How to Clean Shower Head Rubber Nozzles

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As a bathroom fixture that is used so often, you would think that we would take better care of our showerheads, but we don’t. While the water that comes out of them is just above our heads, we rarely look up to see the state that they are in. Neglecting this important part of our cleaning ritual can have effects not only in the short term but also in the long term as well.

How to Clean Shower Head Rubber Nozzles

The primary part of just about every shower head is the collection of rubber nozzles that the water streams through. These small, unobtrusive openings are very easily clogged with mineral deposits and may collect bacteria. Because of this, it is important to know how to clean shower head rubber nozzles.

There are a few different ways to clean the nozzles on your shower head, and we will list them in order from easiest to the most difficult. Sometimes the easiest way to clean is the most effective for your situation, so follow them in order.

1. Rub by Hand

When the buildup is not too severe, the best option is to rub the nozzles by hand. Rubber will hold up to a pretty decent amount hard rubbing with just your fingers, so feel free to use a little elbow grease. This may dislodge the rubber nozzles from their mounting in the shower head, so do not get too crazy.

After rubbing, be sure to check visually for existing buildup. Even if the water is flowing as you want it to after this step, if you still see buildup, it will attract more deposits and quickly get you back to the same point you were already at. In this case, move on to the next step.

2. Rub With a Toothbrush

Sometimes rubbing the nozzles with your fingers does not break up the deposits enough to break them all free. In these cases, try upgrading to a toothbrush, or any other soft-bristled brush. Avoid brushes with stiff bristles that may scratch or tear the rubber.

3. Bag of Vinegar Tied Around the Shower Head

Vinegar is both an excellent cleaning product as well as a natural chemical that can break down mineral deposits. If you have ever used vinegar to clean a pot or kettle that you’ve used to boil water in, then you know how effective it can be.

Here are the steps to clean your shower head rubber nozzles with vinegar in a bag:

  • Place a rubber band around the pipe heading to the shower head
  • Take a plastic bag and fill it about halfway with white vinegar
  • Place the plastic bag so the shower head is sitting in the vinegar
  • Secure the bag with the rubber band
  • Leave to soak for a few hours

4. Remove Showerhead and Soak In Vinegar

Sometimes it is not feasible to hang a heavy plastic bag over your shower head, either because of the size of the showerhead or other issues. In these cases, consider removing the shower head and soaking it with a vinegar solution separately.

In the case of removable showerheads, this may be easy if your shower hose reaches to the bottom of the tub. In this case, do not worry about removing the head from the wall. Otherwise:

  • Remove the shower head
  • Prepare a vinegar solution in a bucket (or other container large enough) with approximately 1 cup of vinegar per 1 gallon of warm water
  • Let it soak for at least 4 hours, but you can leave it overnight
  • Brush with a soft bristled brush to remove clingy sediment
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water before using
How to clean shower head rubber nozzles

5. Consider Replacing Your Shower Head

Even after all these methods, sometimes the rubber nozzles of a shower head, or even the entire head itself, is too far gone to fix with household methods. Excessive mineral deposits can often be fixed, but there are other problems that can appear where you should consider a replacement.

  • Torn or cracked rubber nozzles
  • Excessive buildup that cannot be removed by normal methods
  • Rust
  • Organic material or mold that reappears quickly after cleaning
  • Cracks and other physical problems with the showerhead

How Rubber Shower Head Nozzles Get Dirty

With a consistent flow of water through them, it is easy to think that shower heads would not get dirty.

However, the water that stays on the nozzles after use does not always dry immediately, and can create hospitable situations for buildup of different organic material.

The most common buildup in a showerhead is from minerals in the water supply adding up over a period of time.

The typical mineral deposits found are calcium or lime deposits in areas with hard water, and these will often be seen as white crust around the nozzles that let water out of the head.

This mineral buildup is often ignored, but after a while, it will start to affect the flow of water.

Organic material from the water supply, especially from well water sources, can also collect in the areas in and around rubber nozzles.

Some of this may end up creating slimy buildup, which may contain potentially dangerous pathogens such as Mycobacterium avium.

This particular pathogen can lead to pulmonary disease in immunocompromised individuals. 

Why You Should Clean Shower Head Rubber Nozzles

The most obvious reason to clean your shower head is because it is not performing as well as it did when it was new. In many instances, this will be because of mineral buildup blocking the water flow through the nozzles.

This can manifest itself through water being directed in different directions, the pressure increasing without an increase in actual water flow, or even complete blockage of individual nozzles.

When it comes to health reasons, these are not as visible, but may add up over time. Once an organic strain like mold has established itself in your shower head, it creates a situation where you may be spraying yourself with it daily.

It is highly recommended that you clean your shower head and rubber nozzles on a regular basis to avoid this situation.

Shower head with rubber nozzles

What To Avoid When Cleaning Shower Head Rubber Nozzles

Rubber in itself can be a delicate material when not treated with care. While it can stand up to bending and impact in many cases, it is also delicate in terms of chemicals it can interact with and abuse from sharp objects.

1. Bleach

Bleach is a chemical used for cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis in bathrooms, but it should not be viewed as the tool to solve all cleaning situations.

Depending on the type of rubber used in your shower head nozzles, it may stiffen them and make them crack after prolonged use.

2. Harsh Chemical Cleaners

Unless it specifically states that it can be used on rubber surfaces, avoid strong chemical products such as tile cleaner and other bathroom cleaners that are advertised as effective against lime and calcium buildup.

These products often have ingredients that can break down your rubber nozzles.

3. Brushes With Stiff Bristles

Soft nylon bristles, whether from a toothbrush or other type of brush, is the best choice for cleaning in this instance.

The harshest brushes made of metal fibers, like brass or steel, will scratch and potentially tear the nozzles that you are trying to preserve.


Whether it is because of the reduced function of your shower, visible mold, or a regular cleaning regimen, the rubber nozzles of your shower head are a part of your bathroom that should not be ignored. It is a very easy procedure, and can even be simplified by spraying your shower head on a regular basis with a vinegar solution.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.