There is a fixture known as a faucet aerator located on the end of most bathroom and kitchen faucets. This accessory mixes air with water as it passes through the aerator faucet to create a gentle stream made up of numerous water droplets. The sink aerator also acts to restrict the flow of water. This combination of air injection and low flow from the faucet helps reduce overall water consumption.
However, the faucet screen on the aerator can become clogged with mineral deposits or covered with iron oxide residue, causing low water pressure and an erratic spray pattern. To solve this problem, it helps to know how to clean a faucet aerator.
The first step is learning how to remove a faucet aerator without damaging the fixture. After removing the aerator, the next step is to learn how to clean the aerator on a kitchen or bathroom faucet. It’s a relatively simple job that shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
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Working time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
skill level: Beginner
Estimated cost: $0-$45
BEFORE YOU START
Learning how to clean a faucet aerator is a basic task that many beginning DIYers can handle, but you still need to be careful as you work to make sure you don’t damage the aerator or lose faucet parts during disassembly or assembly.
Consider preparing a small bucket or container to keep the pieces safe when not in use, and be sure to take one or more pictures as you work to ensure the pieces are put back in the correct order.
Also, place a towel or stopper at the bottom of the sink to prevent any pieces from falling down the drain.
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STEP 1: Remove the faucet aerator.
An aerator will be attached to the end of your faucet. You can loosen the aerator by holding it tight and turning it clockwise. If the aerator does not move when you try to loosen it by hand, use a pair of tongue-and-groove pliers to gently hold the aerator and turn it clockwise. Please note that the metal teeth of the pliers can damage the exterior of the aerator if you apply too much pressure.
To better grip the aerator without damaging it, apply a strip of masking tape to the outside of the aerator. This layer of protection helps prevent the pliers from scratching the finish.
If you can’t find the aerator, your faucet may not have one or it may be hidden inside the end of the faucet. You can remove a hidden aerator with a specialized tool known as a faucet aerator wrench.
If you were unable to remove the aerator from the faucet, the aerator could be seized due to a buildup of mineral deposits. You can still clean the parts by filling a small plastic bag with vinegar and tying the bag to the end of the faucet, submerging the aerator. After letting the aerator soak, try removing it again.
STEP 2: Check for debris and remove aerator.
With the aerator removed, inspect the interior for any hard water or debris buildup that could bind the parts together. Use your finger or a small screwdriver to gently scrape off any mineral deposits to free the aerator parts. Once free, you can disassemble the aerator and take pictures while disassembling the parts to ensure they are reassembled in the correct order. Keep the parts in a safe place to avoid losing them.
Faucet aerators are made up of several parts that sit inside the metal aerator body, including an outer casing, screen, bushing, mixer, flow restrictor, and washer. A toothpick or similar small, thin object can help separate the aerator pieces and clean out any debris caught on the threads or blocking holes in the mesh.
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STEP 3: Rinse off loose debris and soak aerator in vinegar.
Carefully rinse and inspect each part of the aerator for any signs of significant damage. If the internal parts of the aerator are damaged, it is recommended that this accessory be completely replaced. Simple cleaning will not restore its proper flow or function. Some debris and grime will not be able to be rinsed off the aerator parts. Instead, you should proceed as you would if you were learning how to clean a faucet head.
Prepare a bucket or container with enough white vinegar so that the aerator parts are completely submerged. Place the aerator pieces in the container and let the vinegar break down any hard residue for the next 20 to 30 minutes.
STEP 4: Scrub the aerator with a toothbrush.
After soaking the aerator parts in vinegar, most of the dirt and mineral buildup should be gone, but to make sure the fixture is completely clean, you can use an old toothbrush to scrub the parts.
Hold screen and mixer up to bathroom light to inspect parts for residual debris. The hard bristles of a toothbrush can get into small holes and cracks, allowing them to break up any leftover bits. Go slowly to avoid damaging parts.
STEP 5: Flush, reassemble, and reinstall aerator.
Open the faucet to rinse each part of the aerator before carefully reassembling this accessory. Use the pictures you took during disassembly to make sure the parts are put back together in the correct order. With the aerator reassembled, you can reinstall it on the faucet.
Use your hands to carefully thread the aerator onto the end of the faucet, turning it counterclockwise to tighten the fitting. Turn on the water to test the flow of the water. You may only need to hand-tighten the aerator, but if water leaks or gushes out the side of the fixture, use a wrench to finish tightening the aerator.
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Cleaning a faucet aerator is a simple job that can usually be completed in less than an hour with no expensive parts or solutions, which is a huge incentive to tackle this task as soon as possible. Be sure to check and clean your aerator at least twice a year to help prevent mineral deposits from forming. If your neighborhood plumbing or water lines are being worked on, you may need to clean your aerator more often, like once a month.
During the inspection and cleaning process, you may find broken or badly worn parts. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to replace the aerator on your faucet. Trying to use a broken accessory only creates more problems. A new faucet aerator isn’t too expensive, just be sure to take the old one to the store when looking for a compatible replacement.