How to Increase Shower-Head Water Pressure

Chris Deziel

When it comes to showering, more pressure isn't always a good thing. True, a steady, copious flow makes for a more enjoyable experience -- but it also wastes water, and in some drought-parched communities, that's a very bad thing.

Shower heads come with a federally mandated flow restrictor that you may or may not be able to remove. If your shower head is an older one, a good cleaning should also increase the water pressure.

Making 2.5 GPM Comfortable

The Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992, along with initiating the era of the low-flow toilet, mandated a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute for any shower head sold after the act became law. If your shower head dates back to the early days of the implementation of this law, it has a flow restrictor that reduces the shower flow to an insipid stream that might not even warm you on a cold day. Technology has evolved, though, and many contemporary shower heads have a pressure-compensating device that makes the flow rate legal yet still comfortable.

Remove the Flow Restrictor

The easiest way to increase the flow rate from your older shower head is to simply remove the flow restrictor. Unscrew the head from the shower arm, using a pair of adjustable pliers, and pry the flow restrictor out of the shower head connector. The restrictor is a rubber or plastic washer, and you can get it out with knife or flat-head screwdriver. Some manufacturers even supply instructions for removing it in the literature that comes with the shower head. If you can't find a flow restrictor, it doesn't seem possible to remove it or the manufacturer contraindicates removing it, leave it in -- or you could ruin the shower head.

Clean the Shower Head

If you've already removed the flow restrictor, or you have a newer shower head with a restrictor you can't remove, your best option for increasing pressure is to clean the shower head. Mineral deposits collect in the pinholes and restrict the water flow. The best way to remove them isn't to poke the shower head with a needle, although that will probably work. Instead,unscrew and remove the shower head and immerse it overnight in white vinegar. It's usually only the pinholes that need cleaning, so support your shower head so the rubber washers and gaskets stay dry; vinegar is an acid, and it could deteriorate them.

Things to Consider

Not all water pressure problems in the shower are the fault of the shower head. If you have low pressure at other fixtures in the house, your pressure problem is probably system-wide. It might be because the pressure regulator isn't open far enough or -- if you have a well -- the pump or pressure tank isn't working properly. Before removing the flow restrictor from your shower, consider the needs of the community. Water conservation is an important social responsibility, especially in drought-stricken regions. The water you save keeping the flow to the federal limit may help avoid the need for tighter water controls in the future.