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How to Remove Flow Restrictor From Shower Head

How to Remove Flow Restrictor From Shower Head

The flow restrictor on a shower can seriously mess with the water pressure of someone showering, prompting many to wonder how to remove the restrictor. The following is a step-by-step summary of how to do just that.

Removing a Flow Restrictor: A Summary

Water flow restrictors are designed to impede the amount of water that runs through your shower head. The purpose is to try and conserve water. To remove the restrictor, you need to:

  1. Take the showerhead off the plumbing arm
  2. Remove the screen and O-ring
  3. Pry out the restrictor
  4. And then reassemble the unit

How to Remove a Shower Head Flow Restrictor in 10 Steps

Follow these steps to remove the restrictor without calling a plumber:

Step 1: Assemble the Tools You Will Need

For this project, you will need the following:

  • Adjustable or pipe wrench
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Paperclip
  • Tweezers
  • Rags
  • Screwdriver
  • Plumber’s tape

Step 2: Shut Off the Water and Detach the Shower Head From the Plumbing Arm

Shut off the water to the shower. Loosen the nut that holds the showerhead apparatus or showerhead to the plumbing arm. Wrap the removed fixture in a cloth rag to prevent it from getting damaged.

Step 3: Pry Off the Filter Screen

You will see a screen in the showerhead apparatus, usually at the end of the handle. Carefully pry off the screen with a pair of pliers. If It’s dirty, wash it with warm water and dish detergent. Set it aside for reassembly.

The screen helps prevent debris from getting inside your showerhead so you must be careful when removing and cleaning it not to puncture or bend it. While you can get a replacement if you damage the screen, It’s usually difficult and takes a good bit of time.

Step 4: Remove the O-Ring

Once the screen is removed, you need to extract the O-ring. This is usually black. You need to be careful when removing it as depending on how old it is, decay might make the ring unable to be reinstalled. If the ring is damaged, it can cause a leak.

Use a paperclip or needle-nose pliers to remove the ring.

Upon removing the O-ring, inspect it for damage. Damage can include punctures, tears, rotted and cracked sections. If you see any, get a replacement O-ring. 

If the ring isn’t damaged, wrap it in a damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out and set it aside. Make sure you remember where you placed the O-ring as you will need it to put your shower unit back together.

Step 5: Remove the Restrictor

You should now be able to see the restrictor. Its appearance will vary from showerhead model to showerhead model. Depending on the type of showerhead you have, you may have to pry, pop or pull out the restrictor.

The restrictor is generally easy to locate and identify. It’s usually a distinctly different color than the rest of the apparatus. For example, if the O-ring is black and the rest of the attachment chrome, the restrictor will be a bright orange color. 

Another word of caution: Because you are putting the shower apparatus back on without the restrictor, you must be very gentle in handling the unit and removing the restrictor.

You will have to use some force most likely, but you should not force the restrictor out. If it does not come out with relatively light pressure, take a step back and reassess your shower apparatus.

Step 6: Replace the O-Ring

This has a separate step because It’s easy to overlook the O-ring and forget to put it back in the apparatus. If you do that, your unit will leak and send water all over your bathroom. 

Use tweezers to place the O-ring back in the slot you removed it from. Once It’s in place, gently apply pressure to ensure a snug fit.

Step 7: Replace the Filter Screen

Use the tweezers to refit the filter screen in place.

Step 8: Replace the Plumber’s Tape on the Plumbing Arm

Make sure you replace all the plumber’s tape that was present when you took the shower apparatus off. If none was present, use plumbers tape on the threads of the plumbing arm. This is important as it will stop any slow leaks.

Step 9: Screw in the Shower Head Apparatus

Make sure the connection is tight when you screw it.

Step 10: Test the Showerhead

Run a test of the showerhead at various settings to make sure that no part of the apparatus is leaking.

Things to Consider

While removing the restrictor is fairly straightforward, there are a few things to think about.

  • Use extra caution with any of the plastic parts as even the slightest damage can alter the performance of the showerhead
  • As a precaution, shut off the water to your shower (this eliminates the possibility that the water will be accidentally activated while you are working
  • Refer to the product’s user manual if at all possible because these are generic instructions (some specialized products will have different instructions)
  • Clean all the components you remove, including removing any debris, gunk, or residue; the cleaner you get the parts, the more easily they will go back together
  • There may be more than one restrictor in your unit so you may have to examine the unit and refer to user manuals if you do not see a change in water pressure
  • While you have it off, clean the showerhead by soaking it in vinegar; if possible, soak it for at least overnight

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are some commonly asked questions from people interested in removing their water flow restrictor in their showerhead.

How do you remove the flow restrictor in a Moen showerhead?

The flow restrictor in a Moen is a plastic disc located in the shower head inlet behind the star-shaped holder. Use either a paperclip, needle nose pliers, or screwdriver to pry the flow restrictor out of the inlet cavern.

What is a restrictor on a showerhead?

The shower flow restrictor is an obstruction piece located in your shower head. Its purpose is to impede water flow when a person is showering to reduce the overall amount of water a person uses to shower. On average, a person uses about ten gallons of water for each minute they are in the shower.

What is a showerhead flange?

The flange is a cover for the plumbing arm that runs out from your wall. It helps give the shower a clean and neat look. It also helps prevent water from getting behind the wall, thus avoiding potentially costly damage.

What is a showerhead filter?

Showerhead filters are devices that fit over your existing showerhead and prevent you from being exposed to trace metals and compounds (think copper and chlorine.)

Do all showerheads have flow restrictors?

Not all do, although finding a shower head that isn’t tampered with that lacks a restrictor is getting harder. Shower flow restrictors were mandated in 1992. As such, any new construction, remodeling, or showerhead replacements have showerheads with flow restrictors. 

Can I follow these same instructions to clean other faucets in my home?

Technically, yes, but you should consult a manual if possible for each one you do. Additionally, the reasoning for removing a restrictor isn’t obvious. It won’t help with anything but making a mess from splashing water. It makes sense with showers because the water flow is greatly decreased under the influence of a flow restrictor.

What can be done with a stuck flow restrictor?

Gently tapping on the restrictor piece can loosen it. If it won’t budge, you can drill it out by placing a drill bit into the restrictor hole and drilling it until it loosens.

Is replacing the restrictor legal?

Yes. There is no law preventing you from tampering with your shower head.

Will my water bill increase without the water flow restrictor?

Removing the restrictor increases the overall flow of water that runs through your water meter and the shower pipe. Of course, you will be charged for the increased water flow.

What are the risks of damaging components in the showerhead?

Apart from scratching or breaking the showerhead casing, there are two other places where you must be very careful above a normal level of caution. The first is the O-ring, which can be punctured or torn and is fairly expensive to replace. The second is the screen that prevents debris from getting into the showerhead.

Another risk, although it is remote, is that you could damage the plumbing arm when taking the showerhead off. If you encounter problems loosening the showerhead, do not force the issue. You will need to research how best to loosen the components that make up your system.

So, How Do You Remove the Flow Restrictor From a Shower Head? 

Removing the flow restrictor in your shower head isn’t difficult if you follow these directions. Once you remove the showerhead, screen, and O-ring, tapping out the restrictor in most cases is extremely easy. After that, reassemble the unit and enjoy increased water flow in your shower.

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