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Removing and Installing a New Shower Head

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Whether you are an around-the-house DIY pro or if you are looking for your first real project to start, taking on the task of replacing your shower head could be a great first start for you.

​Getting Started

In a perfect world, installing your new shower head should be quick, simple, and painless. Nowadays, the best showerheads do not need a plumber to be installed. And, without running into problems, installation can only take a few minutes. 

With that being said, you need to make sure that you install it correctly, Done wrong, it could cause a lot more time and effort. It could also damage your new shower head. Worse, you could cause a leak that could cause other problems.

We’ve put together a guide to installing your showerhead, including common pitfalls and problems, and how to overcome them.

Do I Need a Plumber?

​​Unless you are having bad leaks, are unable to reach the shower head carefully on your own, or if it is a complimentary service, you don’t need to hire a plumber to learn how to install a shower head with a handheld.

This guide will take you through the complete removal and reinstall step by step. Whether it is a super easy swap out, or if you are having trouble with rust build up, or can’t remove the shower head, we will cover it so you can tackle this project like a pro.

As a renter, you may need to check with your landlord before you begin changing out the shower head. Most apartments will have it listed in the rental agreement what you are able to change while living there.

​Tools for Installation

​​​You will need a few things to get you started. Most shower heads require the following (check the label to verify):

  • ​New Shower Head
  • ​Adjustable Wrench or Pliers
  • ​Plumber’s Tape (Teflon tape)

​If a few bumps in this DIY road occur you may need a few extra things to fix them. We will wait to cover that as we get to the trouble with removal section.

A lady with red painted toe nails bathes in a half filled bath tub with a white shower head underwater

Wrap Your Pliers

​​While you can use a standard set of pliers, you will want to take the extra step of wrapping the teeth of your pliers with plumber’s tape. You can also wrap a cloth around the nuts or bolts before you let the sharp teeth of the pliers bite down.

This will keep the teeth of the pliers from biting into the metal of your shower head and scratching it. Even if you are removing the old shower head that you plan to toss, wrap your pliers so you don’t create metal shavings.

​Use Plumber’s Tape

​​​Plumber’s or Teflon tape is important because it provides an extra barrier between the threads of the pipe where the shower head connects. Water can push through tiny cracks to leak. This tape stops up any tiny crevices or gaps to keep water in the pipes.

When you are learning how to use plumber’s tape on a shower head, it is important to know you can’t really go wrong. Just make sure all the previous tape is off and you have removed any rust or buildup that could have been on the connector.

Next you will want to cut about an eight-inch long segment from the tape roll and begin to wrap it clockwise around the connector’s thread. Wrapping it clockwise ensures you will be screwing the shower head on and going with the wrapped direction of the tape instead of against it.

​Getting Started on Installation

​​​​There are a few things you need to do before you start to unscrew the shower head from its base. So that you don’t end up with a big mess, you should follow these steps before you ​work on this DIY project.

​1. Turn the Water Off

​​​There are many different opinions on whether you should turn the water off when you are learning how to replace a shower head pipe. Unless you are familiar with working on plumbing, it is best to go ahead and turn off the water while you are working.

It is the safer option. Also, it will save you the hassle of having to clean up if water starts spraying from an open pipe.

If you live in your own home, it is easier to know where your water shut off valve is. For DIYers who live in an apartment or condo, it can get a little tricky. Most apartments should have an individual water shut off valve in the bathroom, either under the sink or behind the toilet.

If you cannot find one, you may not be able to turn off the water in your own unit. Some properties only have one water shut off valve for multiple units. If you cannot find one, ask your property manager where the water shut off is located.

In the end, you don’t have to shut off the water to replace your shower head. It is just a preferred step which can ensure you stay dry if a leak happens.

Close up photo of shiny metal shower head in a bathroom

2. ​Inspect Your Shower Head

​​​Take a moment to save yourself the hassle of dealing with a stuck shower head. Look for any clues which could tell you if there is rust or a calcium buildup around the connection that could make your simple task a little more strenuous.

