Leaky Shower Head? How to Replace a Shower Washer

A showerhead.
What You'll Need
New shower washer (two for a hand-held shower)
Teflon tape

It’s annoying when your shower head is continually dripping. It’s also wasting water, which you are paying for. If your shower is leaking, there’s a good chance the cause is a worn out washer. Replacing it is one of the simplest and quickest plumbing repairs you can undertake. While you are doing it you can also perform some basic shower maintenance and de-scale the shower head to help prevent the washer wearing out again.

Step 1 - Remove the Shower Head

Turn off the water to the shower or bathtub. If there is no separate spigot to do this, you’ll need to turn the water off at the house main supply. Run the shower until no more water comes through and turn off the shower faucet. The shower head might screw off or it might require you to use a wrench to loosen it from the shower pipe.

If you have a handheld shower, it’s a good idea to replace both washers in the shower unit. Loosen the nut at the faucet using a wrench and remove the tube. Then, loosen the nut at the shower head and remove it from the hose. When you loosen the shower head, you might find a build-up of lime or scale. This can be dealt with at the same time you are replacing the washer.

Step 2 - Clean the Shower Head

Before you put in a new shower washer, clean the shower head and remove the lime scale. It happens with every shower head and it should be cleaned once a year to make the shower head and washers last longer.

Use a bowl large enough to accommodate the shower head and fill it with vinegar. You can use a commercial anti-scale, but vinegar is much cheaper and does the job just as well. Leave the shower head in the vinegar for an hour before emptying it out and cleaning with water.

Step 3 - New Shower Washer

The shower head is actually made of several parts screwed together. Unscrew the parts to separate them. Once it’s free of lime, you should be able to do this easily. Take out the old shower washer. You need a match for it, which you can find at any hardware store. Secure the new shower washer in the shower head and screw the head back together. Use Teflon tape on the threads of the shower arm for a leak-free fit and screw the shower head back on, taking care not to tighten it too much.

For a hand-held shower, you should also replace the washer where the hose joins the faucet. It might not be necessary, but do this as an extra precaution. Use the Teflon tape on the threads of the hose where the shower head screws on, and also on the threads of the faucet where the hose attaches. Again, tighten the connections, but not too much.

Turn the water back on and run the shower for a minute or two. Turn the shower off again and check for leaks. If necessary, tighten the connections a little more. The new shower washer should have eliminated the original leak from the shower head.

That pesky dripping has now been banished! Enjoy the peace and quiet, as well as the water bill savings.