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The Easiest Way to Fix a Dripping Shower Head

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A dripping shower head isn’t just annoying: It’s also a waste of water with environmental and financial consequences. There are a number of different issues that could result in a leaking shower head, including some best left to plumbing professionals.

That said, if your shower head starts dripping one day out of nowhere, you might as well try these simple solutions first. That way you won’t end up hiring a pro for something basic that you could have done yourself for a fraction of the cost. Here’s what to do.

How to fix a dripping shower head

Three common causes of a leaking shower head are a buildup of minerals, a worn-out O-ring, and deteriorated plumbing tape on the shower arm. Here’s how to deal with each problem:

Clean your shower head

The minerals in hard water can build up over time, leaving behind deposits like limescale, which can clog the little holes on your shower head. When that happens, the water still has to go somewhere, and because it can’t flow out through the holes, it may be forced out between the arm and shower head, resulting in a leak.

While it’s technically possible to clean your shower head without removing it by soaking it in a plastic bag, that should only be a last resort, in the event that your shower head is so corroded that it won’t budge. It is far more effective to remove the shower head and soak it in solution of white vinegar and water, using a toothbrush to attack any particularly stubborn mineral deposits.

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This Lifehacker article walks you through the whole process.

Replace the O-ring

If cleaning your shower head didn’t stop the drip, and it’s time to turn your attention to the O-ring or washer. These small parts create watertight seals between the shower head and shower arm, but they don’t last forever, and can crack or deteriorate over time, leaving you with a leak.

To switch yours out for a new one, first remove the shower head from the arm, then the O-ring or washer from the shower head. Your new one needs to be exactly the same as the one you’re replacing, so the easiest thing to do is bring the old one with you to the hardware store and ask for one to match it. Once you have it, pop in the new O-ring or washer, then reassemble and reattach your shower head.

Swap out the plumber’s tape

When you removed the shower head from the arm, you probably noticed some tape left behind. That’s plumber’s tape (also known as thread seal tape, and previously known as Teflon tape), and it too becomes less effective over time, and may be at least partially responsible for your dripping shower head.

First, gently unwrap the old tape, removing it from the shower arm. Then, use a toothbrush to scrub away any sticky residue. Next, wrap new plumber’s tape around the grooved section at the end of the shower arm (the threads) two or three times in a clockwise direction, pressing it firmly into the grooves as you go. Finally, reattach your shower head.

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If none of this works, it’s probably time to bring in a plumber. And even if you didn’t manage to stop the dripping, your attempts weren’t a waste of time: You now have a clean and properly sealed shower head.

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