How to Fix a Leaking Shower Head

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Written by Eric

Last Updated: 11/12/2020

How to Fix a Leaking Shower Head

A leaking shower head isn’t just a nuisance; it also results in wasting a great deal of water and can be the cause of a huge jump in your water bills.  If the shower head is broken, worn out and rusty, or at the end of its life, it is likely time for you to replace it. This is actually a blessing in disguise that gives homeowners the opportunity to buy a newer and more innovative model.

If the shower head looks to be in good condition, but the head is still leaking, you still don’t have to worry about anything.  What most people do not know is that shower head leaks are actually pretty easy to fix, so there is no need to call a plumbing professional.  With the proper tools like a screwdriver, a workable wrench, and a brand-new washer, your shower head can be repaired very quickly.

That being said, if you do not feel confident about fixing the shower head yourself, or if, after trying our tips and recommendations, the leak doesn’t stop, you can contact a licensed plumber to get the job done.

Leakage of Showerhead

It is quite common for a shower head to leak because of the holes in the head that have been clogged over time due to lime deposits and other minerals and dirt.  With that said, before taking off the entire system components, observe the holes first, and get rid of any blocks or clogs you may see. To do this, shut off your water supply by either shutting off the actual valve to the shower head or by shutting off the primary water line and loosening the faceplate of the shower head.

Now, in case you aren’t able to take off the faceplate from the shower head, just take off the whole shower head from the entire fixture. After that, to remove any of the mineral deposits, take the faceplate or the entire shower head if it’s easier, and soak it in white vinegar for a minimum of eight hours. By doing so, the lime and other mineral clogs will dissolve, and will then be easier to remove by just putting a tiny nail or toothpick in the holes of the faceplate. Once the debris has been taken out, clean the plate by rubbing it down with a hard plastic brush and connect the shower back on the wall.

One of the other reasons for a shower head to leak is because of a worn down rubber washer which is also referred to as the “O ring”.  This component can get cracks that allow the water to pass through space, where it should go. So, to stop the shower head from leaking, the washer just has to be replaced. Now that you have an idea of the main causes of the shower head, here’s how to fix a dripping shower head:

Fix the Shower Head Yourself

1. Turn off the Water

Turn off the water supply to the entire house. Keep a towel on hand, since even if the main water source is technically turned off, there can still be a little water left in the pipelines that can leak out.

2. Remove and Inspect

Take off the shower head by loosening it from the pipe using your hands. If the head is fixed on securely and hasn’t been taken off for a while, unscrew it using pliers or a crescent wrench. Check out the threads on the shower head for a tiny plastic washer or rubber O-ring. It’s usually because of the wearing out of this part with age that can result in a shower head leaking and starting to drip. With time, it dries out and turns brittle which minimizes its capability of containing water.

If it looks old or worn down, get a new one. You should know that you can put a towel or rag on the floor of your shower to save it from potential damage in case you accidentally drop a tool. You should also close the drain so that any small debris from the shower head does not fall down into it. Make sure not to forcefully work on anything, for example, when you’re unscrewing the shower head or screwing it back on. Do not screw it in too tightly, otherwise, you could damage or break something and then you’ll have to start working on a bigger issue.

3. Clean the Shower Head

Once you turn the shower head off, it is time for you to clean out the shower head, especially if you see that there is minimal flow. Generally, there are small mineral deposits or clogs formed by hard water on the inside of the shower head or at the pipe junction where it connects to the shower head. This can greatly affect both the water pressure and flow and can result in a dripping shower head.

In a normal pot or pan, combine water and three cups of white vinegar and heat up the mixture until it boils. Once the boiling has started, turn off the heat. Put the shower head with all the rubber components removed into the mixture and allow it to soak for about 20 to 30 minutes. Afterward, you must remove, rinse, and clean the interior and external jets using an old toothbrush until you remover every deposit.

4. Tape it up

If the washer or the O-ring seems fine or if you’ve replaced it, the next thing to do is to wrap the threads on the pipe junction using some tape. You don’t have to use a ton of tape to do all this. Wrap a small strip around the threads on the pipe stem just above the tip.

5. Place Back the Shower Head

Tighten the shower head back on by screwing it in until you can’t screw it anymore. Then use pliers to finish the screwing properly. Make sure not to screw too hard or you can damage the shower head or pipe.

6. Switch on the Water

Switch the water back on and then leave your shower running for some seconds. Then turn it off and wait to see if the leak or drip still persists.

Fix the Faucet

If you’ve repaired the shower head and there is still a leak, you might have a leak in your faucet. Typically, this is due to a worn-down washer on the shower stem that just needs a replacement. You don’t have to get a plumber. Just follow these steps on how to fix a leaky shower head by working on the faucet:

1. Turn off the Water

Just like you did with the shower head, you will have to turn off the main water to the shower at the water source. Then, open the faucet and allow the water to pour out. Have a towel handy to soak up water that might leak out from the pipes once you take off the faucet. Since you will be standing in the tub or shower to do this step, make sure that the floor is completely dry. Any wetness can result in you slipping and falling which can cause serious injury.

