Keeping Showerheads and Faucets Running Free
If you're dancing around under your showerhead in order to get wet, or your faucets are sputtering rather than flowing, there may be an easy fix. Over time, minerals and particles in your water supply can form deposits on showerheads, faucets, and sink sprayers, eventually obstructing the water flow. Eliminate the buildup (usually visible as a white or grayish deposit), and you can enjoy free-running water again.
You may not even have to remove the showerhead. Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar, and seal the bag over the showerhead so that it's soaking in the solution. Let it sit overnight, and then brush off the deposits with an old toothbrush. If some of the spray holes are still clogged, carefully insert a thin needle or toothpick through the holes. (This can also work for faucets and sink sprayer nozzles-the latter can be dipped into a bowl containing the vinegar.)
If this doesn't work, remove the showerhead. Use one adjustable wrench on the showerhead to unscrew it (counterclockwise) and one wrench on the shower arm (the pipe that the showerhead attaches to) to steady it so that it doesn't twist (potentially breaking the piping inside the wall). Wrapping the wrenches with masking or duct tape will prevent them from gouging the pipes. If the joint still won't budge, try a shot of penetrating oil, and leave it for twenty-four hours.
Once the showerhead is off, wash it well in hot water with some dish detergent to dislodge any loose deposits. Soak the showerhead overnight in vinegar, then try the toothbrush and toothpick tricks again. When you replace the showerhead, wrap the threads on the shower arm with three layers of Teflon (or plumber's) tape first, to ensure a tight seal.
Always wrap Teflon or plumber's tape in the direction that you'll be tightening-most of the time, this is clockwise. Otherwise, the threads can tear the tape, which clogs the threads instead of sealing them. In this case, the showerhead will screw on clockwise, so the tape should be wraaaed clockwise as well.
For stubbornly sputtering faucets or sink sprayers, try removing the aerator (the assembly at the very end of the faucet). If it won't unscrew by hand, use an adjustable wrench or groove-joint pliers on it. (Sink sprayers will often have a screw at the nozzle end that you have to remove to get at the aerator assembly.) Try the faucet or nozzle. If the water now runs fine, your aerator is definitely blocked. Although some newer aerator models won't come apart (in which case you'll need to replace them), most will. You'll find some combination of one or more wire mesh screens, a nylon disk, washer(s), and an O-ring.
The aerator's components add air bubbles to reduce (and therefore conserve) the water flowing out of the faucet without impairing the effectiveness of the flow.
Soak the pieces in vinegar; then loosen deposits with a toothbrush. Rinse each piece, and put everything back together. If you can't remove the buildup or corrosion, replace the aerator.
When fixing faucets or showerheads, block the sink or tub drain with the plug or a clean rag. If you drop a fiddly faucet part, you won't lose it down the drain. Also, place a piece of cardboard or a paper towel nearby, and lay out the components in the order you disassembled them. This makes reassembling much easier.