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Low Shower Head Water Pressure

Low Shower Head Water Pressure Shower TIPS

  • Debris clogs flow restrictor in 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 clogged valve cartridge
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DEAR TIM: 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

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.

Remove The Evil Disc

But more often than not, the flow of water is controlled at the shower head. There are strict laws in place that force manufacturers to limit the amount of water that a faucet and/or shower head 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 ground water.

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.

Free & Fast Bids

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

Military Showers

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.

At the bottom of this shower head inlet is a small plastic disk. It has small holes that can readily clog with sediment. When this happens, the water flow can be reduced to a trickle. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

Let It Flow

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

Workmanship Errors

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.

As water supply lines are installed, small pieces of solder, copper shavings, wood dust, wood chips, globs of soldering flux, pieces of plastic, etc. can get into the water lines.

Flush Lines BEFORE Connecting Fixtures

It's the responsibility of the plumber to flush out the water supply lines before any fixtures 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 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.

Buckets & Pipe Nipples

To flush the shower water supply lines the plumber needs to have a few empty buckets and ten minutes.

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.

Guaranteed Clogs If No Flushing

If the lines are not flushed before the shower head is installed, the rapid flow of water carries a mixture of water and debris into the shower head. The extremely small holes in the flow restrictor can become clogged or partially clogged in an instant.

Water System Debris Issues

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.

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.

Remove Shower Head To Test

I would remove the shower head from the angled pipe that projects out from the wall. 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.

Look Inside Shower Head

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.

Use Pin Or Needle To Unclog

Once the small disk is out of the shower head, use a small straight pin or other object to clean out the small holes.

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.

Soak In Hot White Vinegar

If the shower head is caked with hard water deposits, let the shower head soak in some warm white vinegar for twenty-four hours. 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.

Buy A New Shower Head?

Not all shower heads 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.

Unequal Pressure

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

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29 Responses to Low Shower Head Water Pressure

  1. I had my bathroom remodeled. I now have a handheld shower head and a fixed shower head in the same shower. The pressure in the handheld shower head is fine but the fixed shower head's water pressure is low. I am not happy. Did the contractor do something wrong? Can the problem be fixed? Prior to having my bathroom remodeled the water pressure in the shower was fine.

  2. Installing a new bath faucet (Pfister one handle,same as I already had) made shower lose terrible pressure, which was fine before. I removed shower head, soaked it and the filter in vinegar for 3 hrs.,scrubbed it with brush and it's still the same. Restrictor was removed when I first bought it and shower was fine until now.
    I'm at my wits end, because I love my showers.
    Plumber did flush the pipe before replacing shower head, so that's ruled out.
    Help. Thank you.

  3. Hi Tim, the water pressure is low in our shower head and tub but the rest of the house is fine. Also, the problem is only intermittent. We took apart th shower head and cleaned it. But no change. It happens once or twice a day and no other appliances are on at these times. Any ideas?

    • What about installing a new cartridge in the valve? Maybe you have sediment that's blocking water flow inside the valve. What's the water flow like when you have the shower head off and just the neck arm there?

  4. My shower has good pressurensometimes and sometimes not, I can turn it on and off back and forth and itnwill be strong, I recently changed the diverter valve, the water pressure out the spout in the tube is great and probably more than it should be. Any ideas on what the problem might be?

  5. All of a sudden the water pressure for the hot water is extremely low to the point that it trickles in all faucets including the shower. The cold water is fine. What do we do?

  6. Hi Tim,
    I'm having water pressure issues in both the bath faucet and the shower head, though pressure in the adjacent sink and elsewhere in the house is fine. I'm thinking mineral build up, as my hot water tank also makes a weird vibratey/rattle noise like a drill sometimes. Any suggestions or advice?

  7. Hi Tim, after changing diverter valve in compression style tub to shower my shower head water pressure is only fair. Water pressure to tub spout is fine. Any ideas? Thanks

  8. Hi Tim,

    Our shower in our guest house has terrible water pressure. We bought the house last year & it is a new build. I changed the shower head. We also had a plumber replace the regulator but it is still terrible. The other faucets seem fine. Any advice?

  9. I have barely a trickle of water from my shower pipe neck. I already removed the shower head and even made the mistake of taking off the faucet handle with the faucet on. Plenty of pressure there, Also no other fixtures-2 sinks and 1 tub are having any low flow problems. Any ideas??

  10. If/then assumes that the showerhead is the culprit. What if it's not?

    Here's the scenario. We installed and ran new line direct from the water source to the newly installed shower stall. Brand new valve-set (simple 2-knob set from Lowes). Brand new basic showerhead.
    Terrible flow.
    Take off the showerhead, still terrible flow.
    Disconnect source from the valve-set, AWESOME flow, pointed at a 5-gal bucket, it flows so fast it splashes out of the 5-gallon bucket.
    The sink right next to the shower flows so hard it's like the above bucket...it splashes out of the sink.

    Thoughts?
    Thanks!

    • Are you in America? I don't know what a valve-set is, but am having same shower problems (onset about two weeks ago) as you. We have instantaneous hot water heater too, so what trickle is coming out is freezing cold. When I take off the shower head, the cold water pressure is fine, but hot water pitiful. We're in a rental in Australia that owner won't fix, and winter is coming on.

  11. My shower is fine when cold... ...but after about 3 mins the flow becomes much weaker. What could the cause be?

  12. Hello,

    I have the same problem with low water pressure, but when I went to remove the shower head it looks like there is some caulking on the threading. Is it still ok to remove the shower head? Thank you.

    V/R,
    Danelle

  13. You were spot on, sediment from the line had clogged the flow restrictor screen in the shower pipe and once removed and cleaned, the water pressure not only returned but was better than before. Thanks so much for the help!!!

  14. Thank you so very much for this information. I have looked at several different sites and got the same unhelpful info until this one, this was exactly the problem and now I have great water pressure. Thank you again

  15. Hello my water pressure is not good to the shower head fine for a bath but when I turn the knob to focus the water on the shower head it only stops half the water flow and the bathtub and makes for a really bad water pressure in the shower how can I fix it what could it be

  16. I had low hot water pressure in guest bath/shower, so I moved to the master bath. Then the guest bath started working but the master bath lost hot water pressure. Sinks are okay. I spent $500 for the plumber to replace value and faucet in master and rerouted water line through the ceiling. That works, but now the guest bath has low hot water again. Plumber doesn't know what happened. Help!

  17. Hi there. We had good (not the best but still good) hot water pressure in the shower up until the last 3 weeks. It is now down to a dribble if that!
    The cold works fine, its just the hot.
    Any suggestions? ??
    Thanks.

    • Justin,

      I just REVISED the column to answer your question! Your possibility was overlooked when I wrote the original column.

      Go back up and re-read the column and you'll soon have GREAT water pressure both hot and cold!

  18. I have 3 bathrooms all with Moen single lever tub and shower combinations. In one of the shower s the water runs very slow. in both the tub and shower. I took out the cartridge and turned the water back on and had good pressure and water volume with no cartridge. I put in a new cartridge and it still runs slow. No improvement from tub spout or shower.
    What do I do next

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