Is Your Shower Squealing/Whistling? Stop it Now!

Why Does My Shower Make a High-Pitched Noise?

The only noise that your shower is supposed to make is that of water pushing out through the nozzles. When a shower is squealing or you can hear the shower faucet make a squeak when turned on, you have a clog somewhere blocking the free flow of water.

If your shower is making a squealing or whistling sound when you turn it on, it is a sign of a clogged shower head, faucet valve/cartridge or shower diverter valve. Minerals deposits and other debris create a restriction, and hence the noise as water forces its way through it.

shower-head

If you live in area with hard water, minerals deposits could easily embed on your shower valve or even partially block the openings in the shower head or shower diverter. When that happens, water which will be under pressure will be forced to flow through a smaller than usual opening and hence the squealing noise.

To fix a shower that is making a squealing sound, you will need to replace the shower head, shower valve/cartridge or shower diverter. In some cases, cleaning these parts will be enough to fix the problem but a replacement is the better and long term solution.

In a few cases, high water pressure could be the reason your shower head is making a screaming noise. To fix this problem you will only need to adjust the water pressure. Check out how to measure your water pressure and how to adjust it in this post.

If you have a new shower head that is making whistling/squealing noises, your water pressure could be too high, or minerals deposits and/or pipe corrosions are clogging up the nozzles. Cleaning the shower head or adjusting the water pressure will most likely fix the issue.

How to Stop a Squealing/Squeaking Shower

As we have already established, a squealing shower can be caused by a couple of faulty parts. I have found out that the best way to troubleshoot and fix the problem is by checking one thing at a time, starting off with the easiest one.

Here is how to fix a squealing shower:

1. Inspect the Shower Head

The shower head is threaded on the shower arm and the connection could be only hand tight but in some cases it will quite tight.

  • Grab the shower head with your hand and turn it counterclockwise.
  • If the shower won’t turn, you will need a wrench to remove it. Put the wrench on the shower head connector and use it to it. Be careful not turn the shower head and the shower arm. Turning the shower arm could loosen it where it is connected to the water supply pipe on the wall. That would cause a water leak inside the wall. More information on how to remove a stuck shower head here.
  • Once the shower head is out, turn on the water so that it flows out of the shower arm without the shower head. Check if the noise stops.

If the squealing noises stop after removing the shower head, the old shower head is without a doubt the problem. You can either clean it with vinegar as should in this post, or replace it with a new one. I prefer a replacement.

  • Clean the threads on the shower arm with a wire brush or old toothbrush to remove the old Teflon from it.
  • Apply about 6 wraps of Teflon on the threads (in a clockwise direction) in order to make a water tight seal.
  • Thread-in the shower head and tighten it slightly with the wrench. You only to tighten it just enough to make sure there are no leaks. Plastic shower heads will not need a wrench to tighten.
  • Turn on the water to the shower.
  • Check if the high-pitched noise is completely gone.

2. Check the Shower Diverter Valve

If you use a shower-bathtub combination, there will be a small knob at the top of the bathtub spout. This will however not be the case if you have a 3-handle shower valve in which case the middle handle operates the shower diverter valve.

The little knob at the top of the tub spout is the shower diverter. By pulling it up water is diverted from the tub to the shower head and vice versa.

The shower diverter operates like a gate inside the spout and that is why it able to divert water to the shower head. With time, mineral deposits and especially calcium will be deposited inside the spout, restricting the flow of water and hence the squeaking noise when water is turned on.

With this kind of a problem, my advice is to replace the tub spout. Tub spouts are quite cheap and easy to replace and you will not need to bring in a plumber. You may however decide to clean the diverter as shown in this video.

What you need to know is that there are 2 types of tub spouts. The first type is the slip-on tub spouts which are simply slipped on the water pipe and secured using a screw.

If you do not have a slip-on tub spout you will have a threaded spout. As its name implies, this spout is simply threaded on the water pipe.

To check out what type of spout you have, run you finger on the underside of the spout. If you feel a small hole, that is the screw opening and you therefore have a slip-on spout. Otherwise you have a threaded spout.

Note: Before buying a replacement tub spout, just remove the old spout and turn on the water. Check if the squealing noise stops without the spout. If that is the case, you have found your problem. Proceed to buy a new spout.

How to Replace a Slip-on Tub Spout

  • Plug off the tub drain so as not to lose anything down the drain.
  • Use an Allen wrench to remove the screw from underneath the spout.
  • Check if the spout is caulked on the wall. If it is, cut through the caulk with a knife.
  • Grab the spout and slide it out of the water pipe. You may need to wiggle it a little as you pull it out.

Note: It is important to remove the screw out completely to prevent it from burring the water pipe as you pull the spout out.

  • Clean the water pipe and push in the new spout all the way in until it is touching the wall.
  • Put in the Allen screw and tighten it in place.
  • Turn on the water and check if the squealing stops.

How to Replace a Threaded Spout

  • Same as with the slip-on spout, plug off the tub drain and cut through the caulk if there is any.
  • Grab the spout with a wrench and turn it counterclockwise to remove it.
  • Clean the water supply pipe’s threads with a wire brush or old toothbrush.
  • Apply Teflon tape on the threads.
  • Connect the spout, starting off slowly to prevent cross threading.
  • When the spout is hand tight, wrap electrical/duct tape on it or even a piece of cloth and grab it with a wrench to tighten it a little more. This will prevent peeling off the finish from the new spout.
  • Turn on the water and check if the squeaking noise has stopped.

3. Replace the Shower Valve/Cartridge

Cold and hot water flowing to your shower converges at the shower valve where they are mixed to achieve the correct temperature and pressure. Water enters the valve through small holes on both sides.

Unlike the water pipes which have larger diameters, shower valves openings are relatively smaller and if minerals and other types of debris clog them water will struggle to pass through and hence the squealing noises.

A clogged shower valve/cartridge is better off replaced. Although you can remove and clean the old one, if the valve has been in place for a long term I usually like to replace and forget about it.

What is even better news for you is that you do not need to buy a new shower cartridge. You will only need to identify the brand and contact their customer care for a free replacement kit which will be shipped to your address in a few days.

The challenge with replacing a shower valve/cartridge is that you will first need to turn off the water to the house. Once that is done, remove the faucet’s handle and pull out the cartridge.

Push in the new cartridge and reinstall the handle. Turn on the water and check if the squealing shower noise is completely gone.

I am going to leave this great video here to help you through all the steps you need to take.

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