Q: The showerhead in my apartment’s bathroom has a lot of gunk on it that looks like mineral buildup. The gunk is built up on the faucet handles, too, but the worst thing is the showerhead, as the water doesn’t spray out very strong and some of the stream shoots off in every direction but the right one. The maintenance man says it just needs to be cleaned and that he doesn’t do cleaning. What are my options? – Clare S., Winter Park, Fla.
A: You have three options. First, you could go a level higher than the maintenance man and talk to the apartment manager or leasing office about the gunky shower. If they don’t give a satisfactory answer, you could try writing to (or calling) the management company or the building’s owner, and asking for the bathroom hardware to be cleaned properly or replaced.
•That can be a time-consuming, frustrating venture in some cases – sometimes the management will take care of the situation immediately, but often it doesn’t happen for weeks. After all, a gunky showerhead isn’t as big a priority as, say, a broken pipe.
•So that leads to your second option: cleaning the gunk off yourself. The best way to clean the showerhead is to remove it so that it can be scrubbed inside and out. To do this, unscrew the showerhead; you may need to use two adjustable wrenches, one to hold the shower “arm” (the pipe to which the head is attached) and the other to loosen the showerhead. Wrap a couple layers of masking tape around the areas where the wrenches will grip to keep from scratching the surface. Wash the showerhead in hot, soapy water, and then rinse.
•Meanwhile, bring a small pan partly filled with half vinegar and half water to a boil, and place the showerhead in it, holes first. Simmer for five to 10 minutes. Remove and cool it off, then scrub away the loosened mineral deposits and open the holes by poking a needle or pipe cleaner through them.
•The shower arm and the remaining bath hardware also can be cleaned in place, without resorting to abrasive cleaners. First, stir together a mixture of baking soda and vinegar – yes, it will foam up. Brush or sponge this fizzy mix liberally onto the hardware and gunky ends of the shower arm. Next, wrap plastic wrap around each fixture, holding it in place with a rubber band, so that the vinegar-baking soda mixture doesn’t dry up.
•Leave it for 10-30 minutes, checking one or two spots to see if the gunk is loosening up. Remove the plastic wrap and rinse the hardware thoroughly – most of the mineral buildup and soap gunk should wash away, too. Use soapy water and a soft cloth to finish cleaning the fixtures. Then, replace the cleaned showerhead – wrap the threads on the shower arm with plumber’s tape first to ensure a tight seal, and then screw the parts tightly together.
•Your third option is to replace the showerhead completely. You may have to do this if the cleaning doesn’t improve performance. Let the apartment manager or owner know ahead of time that you are doing this. Replacing a showerhead isn’t a big deal, so pick whatever model you like and install it per the instructions. And hang on to the old one, you may be asked to reinstall it when you move out.
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