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Clean your shower head in 1 hour with this simple science hack for degunking

Mineral buildup is usually to blame for clogged spouts and uneven water flow. Use these regular household items to knock it out fast without breaking a sweat.


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

If the water flow from your once-torrential shower head lately has become a mere trickle, mineral buildup from hard water is probably to blame. Luckily, you can solve this problem with minimal effort -- all you need are a few common household supplies and one hour to let science do the work for you. 

First, gather a zip-close food storage bag (like those from Ziploc or Hefty brands) and a sturdy rubber band (the thicker the better). Next, locate either some calcium-, lime- and rust-removing cleaning solution (like CLR brand) -- or some white vinegar, which works just as well -- then set aside about 60 minutes when no one can take a shower.

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 builds up over time, the holes start to close up, creating back pressure that reduces water output. 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 degunk your shower head with hardly any effort.

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 ol' 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 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 now the holidays are over, check out these 14 cleaning tools that make cleaning easy and maybe even fun. Don't worry if you're busy, because we've got six tricks and tips to cut your cleaning time in half, as well. If you have people coming to stay, 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.

Originally published last year. Periodically updated.