How to Clean Faucet Head: Everything You Need to Know


Maria DeSouza

| Published September 20, 2023

When scrubbing the bathroom or kitchen sink, pay attention to the faucet heads for the wash basin. Any section of the sink can be a hotbed for bacteria, smudges, and grime.

A faucet head is particularly vulnerable to hard water deposits (water rich in metals). Excessive hard water deposits can lead to mineral buildup hampering water pressure and flow.

After all, a sink is where you would typically wash your hands or dishes in the case of a kitchen sink. No water flow or, at least, no pressure means nothing can get cleaned.

To prevent your sink from clogging buildup, we will guide you on how to see the warning signs for maintenance and how to conduct it.

Understanding Your Faucet Head

Your faucet head or aerator is a small, round device that creates a consistent stream of water without splashing. The aerator is located at the tip of the faucet.

The aerator streamlines water flow by diluting it with air. This process would have its water flow exit under higher pressure due to its tapered exits.

The process also saves water by pressuring it into a single hole while maintaining water pressure.

Why Regular Cleaning is Important

Regular maintenance prevents water flow from being clogged or, at the very least, decreases the pressure. The typical culprits are two kinds of buildup; either debris or mineral buildup.

  • Debris is formed from dirt and residue deposits as by-products of you washing your hands or dishes. Debris and calcium buildup can clog entryways for water.
  • Mineral buildup is due to the presence of excess hard water. Hard water deposits form when you run hot water as the heat separates calcium and magnesium from their salts, making the water more “metallic.”

NOTE: Hard water stains leave markings of different colors due to the highest concentrations of minerals they absorb, such as leaving rust stains due to calcium.

85% of US households have to deal with hard water, a common problem. Magnesium and calcium buildup can also leave water stains on your fixture, which are harmless but can clash with your fixture’s appearance.

Knowing how to clean a faucet head ensures that water flows regularly for proper hygiene, whether in the bathroom or kitchen.

Tools and Materials Needed for Cleaning a Faucet Head

We recommend gathering these products before you clean your faucet; these materials include the following;

Everyday Household Items

Being able to clean your faucet head should not be limited to commercial products. Many easy-to-get household items can clean your faucet, such as the following;

  • A mild pH-neutral cleaner: A milder form of acid to prevent damage to your fixtures as they sit in the mixture.
  • Microfiber towel: A thick towel to scrub the surface of any calcium buildups.
  • Toothbrush: The toothbrush spreads cleansing chemicals as you scrub surfaces clean.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar is a naturally strong acid powerful enough against mineral stains and debris.
  • Baking Soda: Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate) leaves a pleasant smell as you rinse away any remaining minerals left.
  • Powdered citric acid: Powdered citric acid can be more powerful than vinegar as you clean a faucet head.
  • Pliers: When you clean a faucet head, you may need to use it to remove the ends of the faucets.
  • Plastic Bag: Most methods for dealing with dirty fixtures will have you fill a plastic bag with a solution.
  • Rubber Band: A rubber band will be needed to hold the plastic bag for the vinegar soak.

Commercial Cleaning Products

Commercial cleaning products are always available when you clean your faucet heads.

Although these products may be more expensive due to being specialized, we still recommend you to check out the best kitchen cleaning products so you can clean more effectively.

  • Calcium and Lime Rust Remover(CLR): CLR is a biodegradable industrial strength solution against mineral buildup, oxidation, rust, etc.
  • Liquid Dish Soap: Liquid dish soap can sometimes be more effective than baking soda.

Protective Gear

When dealing with chemicals and cleaning, we recommend the following pieces of equipment to better protect yourself:

  • Goggles: Goggles protect your eyes from acidic chemicals like vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Face mask: A mask ensures no cleaning product enters your mouth; none are lethal but can cause discomfort.
  • Gloves: The gloves ensure no products enter or damage your hands as you clean faucet heads; remember not to touch your face while with gloves.

