Low Water Pressure in Shower Heads

Shower heads can develop a low flow situation due to clogging, a defective or stuck bath tub spout diverter, or a worn or defective shower or mixing valve. Just as with the faucets, start with the easiest possible issue and work toward the more complex solutions.

Shower Head

A Typical Shower Head

The Shower Head

Remove the shower head by unthreading it from the pipe. It will turn to the left (counter-clockwise) to unthread. Use a cloth over the shower head to protect it from tool marks. With the shower head off, try the water to see if there is adequate flow. If there is not, the problem is likely to be a defective tub spout diverter (if equipped) or a worn or defective mixing valve.

If the water seems adequate with the shower head off, look inside the threaded port. Shower heads may also have a filter screen or flow restrictor in them that can be seen just inside. The screen will trap sand, mineral buildup and other debris. Rinse the filter screen off, and if it comes clean easily, then inspect the nozzles on the outside. If the holes seem clogged with white mineral scale, you can sometimes disassemble the shower head to gain access to the nozzles. You may be able to dislodge the mineral build up by gently poking with a safety pin. Mineral scale can also be dissolved by soaking the shower head in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, or using a commercial descaling chemical such as CLR or Lime-Away (note that some plastic showerheads may be marred by strong descaling chemicals, so test the chemical in an inconspicuous place first.)

Bathtub Spout Diverters

Bathtub spout diverters can sometimes be repaired, but it is often easier to simply replace the entire bathtub spout. Look for the hex head, allen screw or phillips screw at the six o’clock position, and loosen it. The spout will then either unthread counter-clockwise or pull straight off the stub out pipe. You do not need to turn off the water in order to remove the bathtub spout. Take the entire spout with you to the plumbing department to help choose an exact replacement.

In-Wall Diverters

Diverters mounted in the wall come in several different configurations, and disassembly varies by make and model. While there are repair kits for many diverters, you do have to turn off the water supply to the shower. A common scenario is to have to turn off the water at the main supply entrance into the house.

Generally, you must remove the handle(s), then the decorative escutcheon plate, to reveal the diverter assembly. The diverter assembly will have screws, a nut, or a c-clip that holds the cartridge into the body of the valve. Remove the diverter and take all the parts, including the cover (if separate), to the plumbing department to get an exact replacement.

The article on Low Water Pressure for the whole house will have more information on looking for blockages in the main water supply lines. Usually, this results in low water pressure at every fixture.

13 Responses to Low Water Pressure in Shower Heads
  1. Terry
    November 16, 2011 | 7:22 am

    I just moved into an apartment. The water pressure for my shower is low. I have removed the apt. showerhead and tried 2 new ones from Home Depot to attempt to get more pressure. the other bathroom has plenty of shower pressure. I have been told there are pressure screws behind the hot/cold adjuster that can be adjusted to fix the problem for my shower. Is this true? How do I do that. I have only one handle that you turn up and to the left for hot, to the right for cold.

  2. Cesar@Unlimited Plumbing
    December 15, 2011 | 7:49 pm

    In some apartment complex’s we service we have special low pressure shower heads. You can find them at most Home Improvement stores

  3. Michael
    February 28, 2012 | 9:46 am

    What about older in wall diverter systems with 5 knobs? My shower has a hot and cold valve for the shower. Separate hot and cold valves for the Bath tub. Also a open close for the drain.
    The H/C come in on 1/2 copper they connect respectively to each sides original plumbing at the bath valves. The H/C bath valves have a 3/4 galv. pipe connecting them going to the bath tub spout. Good Pressure I assume, seems strong. 3/4 galv. extends the H/C plumbing to the shower valves. They are connected with another 3/4 galv. which then converts to 1/2 copper up to the shower head. The 1/2 copper going to the shower head was replaced when the original 3/4 galv. broke at the connecting joint. That piece was also heavily glogged.

  4. Chris
    February 28, 2012 | 2:15 pm

    I have 2 full bathrooms upstairs and only one of the shower head has low water pressure. Both bathroom sinks, toilets, and the master shower head are all ok. Downstairs water pressure is fine also. I replaced a diverter before because a squel sound coming from the shower when it is on. Now after 1 year we have low water pressure in that same shower. Heard about adjusting the shower water pressure screws but could not find the screws. Don’t know what to do now?

