“Hi Norma, I have tried everything I can think of, but I cannot get rid of the white crud that cakes up on my showerheads. I hate how they look. Can you suggest anything I can use to remove the gunk that has built up on them?” – AJ, WYSK Reader
NV: Hi AJ! I can absolutely relate to hating that white buildup on showerheads – that dreaded calcium and lime scale! Hate it! My home in Nevada has the worst water ever… but what should I expect, it’s the desert. All of my plumbing fixtures, valves, glass shower doors, etc.get that nasty stubborn mineral buildup regularly – not to mention what it does to my skin and hair. Ugh!
I’m happy to say I do have an easy and inexpensive solution – distilled white vinegar. Here’s what you do:
In a plastic bag mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar and hot water. If you have a handheld showerhead use a bowl instead of a bag. (For heavy mineral buildup use straight vinegar.)
Submerge the showerhead into the bag and tape or tie it off at the top. Try to submerge it only deep enough to soak the crusty area.
Let it soak at least a couple of hours. Check in on it to make sure the solution is not reacting with the metal of the showerhead – certain finishes may pit, especially if you’re using straight vinegar. Check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
Remove the bag. Scrub the face of the showerhead with a plastic scrub brush.
Run the shower water, checking to see if any spray holes are clogged. If so, use a small pin to poke through them. Flush the showerhead again.
In a spray bottle mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Spray down the showerhead and wipe away any residual residue with a plastic scouring pad and rag.
Use this vinegar-water spray solution for regular cleaning and maintenance to keep the mineral buildup at bay.
After doing this fix you may notice you have better water flow and pressure now that you’ve cleaned the spray holes out too. And you know when your showerhead drips for a while after the water is shut off? That may be because there’s still water in the head finding it’s way out of the clogged spray holes. This fix would correct that after-drip too!
FYI, products like CLR and Lime Away work really well, but when I can use a less expensive, less aggressive home remedy first, I’ll go that route every time.
When Cleaning Can’t Cut The Crud… Replace
I’d like to offer a second option as a solution for a chalky, clogged, old showerhead – replace it! In this video, I show you how to remove your old showerhead and install a new one (or the same one, once it’s been cleaned). Note: if you want to salvage your old showerhead, you’ll have better luck cleaning it when it’s off the shower arm so you can get at it from the inside as well.
If you chose to replace your showerhead, oh my God, there are so many great options! Rainfall, high pressure, low-flow, handheld, massaging, etc. – the hardest part will be deciding which one you like best!
Let me point out that adding a handheld showerhead is just as easy as replacing a fixed one! I particularly love a handheld because it makes rinsing down the shower stall and tub a breeze.
Put A Filter On It
Before I leave you to go make your showerheads sparkling clean and free flowing, I want to circle back to something I mentioned at the beginning of the article… water with high mineral content (hard water) is not a girl’s best friend.
I find my hair and skin in my desert home make me look and feel like a straw haired alligator, if there were such a thing. In addition to tons of moisturizer, conditioner, and drinking plenty of filtered water, I’ve added a showerhead filter!
Check out filters like this Culligan In-line Shower Filter. It’s an easy installation and I definitely notice a difference on my skin and hair. I especially like knowing that it reduces chlorine and other unhealthy chemicals from the water. After all, we absorb and inhale water (from steam) every time we shower.
Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!
If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.
Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.