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How to Remove a Shower Head that is Stuck

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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.

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.

​How to Remove a Shower Head

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

​Tools Needed

​​​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.

Removing a chrome shower head using a wrench

Preparation

With this short list of tools gathered, here are a few steps you need to follow to prepare your shower for its new head.

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.

​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.

A woman unscrews a shower head from the wall pipe

Visually 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.

​​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.

Taking Your Old Shower Head Off

​​​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.

Start With a Wrench

​​​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

​​​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.

Calcium Rust Lime

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.

WD-40

​​​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.

Removing an old rusty stuck shower head with a wrench

How to Remove a Glued Shower Head

Unfortunately, you might run into a situation where the previous owner or tenant has glued the shower head onto the pipe. Getting the shower head off in this circumstance can be hard, but here is the process to take care of it.

  1. You need a solution that will help dissolve the glue. Mix lemon juice and vinegar with hot water. You don’t need much of either the lemon juice or vinegar.
  2. Pour the mixture into a plastic bag and tie the bag around the shower head and pipe.
  3. Use rubber bands, duct tape, and plumbing tape to seal the bag and prevent it from leaking.
  4. Allow the shower head to soak for 30 minutes, and then remove the bag and try to remove the shower head.
  5. Rinse and repeat this method multiple times until you’re able to remove the head.

This process can sometimes take several attempts, so be patient. Don’t worry – it will come off eventually!

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.

Conclusion

If you’re lucky, removing your shower head will be as simple as unscrewing it from the pipe. Chances are, though, that your specific head isn’t quite that easy, which is why you’re reading this article. Follow these steps to remove stuck shower heads, and you should be well on your way to installing a new one.