Cleaning Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler head spraying water
  • 1-3 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-50
What You'll Need
Stiff wire
Container of hot water for soaking
What You'll Need
Stiff wire
Container of hot water for soaking

Cleaning sprinkler heads can prevent problems like clogging, which can affect the way your lawn or garden gets watered. Clean your sprinkler heads at least once a year, but also check them frequently for clogging and dirt build-up so you can tackle any problems before they arise.

Step 1 - Lift Sprinkler Head

A sprinkler head is fitted inside a sleeve. It remains in this sleeve when not in use and then lifts up out of it in order to spray. You need to lift the head out of the sleeves so it is in the position it would be in if it were running.

Step 2 - Remove Sprinkler Head

Unscrew the head and remove it from the sleeve completely. If you're having trouble removing the head, you can run the water and let the sprinkler lift on its own. The added water pressure pushing against it can make it easier to remove, albeit messier for you.

Step 3 - Soak Sprinkler Heads

Put the heads into the bucket of hot water and let them soak for a while. This will loosen up any debris that might be in the sprinkler holes.

Step 4 - Clean Sprinkler Sleeve

While your sprinkler heads are soaking, clean any dirt and debris out of the sleeve.

Step 5 - Clean Sprinkler Heads

After the heads have soaked a while, use a stiff wire to clean out any dirt and debris from the sprinkler holes. Most will have loosened during soaking, but the wire lets you easily scrape out any residue.

Step 6 - Replace Sprinkler Heads

Screw the heads back into their cleaned sleeves. Make sure the head doesn't remain popped up, but that it's lowered as usual, at ground level.

Step 7 - Test Sprinklers

Once you've replaced all the sprinkler heads, turn on the water. Test each head to make sure it's spraying cleanly and evenly without problems.

Step 8 - Troubleshoot

If you find a sprinkler head isn't functioning properly, first make sure you've screwed it back in properly. Does it drop and pop up as normal?

If that seems fine, then remove the head again and double-check the sleeve for debris. Examine the head itself for dirt that could be blocking the flow. You can try soaking the head again for a while and then using the wire again, replacing the head and testing.

If you still have problems with a particular sprinkler head, then cleaning may not be the answer in that situation. It may be necessary to replace the head.

If trouble persists even after cleaning and replacing, the problem is most likely related to something else, like the water connection or the electric wiring.