Is your kitchen or bathroom faucet running slower than normal? Does it seem like the water pressure is low? The first thing to check is the aerator. It could be clogged. Low pressure is the most common sign of a clogged aerator, but sometimes the faucet can also misdirect water, spraying it on the side of the sink or even onto the vanity.
People often think the low water pressure must be a big problem so they call in a plumber for a simple repair they could do themselves with a pair of pliers and a bowl of vinegar. Read on and we’ll tell you how to fix your faucet aerator just by cleaning it.
What is an aerator?
The spouts of most bathroom faucets and many kitchen faucets are equipped with aerators to provide a focused, even flow of water from the spout. The aerator conserves water by limiting the flow. It’s called an aerator because a screen inside it separates the water into hundreds of tiny streams that are thus more exposed to the air and oxygenated.
The most common problem
Over time, the aerator collects sediments and mineral deposits (scale) that impair the flow of water. Eventually this build-up results in a reduced or misdirected flow of water.
How can you fix it?
Sometimes you can unscrew the aerator from the spout by hand, but usually you’ll need to use pliers.
To prevent the pliers from marking up the metal finish of the aerator, wrap it with a rag and then grip with the pliers to unscrew the aerator. Be careful not to lose the rubber washer that sits snug between the spout and the aerator.
Once you have removed the aerator, you’ll find that is separates into a few parts (some or all of these parts):
- the outer casing – The metal housing with the threads that screw into the faucet spout.
- the inner housing – This plastic “sleeve” holds the inner parts together.
- the screen – The screen is the main working part of the aerator and prone to collecting scale.
- the screen bushing – This plastic part keeps the screen in place.
- the mixer – A disk with several holes that buffers the water flow, protecting the screen.
- the flow restrictor – This disk with a single hole reduces the water flow.
Clean the screen, restrictor and mixer under flowing water. You can scrub them with a toothbrush. You can use a needle or pin to poke through any clogged holes in the screen. To get the screen even cleaner, soak it overnight in a bowl of vinegar. If there’s corrosion or you just can’t get it clean, head to your hardware store with the aerator and finding a matching replacement. They’re not too expensive so you really should do this if the old one cannot be fully cleaned.
When you reassemble the aerator and screw it back on, turn on the faucet the flow of water should be focused and back to full strength.