Causes and Solutions to a Stuck Shower Head: A Brief Summary
- Mineral Buildup: Over time, mineral deposits from hard water can accumulate around the connection point between the shower head and the shower arm, causing it to become stuck.
- Corrosion: Corrosion can develop on the threads of the shower arm or inside the shower head, making it difficult to unscrew the shower head.
- Tightening: If the shower head was initially installed too tightly or with the use of excessive force, it can become difficult to remove.
- Soaking in Vinegar: To dissolve mineral deposits, soak the stuck shower head in white vinegar for a few hours or overnight. This will help loosen the buildup. After soaking, use pliers or a wrench with a cloth to grip the shower head and twist it counterclockwise to remove it.
- Applying Penetrating Oil: Applying a penetrating oil, such as WD-40, to the threads can help loosen corrosion. Allow the oil to penetrate for some time before attempting to unscrew the shower head.
- Heat and Cooling: Use a heat source, like a hair dryer, to gently heat the stuck shower head. This can expand the metal slightly. After heating, immediately apply a cold compress or ice to the shower head. The temperature change can help break the bond. Use a wrench with a cloth for grip to turn it counterclockwise.
- Adjustable Wrench or Pliers: If none of the above methods work, use an adjustable wrench or pliers with a cloth or rubber band wrapped around the shower head to prevent scratches. Turn it counterclockwise with gentle, steady pressure.
- Professional Help: If you’re unable to remove the shower head despite trying various methods, consider seeking the assistance of a professional plumber. They have the tools and expertise to address the issue without damaging the plumbing fixtures.
How to Remove a Stuck Shower Head
While installing a shower head, Teflon tape is applied on the shower arm’s threads to make the connection watertight. While you don’t need to make the connection crazy tight, such is unavoidable especially when repairs are done by inexperienced homeowners.
The 3 main causes why your shower head is stuck is due to overtightening, rust or build up of mineral deposits. In very rare cases the shower head will be glued on the shower arm.
The following are the 4 ways of removing a stuck shower head.
1. Use a Long Pipe Wrench
In most cases, you should be able to just twist and unscrew a shower head from a shower arm. If the connection is however too tight, a pair of pliers will do the trick.
Just grab the shower head connector with the pliers and turn it counterclockwise. If however the shower head is stuck, this will not work. You will need leverage. That will come in the form of a long pipe wrench.
The problem with using a pipe wrench in disconnecting a shower head is that you risk loosening the shower arm from the water supply pipe on the wall as well. When that happens, you will have a leak in your bathroom wall.
To prevent this from happening, you will need 2 pipe wrenches and probably an extra pair of hands. As you try to loosen the shower head connector with one wrench, use the other one to back off on the shower arm to make sure it does not move.
In most of the time this procedure will work perfectly well. To avoid burring the shower head connector and shower arm, I suggest you wrap electrical tape (duct tape or a piece or rag/emery cloth will also work) on the shower head connector and arm.
2. Soak the Shower Head in Vinegar
For a shower head-arm connection that is corroded or with mineral deposits built-in, white vinegar is a fantastic product for dissolving the minerals and rust.
- Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar up to the ½ full level.
- Introduce the shower head inside the vinegar.
- Secure the bad with a rubber band on the shower arm
- Make sure that the shower head-arm connection is fully submerged in the vinegar.
- Wait for about 2 hours or preferably longer if you have the time.
- Use a wrench to disconnect the shower head.
If you have a hand-held shower head just pour the vinegar in a large bowl and insert the shower head inside.
This is the method you should also use when you have low water pressure in your shower. The vinegar cleans the shower head by dissolving the minerals deposits blocking the nozzles.
3. Spray the Shower Head Connection with Penetrating Oil
Another great way to loosen a stuck shower head is by douching it with a penetrating oil or a lubricant like WD-40. As its name suggests, the penetrating oil penetrates through the connection breaking up the rust and mineral buildup making it easy to remove the shower head.
Grab a can of penetrating oil and generously spray around the shower head-arm connection. You will need to do it a couple of times and give it time before attempting to loosen the shower head.
After spraying the oil a couple of times, grab a wrench or a pair of pliers and attempt to unscrew the shower head again.
If the 3 methods outlined above do not work or you suspect your shower head is glued on the shower arm, there is still one more thing you can do. And you may end up liking it a lot.
4. Remove the Shower Arm and Head
The shower arm is the piece of pipe connecting the shower head to the water supply line on the wall. There are different types of shower arms as I outlined in this post but removing them is the same.
There is a pipe inside the wall which delivers water to your shower head and where the shower arm is threaded on. Before attempting to remove the shower arm, make sure that the shower faucet is turned off.
If you initially wanted to replace your old shower head, this method gives you the opportunity to replace both the shower head and the shower arm. Both are really cheap in any way.
Here is how to remove a shower arm:
- Start by freeing the shower arm flange. The flange will either be caulked on the wall or secured on the arm using a screw. Cut through the caulk using a putty knife or remove the screw with a screwdriver.
- Grab the shower arm with a wrench and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it. Once loose grab the shower head and use it as leverage to unscrew it.
- With the shower arm and head out, you can decide to replace both of them or clean the shower head with vinegar and install them back.
I have written a detailed guide on how to install a shower head and a shower arm. Read it here.