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

How to clean a shower
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 to clean your 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 coke method on your shower head, this is how to get started.

How to clean a shower head with vinegar alone

  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.

white shower head

(Image credit: Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash)

How to clean a shower head with baking soda

  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

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

(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.

Expert tips on how to clean a shower head

Melissa Maker 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. 

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. This is what gets rid of any limescale and annoying watermarks 👌🏻'

remove hard water stains

(Image credit: Matki)

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Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis

Lindsey is Associate Editor of Realhomes.com and has been working on our home interest websites for six years. When she isn't reviewing products for our buying guides, or searching for the best Black Friday bargains, she can be found rearranging her furniture or cooking something new. She aspires to build her own home, but for now is busy tackling the ever-growing list of projects in her Victorian cottage.

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