‘How to Clean Faucet Head’: Step-By-Step Guide

When you clean a bathroom or kitchen faucet head, these are the usual guidelines for efficient maintenance.

You can modify these steps and guidelines, but the whole cleaning process goes as follows:

Initial Inspection

One of the signs that your faucet head needs maintenance would be lessened water pressure or a clogged water flow.

Faucets need a watchful eye due to their vulnerability to hard mineral deposits from boiling warm water. A new smell, taste, or texture in the water indicates excess minerals in the water.

Preparation Stage

Be sure to gather your pieces of equipment and cleaning products. Maintaining faucets is fairly safe, but carelessness can further damage your fixtures or yourself.

Cleaning products can still enter your eyes or mouth and harm you, so keep your hands, eyes, and mouth covered.

Cleaning Process

Here is the typical method to clean a faucet head:

  1. First, fill a plastic bag with your choice of cleaning solution.
  2. Next, you secure the plastic bag onto the faucet with a rubber band.
  3. Let the secured faucet stand for 30 minutes to a full hour, depending on your solution choice. Vinegar is safe for a soak overnight, whereas citric powder is only safe for 30 minutes. (NOTE: Don’t extend beyond 30 minutes to avoid damaging your faucets.)
  4. Wipe the fixture with soap and water or a mild neutral pH cleaner like baking soda. Scrub around the crevices with a toothbrush, spreading the product thoroughly.

Finishing Touches

After you let the fixture sit in the solution or product, thoroughly wipe away the remaining gunk on the fixture with water. Warmer water should break up any loose debris remaining.

Be sure to reattach any removed aerators into their proper fixtures.

Afterward, check for any smell of vinegar left in the bathroom or kitchen. The smell would be quite acrid for people to sit through, leaving a door open for ventilation.

Be sure you have also disposed of the rubber band and the vinegar-filled bag. The vinegar can’t be reused, and washing the plastic bag will be a waste of water.

Remember to clean your toothbrush of any remaining vinegar or baking soda bits for future reuse.

Various Methods to Clean a Faucet Head

There are different ways to clean a faucet head, but the main idea is to leave the faucet head in a “bath” of light acid to melt away mineral deposits.

Then use baking soda afterward to remove any leftovers and counteract the leftover smell.

Cleaning With Vinegar

You can clean a faucet head by essentially bathing in vinegar. It will break up the mineral deposits and stains with its acidity, so you don’t need to remove the faucet heads.

First, you fill a plastic bag with vinegar (enough to submerge a faucet head). Then, place the vinegar-filled bag over the faucet head and seal it with a rubber band.

Afterward, allow the filled plastic bag to remain over the faucet head for a few hours or overnight in some cases. Once the time is up, you can carefully remove the bag and dispose of the vinegar.

Clean your faucet head with baking soda using a toothbrush to scrub away any remaining debris and counteract the sour smell. Rinse with hot water to wipe away any remaining residue.

Cleaning Without Vinegar

However, should the vinegar smell be too strong, you can use fresh lemon juice instead, as it is also a natural acid.

Lemon juice is a natural acid strong enough to eat through mineral deposits and stains.

First, cut your lemon in half with a butter knife. You can use the knife or your thumb to make an indent on the fruit for the faucet.

Next, you twist the lemon wedge onto the faucet head snugly enough for lemon juices to spread over the head. Place a bag over the faucet head and secure it with a rubber band.

You should leave the sealed wedge on the faucet for a few hours to overnight at most. Once enough time has passed, remove the plastic bag and wedge to be disposed of.

Scrub the whole head with baking soda using a toothbrush for assurance against any remaining deposits or stains. Rinse with water to wash away the baking soda.

Cleaning With Baking Soda

Another option to bathe your faucet head with is a solution of vinegar mixed with baking soda for extra strength. You can strengthen the faucet head mixture with a few squirts of dish soap.

First, mix a 2:1 mixture of baking soda into a plastic bag filled with vinegar. Stay back and watch the mixture fizz.

