Q&A / 

Low Shower Head Water Pressure

low pressure shower head

Low water pressure in shower head: See that orange disc with the slits in it? That's blocking water flow.  It has small holes that can readily clog with sediment. When this happens, the water flow can be reduced to a trickle. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

"If the shower head worked fine and the flow became reduced over time, pieces of sediment or debris from the city water system or your well could have clogged the restrictor."

Low Water Pressure in Shower TIPS

  • Debris clogs flow restrictor in the shower head
  • Remove flow restrictor and clean
  • People with own water source don't need flow restrictors
  • Unequal water flow in shower head points to the clogged valve cartridge
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DEAR TIM: I have a low water pressure shower head. The flow of water that comes from my shower is miserable. It's so weak it takes forever to wash my hair.

The water flow out of the tub spout is fine as is the flow at the bathroom sink. I've been told there is a flow restrictor in the shower head that's the culprit.

Can I remove it or modify it so I can take a reasonable shower? Is there another possible problem? Pamela F., Lakeland, FL

Related Links

Low Water Pressure in Faucets - Easy to Fix

Low Water Pressure in My Entire House - Help!

DEAR PAMELA: If there is not a flow restrictor in the shower head itself, there may be one in the body of the shower faucet.

Does a Flow Restrictor Cause a Low Pressure Shower Head?

Yes, a flow restrictor is the most common root cause of low water pressure in a shower.

A small disc in the shower head blocks the full flow of water from the shower faucet. There are strict laws in place that force manufacturers to limit the amount of water that a faucet and/or showerhead can deliver in a given amount of time.

I don't feel these laws should affect everyone.

Here's why. For starters, I'm a college-trained geologist and studied hydrogeology - the study of groundwater.

I live in a rural area and get my water from a well. I'm also on a septic system. For each gallon of water, I extract from my well another equal gallon of water goes back into the soil via my septic system.

But if you live in a city or area that gets its water from reservoirs that may not be filled every wet season, then it might be a good law for you in that it helps to conserve precious natural resources.

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How Can I Save Water Without a Flow Restrictor?

Even if you do live in an area where you don't have abundant fresh water like I do, you can simply take a US Navy shower in that you only have the water on to get wet and rinse off. As you clean your body with soap and shampoo, leave the water OFF to save water.

But most people are LAZY and won't do this simple thing to conserve water.

How Fast Can I Fix My Low Pressure Shower Head?

It's possible that within 30 minutes you can make this shower head perform like a champion.

I'm quite certain that with a little work the shower head will perform as designed and give you the desired strong stream of water you deserve and so desperately desire. 

What Causes Low Water Pressure in a Shower?

Small pieces of solder, copper shavings, wood dust, wood chips, globs of soldering flux, pieces of plastic, etc. can get into the water lines when they're installed by plumbers. This small debris clogs the flow restrictors and spray outlets on the shower head.

If this is a new home and the problem has been a chronic one since the day you moved in, there's a good chance the problem can be traced to a workmanship error.

Small sediment from rural water wells, city water mains, and your own plumbing pipes can clog the small holes in the flow restrictors.

Who Should Flush Lines BEFORE Connecting Shower Heads?

It's the responsibility of the plumber to flush out the water supply lines before any shower heads are installed.

Flushing the water lines can happen at most fixtures just after the water shut-off valves have been installed but before the flexible supply lines have been connected from these valves to the faucets or fixtures.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local plumbers who can restore the flow of water so you get a great shower.

But the shower and tub valves are just a little more challenging. These valves are almost always installed before the interior of the house is finished and often before the water service from the street or pump has been connected to the interior plumbing lines.

How Do You Flush a Water Line?

You just need to have a few empty buckets, a wrench, and ten minutes to flush a water line.

The plumber just needs to have a helper to turn on and off the main water supply valve as he has the shower valve cartridge removed. This allows the water supply pipes to be flushed so the valve cartridge doesn't get clogged.