2. Open the Faucet Components

How you take apart the faucet depends on whether you have a single-knobbed or double-knobbed faucet. If you have a double-knob system then you will have to get new valves. Use a screwdriver and crescent wrench to loosen the valves and take off the knobs or handles. Take off the guard and put it aside. You may notice two nuts. Unscrew the bigger one since you just need the one unscrewed to get to the shower stem. Take off the shower stem by loosening it in a counterclockwise direction.

3. Replace the Washers

The shower stem makes use of washers. You should put in all new ones while you are taking the faucet apart to ensure that you cover all your bases, regardless of the situation. Keep an eye out for a rubber washer at the end of the stem. This is known as the seat washer. The other ones are called packing washers and are present in the middle of the stem.

4. Reassemble the Faucet

Clean the pipes with an old toothbrush and a solution of one cup of white vinegar and water. Rub off any mineral debris you can find on the pipes. Connect the shower stem back and put in the valves to reattach the knobs. Once you’ve put back the faucet faceplate, fix where it comes in contact with the shower wall by using caulk around the whole plate.

Replace the Faucet

If fixing the shower head and the faucet has still not stopped the drip, it might be time to switch out your old faucet for a new model. Although the replacement process can be inconvenient for some, it is the only way to fix a dripping shower. While this could require a licensed plumber, it’s not difficult for someone to do it themselves. While various faucets need different techniques for replacement, here is a basic guide for the majority of faucets if you want to know how to fix a leaky shower head.

1. Find a Replacement

You can find different types of Faucets in various styles and sizes. Not every one of them is compatible, so you have to look for the right replacement. You should know that there are basic guidelines, but you must adhere to the manufacturer’s guides to make sure everything is attached properly. Take an accurate measurement of the holes for the faucet and use the old one to find the proper replacement.

2. Discard the Old Faucet

Most homes come with access panels on the wall in front of the shower faucet so that you can get in and work on the interior of the tub. If you don’t have one, you will need to access the opposite wall to take out the old faucet and put in a new one. Get a keyhole saw to cut a square or rectangular hole about 12 inches in size in the wall opposite the faucet. Take off the base of the faucet with a pipe wrench to loosen the nuts that are securing it to the shower fixture.

Make sure that you take off the faucet from the water pipes. Don’t move the pipes once you have removed the old faucet to prevent possible complications. If the pipes in your home are aged, there could be issues due to corrosions that can shift around easily when you’re trying to detach the faucet. If this is the problem, make sure that you do not crack the pipes which can result in water leaking behind walls causing a more costly and time-wasting problem.

3. Put in a New Faucet

When installing the new faucet unit, you will be centering it with the shower pipe and fixing it to the pipe using a pipe wrench. We recommended that you specifically follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer on how to properly attach the new faucet.

4. Switch the Water Back On

Switch the water back on from the main source and look for any leaks. If you do find any, try screwing in the nuts and screws so that everything is tight and secure. The company guidelines can help you. If you’ve secured every connection and the leaks still persist, remove the faucet and begin again to ensure everything is connected properly.

5. Fix the Wall

If you don’t have an access panel, you now have to deal with a large hole in your wall. Don’t worry, patching and repainting the wall will make it look good as new.

Fix the Diverter Valve

Another common reason for a shower head to leak is a malfunctioning diverter valve. This valve works to switch the water to and from the bathtub faucet to the shower head. As these valves get older, they become more aged and have to deal with deposits and sediments that result in their malfunction.

If the valves do not work correctly when water will go to the tub, it will still leak through the shower head, and when going to the shower head, it will drip through the faucet. If this is why your shower head is leaking, it will be important that you must dismantle and clean the diverter valve. This job can be ideally done by a licensed plumber.  To fix the dripping shower head yourself, you need to do the following steps:

1. Turn off the Water

As with all the other fixes, you must turn off the water supply to prevent any unnecessary drips or leaks.

2. Expose the Diverter Valve

Take off the cap from the top of the faucet handle, and unscrew the handle. Once you have done this you should be able to see the diverter valves.

3. Remove the Valve

Once you find the valves, you should remove it by unscrewing the whole valve system from the nut based on the stem.

4. Replace the Stem and Washer If Needed

Remove the stem and washer, look for any damage, and replace if need.

5. Clean the Valve

With a small stiff wire brush or an old toothbrush, use a solution of water and vinegar to scrub and clean each part of the valve to get rid of any sediment buildup. Allow it to dry and put back the valve.

Good work! No matter which steps you use, you should hopefully no longer hear any annoying drips and leaks any time soon!


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