If you see an orange or copper colored ring around the connector, it could be rust. A mineral buildup will look like a white ring around the area where the shower head is connected to the pipe. If there is, make sure you clean the pipe with a good cleanser to avoid further damage.

If you do not see any signs of a buildup around your shower head connector, it doesn’t mean it is free and clear. There can still be buildup underneath.

​3. ​Prepare Your Workspace

​​​This final setting-up step is crucial when you are learning how to replace a shower head pipe. You may have small pieces or even screws you are loosening.

You will want to lay down a small towel or folded plastic cloth. This will protect your shower/tub from any falling debris or any chemicals you may have to spray on the shower head.

It will also keep any small pieces and parts from going down the drain if you drop them. If you don’t have or want to lay down a protective barrier, at least close the drain or push a washcloth down it to make sure nothing goes down it.

With the water turned off, there is no need to worry about any flooding or water which needs to be drained. This​ excess moisture in the bathroom is the reason why hardwood floors can’t be used within the bathroom.

​How to Remove a Shower Head

​​​Now that you are all set up and ready, it’s time to get hands on and start the removal process. It can be quick and easy, or you may hit a snag when you are figuring out how to loosen a shower head.

​Use a Wrench to Start

​​​When you are ready to begin to take off the original shower head, take a wrench and start to loosen it. Once the shower head is loose, you will want to finish unscrewing it by hand.

This ensures you do not use too much force when it is not needed. It will also keep the original connector from being stripped. It may get a little hard to turn as you are loosening due to the plumber’s tape. Some possible rust or corrosion can happen over long periods. You can opt to use the wrench as needed.

You can also use pliers if you are more comfortable with them instead of a wrench. Using these tools ensures you are getting a good grip on the metal as well as utilizing the leverage to help unscrew. You would probably not be able to do this with your hand alone.

Once you have the shower head off, you can skip on down to the cleaning and refitting section. Make sure you use good quality shower cleaners for this part.

Man reaching out to his bathroom shower head

What to Do if the Shower Head is Stuck

​​If you are still struggling with a wrench trying to get the shower head off, you may need a few extra steps to complete this first phase of the task. It’s very normal for shower heads to become stuck and difficult to remove.

​Frequent contact with water create the perfect opportunity for rust to develop in your shower, and this brings with it some challenges for removal. 

This is because over long periods of time rust, calcium, and other hard minerals can build up around the connectors and form a hardened seal. It is a frustrating thing to deal with, but can easily be remedied with natural cleaners.


​​​Vinegar is one of the most versatile cleaning products that is safe around kids and animals while being tough enough to dissolve rust. The acidity in white vinegar is strong. This can help with cleaning your stuck-on shower head to help with removal or can be used for a deep clean.

If your shower head is stuck on, you can soak it overnight in a vinegar bath. This will help eat away some of the rust and corrosion, so you can remove it. For hanging shower heads, you can easily let them lay in a deep bowl or bucket for soaking.

If your shower head is attached to the wall or ceiling, you will want to fill a plastic bag with vinegar and fit it over your shower head. Then, you will want to use an elastic hair tie to wrap around the bag to tighten it against the pipe.

Let the stuck shower head sit as long as it can, or overnight, to give the vinegar enough time to work its deep cleaning magic.

​Other Products

You can also use a Calcium Rust Lime (CLR) product on your shower head if you prefer chemicals. It will work just as good as the vinegar.


​​​If you are still having trouble removing your shower head, you can try to spray a lubricant on the connectors, such as WD40, to help it. Spray and then try wiggling the connector back and forth to see if it has any give. This will help move the lubricant around and allow it to slowly begin to unscrew.

​Clean the Threads

​​Once you have loosened and removed the shower head, you will want to clean the pipe that it was connected to by using a good bathroom cleaner. Remove any tape or residue that is left over on the connector. If there is any rust or buildup around the connector thread, you will want to clear it.

Use an abrasive tool like a wire brush or a steel wool sponge to get into the grooves of the thread. Make sure you are removing rust if there is any from the threads, so the new shower head does not start off having rust build up around it.

Once the original shower head pipe is cleaned, you are ready for the next process. This is installing your new shower head.

