Squealing pipes are a common complaint among homeowners, and luckily, most of the common causes are relatively easy to fix. Homeowners with minimal DIY skills and a few basic tools can often diagnose the problem themselves. There are many reasons that a shower head could be whining. Discovering the source of the problem takes time and experimentation.
Clean the Shower Head
Mineral deposits or sediment can build up in the shower head and block the exit ports, increasing the pressure in the pipes and resulting in a loud whine. If this is the cause of the noise, clearing the blockages in the shower head will fix the problem.
Wrench or pliers
Toothpick or sharp, pointy tool
Turn the shower head counterclockwise to remove it from the shower arm. You do not need to turn off the main water valve to do this, but the water in the shower should not be running. If you are unable to remove the shower head without help from a pair of pliers or a wrench, wrap a rag around the shower arm and shower head to prevent the tool from scratching the surface.
Inspect the shower head for white spots (mineral deposits) or tiny dark grains of sediment.
Rinse the shower head beneath a powerful spray of water to dislodge any loose pieces of sediment.
Use a toothpick or a sharp pointy tool (like an unbent paperclip, or the pointy end of a mathematical compass) to gently pull or push any grains of sediment from the shower head. Look inside the shower head at the filter screen, and on the outside of the shower head. Be careful not to push the sediment farther into the shower head.
Leave the shower head in a bowl of distilled vinegar for one hour to loosen mineral deposits.
Use a toothbrush or scrub brush to gently wipe the mineral deposits from the outside of the shower head.
Replace the shower head on the shower arm, then turn on the water and check for the noise. If the noise persists, then deposits are likely not the cause of the noise.
This video online shows the entire cleaning process from start to finish:
An Alternative Method For Mineral Deposits Only:
For a shower head clogged only with mineral deposits (not sediment), this alternative method does not involve removing the shower head and may be easier and faster. You’ll be able to tell if the shower head has mineral deposits because they will appear as a white crust on the outside of the shower head as well as the inside. However, if the problem persists after cleaning the shower head with this method, the noise could be the the result of sediment inside the shower head. If that’s the case, you’ll need to remove the shower head after all.
Plastic baggie large enough to fit over your shower head
Rubber band or twist-tie
Fill the baggie 1/3 with vinegar.
Fit the baggie over the shower head and secure it to the shower arm with a twist-tie or rubber band. Leave the baggie on the shower head for one hour.
Use a toothbrush to rub the mineral deposits from the exterior of the shower head.
Turn on the water in the shower to loosen and eject the mineral deposits inside the shower head.
This process is documented in this online video:
Replace the Washer
Over time, the washer in your faucet handle can go bad. This can cause a noise in the shower when the water is turned on.
Remove the faucet handle. If your faucet handle has a screw embedded in the side, bottom or the front, use a screwdriver to remove the screw and take off the handle. The screw may be hidden behind a hot/cold faceplate. Some faucet handles have a pop-off feature.
Remove the circular plate connected to the wall behind the faucet handle. On some faucets, this part will be held on by a screw that must be removed with a screwdriver. Others can be removed by turning them counterclockwise. Once this is removed, the stem that is left protruding from the wall is called a faucet cartridge.
Twist the faucet cartridge counterclockwise using a pair of pliers, until the faucet cartridge comes out of the wall.
Turn the cartridge upside down to see the washer.
Examine the washer for signs of wear and tear. A damaged washer will have scratches, cracks or mangled parts. If the washer is damaged, it will need to be replaced. Take the faucet cartridge to a home improvement center to find a washer of the right size.
Replace the damaged washer with the new washer.
Reinstall the faucet cartridge in the reverse order that you took it apart.
Turn on the water supply and test the shower for noise.
This online video demonstrates the process of replacing a shower washer in-depth:
Adjust the Water Pressure
Another common cause for the squealing noise made by your shower is the build-up of water pressure in the pipes, either caused by sediment in the pipes or friction created when the water flows through curves in the pipe.
The water pressure in your pipes can be adjusted at the main shut off valve for your house. If lowering the water pressure in your pipes solves the problem, then you can either leave the water pressure on a lower setting, or you can try installing a low-flow shower head on the shower and returning the water pressure to its original strength.
Changing the water pressure process:
Locate the main water shut-off valve to the house.
Turn the shut-off valve counterclockwise to reduce the water pressure in the pipes.
Go to the shower and turn on the water. Listen for sounds coming from the pipes. If the problem is now better, and you would prefer to return the water pressure to the full blast, purchase a low-flow shower head and proceed to the next steps.
Low-flow shower head
Replacing the Shower Head Process:
Turn the old shower head counterclockwise to remove it from the shower arm. If you are unable to remove the shower head without help from a pair of piers, wrap the shower head with a rag to reduce the chance of scratching the shower arm.
Wrap the threaded part of the shower arm with a few layers of plumber’s tape, to create a tight bond between the new shower head and the shower arm.
Attach the new shower head to the shower arm by turning it clockwise on the shower arm.
The process of installing a new shower head is documented in this online video:
If you’ve tried all these methods and the problem persists, call a certified plumber. Residents of the Pittsburgh area are welcome to call Terry’s Plumbing. With 30 years experience and a 24 hour hotline, we’re here to help with all your plumbing needs.