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Leaking Showerhead Repairs - Residential

A leaking shower head isn’t just annoying, but also wastes large quantities of water and can result in a hefty increase in your water bill.  If the shower head is cracked, old and rusty, or just falling apart, it is probably time for it to be replaced–a possible blessing in disguise forcing the homeowner to purchase one of the newer, fancier models.  If your shower head appears in good condition, however, but is still leaking, there is no need to panic.  What most homeowners do not realize is how simple most shower head leaks are to fix. No need to call a plumber.  With the right tools (such as a screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, and a new washer), your showerhead can be fixed in no time.  Of course, if you do not feel comfortable fixing the showerhead yourself, or if, after taking the steps below, the leak continues, a licensed plumber should be contacted.  

One of the most common reasons for a showerhead to leak is that the holes have become clogged over time with lime deposits and other minerals.  So, before dismantling the entire fixture, check the holes first, and remove any clogs.  To do so, turn off the water supply (either by turning off the valve to the showerhead itself or by turning off the main water line) and unscrew the showerhead’s faceplate from the showerhead.  (Note:  If you are unable to remove the faceplate from the showerhead, simply remove the entire shower head from the rest of the fixture).  Next, to get rid of any mineral deposits, take the faceplate (or the whole showerhead as applicable), and leave it soaking in white vinegar for at least eight hours.  By doing this, the lime and other mineral deposits will be dissolved, and can then be easily removed by simply sticking a small nail or toothpick through the holes in the faceplate.  After the debris has been removed, clean the faceplate by scrubbing it with a stiff plastic brush, and reattach the unit to the wall. 

A second common reason for a showerhead to leak is due to a worn rubber washer (also commonly known as the “O ring”), which develops cracks allowing water to pass through areas it shouldn’t. Thus, to stop your showerhead from leaking, the washer simply needs to be replaced, which can be done as follows:


  • Turn off the water supply (either by turning off the valve for the showerhead or the main water line).
  • Disassemble the showerhead by loosening the collar nut attached to the shower arm. Prior to removal, wrap the showerhead with a thin towel. By doing this you will protect your showerhead from becoming scratched in the removal process.
  • Locate the rubber washer, which is usually on the top of the showerhead beneath the swivel ball.
  • Pry the old washer off and replace with a new washer, making sure that the new washer is identical to the old washer in terms of size and style.
  • With the new washer in place, reassemble the showerhead.
  • To make the seal even tighter, wrap a piece of plumbers tape around any threads and tighten before screwing the showerhead back into place.
  • Turn the water back on.

Most showerheads will stop leaking after these two routine fixes are performed. 

There is, however, a third common reason for a showerhead to leak in bathrooms with shower-bathtub combinations; that is, a malfunctioning diverter valve, the valve responsible for switching water back and forth between the bathtub faucet to the showerhead. As diverter valves age, they become worn, and are subject to sediment build up, causing them to malfunction.  If the valve does not work properly, when water is diverted to the tub, it will continue to leak through the showerhead, and when diverted to the showerhead, it will leak through the faucet for the bathtub. If this is the reason for your leak, it will be necessary to have the diverter valve assembly taken apart and cleaned, a job that should most likely be left to the hands of a licensed plumber.  To make the repair yourself, however, you take the following steps: 

  • Turn off the water supply.
  • Remove the cap from the top of the faucet handle, and loosen the screw.
  • At this point you will then be able to see the diverter valve, which should be removed by unscrewing the entire valve assembly from the nut located on the stem.
  • Remove the brass stem and washer, check for wear and tear, and replace if necessary.
  • Using a small stiff wire brush and vinegar, clean all of the parts of the valve, removing any sediment buildup.
  • Let dry and reassemble the valve.
  • In the alternative, you can simply replace the entire valve assembly.