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Clean your showerhead regularly

Don’t rush the cleaning process. Use a toothbrush with thick, coarse bristles so you can apply elbow grease and free all the accumulated grit and grime.
Don’t rush the cleaning process. Use a toothbrush with thick, coarse bristles so you can apply elbow grease and free all the accumulated grit and grime.

I’d rank cleaning my showerheads among the 10 most boring household projects. Often I forget to do it until I have a problem. Typically, the water pressure is greatly reduced; the stream is not as strong as it once was.

Initially, I blame the showerhead, shout a few choice expletives, and rant that companies are not making products the way they used to.

Once I unscrew the showerhead, I quickly discover the problem. It’s not working properly because it’s clogged with minerals such as calcium, lime and rust, which build up in the showerhead’s pores and either clog the pores completely or reduce the stream of water to a trickle.

If I were more diligent, I’d make sure my showerheads were always clean. It’s not just to get a strong and steady stream of water; it’s to make sure it’s free of bacteria. A recent Consumer Reports story explained the importance of keeping your showerhead clean, and offered a few tips about how to do it.

“A showerhead full of mineral deposits not only results in decreased water pressure, but when bacteria builds up, it can get released into the steamy air,” said CR’s director of product safety.

While harmless to a healthy person, the pathogens are “opportunistic.” Translated: If you have respiratory problems or a weak immune system, they can cause health risks such as asthma or bronchitis.

Here are some solid tips from CR for cleaning metal and plastic showerheads:

Metal showerheads:

If your showerhead is chrome-plated, unscrew the head with an adjustable wrench. Put it in a pot filled with a solution of one part vinegar to eight parts water, said CR. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once it’s cooled, use a toothbrush to scrub off any debris. Wipe with a soft cloth or sponge. You can also clean the head without unscrewing it. Fill a plastic bag with the solution and secure it to the head to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Plastic showerheads:

Soak the head in a solution of equal parts vinegar and hot water, but make sure it’s not boiling. You can let it sit in a bowl or secure the head in a plastic bag tied to the showerhead (like above). After soaking for at least 15 minutes, brush off any grit with a toothbrush.

Caution from CR:

Don’t use vinegar on brass or nickel showerheads, because it will tarnish them. Instead, scrub the head with soapy hot water and a toothbrush. Don’t rush the cleaning process. Use a toothbrush with thick, coarse bristles so you can apply elbow grease and free all the accumulated grit and grime. Run under hot water a few times, and repeat the process until the showerhead is clean as new.

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