  5. Clay
    July 12, 2012 | 6:54 pm

    We have an old home with hard to find faucets. The hot water started to drip in the shower. So I went to the plumbing supply house with the old stem and other parts and said I want all new parts. I replaced the stem and the components (do not know the proper terms ) but I did not replace the thing that the stem screws into that which has the two holes in it. I could’t get it out. I then turned the water back on and both the hot and cold had little pressure. Also still had a drip. I took it all apart and replaced the cold as well. And the thing that has the two holes in it which I assume when you turn the water on the stem comes away from the holes and allows water to flow. I do not have any drips YET but still no water pressure to speak of or at least not as much as I had before I changed the stems. This is why they have plumbers. The faucet are American Standard. Is it possible that the holes are not lining up or does that thing that I do not know the name of turn in inside the sleeve . So I do not know the terms. But this is driving me crazy.

  6. Cedric Wilson
    August 8, 2012 | 5:25 pm

    In my master bathroom, the water does not come out of the water spout, and the pressure is low in the shower, same side of bathroom, but the dual sinks flow great. Clueless. Please help if possible. Thanks in advance.

  7. Ramon
    October 1, 2012 | 12:57 pm

    THE SHOWER HEAD article was quite simply excellent advice. I followed all the steps but did not dis-assemble the showerhead because it seemed a little bit complicated. I soaked the showerhead after I removed as much mineral deposits as I could by simply scraping it off with a pair of tweezers being careful not to touch any of the soft plastic parts. This article save me at least $85 for the call the plumber and the time having to wait around for him to come out and come into my home. I’m a homeowner on a budget and appreciate that people who write these articles are looking up for the interests of those who are trying to save money. THANK YOU!

  8. Jen
    January 15, 2013 | 12:58 pm

    I have an in-wall diverter. I had replaced the diverter about 6 months ago. A few days ago the water flow dropped significantly for the shower head only, and the mix of hot and cold water did not match what was coming out of the tub spout. The cold water seemed to be almost non-existent at the shower head. Where is the mixing valve located?

  9. Adam
    January 21, 2013 | 1:22 pm

    Very low hot water pressure in 1 of 2 showers. cold water pressure is great and i have made sure shower head is clean and clear also when shower head was removed the low warm water pressure was still a problem ?? Any help will be much appreciated. Thanks:)

  10. Cindy Hedstrom
    January 24, 2013 | 1:47 pm

    Thanks for the article. Here is my scenario. If I want a cold shower, the water pressure is great. When I adjust the knob to make the water hotter, the pressure goes down considerably.
    Any suggestions?

  11. Harlan
    July 11, 2013 | 4:41 pm

    I have a 1 Hp 220 pump that is pumping water into a 30 gal presure tank. It goes through two filters and then into a house. The shower is about30 ft of pipe away and the last 15 ft is 3/4 cpvc. It is a smaller diameter then the 3/4 pvc. Problem is very low water flow at the shower head. I wonder if the cpvc 3/4 is just to small to run any substantial amount of water through. Because of the low flow, my INSTANT HOT GAS water heater comes on and off. Water goes through heater slow, and water gets to hot. Heater turn off. I then have to turn water off and back on in the shower. I spend so much time standing to the side of the cold water waiting for it to get hot again, I don’t think the system is saving much energy. HELP>

  12. Bruce Lamkin
    September 15, 2013 | 8:35 pm

    I have Mixit cartridge stems in both upstairs bathrooms. I replaced the cartridge stems and now the water pressure is low for both the tub spout and the shower (more so the tub spout). What can I do to fix this.

  13. Roy
    September 17, 2013 | 10:23 am

    While filling the bathtub, I noticed a noise. I turned off the water and removed the showerhead. When I tuned the water back on, trying to filling the tub, I found the noise was coming from the shower neck. There is noticeable suction there. What’s causing that? Bad venting? What to do?

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