How to Change a Shower Head

Shower heads usually last a long time, but they’re not exempt from rusting, damage, and wear and tear from everyday use. Perhaps you just want to upgrade to a newer shower head with more features and need to know how to remove your old one and install a new one.

The steps for how to change a shower head will vary depending on the type of shower head you currently have installed and the one you’re replacing it with.

However, we made this guide as thorough as possible to help you navigate the steps to remove and replace just about any shower head.

1. Choose the Right Shower Head

Before you learn how to change a shower head, you should figure out what type of new shower head you’d like to have, as this will affect how you install your shower head later.

Shower heads come in a variety of sizes, with heads ranging from only a few inches in diameter to ones that are several inches in diameter, and types, like fixed or handheld. Fortunately, most shower heads use a standard size arm and connecting nut, so you usually won’t need to worry about replacing those if you decide to go with a different type.

Some of the different types of shower heads you can choose from include:

  • Fixed: These are the simplest types of shower heads. They remain affixed to the arm instead of being removable. They’re among the easiest to remove and install.  
  • Handheld: A handheld shower head attaches to the arm the same way a fixed one would, but also includes an extended hose that allows you to remove the head to spray your body easily.
  • Combo fixed/handheld: A combination shower head has both fixed and handheld heads to allow you to use them simultaneously or remove the handheld when needed.
  • Rain system: Rain shower heads offer a very light water flow that comes from a shower head that points straight down, rather than at an angle like traditional shower heads.
  • Body spray panel: A body spray panel is a luxury type of shower head from which water flows from several spots and may have different settings, like pulsing or massaging.
  • Ceiling mount: Ceiling mounted shower heads sit flush in the ceiling of the shower and typically require professional installation.

2. Prepare for Installation

The first thing you should do before removing your shower head or installing a new one is gather up your necessary materials. You’ll need an adjustable wrench, some thread seal plumber’s tape, a towel or tarp to lay on the bottom of the shower floor, and your new shower head.

Read the instructions for the new shower head so that you can ensure a smooth transition from old to new. You should look over your new one and make sure that it will attach to the existing arm and will fit in your shower space.

3. Turn Off the Water

Turn off the water to your shower line, if possible. All houses are set up differently and you may not have a line that runs directly to the shower.

If not, you might have a shut-off valve for the bathroom, or you could shut off the main water supply, which is usually located in the basement or crawl space.

Keep the bathtub faucets open after shutting off the main water supply and open the lowest valve in your home to allow air pressure to move out of the drain lines.

Allow all water to come out of the bathtub and shower lines before you continue.

4. Keep the Tub Floor Protected

Protect the floor of your shower or tub by laying down a clean towel or a tarp over the floor, preferably reaching a few inches up the sides of the tub.

As you work, it’s possible for pieces of the shower head to come apart and fall to the surface, or even for you to drop a tool accidentally, so this covering will keep your tub or shower protected.

5. Remove Shower Head from the Arm

This step is where you’ll learn how to get a shower head off its arm. In most cases, you won’t have to replace the arm that connects to the shower head unless it’s rusted, cracking, or the threading is so worn out that you can’t attach the shower head properly.

You should first check the manufacturer’s instructions of your shower head, if available, to learn how to take off a shower head that’s your specific model. If they aren’t available, you can check the manufacturer’s website or give them a call to ask for emailed instructions.

In most cases, your shower head will have a connecting nut from the arm to the head that keeps the head in place. Find a wrench that fits around the bolt snugly, holding a dry towel around the nut to act as a barrier and prevent the wrench from ruining the nut’s finish.

Turn the wrench counterclockwise until the nut loosens enough that you can finish removing it by hand. Hold the shower head in your other hand to prevent it from falling.

6. Clean the Arm That Connects to the Shower Head

Remove the plumber’s tape that wraps around the threaded part of the arm.

Using a clean towel soaked in warm water, wipe down the arm that connects to the shower head. Remove any soap scum, dirt, dust, and other debris from the arm itself and the threaded part under the connecting nut.

If the arm is caked in mineral deposits, you may need to soak it in vinegar.

Fill a small plastic storage bag about halfway with white distilled vinegar. Put the bag over the end of the arm and secure it in place with a thick rubber band. Allow the arm to soak for at least two hours to remove the mineral deposit buildup.

7. Re-Tape the Arm Threads

Photo by Unknown licensed under CC0 1.0

Use thread seal plumber’s tape to re-wrap the threaded part of the arm where the connecting nut attaches.

As you wrap each layer of tape, use your thumb to give it gentle pressure to make sure the tape is adhering between the threads. Two layers are usually enough to keep the tape in place and provide a decent grip for the connecting nut.

8. Install the New Shower Head

Learning how to replace a shower head depends on the type of head you want to install. The most common types of shower heads to install are the fixed, handheld, and combination fixed and handheld shower heads.

You should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for installing your shower head first, but these general guidelines should also be able to help you when instructions aren’t available or are unclear.

a) How to Properly Install a Shower Head That’s Fixed to the Arm

Hold your new shower head up to the connecting arm.

Wrap a thin towel around the connecting nut for protection from scratches and then place your adjustable wrench over the nut. Turn the nut clockwise until it tightens but avoid overtightening the nut.

Turn on the water and look for any leaks around the nut. If leaks occur, you may need to either tighten the nut some more or replace the thread seal tape.

b) How to Install a Shower Head That’s Handheld

Some handheld shower heads will come with the shower head already connected to the hose. If yours isn’t, you should be able to twist it onto the hose clockwise.

Connect the showerhead mount the same way you would a fixed shower head by using a towel and wrench to turn the connecting nut clockwise. Hold the mount in place as you do this to ensure that it remains upright for the handheld shower head to sit on.

Check for leaks coming from the connecting nut or the shower head’s connection to the hose and tighten the connections, if necessary.

c) How to Install a Shower Head That’s a Combination of Fixed and Handheld

These shower heads come in a variety of styles, but they most often connect to the shower head arm the same as a fixed shower head would. The handheld shower head then sits on a base on the fixed part.

If this is how your shower head mounts, follow the instructions for installing a fixed shower head. Then, screw together the handheld head to its hose and mount it on the bracket.

Check for leaks coming from the connecting arm or either of the two shower heads and tighten the connections, if necessary.

Conclusion: How to Change a Shower Head

The steps for removing and replacing a shower head will vary according to your shower head type.

Learning how to change a shower head isn’t difficult when you have a more familiar style, but luxury shower heads, like ceiling mounts and shower panels, may require the help of a professional. Keep this guide handy for future reference to help you replace standard shower heads with ease.