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How to change your shower head



Americans are fairly average when it comes to hygiene. About 70% of the population in the United States bathes at least once a day.

That's still a lot of time to bathe, so it makes sense that you want to make sure that experience is as effective and enjoyable as possible. One of the easiest ways to do that is with a new shower head. Simple shower heads with one spray and no features get the job done, but there's also a world of choice if you're interested in something more. Upgrading to a new fixed shower head, handheld or combo unit can greatly improve your shower time. Here's how to install a new one the first time.

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Steve Conaway / CNET

What is the best shower head for me?

There are three basic types of shower heads: fixed, manual and combo. Which one works best for you really depends on what you're looking for in your shower experience. My colleague Andrew Gebhart looked at some popular models to find the best shower heads currently available ( the High Sierra Classic Plus is his current favorite ), but there are a few general categories to consider.

Fixed shower heads can range from simple single spray units to much more extensive multisetting units, ceiling units, rain shower heads and sometimes shower rods. Showers with a fixed shower head usually use these for the main water supply in the shower. Look closely at the available settings, here there can be big differences. A soft rain shower is a world apart from a single spray unit with a high water speed.

Handhelds have become much more popular in recent years. These units have a hose attached to the main pipe of the water supply. They can be removed and, as the name suggests, held in your hand for maximum versatility. Handhelds are usually packaged with multiple spray settings.

Combination arrangements are commonly thought of as a single-spray fixed unit in combination with a hand sprayer, although it may actually be any combination of two or more units. Combo setups can provide the pinnacle of luxury for your shower experience.

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Steve Conaway / CNET

First things first

The tools you will need will vary greatly depending on the specific units you are removing and installing. For this example, I will go through removing a simple fixed unit and replacing it with a hand syringe. I used an adjustable wrench, adjustable pliers and Teflon (plumber) tape. You can also use a pipe wrench if that's all you have.

First make sure the water is turned off. It should be easy enough to tell. Stand directly in front of the shower head you want to remove. Are you getting wet? Shut off the water, dummy! Otherwise, let's take that sucker off.

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Steve Conaway / CNET

If the mounting nut is extra large, or if it has handle-like projections, you may be able to unscrew it by hand. If not, you probably have a smooth round surface or a predominantly round surface with a few straight cuts on both sides. For that kind of nut you need to use an adjustable wrench.

As you can see here, my existing shower head joint is usually smooth, but it has a bit of a diamond cut etched strip. That is to help the pliers grip the otherwise smooth surface. If you are concerned about the scar on the surface of either unit, take a small cloth or towel and wrap it around the union nut before loosening or tightening it.

These have normal threads, so just grab them and turn counterclockwise until you can easily remove them by hand. Once it is removed, check the existing threads on your supply line. Make sure it is clean and free from debris.

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Steve Conaway / CNET

Always use protection

I am a big fan of using Teflon tape on all exposed wires. It is not uncommon to experience leaks sooner or later when connecting metal wires together. The Teflon tape acts as an extra buffer against this.

No matter what you hear, there is a right way and a wrong way to apply the tape. Always apply the tape in the same direction as the internal thread (attached to the shower head) screws. In most cases this is clockwise. So put your tape over the wires and turn clockwise. This prevents the wires from unraveling the tape while pulling them tight. Even though you may expose some wires, it is best practice to make sure they are all covered with Teflon tape. And again, remember, stick ALL of the wires that your new shower head will use.

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<p>  After taping you are ready to install the new shower head. This step also depends on exactly what you are installing, so check your manufacturer's instructions. For this unit I had to connect the spray dock to the main supply line, attach the hose to the spray lance and the spray dock. </p>
<p>  After taping all exposed male threads, I connected the spray dock to the main supply line, then the hose to the dock, and finally the hose to the spray stick. The connecting nut on my spray dock is smooth and round, with a recess on both sides, allowing an adjustable wrench to be used. Both hose connecting nuts had a smooth finish, so I used a cloth with my adjustable pliers to secure it. </p>
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Steve Conaway / CNET

Afterparty

Once you have installed your shower head, you want to make sure there are no leaks before storing the tools. Turn on the water and look for dripping water from the areas where you had to connect two pieces. All of these should have Teflon tape and as such are unlikely to leak. But if you do find a leak, turn off the water and try to tighten that joint first. Retest and if you still have a leak, completely reconnect that connection, making sure to remove the old tape and apply new one before reassembling.

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Steve Conaway / CNET

Adding a wand like this can make it easier to wash children and pets. If your current shower is not working as well as you would like, consider cleaning your shower head first before jumping on a brand new one. However, if you're ready to make a purchase, we've got you covered there too.


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