How to Fix a Leaky Showerhead

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Nothing is more annoying than having some kind of a problem in your bathroom. We already lead pretty stressful lives, and we don’t have the time to think about the default things like a working bathroom. We seem to assume that bathrooms will just work forever without any problems.

But, as it is known, everything breaks or leaks or clogs from time to time. Luckily, even though problems with the bathroom seem like it is the end of the world and it will take months to repair them, this is not the case.

Some issues you can even resolve yourself if you have the will and adequate tools.

Other, more serious issues will be relatively easily resolved by an experienced plumber. Nothing is unheard of and the chances are that your plumber has repaired million of such issues.


As we’ve concluded, the bathroom is just one of the most essential rooms in a house and we cannot function without it. Therefore, when something is not right, you need to take action immediately.

Sometimes, everything is just fine, you take your usual morning (or night) shower, and all of a sudden, you are greeted with this annoying little tapping on the tub floor. And all of us generally have the talent of when trying to sound out a certain noise, it becomes more prominent and thus impossible to ignore.

This tapping noise is actually your shower head leaking. You try to tighten up the taps and it doesn’t work. Yes, you may think it’s best to leave it be, you’ll just try to tune it out and forget about it.

Therefore, many people think that while they can take normal showers they are not going to busy themselves with such a frivolous issue that is a leaking shower head.

But, while doing that you will be doing yourself a huge disservice! The main problem will be your utility bill. With constant water leaking from your shower, your bills will just get higher and higher.

Secondly, this issue can just lead to other problems, so leaving it as it is, will not resolve anything.

Before we talk about anything else we need to determine the source of the problem. So, let's continue with a detailed description of the most common causes, and they see how to get rid of them.

Why Does Your Showerhead Leak?

There are a few reasons for your shower head leaking. Most of them are easily determined and easily resolved. None of them are too serious, and they customarily appear due to long use and rare cleaning of the shower which subsequently produces lime accumulation.

You may think that you clean your shower regularly and thoroughly, maybe the problem lies in the old or faulty parts.

The most common causes of the leaky shower head is normally a lime buildup on the showerhead alone. Furthermore, it can happen do to worn out rubber washers, malfunctioning diverter or cartridge valve.


Firstly, you’ll need to answer these questions:

  • Does the showerhead drip constantly, or
  • Does it drip for a while after turning off the water, and then stops?

If the answer to the first question is affirmative, then the problem lies in a faulty shower faucet. If the answer to the second question was positive, then the problem is with the showerhead only.

Important notice: before doing anything, always shut off the water supply! Also, it's smart to put down the towel on the bathtub/shower floor, so as to avoid any dents if a part or a tool slips and hits the floor.

How to Fix a Leaky Showerhead

Lime Buildup on the Showerhead

When you think about cleaning your bathroom, most of us think of scrubbing the sink, toilet, the inside of the bathtub or a shower, faucets, and perhaps cleaning the floor and the mirrors. Not many will take apart the shower head and clean it as frequently as the rest of the bathroom.

First of all, there's no need for that. Showerheads don't touch anything but clean water.

However, they need to be cleaned from time to time because the water leaves debris behind, in the form of limescale or other minerals accumulation – this especially applies to those who live in the area with hard water.


There's a way to find out if it is the lime build-up that causes the leaking. If, when you turn on the water, water sprays everywhere before "calming down", then there's too much mineral accumulation that interferes with the water flow.

If this is the case, then you'll just need to clean the showerhead! For that you'll need:

  • Large container (in which you can fit your showerhead)
  • White vinegar
  • Coarse salt
  • Plastic brush
  • A toothpick (optional)
Step 1

Unscrew the showerhead. How you do this will depend on the model you have.

With some models, you will be able to unscrew just the faceplate, and some will require unscrewing of the whole show head. The result will be the same, nevertheless.

Step 2

You will need a container that's large enough for the showerhead. Fill the container with white vinegar with some coarse salt. You should use the amount of vinegar that enough to fully submerge the showerhead.

Let this sit for several hours. For optimal results leave it in vinegar for up to eight hours. If you don’t have the time, two hours will be sufficient.

Step 3

After the time has passed, take the showerhead out of the container, and use a stiff plastic brush to scrub away all the softened minerals.

For more stubborn clogs, you may need to manually clean each of them with a toothpick.

Step 4

Reattach the showerhead back on, and turn the water on to rinse it out a bit. Then turn it off again, and see if the water stops dripping immediately.

If it is still leaking, then something else may be the problem.

