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Is Your Showerhead Making You Sick?

Is Your Showerhead Making You Sick?

A good showerhead is supposed to deliver a satisfying jet of water. But if you have not changed or at least cleaned the showerhead in your bathroom for a long time, it could be adding a blast of bacteria along with the water.

It gets murkier.

The bacteria on the head of the shower can cling together and form what is called a “biofilm” — a slimy cluster of microorganisms. Sounds refreshing, huh?

If your immune system is weak, this daily spray of germs could pose a serious health problem. In fact, a study at the University of Boulder, Colorado shows that almost one third of showerheads contain potentially dangerous bacteria.

One particular bacteria that seems to thrive in this warm, dark and wet environment is mycobacterium avium, which is linked to pulmonary disease.

There are two simple solutions to this:

Clean your showerhead: fill a sandwich bag with 1 cup white distilled vinegar and cup baking soda. Tie it around the showerhead and wait for one hour, before removing the bag and turning on the shower. If your showerhead is easy to remove, rinse it with the same solution, giving it a good scrub with an old toothbrush. Poking pins into the holes of the shower head also helps remove mineral deposits.

Replace your showerhead if it is very old. Even better, remove the rainwater style showerhead and use a single stream of water to enjoy a clean and refreshing shower.

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Shubhra Krishan

Writer, editor and journalist Shubhra Krishan is the author of Essential Ayurveda: What it is and what it can do for you (New World Library, 2003), Radiant Body, Restful Mind: A Woman's book of comfort (New World Library, 2004), and The 9 to 5 Yogi: How to feel like a sage while working like a dog (Hay House India, 2011).


+ add your own
3:24AM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

I think it's time to clean the shower head.

9:47PM PDT on May 4, 2014

Re my last comment below, just to be clear, I don't have any direct evidence that High Sierra's unique showerhead design - which features a single large nozzle and just one setting, "on" - is less likely to harbor bacteria, mold, or other microbes than other showerheads, most of which feature many small pinholes, often have flow restrictors inline, as well, and typically offer a variety of shower modes. But it seems logical that this simpler showerhead, with its more direct water path, might stay dryer and have fewer places to harbor such microbes.

There's a good description of this showerhead in a recent San Francisco Chronicle article:

"Standard showerheads force a stream of water through dozens of tiny nozzles. Most low-flow versions use even smaller holes, which tend to clog, especially if there is calcium in the water.

"[David] Malcolm's [High Sierra's owner/founder] showerhead creates a wide spray from a single stream of water like this: Just below the opening, a pin in the nozzle splits the stream into two. The two streams are then forced into a conical orifice with an eye-shaped opening that pushes them back together. That collision breaks the water into a spray that feels at least as powerful as a standard showerhead. The patented device is called a uniform droplet spray nozzle."

10:33AM PDT on May 3, 2014

Thank you for sharing.

10:26AM PDT on May 3, 2014

For those who've commented skeptically here, perhaps we could start with the fact that, in several articles like these, scientists have been quoted as having identified potentially hazardous bacteria on showerheads ... whether or not that poses a health issue? (There's speculation in both these articles that it might pose some risk, but perhaps just for people with weakened immune systems.)

For those who might have concerns about this, my subjective impression is that there's one particular showerhead that's much less likely to harbor bacteria than most others: that's because its nozzle has just a single large opening, rather than lots of small pinholes (which can also clog up over time from mineral deposits in the water). Unlike many showerheads, this one doesn't have a flow restrictor (a small plastic/rubber disc with small holes that restricts the water flow, that itself can clog or harbor bacteria). And when you shut the water off, this showerhead quickly gets - and stays - almost entirely dry:

"... a consequence of the simple, minimal design of the High Sierra is that it's completely leak-free and clog-proof. When you shut off the water to your shower, the water stops instantly and completely. Not one drip. It's pretty amazing, and High Sierra says thi

4:48AM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

I rest my case with articles like this.

6:35AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

Just a little can make a difference

5:31AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

This is very interesting.

3:40AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014


2:39AM PDT on Mar 26, 2014


12:26PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

My goodness! I hope nobody takes this wacko seriously. He is the same person who tells us drinking coffee at 8-9:00 am is the worst possible time, or that eating oatmeal before bedtime is a great sleep aid. No evidence for either claim.

In this case he is asking us to mix vinegar and baking soda in a plastic bag. These are the same chemicals that kids use to make their science project volcanoes erupt! The reaction is immediate and catastrophic. It's not hazardous, just messy all over your kitchen.

And, by the way, your shower head is no more susceptible to bacterial growth than your faucets or pipes or any other aspect of household plumbing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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