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What Causes Green Buildup to Form on Your Shower Head?

by Sara Cook

Green buildup on your shower head can be frustrating. Knowing what causes the buildup and what you can do about it can help you take care of your plumbing.

What causes green buildup to form on your shower head?

Green, crusty buildup comes from minerals in the water. Water that contains dissolved minerals is known as hard water. Most homes in the United States have hard water (almost 90%), but only a percentage of those homes have such severe hard water that the minerals will dry on fixtures and form a scummy, hard-to-remove layer.

Do minerals from hard water damage the shower head?

Over time, the minerals from your home's hard water will clog the holes in the shower head. The narrowing of the holes can produce a loud, screeching, whining noise that you may find unpleasant. Eventually, the holes will become fully clogged, thus preventing the shower head from functioning.

What can you do to rid your shower head of hard water buildup?

In the short term, you can remove the buildup of minerals from your shower head by doing the following:

  1. Fill a plastic bucket about half way with white cleaning vinegar.
  2. Unscrew the shower head from the shower arm.
  3. Inspect the inside of the shower head for small pieces of grit and grime. Use a tooth pick or an old tooth brush to gently brush out the pieces.
  4. Place the shower head inside the bucket of vinegar. Top off the vinegar so that the shower head is completely submerged.
  5. Leave the shower head inside the bucket for about an hour.
  6. Pull the shower head out of the vinegar and use the tooth brush to brush away the minerals around the outside and inside of the shower head.
  7. Screw the shower head back on the shower arm.
  8. Turn on the shower to flush out any remaining minerals from the holes.

In the long term, the best thing you can do for your shower head (as well as your other plumbing fixtures) is to get a water softener. Hard water can damage more than your shower head. Over time, hard water can lead to mineral buildup in your pipes. Eventually, your pipes may become clogged. Getting a water softener will prevent this from happening, and will also stop the scummy buildup of minerals on your plumbing fixtures. To get a water softener installed, you'll need help from a plumbing service like Pipeworks Inc.