​Install a New Shower Head

​​​Now that the old shower head is off and the ​​new area is cleaned up, you can begin the steps to install a shower head with a handheld. If your new shower head does not have a handheld, you can still follow these steps.

Depending on the type of shower head you are installing, height will play an important part. Knowing how high to install a shower head will vary between the two types detailed below.

​Types of Shower Heads

​​​There are a few different types of shower heads you can choose from as you are shopping. Different shower heads offer different options such as a low water flow, multiple settings, and an additional handheld part. You should find out which shower head could be the best fit for your home.

Close up photo of a rainfall shower head in a black tile bathroom

Rainfall Shower Head

​​​​Class up your shower by learning how to install a rain shower head. Instead of angling out from the wall, rainfall shower heads are made to point straight down over the shower. You can stand underneath it and be covered by a cascade of water.

While this luxurious shower head is a great option to turn your bath time routine into a spa like experience, you need to make sure you have a large enough area. The first step of installing a rain shower head is to measure and make sure your bathtub/shower is large enough for it.

This is because a rain shower head has a larger overall radius than normal shower heads or handhelds. It is also hung differently. A rain shower head needs to fit out from the wall and then point down at a 90-degree angle.

This means you not only need to have a large circumference under the shower head, but you will also need to have a high enough shower or bathtub. While you may be able to install a rainfall shower head in your bathtub, it is recommended this larger shower head type be installed in a large standing shower​.

How to Install a Rainfall Shower Head

​​​For a standard rainfall shower head, you will want to make sure you have all the parts in the box. This is important for either replacing your current rainfall shower head or converting a normal shower head connector to support a rainfall shower head.

You also will want to measure to make sure your shower head will be high enough. Knowing how high a rain shower head should be installed is as simple as knowing how tall the people using it are. There is no need to hang it eight feet high if the people in your home are less than six feet tall.

Unless you desire the rainfall shower head to be high up above you, having it about five inches higher than the tallest person in the home is sufficient.​​make sure your shower head will be high enough

  1. Turn off the water.
  2. ​Take the current shower head off.
  3. ​Clean up the connector and threads.
  4. ​Use some plumber’s tape to wrap around the main pipe’s threads.
  5. ​Use (wrapped/protected with a cloth or tape) pliers to tighten the new shower head.
  6. ​Turn the water back on.
  7. Test for any leaks.

If you need to know how to install a rain shower with a handheld, you will follow the same steps and connect the handheld per the manufacturer’s instructions. You don’t need to wrap the handheld connector in plumber’s tape unless it has leaks when you are testing.

Girl in a blue bikinit aking a shower in a blue bathroom with a ceiling mounted shower head

How to Install a Ceiling Mounted Rain Shower Head

​​​A ceiling mounted rain shower head is one that does not come from the wall like normal shower heads do. Instead, this type of shower head comes directly from the ceiling above the shower.

People who chose rain showers often opt for a ceiling mounted style simply because it is not limited to being close to a wall. When it hangs from the ceiling you can center it over the shower versus having it only stick out five inches from the wall.

If want to change your wall mounted shower head into a ceiling mounted shower head, it would be best to consult a plumber. You will need to cut into the wall and extend the piping.

Knowing how to install a rain shower head in the ceiling is a more advanced DIY project. This shouldn’t be attempted by someone not familiar with plumbing and replacing the wall/ceiling area that needs to be cut out.

​Standard Shower Head

​​​Installing a standard shower head is a quick and easy replacement, especially if you don’t need to change out any of the hardware connected to it. Once the original shower head is off and the connector is cleaned from any debris, rust, or mineral build up, you can start the installation process.

For a wall mounted shower head, you don’t really need to follow a specific height rule since these shower heads are able to be tilted up or down to better cater to various heights. However, if you are a very tall person, you may struggle with the original shower arm height.

You can raise the shower arm height. When you begin to cut into the walls and change out pipes it is best to rely on a professional, unless you know a good amount about plumbing and how to replace pipes. You also will need to know how to cover and seal the walls after you are done.

If the shower head has an attached arm, you will want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for attaching it to the main shower head unit. This is because steps for installing a handheld shower wand varies on different models.

