How to increase shower-head water pressure

Weak water pressure in your shower can make it difficult to rinse shampoo out of your hair and get soap residue off your skin. Many apartment complexes install low-flow shower heads, which decrease water flow and lower the water bill but often also decrease the water pressure. If you have weak water pressure in your shower, there are a few fairly easy things you can try to help the problem.

Remove the flow restrictor from your shower head. All shower heads sold in the United States are required to have a flow restrictor, which simply impedes the flow of water. If you take it out, you will feel a noticeable difference. To remove the flow restrictor, unscrew the shower head. The restrictor is a small round plastic washer that has tiny holes in it. It will be white, pink or green. Pull it out of the piping with the tip of a flathead screwdriver and replace the shower head.

Clean the lime deposits from your shower head. You can do this by removing the shower head and placing it in a pan with 1 cup of white vinegar and enough water to make sure the shower head is completely covered. Put the pot onto the stove and heat it. You can heat it on high heat if your shower head is metal. Use medium heat for a plastic shower head. As the shower head heats up, you will see white deposits in the water. These are lime deposits. When deposits cease to appear, you can remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Replace the shower head in the shower, and you likely will see an improvement in water pressure.

If you can't coax improved pressure out of your old shower head, you may need to replace it. If you are living in an apartment, you may want to go ahead and do this first. Apartments are notorious for having shower heads with poor water pressure that can't be fixed. If increased pressure is your primary objective, avoid rain shower heads. Even 4-inch rain shower heads will decrease the pressure of the shower.

If cleaning or changing out your shower head had no effect--especially if you have low pressure in the rest of your house or apartment--you may have low pressure coming in. Check your water heater. There will be a valve on the water heater for the cold water supply. It will be on or near the line that carries the cold water into your water heater. Make sure this valve is open all the way for the best water pressure.

Flush your hot water heater. If your cold water valve is already open all the way, your water heater may be the problem. Sediment build-up in your water heater can cause a decrease in water pressure. To get rid of the sediment, find the drain valve. It is located near the bottom of your hot water heater. Make sure you turn off the breaker to an electric water heater or set the gas valve to "Pilot" on a gas heater. Screw a standard garden hose to the valve and make sure that the other end of the hose is where the discharge water can't hurt anyone. The water will run out very hot. Shut off the cold water valve so no more water will run in and open the pressure relief valve located on the top of the heater. The lever will be marked. Open the drain valve at the bottom. When the water running out of the hose is clear, all the built-up rust and sediment should be flushed from your system. Close the drain valve, disconnect the hose, turn off the pressure relief valve and reopen the cold water valve.

Things You'll Need

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • White vinegar
  • Pan
  • Garden hose
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About the Author

Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.