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How to Remove Shower Head Without a Wrench

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There’s an old saying, “use the right tool for the job,” but what about those situations where you don’t have any tools? For whatever reason, many of us can find ourselves in this situation, especially if we are visiting friends or family who don’t own tools and need to complete basic household tasks. This is why knowing things like how to remove a shower head without a wrench can come in very handy.

Since the wrench is a basic tool that is based on the physics of pressure and rotation, there are other ways of performing the same action with normal household objects. If you have a wrench handy, it is the easiest tool to use when removing a shower head, so do not think that these are better methods. They are only alternatives when a wrench is not available.

Different Types of Shower Heads

Before figuring out how to perform this task without the proper tool, it is important to know which type of shower head you are trying to remove. In the majority of cases the pipe that provides water to the shower head nozzle comes out of the shower wall, so most methods of removing the shower head follow the same procedure.

Stainless steel shower head about to be removed

Fixed Shower Heads

These are the normal shower heads you will see in the majority of homes and apartments. There is a short pipe that comes out of the shower wall with a head attached to it that creates the spray pattern of the water. Different types of fixed shower heads include low flow heads and rain shower heads (some of which can be mounted from the ceiling). These can also have a hinge or two in the middle for adjustability, but are much less versatile than a hand-held shower head.

Handheld Shower Heads

Instead of a head mounted in a fixed position in the wall or ceiling, hand-held shower heads have a flexible hose that reaches from the water pipe to a handle. At the end of the handle is the nozzle that sprays water. This nozzle is often adjustable, allowing for a higher water stream volume, a compressed and powerful spray, or even massage options.

Preparing to Remove a Shower Head Without a Wrench

We are working without standard tools here, so brute force is not going to be the first step. Preparation is key when working without a wrench in order to get the shower head to a point where it is easier to remove. If you have a wrench, these are still recommended preparations to make removal easier.

Shut Off the Water Source

The last thing you want when dealing with any type of plumbing is for water to come gushing out while you are looking into an open pipe staring you right in the face. Luckily with most shower heads, simply leaving the bathtub water turned off will cut off the water supply from the shower head. 

To be safe, make sure the diverter (the knob or lever that switches between tub and shower) is set to only allow water through the tub faucet.

Prepare the Shower Head and Pipe Threads

Using a water-repellent oil or other option, loosen up the threads mating the pipe with the shower head or head attachment assembly. There are different options making the threads easier to deal with. Before applying any of these, we recommend that you cover up any exposed area that is below the shower head to make cleanup easier.

For each option, let it sit for at least 15 minutes to penetrate and break up any built-up deposits.

Water falling out of a shower head
  • Penetrating oil
  • Cutting oil
  • Spray lubricant like WD-40 or PB B’laster
  • Vinegar
  • Lime remover if there is rust or extreme lime buildup

Methods to Remove a Shower Head Without a Wrench

There are a few options of “tools” you can use to remove a shower head other than a wrench. Read the instructions for each one of them below and determine for yourself which would work the best, based on what you have available and which seems the easiest.

Removing a Shower Head With a Belt

A normal belt that you wear around your waist can be turned into a fairly decent recreation of the classic strap wrench. You will be able to create a good amount of tension, but there is definitely less leverage available.

  1. Put the end of the belt through the buckle and attach it. This will create the basis for the direction you want the belt to face.
  2. Loop the belt around the base of the shower head where it meets the pipe, with the end of the belt pointing in the opposite direction of the way you want to twist the shower head connector. Normally, this would mean that the end of the belt is pointing in the clockwise direction.
  3. Disengage the belt from the buckle while tightening the loop around the pipe connector.
  4. Pull the end of the belt to make strong contact with the shower head.
  5. If needed, wrap the belt around your wrist for additional grip.
  6. Pull the belt counter-clockwise with strong, but even, force that will unscrew the threads.

Removing a Shower Head With Duck Tape

Duck tape is one of the tools you should always have available around the house. In addition to keeping materials together, it can also be used as a DIY wrench.

  1. Tear off a piece of tape around 12” long, doing your best not to let it stick to itself.
  2. Rip that piece down the middle to create two strips.
  3. Layer the two pieces by sticking one piece of tape to the non-sticky side of the other.
  4. Wrap the sticky side around the shower head in a counter-clockwise rotation until there is only about 6” left of tape. If you need a longer tail to grip, either wrap it less, or cut a longer piece of tape.
  5. Pull the duck tape in a counter-clockwise direction to remove the shower head.
Shower head installed in a bathroom

Removing a Shower Head With Twine

Using twine is our least recommended method to remove a shower head. Twine can cut into your hands, and unless it is very thick it can break easily while you are pulling on it. That being said, it is an option if nothing else is available.

  1. Similar to the duck tape as a wrench method, wrap twine around the showerhead base where it connects to the pipe counter-clockwise anywhere from 5-15 times. Overlap the first few wraps to keep the twine from slipping out.
  2. If using thinner twine, consider folding the twine in half to create a double-reinforced strand.
  3. Tie off the free end of twine in a loop and insert a sturdy stick, bar, or anything that will give you a good grip and will not break. If there is enough room you could even use a wooden broom handle (if the shower head is stuck, it may fold an aluminum handle).
  4. Pull the twine counter-clockwise.

After Removing Your Shower Head

Depending on the water hardness in your area and the age of your shower head, you will probably need to clean the threads of the water pipe, and the head if you are planning on re-attaching it. Soaking in vinegar for 15-30 minutes is an excellent way to remove buildup.

After the vinegar has had a chance to break up calcium and other deposits, you will need to brush them out. A nylon brush may be enough, but if a stronger hand is needed, look to a brass brush or steel wool.

When applying a new head, be sure to use plumber’s tape to help with avoiding leaks. When screwing the shower head back on, we recommend to only hand-tighten. If you have to use tools to get past leaks coming from the threads, check the threads for wear and make sure your plumber’s tape application is solid.

Conclusion

Removing a shower head is not a difficult process, but when you don’t have the right tools on hand it is easy to admit defeat. Knowing how to perform this without a wrench is not necessarily an important skill to have, but it can save you from frustration if you find yourself in that situation.