  1. Wrap the connector with plumber’s tape.
  2. Screw the new shower head on clockwise.
  3. Tighten the shower head on with either wrapped pliers or a wrench.
  4. Turn the water back on and test for any leaks.

If you do want to know how to change a shower head pipe, these quick and easy steps will help you remove an unsightly pipe.

  1. ​Turn off the water.
  2. Use a wrench or pliers to turn the shower arm (without an attached shower head) counterclockwise to unscrew it.
  3. ​Wrap the new shower arm’s threads with plumber’s tape.
  4. Insert the new shower arm into the wall and screw it into the pipe.
  5. Tighten the new shower head pipe with a wrench or pliers.
  6. Attach the shower head per instructions.
  7. ​Turn the water back on and test it for any leaks.

Replacing a shower head pipe is very easy and it a great way to brighten up your shower since these pipes can collect rust and discolor after a few years.

Classy shower faucet handles in white and silver

Update Your Shower Faucet

​​​Not all shower heads offer the option of a new faucet. You may want to update your current one or just replace it with a newer model. If you are getting the same type of faucet such as one nozzle or a two-nozzle system, you can easily replace it without much extra effort.

Learning how to remove a shower handle without screws can seem like a tricky task. But, it is just as easy as dealing with shower handles that have visible screws. Most of these shower handles just need you to use a flat screw driver to pop off the cover to show hidden screws inside.

Also, you will need to remember to use caulk on the inner ring and around the outside to seal the faucet area. Once you have caulked the area, you should refrain from using the shower or getting any water around it for 24 hours to allow the caulk to dry properly, ​to save yourself the money from spending on repairs.

​Remove the Water Restrictor

Turn the water off. Use a paperclip with one end bent out to pry up the black O-ring.​​​While a built-in water restrictor is a great way to save water, it can also be a nuisance if you have low water flow. You can learn how to remove a flow regulator from the shower head if you want to boost your trickling shower.

  1. ​Turn the water off.
  2. ​Remove the shower head.
  3. ​Inspect the head and remove any screens.
  4. ​Use a paperclip with one end bent out to pry up the black O-ring.
  5. Remove the flow regulator (normally a plastic disc).
  6. ​Replace the parts you pulled out.
  7. Wrap the connector thread in plumber’s tape and replace the shower head.
  8. ​Turn the water back on and check for leaks.

Once you know how to remove a water regulator from the shower head, you can begin to enjoy a full-flow shower. Be prepared for a larger water bill if you do take the water regulator out, so it’s ​good to keep that in mind when you plan on saving money from these appliances.

​What Happens if You Encounter Leaks

​​​You removed the old shower head, cleaned off any rust or mineral deposits, taped the threads, and installed a new shower head. Once you turn on the water for a test you are frustrated to find leaks.

​For starters, keep a handy mop nearby for any excess water. That way, if and when you do find a leak, you can clean it up quickly. 

Leaks will happen. It can be a number of things from not enough tape to the simple possibility you didn’t tighten the shower head and pipe down enough. The best way to take care of a leak is to turn the water back off and take off the shower head.

Check to make sure there is enough tape around the threads. Feel free to peel it off and add a strip that is a little longer, so it wraps around a little more. You will also want to look and make sure the shower head has a black rubber washer inside of it. These little black rings are crucial to stopping leaks.

Water coming out of a shower head

Once you have re-taped and checked everything, go ahead and replace the shower head. Make sure you tighten it down with a wrench or pliers. You can use both if you need to hold and turn to get that final tighten complete.

Turn the water back on and check to see if the shower head is still leaking. If the leaking is reduced, you are going in the right direction. You may need to take it off and add a little more tape or make sure the rubber ring fits correctly and isn’t getting warped as you are tightening the shower head down.

If the leak shows no change, you may want to consult a DIY specialist at your local hardware store or contact a plumber to come check it out. It could be an easy fix. There is also the chance you could be dealing with something that is a little more complex and requires a professional hand.


​Learning how to install a shower head can seem like a difficult task. If you follow the steps laid out for you, then you can handle swapping it out.