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Why Is My Shower Head Black? 8 Common Causes

Although showers keep us clean throughout the year, they can quickly become quite dirty. You might’ve noticed black, brown, and white gunk on the showerhead. This discoloration is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Preventing your showerhead from staining can keep you cleaner for longer.

Your showerhead is black because of these reasons:

  • Bacteria on the showerhead
  • Mineral deposits
  • Mold growth
  • Dirty water
  • Grime buildup
  • Cleaning spray residue
  • Chemical residue
  • Rust and corrosion

In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about why your showerhead is black, what you can do about it, and all of the potential dangers. We’ll also cover a few preventative and alternative solutions.

Bacterial Growth on the Shower Head

Showerheads combine moisture, oxygen, and a porous surface for bacteria to grow. These three components make it easy for all sorts of buildup. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to spot bacteria until there’s a lot of it. The buildup can spread to the shower curtain, drain, tub faucet, and many other places in the bathroom.

Failure to clean the bacteria on the showerhead can cause discoloration, potential illnesses, foul odors, and more. The good news is that it’s quite easy to manage bacterial growth on a showerhead. The blackened color will be gone in due time if you follow our simple process below.

How to Fix

Removing bacteria from your showerhead is relatively straightforward. Follow this quick solution:

  1. Dry the showerhead and remove the top layer of gunk and bacteria with a paper towel.
  2. Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with one cup of water and a tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the solution on the bacteria-covered showerhead and let it soak for at least 30 minutes (removing the showerhead will prevent the mixture from dripping too much).
  4. Scrub the showerhead with a sponge (use the non-abrasive side if you have a plastic, painted, or aluminum showerhead to prevent scratch marks).
  5. Repeat the process as needed until the bacterial layer is completely removed.

To prevent bacteria from growing in the shower, turn on a fan and open the door to promote ventilation after you’re done. Steam is a huge issue for mold, mildew, rust, bacteria, and other common problems.

Mineral Deposits Leave Black Stains

Mineral deposits are some of the most common explanations for black stains on a showerhead. If you live in a city with lots of minerals in the water (also known as hard water), there’s a high chance these minerals will build upon the showerhead and discolor it. While these minerals are typically harmless, they can make your showerhead look gross and dirty.

Home Viable explains that manganese is the most common mineral that leads to a blackened showerhead. However, iron, calcium, and chlorine can also be left on the water outlets in your bathroom. When oxygen reaches these minerals, they turn brown, black, and orange. Mineral deposits are easy to remove but quickly become problematic if they’re left untreated.

How to Fix

It’s important to tackle mineral buildup as soon as possible to prevent it from getting out of control. Here are the two best solutions:

  • Use an abrasive sponge and Fox Trot Hard Water Stain Remover. This kit comes with enough spray to eliminate soap scum, mineral deposits, and other contaminants in the shower. It also includes a sponge and a multi-spray nozzle. Spray the showerhead and scrub it with the provided sponge until it’s clean.
  • Try the AquaBliss Revitalizing Shower Filter on your showerhead. This universal filter attaches to your showerhead’s hose, removing hard minerals. Not only does it prevent mineral deposits from blackening your showerhead, but it also stops your skin from getting too dry and itchy.

Mold Spore Growth

Contrary to popular belief, mold and bacteria aren’t the same things in your shower. Mold is a fungus that grows and releases spores into the air. It’s usually more dangerous than bacteria in a bathroom because these spores puff out of the showerhead every time you use the shower. They can spread throughout the bathroom, stain everything, and cause illnesses.

Mold spores develop on a showerhead due to leftover moisture, low air circulation, poor ventilation, and a lack of cleaning. Dirt and other debris cover the mold, darkening its color. Black mold and pink mold are quite common in bathrooms, both of which can cause harmful effects to you and your bathroom.

How to Fix

Mold needs to be dealt with quickly to prevent health concerns. Much like the bacterial growth prevention and removal tips, you can use a combination of ingredients to remove it.

Keep these supplies on hand:

  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • One cup of water
  • One tablespoon of dish soap

Mix them together and spray them on the moldy showerhead, then scrub them vigorously. Black mold embeds itself in any porous surface. It’s quite difficult to remove, so you’ll need to use a lot of elbow grease.

If your showerhead is covered in mold that won’t go away, you might want to think about replacing it. Showerheads have plenty of water holes, all of which can harbor mold that can’t be removed. Once it shows up outside of the showerhead, there’s no doubt that there’s mold inside of the holes.

Dirty Water in the Pipes

According to Plumber Tip, dirty water can make your showerhead look black. Bad water comes from mishandled treatment centers, broken plumbing, or old pipes. For example, worn copper pipes can leach copper into the water, darkening and discoloring it. This old, stained water damages the showerhead and leaves it blackened.

If you notice discolored, cloudy, or otherwise dirty water coming from the showerhead, turn it off immediately and contact a professional. Dirty water is harmful to the bathroom and your health. It can contain excessive amounts of copper, lead, iron, manganese, mold, and more.

How to Fix

Dirty water is often the toughest and most expensive solution to handle. If your showerhead looks black and it’s due to dirty water, you’ll need to contact an expert. Below, we’ll provide a handful of possible causes and solutions.

