• StoneStream

Bacteria and mould on a showerhead

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Mold on a shower head
Mold on a shower head

You’ll notice immediately if there’s any mould on the shower curtain, walls or ceiling, won’t you? You’ll also take whatever steps are necessary to clean those locations. But how many of you have stopped to consider whether there are microbes and mould within or on your showerhead?

Perfect habitat for shower bacteria

You may know that fungal spores and various microbes thrive in warm, damp and humid conditions. And what better place for them to grow than in your showerhead, where they have a continual stream of nutrients whenever you shower.

What types of showerhead bacteria are there?

There are many different types of bacteria, but not all of them are dangerous to humans. So don’t panic when we say there are bacteria everywhere in our bathrooms. However, a PhD researcher from Bristol University’s School of Biological Sciences found traces of Salmonella and E.Coli in family bathrooms, both of which are potentially hazardous to our health, causing gastroenteritis, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Another type, Legionella, which causes Legionnaires desease, lives in your domestic water system and thrives in warm water. Here, they find plenty of nutrients such as biofilm slime, rust, algae and limescale at temperatures between 20 to 45°C. The unusual feature of this bacteria is that you catch the disease by inhaling infected water droplets producing a pneumonia type illness. Ordinarily, this disease can cause various problems, especially if you have underlying health issues. And, in severe cases might even be fatal. So, watch out if you shower in a neglected bathroom that stores warm water. Fortunately, it’s easy for us to get rid of Legionella and other types of bacteria as well as the black mould on showerheads, but we’ll talk about this later.

How do we prevent bacteria and mould from thriving?

First of all, let us say that we’re exposed to all kinds of bacteria, fungus and mould. All day, every day. And, none will do us any harm. In fact, some types are beneficial and can help boost our immune systems. But, today we’re talking about the other kind, the nasty ones. We’ll show you how to effectively clean your showerhead, so you don’t have to throw away your old one unless you want to upgrade and renew it.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent the growth of showerhead bacteria and mould.

Regularly clean the showerhead

You don’t need a dirty showerhead in order to clean it. But, because the ‘inside’ surfaces aren’t visible we might forget about them. Set up a regular cleaning routine to exterminate all the showerhead bacteria and mould before they can start to multiply.

DON’T use bleach to clean the showerhead. There are safer, non-toxic and more effective ways to rid your showerhead of these little monsters.

DO NOT use harsh chemicals. They may damage your showerhead, and in fact, most manufacturers specify not to use these.

FORGET coarse brushes to scrub your showerhead clean. Many powder coated finishes will scratch and lose their finish.

The best way to clean

First, you’ll notice water jets becoming diverted when the holes block. Rub the holes with your thumb to work the dirt loose. If that doesn’t work, consider using an old toothbrush to dislodge any particles from around the spray holes.

White vinegar is fantastic for cleaning showerheads. The acetic acid in the vinegar breaks down many mineral deposits, including rust and limescale. If you have a fixed showerhead, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and tie the bag over the showerhead. Leave the vinegar to soak for a few hours, preferably overnight. Then, run very hot water through the nozzle to dislodge the debris.

If your shower has a removable wall-mounted showerhead with a flexible hose, then clean it in a slightly different way. Once again, use white vinegar. But, this time in a bowl. Remove the showerhead from the hose and dismantle it as much as you can. Soak the pieces in the bowl making sure that everything is submerged. Leave for a few hours, preferably overnight. In the morning, rinse the pieces taking care to flush away any solids, and reassemble the showerhead.

Cleaning a showerhead using an old toothbrush to dislodge any particles from around the spray holes
Clean your showerhead using an old toothbrush to dislodge any particles from around the spray holes

How often should I clean?

We advise you to give your showerhead a really thorough cleaning, once every three months but it’s a good idea to include it into your weekly cleaning routine. All you need is to wipe it down with a paper towel soaked in vinegar. This will prevent a serious build-up of scale. Which, in turn, increases the reduced water flow rate in your shower when the showerhead becomes blocked. And, reduces the bacteria and mould that thrives on limescale. Remember that bacteria and mould can live in other parts of your domestic water system so it isn’t enough to just keep the showerhead clean. To reduce the presence of bacteria and especially if your water system is at risk from Legionella, you might like to have a professional plumber flush your system and carry out an inspection. Regulations vary in different countries, but in the UK, only public and commercial buildings, and ‘at risk’ locations like hospitals and care homes require an annual inspection. If you’ve just moved into a new house, it might be a good idea to have an assessment done. The inspection will highlight potential fungal and bacterial breeding grounds and suggest ways to fix this problem. Such as replacing old water tanks with new plastic ones with fitted lids.

Prevention is better than a cure

Many areas have hard domestic water, and some areas are harder than others. This means that it’s quite common for your domestic water to carry many dissolved minerals, sometimes at a high concentration. These dissolved minerals are often the prime cause of problems with your showerhead. By far the best way to prevent this is to install a water filter and softener, either where the water enters the house or at each of the water outlets. Showerheads are no exception and many manufacturers specialise in these with in-built water softeners and filters. Stonestream© supplies a range of products designed especially to remove dissolved minerals, suspended solid particles and bacteria. These will help to clean up the environment that bacteria and mould find so appealing in and around our various water appliances.

We mentioned earlier about Legionella bacteria which cause so many problems in our air conditioning systems, water storage systems and anywhere where they can thrive and produce infected water droplets.

  • Keep your water system, showerhead and hose free from limescale, rust, slime and other contaminants.

  • Produce hot water at a temperature of at least 60°C.

  • Keep cold water pipes below 20°C.

  • Remove plumbing dead-legs to reduce areas of stagnant water.

Remember, you’ll produce hot water at a very high temperature, and have an increased risk of scalding. You must install thermostatic mixing valves at all hot water outlets, especially at the shower outlet. This will help prevent potential hazards from turning into nasty accidents.

High levels of bacteria and mould are easy to remove

So, to sum up. If your domestic water system is out of date, have an inspection to highlight any plumbing improvements and get them done. These will eliminate potential bacterial and fungal breeding places within your water system in general. If you live in the UK, make sure the work complies with the UK Water Regulations. If you live elsewhere, you’ll probably find that your own country will have equivalent regulations. You’ll need professional help with this.

To reduce the growth of bacteria, mould and fungus, you must regularly clean all your water outlets, especially the showerheads. Remove all contaminants such as limescale, rust and slime by installing water filters and softeners either when the water enters your property or preferably at the various outlets. Remember that many manufacturers supply showerheads designed to remove these contaminants and it’s worthwhile installing one of the good ones.

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