Place the mixture over the faucet head and secure it with a rubber band. Unlike other materials, you only let the faucet head soak in the mixture for 20-30 minutes.

After the half-hour, create a paste by mixing a few tablespoons of dish soap and half of a cup of baking soda. Scrub the paste over the faucet with a toothbrush to remove loosened minerals.

Rinse the head with hot water to remove any leftover mineral buildup or baking soda.

Cleaning with a Microfiber Cloth

When you clean a faucet head, a microfiber cloth can be used instead of a plastic bag. This method can be paired with milder acids instead of a white vinegar soak.

an image of a woman wearing gloves as she cleans a faucet with a microfiber cloth

First, you spray the faucet head and its other parts with a mild ph-neutral cleaner. You then wait and let the faucet head soak in the cleaner.

Then, scrub the faucet head and its perimeter with a toothbrush. Do a secondary wipe with the microfiber towel for any remaining mineral deposits and stains.

Against stronger water stains and mineral deposits, spray a mixture of two to three tablespoons of citric acid and water.

How to Clean a Faucet Head without Removing It

It is possible to clean your faucet head without removing the faucet head.

Having the faucet head in the acidic cleaner is enough to remove excess minerals such as calcium and limescale.

However, the soak may not be enough to clear a blocked faucet. You may be required to remove the faucet aerator and clean it.


The faucet head aerator may need to be removed as you clean a faucet head sometimes. The faucet head aerator is the mesh screen disk that water goes through.

Most faucets have aerators to control the amount the water spout releases.

Cleaning Process

The cleaning process to remove the faucet head is that you need to place a microfiber towel to not scratch the surface of the faucet. You may secure the towel around the faucet with a rubber band.

Next, you use pliers to loosen the end of the secured faucet. Next, wear gloves, then remove the rest with your fingers.

Once removed, rinse the end as much as possible, and soak the end with white vinegar for about an hour. Use your toothbrush with baking soda to scrub all the gunk away.

Although for the holes inside some faucets, we recommend using a needle or toothpick to remove the buildup.

Tips for Effective Faucet Head Cleaning

As you clean a faucet head, remember the following factors to ensure a seamless process.

Do’s and Don’ts

Always remember to clean your faucet’s handles. Regular cleaning of the faucet’s exterior and handles keep hard water deposits, mold, and germs at bay. 

Remember to clean the handlebars of your faucets. Like your faucet heads, they are just as vulnerable to gunk and hard water deposits.

Regular maintenance of your faucets prevents rust and stains and keeps the quality of your water consistent. Hard water deposits can leave a smell or taste in your water.

In our experience, we recommend using a disposable toothbrush to prevent cross-contamination with your regular toothbrush.

Precautions to Keep in Mind

Remember to regularly clean your faucets to prevent further clogging. (NOTE: Make sure to clean the faucet’s aerator once the faucet is clogged.)

However, by doing routine cleaning, you can make sure everything is flowing smoothly all the time. Therefore, you should work to clean and sanitize your faucet head at least once every few months.

As you clean a faucet, keep in mind the material used for your faucet.

Soft and porous surfaces, like marble, granite, and soapstone, are easily damaged by water, so don’t soak the materials in vinegar or water.

Troubleshooting Common Faucet Head Cleaning Issues

As you clean your faucet head, you will encounter issues as you scrub away the gunk with a toothbrush. Let’s discuss some common issues when cleaning your faucet head and possible solutions.

Difficulty in Removing the Faucet Head

Removing the faucet head aerator can be simple with pliers or a wretch.

First, you need a towel around the aerator to prevent any scratches on the surface. Then, unscrew the aerator carefully with either the pliers or the wrench.

Once the aerator is free, soak the aerator in white vinegar for about half an hour. Use a toothbrush with baking soda to remove any hard water deposits.

Rinse and then screw the aerator back into the faucet head.

Dealing With Stubborn Stains or Deposits

Hard water stains are dried mineral deposits left behind from evaporated hard water. Consider using powdered citric acid against stubborn hard water stains and deposits.

