nozzles once you’ve finished showering. This ensures the area is clear of water, preventing the build-up of mineral deposits.   

Invest in a water softener

Say goodbye to hard water

I’m forever having to descale my kettle to get rid of limescale. It may be a telling sign that I like a cuppa or two, but if you live in a hard water area, fighting limescale is an ongoing battle. It’s the same for my shower, which needs to be cleaned regularly to ensure it performs efficiently. 

However, the problem can be overcome by investing in a water softener, as Ugbaja explains: “These not only significantly reduce limescale throughout the home, but have other personal benefits in the bathroom too, such as improving dry skin conditions, and making soap and shampoo go much further.”   

Featured product

BWT water softener, 14l, Screwfix

RRP: £522.49

BWT water softener, 14l, Screwfix
Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

Published:

With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.