Have you ever stepped into the shower, turned on the water, and been disappointed by a weak, uneven stream of water sputtering out of the showerhead? A shower with low water pressure can be incredibly frustrating. But don’t tear out your hair or plumbing in frustration just yet! Low shower pressure usually stems from a handful of common, and often easy-to-fix, causes.
Read on as we dive into the 7 most common reasons behind low shower water pressure and how you can get your shower’s water pressure back up to an invigorating, relaxing flow.
1. Clogged Showerhead
The most common culprit behind low shower pressure is a buildup of mineral deposits and limescale inside the showerhead. As water flows through day after day, minerals like calcium and magnesium deposit and accumulate. Over time, these mineral deposits obstruct the showerhead holes and restrict water flow.
You’ll know it’s time to clean your showerhead if the water sputters out or if you notice reduced pressure despite no issues with other faucets. To clean, simply remove the showerhead and soak it in a bowl or bag filled with white vinegar or CLR. The acidic vinegar will dissolve the mineral buildup, and CLR is formulated specifically for removing limescale deposits. Let the showerhead soak for a few hours or even overnight if the clog is bad. For extra scrubbing power, use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the showerhead holes while it’s soaking. Once clean, rinse your showerhead with water and reattach.
Cleaning your showerhead every few months helps prevent reduced pressure from mineral buildup. If you live in an area with hard water, more frequent cleanings may be needed.
2. Worn Out Mixing Valve
The mixing valve is the inner component that controls the flow and blend of hot and cold water to your shower. If the mixing valve is worn out, it can cause a restriction in water flow and lead to low pressure. Due to the mineral deposits and daily wear and tear, mixing valves deteriorate over time. A worn out valve only allows a trickle of water rather than full pressure flow.
Replacing a faulty mixing valve requires shutting off the water supply lines and disassembling the valve. Due to the intricate plumbing work involved, it’s best to call a professional plumber to replace a worn out mixing valve. The good news is that replacing the valve restores water pressure. Just be prepared for the plumbing bill—a new shower valve and labor will cost a few hundred dollars.
3. Closed Valve
Before assuming your shower’s low pressure requires extensive repairs, check to make sure the shut-off valve feeding the shower is fully open. This valve is located on the water supply line leading to the shower and regulates overall water flow. If someone partially closed the valve, it restricts flow and reduces pressure.
Simply locate the shut-off valve for the shower and turn it counterclockwise until fully open. This should only take a few seconds to do but can save you from unnecessary repairs. Just be sure to completely turn off the water supply to the shower before opening the valve to avoid getting sprayed.
4. Leaking Pipe
If you have adequate water pressure from the sink faucets but low pressure in the shower, a leak somewhere in the shower supply line may be the culprit. Leaks allow water to escape the pipe before ever reaching the showerhead. Even small, unnoticeable drips over time can lead to lower pressure.
The tricky part is locating exactly where the pipe leak is. The best way is to have a plumber inspect the hot and cold water lines running to the shower valve and showerhead. Leaks typically occur at joints and connections. Once identified, the leaking section of pipe needs to be replaced to restore full pressure. Depending on the location, fixing a leaking shower pipe can range from a quick fix to more extensive repairs.
5. Faulty Water Heater
Problems with your home’s hot water heater can also manifest as low shower pressure. If you have adequate cold water pressure but low pressure from the hot water side, an issue with the water heater is likely to blame. Sediment buildup, rusted internal components, or problems with the temperature and pressure relief valve can all restrict hot water flow from the heater.
A plumber needs to inspect the water heater to diagnose what exactly is impeding hot water flow. Flushing the tank or replacing worn gaskets and valves may be all that’s needed. In worse cases, an entirely new heater may be required. As complex appliances, it’s best to let a professional handle any repairs or replacement.
6. Low-Flow Showerhead
Many modern showerheads are designed as low-flow models which reduce water usage. While great for conservation, some low-flow showerhead models have such a limited flow rate that pressure seems lacking. Low-flow showerheads may use only 1.5 or 2 gallons per minute, whereas standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute.
If you recently upgraded to a new low-flow showerhead, the perceived loss of pressure may simply be the result of the design rather than any underlying problem. Switching to a different low-flow showerhead may help. Look for a model with a higher flow rate of 2-2.5 gpm. Or consider removing any existing water restrictor insert from inside the showerhead to allow more water flow.
Just keep in mind that removing water restrictors violates many plumbing codes. And reverting to older high-flow showerheads is very wasteful. The best solution is finding a low-flow showerhead capable of delivering a satisfying spray.
7. Mineral Buildup in Pipes
In homes with galvanized steel or iron supply pipes, mineral deposits and corrosion inside the pipes themselves can impede water flow. This is most common in older houses that have not updated the plumbing system. Even copper pipes corrode over time. The gradual mineral buildup in the pipes leads to increased friction for water, reducing pressure.
If low pressure is a problem throughout your home, corroded supply pipes are likely the root issue. To restore full water flow, old piping needs to be replaced with new pipes. Repiping an entire house is a major undertaking, but necessary in severe cases of corrosion and mineral buildup. The signs of low pressure in all faucets and fixtures indicate a whole-house repiping job.