4 Ways to Fix a Leaking Shower Head
Because a shower head is often behind a curtain or glass partition in an area where being wet is normal, a leaking shower head can go undetected for a long period. A dripping faucet or shower head is the second biggest waste of water behind a constantly running toilet. Water rationing is most likely with us for years into the future, so promptly fixing shower head leaks is good for the wallet as well as the environment.
The four common ways to fix a leaking shower head go beyond simply addressing the shower head itself. You may need to repair one or more of the components that make up the shower system. These are:
- Unclogging the shower head
- Replacing worn washers
- Replacing the diverter valve
- Replacing a problem cartridge valve
Why Is My Shower Head Leaking?
As you are probably well aware, the water that flows up and though a shower head comes from faucets located in the wall somewhere below the shower head. Water pressure is diverted from the tub faucet to the shower head via a diverter valve. This is a lever close to the faucet or a push-pull rod that is positioned close to the faucet. Leaks in the shower head may be due to an issue in the shower head alone, or in combination with other features in the shower.
- Does your shower head leak constantly, even with the shower faucet turned off? You probably have an issue with the shower faucet but depending upon how long this has been going on, you may also have an issue with the shower head.
- Does your shower head drip for a while after the faucet is shut off, but then stops completely? This is usually an issue with the shower head only.
If the first scenario fits your situation, you will need to shut off the water to that bathroom before you do anything else. However, it is a good idea to shut off the water supply to the bathroom in the second case as well. Even if it seems like it may only be the shower head, once you take it off, you may get surprised with a stream of water coming out of the shower head pipe that will have you scrambling to turn of the main water.
If your house is older, you may not have a separate bathroom tub and shower water shut off, you will have to shut off the water to the entire house, hopefully just a short disruption for your household. Ben Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area can install water cutoff valves in local areas to help you avoid a whole house shut down.
Unclogging the Shower Head
Over time, shower heads are prone to accumulate lime and other mineral deposits that clog the holes. You can suspect this is the issue if the shower head drips after you turn off the water, but eventually stops. It’s likely the head is holding water and is unable to drain quickly. If this is the case, you are probably also experiencing a weaker flow from the shower head.
- Shut off the water supply and remove the shower head. The head should unscrew from the pipe that comes out of the wall. Turn it counterclockwise.
- Inspect the holes in the shower head. Do they appear clogged with white minerals? Is the pipe you unscrewed the head from leaking? If it isn’t it may be that all you need to do is give the head a good soak and reinstall.
- If your shower head allows for this fix, unscrew the front faceplate. If not, then you will have to soak the entire head.
- Soak the shower head in white vinegar for six to eight hours.
- At the same time, inspect the washer in the back of the shower head. Is it worn? Pull it out and replace it with one from the hardware store.
- After the soaking, free the holes with a pin or toothpick that fits, then brush the faceplate clean with a stiff brush. Any debris that falls into the head should flush out once you reinstall the head and turn on the hot water.
Replacing Worn Washers In The Shower Faucet
A leaking shower head can be cause by worn washers and as noted above. If your shower head is older, it’s a good idea to replace the washer in the back while you have the head soaking. Over time, even the best washer or O-rings will deteriorate.
To replace the rubber washer in your faucet, disassemble the faucet handle by unscrewing it. The screw may be hidden behind a decorative cap. Remove the handled and remove the stem using a deep socket wrench. It’s best to buy a faucet washer kit and replace the rubber washer and other washers and seals all at the same time.
Replacing the Diverter Valve
The diverter valve is just a fancy name for the lever or knob that switches the direction of the water from the faucet to the shower head. In some cases, the diverter value is on the faucet itself and looks like a rod that is pulled up when the water is flowing to engage the shower head.
For the lever or knob style:
- Remove the faucet handle, disassemble the valve assembly and remove the diverter valve.
- Inspect for wear. If worn, replace the entire assembly. Otherwise clean with white vinegar.
For a faucet-located diverter :
- You may need to unscrew a plate under the faucet to remove and inspect the diverter value. In some cases, you may have to unscrew the entire faucet to get at the valve. Once you have it dissembled, find the rubber washer and reassemble.
Replacing a Problem Cartridge Valve
This valve is located in the water faucets or the single arm handle that swings from cold to hot and also initiates the water flow. Because there are many styles of faucet handles, we will list the most basic steps.
- Remove the faucet handle to expose the cartridge stem.
- Remove and replace the cartridge with an identical one. These cartridges are not designed to be refurbished.
In most cases, cleaning the shower head and replacing the washer or O-ring should handle a leaking shower head. None of these fixes are costly but they are still a hassle to perform. Ben Franklin Plumbing in the Bay Area offers a yearly maintenance plan that not provides comprehensive inspections that can catch small issues before they become real problems but discounts the needed services. Our professional team knows where to look for trouble and can save you a lot of money while keeping your plumbing system trouble-free.