Worn Out Rubber Washer

Leaking showerheads can also happen because of the old or worn-out washers. The washer is a rubber O-ring that is responsible for not allowing water to seep through the faucet. Over time the rubber will wear off and washers won't be able to keep the water from leaking.

If you have a compression faucet (i.e. if it has two separate faucet handles to operate cold/hot water) then you will have to find out which tap is making the problem.

If the drip is hot and/or the hot water tap is warm then the washer on that side is causing the problem. If not, then it’s the cold one.

Furthermore, there's a washer inside the showerhead as well as the shower faucet. If you don't have a compression faucet, then you will probably need to work on the washer inside the showerhead. Otherwise, you will check the washers on the faucets first.

Replacing the Washer in the Showerhead

Step 1

You will start by taking the showerhead apart.

While this also varies from models to models, there will usually be a collar nut attached to the side of the shower arm. This nut looks like a regular metal nut, but it is extended lengthwise.

Step 2

When you loosen the collar nut, and open the showerhead, inside you will see a swivel ball

This is a fixture that enables the showerhead to move around. It resembles a large nut with a metal ball on the end. The washer is located directly below the swivel ball.

Step 3

Now you will replace the old rubber washer with the new one (same in size and thickness).

Reattach the showerhead, and your problem is solved!

Replacing the Washer in the Faucet

You will need:

  • a small  knife (for hidden faucet screw)
  • faucet puller (optional)
  • deep socket
Step 1

Disassemble the appropriate faucet handle by unscrewing it.

The screw may be hidden under a cover tap, or it can be in plain sight. If it's hidden under the cover tap you will need something like a small pocket or a pallet knife to lift it.

Step 2

After you’ve unscrewed the screw, pull the handle strongly, to remove it (you may need a faucet puller). Then, you will have to take off the trim and the sleeve that cover the faucet stem.

Use the deep socket to unscrew the hex nut.

Step 3

Now, you can replace the old washer with the new one, and reassemble the whole faucet.

You can maintain washer by applying some lubricant from time to time, to keep them in good shape.


Diverter Valve is Malfunctioning

A diverter valve allows water to switch from the shower faucet to the showerhead. Over time, this valve can become weakened, worn out, or it can become clogged with mineral build-up.

The solution to this issue is to either clean or overall replace the whole diverter valve. Mind you, if you choose to clean it, you will have to clean it regularly.

You’ll need:

  • an old rag
  • white distilled vinegar
  • a plastic brush
  • a small knife (for a cover tap)
Step 1

Unscrew the faucet handle (in the same way as in the previous section). Then, to remove the diverter valve you will need to separate it from the hex nut by unscrewing it.

Sometimes, there will be difficulty unscrewing it if there’s a lime buildup. You will just need to soak an old rag with white vinegar and wrap it around for an hour or so.

Step 2

After you have unscrewed the diverter valve, use an old plastic brush and white vinegar to clean it. Then, you will need to let the valve dry. Check for any tears and cracks.

If there are any, you will need to replace the valve. If not, then screw it back on.

For the best results, clean the valve regularly.

Faulty Cartridge Valve

This only applies to those who have a single faucet system.

You’ll need:

  • a hairdryer or a faucet puller
  • a small screwdriver
  • deep socket
  • pliers (or a cartridge puller)
Step 1

You’ll start by unscrewing the faucet handle screw (exposed, or hidden under a cover tap), and pull off the handle (if you have difficulty pulling, warm it up with a hairdryer, or use a faucet puller).

Step 2

Once the handle is off, remove the stop tube, and unscrew the cartridge retaining slip with a small screwdriver. Follow this by removing the handle washer. Now you can see the cartridge stem.

Step 3

How you remove the cartridge will differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. With newer products, there may be a removal cap. However, typically you’ll want to first unscrew the hex nut with a deep socket.

Then, you will unscrew the cartridge stem and remove it with pliers. In some cases, you will need a cartridge puller. The puller will loosen the stem and then you can use the pliers to remove it.

Now you can replace the cartridge with a new one, which has to be identical to the old one in terms of the type, dimensions, etc.

Reassemble the faucet.

Conclusion: On Leaky Shower Heads

To conclude, as we have seen when the shower head leaks, it isn’t too serious. The best way to prevent this from happening is to clean the shower heads regularly, as well as inspect your faucets as soon as you suspect something is happening.

If you consider yourself to be a handy person, you can even try to replace the washers, diverter or cartridge valves in order to stop your shower head from dripping. If not, then give your plumber a call, and he will fix it in no time!