When Your Faucet Is Clogged

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ November 17, 2009

You'd be amazed how many people ruin their kitchen or bathroom faucets and shower heads attempting to remove the aerator and clear mineral build-up. While clearing a faucet is a simple job, you still need basic skills in how to protect your hardware from tool damage. It's part of your Basic Home Repair 101 course, but if you're like some of my relatives, you prefer employing brute force rather than common sense.

In a previous blog, I wrote about fixing leaky faucets and probably should have written about simple cleaning first. The minerals in your water source form sediment that cakes and clogs your sink and shower aerators. It's mostly calcium and is harmless, even though it creates small maintenance projects.

At home my well water deposits white coatings on my shower head, which then distributes water right out the side window or on the curtain. I use an off-the shelf product that removes calcium, lime, and rust in minutes. Of course, old plumber's folklore and present practice include soaking your aerators and heads in simple white vinegar. Warm vinegar melts the sediment off overnight.

Next, you puncture the spray holes in the shower head with a push pin to finish off the job.

Take Some Care and Save Your Hardware

You're going to need a set of pliers to loosen the casing and remove the aerator from the faucet or shower head. Now comes the little class secret: wrap the teeth of your pliers (on the action end) with electrical tape to spare your hardware from scrapes, gouging, bending, or crushing. Once the end is safely rotated loose, you may need a thin blade or knife to pry out the aerator.

Here are other precautions:

• Be sure you close the drain and turn off the water supply to your tap. • Loosen the casing with a set of pliers or monkey wrench. • Remove the aerator and soak in vinegar or safe home improvement product. • Clean all masks or aerators, gaskets, heads, and spray holes. • Tighten, open water supply and drain.

I use gloves and take a stiff brush to the hardware before rinsing it with clear water. I have a friend who made the mistake of washing the hardware in the same kitchen sink where he had removed the aerator. Old habits die hard.

While you're at this project, it's not a bad idea to add in related work, like clearing your drains, and repairing damaged hardware. Need a new disposal? Now's a good time to think about it.

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