You know baking soda as the powdery stuff you use when you bake chocolate chip cookies, or as the odor-neutralizer you stick in the door of your fridge to make things smell a little more, um, appetizing. But did you know that this remarkably versatile ingredient can also be used to make your bathroom sparkle? Read on for the full scoop on how to clean a shower head with baking soda and why it’s such an excellent idea.
The Dirty Truth About Your Showerhead
If you’ve never cleaned your showerhead before (raises hand), then what you’re about to read is going to make you want to do so, immediately. According to a 2018 study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder, the biofilms found on dirty showerheads could play an important role in the transmission of lung infections— specifically NTM (nontuberculous mycobacterial) infections. “The regions in the United States where pathogenic mycobacteria are most prevalent in showerheads are the same regions where nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infections are most common,” say researchers. This is especially concerning for those who suffer from chronic lung conditions or weakened immune systems.
But before you totally freak out, know that according to the Water Quality and Health Council, “for most people, getting an infection from bacteria in showerheads is likely a rare event.” That being said, the council recommends routine cleaning of your showerhead. So yeah, that means yours is probably due for a wash.
Why Use Baking Soda
In case you missed it, baking soda is one of the best cleaning products to have in your arsenal for all sorts of heavy-duty jobs, from deodorizing your carpet to sopping up oil spills. And in the bathroom, it can be used to rub down sink fixtures and scrub toilets, in addition to removing bacteria and gunk from your showerhead. But why is baking soda such a miracle-worker when it comes to certain cleaning projects?
“Baking soda is alkaline (i.e., a base) and it increases the solubility of the calcium buildup [such that] the calcium dissolves,” says the American Cleaning Institute. “In this case, it works especially well with an acid, like vinegar, which is great at lifting hard water stains. When you combine them, it creates salty water and carbon dioxide and the agitation of the reaction can help to break up and carry away buildup.”
So there’s your high school chem class refresher. Now let’s begin the deep clean.
How to Clean Your Showerhead with Baking Soda
As previously mentioned, baking soda does a bang-up job at dissolving calcium deposits left behind from hard water, but this pantry staple doesn’t act alone. By introducing an acid (i.e., white vinegar), a chemical reaction takes place that may be short-lived, but highly effective. This cleaning process is called descaling...but all you really need to know is that it will leave you with a squeaky clean showerhead and possibly better water pressure, too.
According to Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and author of Clean My Space: The Secret to Cleaning Better, Faster—and Loving Your Home Every Day, you can make your showerhead sparkle with vinegar alone. The experts at Arm and Hammer recommend an almost identical method—but their cleaning process gets a boost from a little baking soda added to the mix. Bonus: The combo will even polish the exterior of your showerhead.
Step 1: Start the reaction
Mix up a fizzy cleaning concoction by combining ⅓ cup baking soda with 1 cup white vinegar in a gallon-sized plastic bag. The mixture will start to bubble, which is exactly the effect we’re going for.
Step 2: Dunk the showerhead into the mixture
Bring your bag full of bubbling baking soda goodness straight to the bathroom (if you aren’t there already). Then, fully immerse the showerhead in the bag of cleaning solution. Use a rubber band to securely attach the bag to the neck of the showerhead.
Step 3: Call it a day
Once the plastic bag of baking soda and vinegar has been properly attached to the showerhead, and the latter is completely submerged in the solution, you can just hit the hay. In other words, let that puppy soak overnight: When you wake up and are ready to shower, simply remove the plastic bag and run some hot water to rinse the showerhead before you hop in.
And that’s it, your showerhead should look as good as new. Now the next time you feel scuzzy, you can trust your shower to be the solution, rather than part of the problem. Phew.