He then attaches an extended nipple or the actual shower arm to the threaded lug inside the wall where the shower water comes from. He leaves the shower head OFF the end of the shower arm.

When water is then turned on through the valve, any debris in the riser pipe is flushed out. The shower head can be installed once the water runs clear.

low pressure shower head

An expensive decorative rain-head shower head can get clogged to. (C) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

What Flushes the Water Line?

The rapid flow of water carries a mixture of water and debris into the shower head. This large volume of fresh water flushes the water line and puts the debris into the buckets. The extremely small holes in the flow restrictor can become clogged or partially clogged in an instant.

Can City Water Mains Cause Low Water Pressure in a Shower?

Pieces of sediment or debris from the city water system or your well can cause low water pressure in a shower.

This is a very common occurrence, especially if you live in an area with older city water mains. If a city water main is serviced, pieces of sediment are often dislodged in the main water main as the water flows through the giant mains toward your house.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local plumbers who can restore the flow of water so you get a great shower.

How Do You Check For Flow Restrictor Clogs?

Remove the shower head from the angled pipe that projects out from the wall to check the flow restrictor for clogs. Once the shower head is off, turn on the shower faucet to see if you get a respectable amount of water flowing from the one-half inch diameter pipe that connected to the shower head.

If lots of water comes out of the bent shower arm pipe, the problem must be in the shower head.

Where is the Shower Head Flow Restrictor?

The shower head flow restrictor is at the base of the female threads where you connect it to the water line. Look inside the end of the shower head where the water line connected to it. You should be able to see a small plastic disk.

Use a very thin pointed piece of metal to get a purchase under one edge of the disk. Try to pry the disk out of the shower head.

Work slowly and pay attention to which side of the small disk faces out towards the water supply pipe. When you go to reinstall the disk, it must be installed the same way it was at the factory.

How Do you Unclog a Shower Head Flow Restrictor?

Use a small straight pin or another object to clean out the small holes in a showerhead flow restrictor.

Use plenty of fresh water to help rinse away any debris. Place the disk near a bright light so you can ensure each of the holes is perfectly clean.

Be sure you rinse the shower head at the same time to ensure no debris made it past the flow restrictor.

How Do You Dissolve Hard Water Deposits?

Allow the shower head soak in some warm white vinegar for twenty-four hours to remove hard water deposits. The vinegar will often remove or soften the hard water deposits.

After soaking, use a toothbrush to remove any residual deposits and rinse with clear water. Install the small plastic flow restrictor disk and reattach the shower head to the water pipe.

low pressure shower head

White vinegar will dissolve hard water deposits from showeheads and tile! © 2018 Tim Carter Builder

Should I Buy A New Shower Head?

You may have to buy a new shower head. Not all showerheads are designed the same and after removing one from the water supply pipe at the wall you may not see a plastic disk. If this happens and the flow of water from the supply pipe is adequate, just go buy a new shower head.

Shower heads are readily accessible and they are a common replacement part. In fact, you may find one that produces a better stream of water than what you had before.

Remember to use pipe thread compound on the water supply pipe that connects to the shower head. This prevents leaks where the shower head connects to the water supply pipe.

What Does Unequal Pressure at the Shower Head Mean?

Unequal pressure between hot and cold water at the showerhead means the clog is in the valve, not the shower head.

If your shower water delivers great pressure when you have the valve handle turned to all hot or all cold and then you turn it the other way and the volume decreases, this tells you the issue is in the VALVE.

One of the small ports or openings in the valve is clogged with a piece of sediment that's blocking the flow of the hot or cold water.

Clean out the cartridge or install a new one to get full flow again.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local plumbers who can restore the flow of water so you get a great shower.

Companion Articles:  Low Water Pressure in Faucets, Tub Faucets

Low Water Pressure Shower Head - Easy to Fix
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Low Water Pressure Shower Head - Easy to Fix
Low water pressure in a shower is easy to fix. The flow restrictor in the shower head is probably clogged.
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