Powdered citric acid is similar to vinegar; it can damage your faucet if left too long. Also, keep in mind that powdered citric acid can hurt when it touches the eyes.

First, dissolve about 3/4 cup full of citric acid in a container of boiling water. Then fill the mixture into a plastic bag.

Next, secure the plastic bag over the faucet head with a rubber band. If you can’t secure it with a rubber band, spray the mixture onto the gunk or mineral deposits instead.

Let the stronger mixture sit for half an hour before you scrub away at the surface. Then wipe away the hard water stains with soap and water.

Rinse the whole surface of the faucet heads with water to wash away any remaining residue or hardware deposits.

Water Flow Issues After Cleaning

Despite your efforts to clean a faucet head, it may be time to call a professional plumbing business if there are still water issues.

Issues with your plumbing could be a symptom of a much larger problem for an amateur to handle.

A plumbing service guarantees a professional look into your situation while you sit and wait for the repairs to be done.

Your faucet head may not be the only fixture facing this issue. More complicated fixtures are just as vulnerable to hard water stains and mineral deposits, needing a professional’s equipment to fix.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although you may be more familiar with how to clean faucets, you may still have questions about how to clean a faucet head.

What Can I Use to Clean a Faucet Head?

There are no strict rules on what you need to perform maintenance, from what plastic bag, cleaning products, or solution you use. 
Before you try out the following, ask yourself these questions:

Plastic bag alternative: Would the material bag hold acidic liquid well enough not to break?
Toothbrush alternative: Can the product scrub the surface like a toothbrush without damaging the surface of the sink?
Mixture Alternative: As I fill a plastic bag with the mixture, will it be acidic enough against minerals?

NOTE: Use a quart-size plastic bag for faucets.

How Often Should I Clean the Faucet Head?

In most cases, you only need to clean a faucet head whenever your spout is not running water properly.

However, we recommend more routine maintenance once every few months. This schedule ensures a more consistent water flow against any hard water deposits.

The process will take about an hour or less, and you can fill your hands or dishes with cleansing water.

What Should I Do if Water Flow Is Not Restored After Cleaning?

If proper water flow or pressure has yet to be restored after cleaning your faucet head, we recommend calling a professional plumbing service.

Calling in professionals ensures a professional fixing and perspective on whatever issues your pipes are facing.

Can Vinegar Damage My Faucet Head?

Yes, vinegar can damage your faucet head’s finish if left too long.

Vinegar is a very acidic cleaner to effectively remove mineral deposits but can potentially damage the bathroom faucet. 

Vinegar is strong enough to eat through the chrome finish unless the faucet head is made of stainless steel.

From experience, we have found that you should only leave vinegar for at least two hours before the finish gets damaged.

If the faucet is made from gold, nickel, or brass, vinegar will destroy the finish in 30 minutes. Keep the time in mind, then remove the bag and rinse quickly.

How Do I Prevent Future Buildup on My Faucet Head?

A water-softening system is the best way to prevent future buildup besides performing maintenance often.

A water softening system is an appliance meant to remove the calcium, magnesium, and other minerals in water before they leave the spout.
The system does this with absorbent resin beads.

The resin beads trap water, fill it with sodium and potassium, and absorb calcium and other minerals. Once the resin beads are full, they leak the minerals as a water stream and down the drain.


Knowing how to clean your faucet head can ensure you and your family have enough water to rinse and soak your dishes, hands, and toothbrush.

Constant maintenance can apply to yourself, as germs can be anywhere, especially in your bathroom. Bacteria are like most buildup, needing a scrub away with a toothbrush or risk a clog in our health.

Consistent water flow is what separates you from health or sickness. Routine maintenance of your faucet heads is, thus, necessary to remain healthy and free from germs.

Remember that when you run hot water as you rinse your hands of germs, your water spout will also need a scrub in return. So keep a towel or toothbrush on hand to clean your faucet head.

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