Many homeowners interested in boosting the water pressure in their shower wonder if they can remove the flow restrictor. The answer is yes, and you might be surprised at how to remove a flow restrictor from a shower head.
It’s a simple job that only requires a handful of tools and around 10 minutes of your time.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about shower head flow restrictors, where to find them, and how to remove them.
Flow Restrictors Explained
By definition, a flow restrictor is a device designed to restrict the flow of liquid or gas. In a residential setting, they are used in shower heads and sinks.
You will find a flow restrictor in most new faucets and showerheads sold since the early 90s.
Unless your showerhead is over 15 years old, there’s a good chance it has a flow restrictor in place. They can be removed from almost any type of shower when you follow our tips.
What Does a Flow Restrictor Look Like?
While there’s a strong chance you have a flow restrictor in your handheld or fixed shower head, they can be challenging to identify. Not because of their size, but due to the number of brands and replacement parts.
With that in mind, replacement parts are the easiest way to get an idea of what a flow restrictor looks like. Not every restrictor valve has a star shaped hole.
A flow restrictor like the one in this listing give you a good idea of what an off-brand replacement will look like.
By comparison, the flow restrictor for a Delta handheld shower like the one you see below has a slightly different appearance.
If you don’t see a part similar to these in your shower head, it may have already been removed. This is common if you’re renting or have moved into a new home where the previous tenants wanted better water pressure.
How To Remove a Flow Restrictor From a Shower Head
Removing a flow restrictor from a showerhead is a simple task anyone can do, and there’s a good chance you may already have everything you need at home.
- Adjustable Wrench
- Rag or Towel
- Paper Clip
- Teflon Tape
- Needle-nose pliers (optional)
- O-Ring (optional)
Step 1: Remove the Showerhead
The first thing you need to do is remove the shower head from the arm pipe that protrudes from the wall. Depending on the model, it could have a nut you’ll need to loosen first.
You may be able to twist most shower heads off by hand.
If that isn’t an option, you’ll need to get out the adjustable wrench. Wrap the fixture in a rag or cloth to avoid scratches from the wrench.
Step 2: Inspect the Showerhead
In some showerheads, you’ll find a small mesh screen. This screen is there to catch any sediment in the waterline. Before you can access the shower head flow restrictor, you need to remove the screen.
Pry the screen loose carefully, and put it to the side for reassembly.
Step 3: Remove the O-Ring
While you may not find a screen in your shower head, you will see an O-ring which helps prevent leaks from a showerhead.
You can remove this rubber ring easily with a paper clip or needle-nose pliers. Use caution, and take a close look at the rubber gasket after removal.
If the rubber O-ring gasket is damaged or has begun to decay, it is time to replace it. It’s a cheap part and one you can’t overlook unless you want a dripping shower head that leaks.
Step 4: Remove the Shower Head Flow Restrictor
With the screen and O-ring removed, it’s time to locate the flow restrictor. The style can vary depending on the model, so you may have to pry or pop the restrictor out.
You can use the end of a paperclip to remove most flow restrictors with minimal effort.
You shouldn’t have to apply much force, and if you do, you’ll want to stop and look into the type of showerhead you have.
Do not throw the flow restrictor away in case it’s needed again.
Step 5: Reassemble the Shower head
Putting the showerhead back together is as easy as taking it apart. Take the O-ring, and slide it back into place.
Before reinstalling the shower screen, you may want to ensure that it’s clean by running it under fresh water.
Step 6: Apply Teflon Tape
If the shower arm has a thin layer of tape on it, now is the time to replace it. Plumbers use Teflon tape on threaded fittings to help form a tighter steal around threads.
With the old tape removed, take the roll of plumber’s tape and wrap it tightly around the thread a few times.
Step 7: Reattach the Showerhead
When you are ready to reattach the showerhead, simply grab it and screw it onto the shower arm hand-tight.
You can use the wrench and give it an extra turn, but don’t put too much torque on the shower head. The tape and O-ring prevent leaks, so over-tightening it could damage the head.
Step 8: Check for leaks
Once the showerhead is attached, you’ll need to turn the water on and check for leaks. Run the shower as normally would, and watch for drips around where the arm meets the shower head.
If you have a small drip, tighten the head a bit more to stop any leaks.
How To Remove a Flow Restrictor From a Handheld Shower Head?
The instructions described in our guide will work for any standard screw-on shower head. The process is similar when you have a handheld system but with a few extra steps involved.
A problem with handheld shower systems is that the flow restrictor can be in a variety of locations.
That means you may spend a little more time looking for it, even if removal is speedy. You can use steps 2-4 in our main guide to remove the flow restrictor in handhelds once you find it.
Check the Handle
The first place to look for a restrictor is in the handle or wand. It unscrews from the hose and is attached using a nut. They can also be tough to unscrew by hand.
If you cannot unscrew the handle, use an adjustable wrench with a cloth to prevent damage.
The flow restrictor could be behind a shower screen like in a traditional shower head. If so, you’ll need to remove the shower screen before taking out the O-ring to access the restrictor.
Needle-nose pliers or a paper clip can be used for this as well. Just be cautious and replace the O-ring if damaged.
Check the Hose
If you don’t see any restrictor in the handle, the hose is the easiest place to check next. You will need to detach it from the handheld and the holder or diverter valve.
Remember to use care with the hose fittings to prevent damage from the wrench.
Look at each end of the hose for the saucer-shaped restrictor. If found, gently remove it before reassembling the fixture.
If you find the flow restrictor in the end of a hose or the shower head, you will need to put everything back together once it’s been removed. This process will vary to a degree, but is straightforward just like disassembly.
There are just two things to remember.
Do not over-tighten any part and use Teflon tape as needed. The biggest cause of damage to a showerhead is a cracked nut from an overzealous homeowner with a wrench.
Hand tight is usually sufficient, just check for leaks once assembled and tighten things up if necessary.
Removing a flow restrictor may not significantly impact the water flow in some showers but can be a life-changing experience in others.
Low-pressure systems will get a big boost with the restrictor removed, but you may see a slight increase in your water bill as well.
Can you legally remove a flow restrictor from a showerhead?
Yes, there are no laws currently that prohibit people from removing a flow restrictor.
Are all shower head flow restrictors removable?
It all depends on the type of shower system or head. Some showerheads may not have one, while shower panels and others styles may be impractical to remove.
What’s the most powerful showerhead you can buy?
Showerheads are limited to a rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. In some areas, you may only be able to purchase heads at a lower rating.
How can I reinstall a new O-ring that’s too tight?
If the new or old O-ring is difficult to put back onto the shower head, you can use silicone-based lubricants or a bit of dish
What’s the easiest way to remove old plumber’s tape from shower arm threads?
While this tape is essential, it can be frustrating to remove. You can use a small scrub brush or old toothbrush to hasten the removal of plumber’s tape.
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