Showerheads can generally be changed out whenever you feel like it. Whether it is because the old showerhead has gone bad or you simply want to go with a new style. Even better, they are generally installed and removed with relative ease.
Sometimes, however, the showerhead can get stuck. But what do you do if you don’t have a wrench available? There are quite a few makeshift “tools” that you can use instead: duct tape, twine, or even a belt out of the closet. Following this guide, you’ll be able to create your own removal tool and swap out that old showerhead for a new one in no time.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Prepare for Removal
If you’re going to remove a shower head without using a wrench, preparation is key. Heck, even with a wrench, this method should make it easier to remove showerheads in the future. Start by shutting off the water source.
The last thing that you want when dealing with plumbing is for water to flow everywhere, creating a giant mess. The simplest way to cut off water is to make sure that the diverter is set so that water will only come out through the faucet. The diverter is the lever or knob in most showers that switches the water flow between the tub and the shower.
Step 2: Prepare the Pipe Threads and Showerhead
This step is meant to loosen the threads that mate the pipe with the showerhead or any kind of attachment assembly. You can use one of several options, but it is important that you cover exposed areas below the showerhead to make cleanup a little easier.
You can use cutting oil, penetrating oil, lime remover (if there is extreme lime or rust buildup), WD-40, or even vinegar for this process. Just make sure that you give any of those options 15 minutes to both penetrate and break down the aforementioned deposits. The buildups should wipe away easily in most instances.
Step 3: Use a Belt
In a pinch, a normal belt can be used to perform a pretty decent strap wrench imitation. While you can create a pretty decent amount of tension, the difference is that you won’t have quite as much leverage as you would with a wrench.
- Buckle the belt. Start by putting the end of your belt through the buckle and tighten it accordingly. This creates the direction that the belt will face.
- Loop the belt. Next, loop the belt where the showerhead meets the pip, with the belt pointing opposite of the way that you want to twist the connector.
- Disengage from the buckle. While you are tightening the loop around the connector, disengage the belt from where it connects to the buckle.
- Contact the showerhead. From here, pull on the end of the belt to provide strong contact with the actual showerhead. If needed, wrapping the belt around your wrist can provide a better grip.
- Pull the belt. With the belt in position, pull it counterclockwise. Make sure that you use even force that will eventually unscrew the threads.
Step 4: Use Duct Tape
No matter what the need, duct tape is one of the most versatile tools around and should be in any toolbox. While it is primarily used to hold things together, it can also make for a pretty reliable wrench in a pinch.
- Tear off a piece. The best length for creating a makeshift wrench is about 12” long. It’s important that you don’t let the tape stick to itself at this point. Rip that piece down the middle to make two strips.
- Layer the pieces. Stick one piece of the tape to the other on the non-sticky side to layer the tape and make it stronger.
- Wrap around the showerhead. With our makeshift wrench created, it’s time to wrap the stick side around the showerhead. Do so while rotating counterclockwise until you have around 6” of tape. If you need more length in your grip, wrap it less or cut a longer piece at the beginning.
- Pull. Pull your makeshift wrench counterclockwise to unscrew the showerhead accordingly.
Step 5: Use Twine
While it is possible to remove a shower head using twine, it is also recommended as a last resort kind of situation. Twine can be really rough on your hands for starters, even cutting into them with enough tension. Not only that, but twine that isn’t thick enough will break apart when you start pulling on it. In a pinch, though, it should work just fine.
- Wrap around the base. Start by wrapping your twine around the base of the showerhead where it connects to the pipe. Perform this step 5-15 times or as much as is needed to keep the twine from slipping loose.
- For thinner twine. If you use a thinner twine, you might want to consider folding the twin in half. This will create something of a double-reinforced strand of twine to work with.
- Establishing a grip. Tie the free end of the twine off into a loop. From there, put something sturdy – a bar or stick – into the loop. You want something that will offer a proper grip and won’t break under the tension. If you have enough room in your loop, you can even use something like a broom handle.
- Pull. With your grip established, you can then twist counterclockwise to remove the showerhead. The handle is a great idea because it saves your hands from getting cut by the twine and offers a better grip.
Step 6: Do it by Hand
In most cases, you can remove a shower head without any rigged-up tools. You may not need any tools at all, for that matter. In fact, many manufacturers will recommend that you remove their products by hand to avoid damage.
If the showerhead doesn’t turn initially, it could unscrew from the fitting located behind the wall. That’s fine and it shouldn’t cause a leak. It also allows you to take off the shower arm and head so that you can remove them at your own leisure.
Augmenting your hand strength. In a pinch, and without the use of tools, you can augment your hand strength through the use of a towel. Simply wrap it around the showerhead and try to unscrew it again. In most cases, this should be more than enough to remove that old showerhead.
Step 7: Dissolve Scale and Rust
In most instances, the reason that you can’t turn the showerhead by hand is due to a buildup of scale or rust. When those two things build up in the threads of your showerhead, it can bind them into place and make them difficult to remove.
Keep in mind that rust and scale are not the same thing. You will need different chemicals in order to dissolve them. Thankfully, neither of those is expensive.
- WD-40. If you don’t have WD-40, a similar spray lubricant will do just fine. Spray the connection and give it about 10 minutes to work. More often than not, this should be enough to loosen the connection and allow for you to unscrew it by hand. If it doesn’t work on the second try, you’ll need to move on to something that will dissolve the scale that the lubricant can’t break down.
- White vinegar. Wrap a plastic bag filled with white vinegar around the showerhead. Make sure that everything, including the connector, are completely immersed. You can secure the bag in place using a couple of rubber bands. Give the vinegar a couple of hours to work. More often than not, the vinegar should be strong enough to remove the scale so that you can unscrew the showerhead by hand.
What to Do After Removing the Showerhead
Now that the showerhead has been effectively removed, there is the matter of the threads. Even if you’re putting on a new shower head, the threads from the base can get clogged with calcium and other mineral deposits.
The best bet for clearing out those excess mineral buildups is to soak with vinegar. Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and tie it to the base of the showerhead hookup. Allow 15-30 minutes so that the vinegar can soak the threads and strip away that calcium deposits. If the vinegar doesn’t do the job itself, use a nylon brush to scrub the loose debris away.
Finally, when performing the installation of a new shower head, put plumber’s tape over the threads. Plumber’s tape will help prevent leaks after the new shower head is installed.
What is the Black Stuff on my Showerhead?
From time to time, you may notice little black bits when you wipe the showerhead or faucet spout. More often than not, these are deposits of oxidized manganese. This is a mineral most commonly found in very trace amounts (along with iron) in our drinking water. It may look gross but it isn’t particularly dangerous.