  • Old copper pipes can make the water light brown and discolor the showerhead, so you’ll need to hire a plumber to replace the pipes (preferably with PVC).
  • High mineral content can be fixed with a whole-house water softener (you can test the water for high manganese, iron, copper, calcium and more).
  • If there’s lead, mold, or copious amounts of dirt in the water, you should contact the city to file a complaint and have it fixed as quickly as possible to prevent health problems.

Thankfully, old water is a rare issue for most dirty showerheads. You can fill a clear cup with shower water to look for discoloration, cloudiness, and mineral deposits if you’re worried.

Grime and Debris From Shower Head Misuse

DIY fixes are often helpful, but some of them can do more harm than good to your showerhead. For example, some chemicals and other products shouldn’t be used in the bathroom. Oil-based products remove debris quickly but can build up and clog the showerhead. The oily grime is very difficult to remove and can permanently damage the porous faucet.

Another common problem comes when installing a new showerhead. Most showerheads need Teflon tape (also known as plumber’s tape) to create a waterproof seal. However, some homeowners go the extra mile and use a silicone sealant. These sealants can clog the showerhead and invite bacteria, grime, and other contaminants.

How to Fix

Grime consists of oil, soap scrub, and other debris left behind from a long-term lack of cleaning. Let’s discuss your solutions!

The Rejuvenate Soap Scum Remover Spray is an excellent choice for those who want a fast and easy cleaning method. It doesn’t use bleach or leave streaks, and you can use it on glass, showerheads, tile, and more. There’s no need to wait; Just spray and scrub it right away to remove the grime.

If you or whoever installed the showerhead used silicone sealant, you might have to get a new showerhead. The sealant is often a problem because it clogs the showerhead. Remove the showerhead and clear the water holes with a pipe cleaner or toothpick if possible.

Note: Some companies recommend using silicone sealant with their showerheads. Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer. However, if the company doesn’t list the product, don’t add it! You’ll worsen the black and brown stains while lowering the water pressure.

Leftover Cleaning Residue

Cleaning your showerhead is always a good step, but it can backfire if done improperly. Many chemical-packed cleaning supplies can leave a thin residue on the showerhead. Plumbing Supply shows this residue can harbor bacteria and other debris. Black stains cover the cleaning residue, making the showerhead look dirty.

The easiest way to know if there’s going to be a residue is to wipe away the chemicals and shine a light on the showerhead. If you see a thin, blurry film, it’s best to switch chemicals. While these supplies are excellent at removing stains, mold, and bacteria, they can create other problems if used improperly.

How to Fix

Many natural products don’t leave cleaning residue. Harsh chemicals leave filmy grime behind, though. It’s essential to prevent this buildup to remove a surface for mold, dirt, and debris to cling to.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Use white vinegar, tea tree oil, or a host of essential oils instead of harsh chemicals.
  • Clean the showerhead twice to remove excess residue.
  • Don’t let the solution dry on the showerhead, or it’ll create a film.

Bathroom Chemical Buildup

Do you use chemicals to freshen up, clean the bathroom, or fix your hair? All of these products can leave residue, much like the substances mentioned above. Plug-in fresheners, hairsprays, aerosol cans, and other bathroom supplies are notorious for slowly damaging the paint and metals in the shower.

Your showerhead is likely made of metal. The holes and hardened surface are a perfect place for chemicals to build up. The additives can leave brown, black, and white stains on the showerhead, sink faucet, and shower curtain. If you want to use them without harming these surfaces, turn on a fan and open the bathroom door for optimal ventilation.

How to Fix

As great as they are, bathroom air fresheners can wreak havoc on your shower. Leave the sprays for other rooms and opt for diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and vaporizers don’t leave a residue because they use lightweight water molecules to spread scents. However, it’s always crucial to leave the door open to prevent it from causing mold, bacteria, and so on.

On that note, steer clear of using hairsprays and other aerosol cans in the bathroom without a window or door open. These products leave residue all over the place (not to mention how damaging they can be to your hair!).

Rust Buildup on the Water Faucet

Rust is another common issue for old showerheads. The metal exterior wears down from long-term use (or chemical misuse) and creates a porous surface for rust and corrosion. Since most water from cities and wells has minerals, it can rust and stick to the showerhead. Rust quickly damages a showerhead beyond repair.

If you notice tiny orange, brown, or black patches on the showerhead that won’t come off, they should be signs of rust. Unlike mold and bacteria, rust doesn’t grow; It corrodes. Your showerhead will become more abrasive over time. However, there are two things you can do that we’ll discuss below.

How to Fix

Rust is difficult to remove from a showerhead because it’s porous and corrosive. Try these two suggestions:

  1. Replace the showerhead. If your showerhead is covered in dark rust that’s ripping the outer metal, it’s time to replace it.

Use a compressed ball of tin foil dipped in dish soap to scrub the rust off of the showerhead. This process will leave minor scratch marks, but it can get rid of small portions of rust. It’s a good method for those looking to extend their showerhead’s life for a few more months.


  • Steve Rajeckas

    Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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