Science tip: Clean your shower head the stupid-easy way before holiday guests arrive – CNET


A zip-close storage bag, rubber band, water and either CLR cleaning solution or plain white vinegar — plus one hour — equals no more clogged shower head.

Dale Smith/CNET

This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019, featuring tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Your guests are coming today or tomorrow and you’re in a tizzy. You’ve realized that the water flow from your once-torrential shower head has become more of a trickle than a stream. Mineral buildup from hard water is probably to blame, and that’s bad news for anyone looking forward to a hot, well-pressured shower.

But the good news is you can fix this problem with minimal effort before your guests arrive, even if they’ll be showing up in an hour or so. First gather a zip-close food storage bag (like one from Ziploc or Hefty brands) and a rubber band. Next, locate either some calcium, lime and rust-removing cleaning solution or, in a pinch, a bottle of white vinegar, and set aside about 60 minutes to let science do the work for you.

The problem stems from hard water, which has high levels of dissolved solids — primarily calcium and magnesium — according to the Water Quality Association. Over time, these chemicals bond with the metal and plastic in your shower head, causing a buildup that appears as crusty bits around the water spouts. 

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As this plumbing plaque accrues over time, the holes start to close up and water has to work harder to shoot out. If ignored, eventually it can stop up your spout completely. Shower filters are one way of preventing the problem, but to open up an existing clog, don’t worry about calling a plumber, buying expensive replacement hardware or setting aside a whole afternoon to fix it. 

Here’s how to de-gunk your shower head and still have time to make up the guest room before everyone arrives.

1. Gather your cleaning gear

First, gather your supplies. If you’ve got a small shower head, a sandwich-sized bag should do, but for larger hardware you might have to whip out a gallon bag. You’ll need a rubber band to tie it up, and water can get heavy, so be sure to use a strong one. The kind used to hold together produce like asparagus or broccoli is perfect, but your run-of-the-mill rubber band from an office supply store will do, although you might need more than one, especially for a gallon bag. 

For the cleaning solution, you’ll need a 50/50 solution of either CLR household cleaner (available at most grocery stores, Walmart and Amazon) or white vinegar (the stuff in your cupboard will do) and plain ole shower water.

2. Soak away the grime

Fill the bag halfway with either CLR or white vinegar then insert the shower head into the bag as well. Secure it with the rubber band(s), then gently turn on the water to the shower just enough to fill the bag the rest of the way and mix up the solution. Whatever you do, don’t crank the shower on full-blast, or else the sudden pressure may inadvertently launch your plastic bag across your bathroom. 

Next, set a timer for 60 minutes, either on your phone or using your smart home assistant. Here’s how to set multiple timers with Google Home, as well as with Amazon’s Alexa on Echo devices. Now, go put the finishing touches on the tree, knock some more items off your holiday shopping list or relax with a podcast for the next hour.

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3. Wipe, rinse and (hopefully) no need to repeat

After your timer goes off, remove the bag from your shower head and let the cleaning solution spill into the drain. Toss the bag in the trash and wipe down your shower hardware with a damp cloth. 

Then, the moment of truth: turn on your shower (full-blast, this time) and see how much more powerful and evenly it sprays. If, for some reason, there are still a few clogged spouts, feel free to repeat this process. But for most clogged shower heads, one round should do the trick.

If you’ve still got tons of other cleaning tasks to accomplish before you’re ready for the holidays, check out these 14 cleaning tools that make cleaning easy and maybe even fun. Don’t worry if you’re running out of time, because we’ve got six tricks and tips to cut your cleaning time in half, as well. Before guests arrive, don’t forget to clean any electronics they’ll be using, just be sure to follow our guide for cleaning touchscreens the right way so you don’t damage your gear.

Periodically updated.