Just because your shower makes you clean doesn't mean it can't get dirty. Showerheads, residing as they do in a warm, wet area (your shower) can be home to a common strain of bacteria known as Mycobacterium, as well as plenty of garden variety gunk.
"Bacteria grow and persist in biofilms coating the inside of showerheads and shower hoses despite the seemingly inhospitable conditions found in these habitats," University of Colorado researcher Dr. Matthew Gebert wrote in a report published in 2018.
The bacteria are largely harmless, but they align eerily closely with a new public health threat: "The regions in the United States where NTM lung infections are most common were the same regions where pathogenic mycobacteria were most prevalent in showerheads, highlighting the important role of showerheads in the transmission of NTM infections," he explains.
But instead of spending hours Googling whether or not you live in one of these areas, spend 10 minutes cleaning your showerhead. It takes very little work, especially if yours just screws off, but it's important to do it often. The bacteria can regrow — and fast. Routine cleaning is your best defense, because you can't exactly clean your entire plumbing system.
How to Clean a Showerhead
What You'll Need
- Your showerhead
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- A bucket
- First, unscrew your showerhead from its mount. (If it doesn't come off, or if it's attached to a rope or chain, you're going to need to get creative. Try filling a gallon-sized plastic bag with the solution below and draping it around the head. Alternatively, employ a spray bottle and some elbow grease.)
- Once removed, set the showerhead at the bottom of your bucket.
- Make your solution: Sprinkle in at least three tablespoons but no more than half a cup of baking soda. Next, slowly pour in enough vinegar to fully cover the showerhead. Stop to let the bubbles dissipate. You also may need to weigh down the showerhead if it floats. Lastly, pour in one cup of water in order to dilute the mix. (It doesn't need to be that strong.)
- Let the showerhead sit for at least an hour, or overnight.
- Rinse the showerhead under room temperature water. Use a towel to scrub any leftover soap scum or mineral residue. It should easily wipe off.
- Screw the showerhead back onto its mount. Let the water run for at least a minute, ideally three (but don't be wasteful), before jumping in.
- Repeat this process once a month.