How to clean a shower head – descale yours with vinegar (or without)

This is how to clean a shower head and remove limescale using vinegar, baking soda and more. Plus, why bleach isn't a great idea after all

a shower head with water sprinkling from it
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Need to know how to clean a shower head or descale it more specifically? If your shower experience is water shooting in all directions (the day you forgot to wear a shower cap) and alternating water pressure, then limescale is getting in the way and you need to know how to clean a shower head properly.

A dirty shower head will simply not work as efficiently as it should and bacteria could be lurking also, which isn't what you want. Especially if you know how to clean a shower to perfection – all bar this tiny area. 

Thankfully, you won't need to run to the store when you want to descale and clean your shower head as you can get it sparkling using white vinegar, an old toothbrush and a plastic bag.

We've also included a couple of ways of cleaning a shower head without using vinegar if you prefer – without resorting to bleach – and some top tips from the likes of Melissa Maker and other household names in cleaning. 

So, whether you want to try the vinegar, baking soda or Coca-Cola method on your shower head, this is how to descale a shower head. Or if you fancy investing in a brand new showerhead to avoid all the scrubbing, check out the best low pressure shower heads.

How to clean a shower head with vinegar alone

You will need: 

  • A toothbrush (not your own)
  • Vinegar
  • A plastic bag and a cable tie or rubber band
  • A scourer
  • A cloth
  1. First remove your shower head then use a toothbrush to scrub off any loose and dry debris from around the holes.
  2. Pour vinegar into a plastic zipper bag, enough to fill it halfway.
  3.  Put the plastic bag around the shower head so the holes and shower head are completely submerged in the liquid. 
  4. Secure the bag using an elastic band or a cable tie. Leave to soak for several hours, or for best results leave overnight. If your shower head is made from brass then leave it no longer than 30 minutes. Likewise if it has a gold or nickel finish as this should be enough.
  5. Remove the bag, then use a scourer or cloth to wipe away loose sediment and finally run the shower on hot to flush out the holes.
  6. If this doesn't work and you have left the shower overnight, or have particularly stubborn limescale, try the baking soda method below or take a look at the product Mrs Hinch uses.

a white traditional style shower head

(Image credit: Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash)

How to clean a shower head with baking soda

You will need:

  • 1/3 cup of Baking soda
  • One cup vinegar
  • Large plastic bag
  • A rubber band 
  • A soft toothbrush
  1. The baking soda and vinegar method is best if your shower head is quite severely clogged up with limescale. Start by removing your shower head. 
  2. Mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with one-cup of white vinegar in a large plastic bag over your sink or in the bathtub.
  3. Much like the volcano experiment at school, the solution will fizz which is what you want as this will help lift the limescale from the shower head. 
  4. Ensure the entire shower head is covered in the solution and secure the plastic bag with a rubber band.
  5. Leave it soaking overnight for maximum effect then scrub any clinging limescale off with a soft toothbrush, rinse in hot water and voilà.

How to clean a shower head without vinegar and baking soda

You will need: 

  • Bottle of Coca Cola
  • A plastic bag
  • A cloth or soft toothbrush

If you don't have white vinegar to hand or have something against cleaning with vinegar then you can try the baking soda method, subbing the vinegar for water, or alternatively, you can remove limescale from your shower head with Coca-Cola. 

Simply submerge the shower head in a plastic bag (as with the above two methods) of coke, secure it and leave it to soak for about 15 minutes. This should be enough. Then polish off any remaining flakey bits with a cloth or a soft toothbrush and repeat if it's not quite as clean as you'd like.

power shower head with water

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can you use bleach to clean a shower head?

It's not recommended to use bleach on your shower head as it's highly toxic and not actually as efficient as using natural household ingredients or gentler bathroom cleaners.

How long do you soak a shower head in vinegar? 

'Leave it overnight to get the best limescale removal. Then, rinse thoroughly with water until the water runs smoothly through the holes. You may need to use a pin to unblock the holes,' explains Plumbworld's resident DIY expert Ollie Lyon.

'Keeping on top of the cleaning of your shower head is important. The process of soaking in vinegar should be repeated every week during your general bathroom clean. This will mean that the problem will not have a chance to take hold. Once the initial clean has been done, a few minutes of soaking should be enough to keep on top of it if done regularly.'

'The use of a vinegar spray into the showerhead holes will also help to declog them in between cleans.'

How to remove limescale from a shower head: expert tips

Youtuber Melissa Maker the wise and wonderful author of Clean My Space says that to tackle crusty limescale and all that brown and white build up on your shower head, 'All you need, three things: a plastic bag – I'm using a zipper bag – a hair elastic and some white vinegar. Instead of using anything harsh like some television commercials will show you, all you need to do to descale your shower head and have it run like a five star hotel is to pour your vinegar into your zipper bag... You immerse your shower head...' Melissa also leaves it overnight, about 12 hours and then runs the water for a few minutes before using it. 

It's important to do this often, as there are a few health risks that can arise from not cleaning your showerhead often enough

On the other side, Mrs Hinch cleaning Queen is a fan of many a commercial household product and recommends, '1st step: spray down shower head with Viakal available at Amazon. This is what gets rid of any limescale and annoying watermarks. 👌🏻'

a traditional bath with traditional taps and hand shower

(Image credit: Matki)

Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar -1 Gallon Bottle (Pack of 2) with By The Cup Swivel Spoons

A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.

Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis

Lindsey is Editor of and Editor in Chief for Home Ecommerce at Future. She is here to give you aspirational, yet attainable ideas for your home and works with her team to help you get the best buys, too. She has written about homes and interiors for the best part of a decade for brands including Homes & Gardens, Ideal Home and Gardeningetc and isn't afraid to take the inspiration she finds at work into her own space – a Victorian terrace which she has been (slowly) remodelling for the last eight years. She is happiest sipping a cup of tea with a cat on her lap (if only she had a cat).