This one thing we forget to clean in the bathroom could be bad for your health

Bathroom with large mirror
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Our bathrooms are one of the most used spaces in the home, which is why it’s so important to keep it sanitized, fresh and spotless. But while we all have our own deep clean routine, you might be forgetting this one thing to clean in our bathroom — that could be bad for your health. And before you assume they’re the obvious places such as behind the toilet or even your toothbrush — you’ll be mistaken. 

According to experts, you should never forget to wash your showerhead. Surprisingly, your showerhead could turn into a breeding ground for harmful bacteria such as Mycobacterium avium, a potentially harmful organism linked to a type of lung infection known as nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM). 

Shower heads

Shower heads (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Showerheads provide a moist and warm environment that is conducive to the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi,” says Lucy Flynn, the head of sourcing for Plumbworld. “Over time, a biofilm—a complex structure of microorganisms—can develop, acting as a protective layer for bacteria to thrive.”

Essentially, this slimy biofilm that sits in the showerhead can get released into the air, only to be inhaled through steam during a shower. Worryingly, this exposure to pathogens on a regular basis could cause tuberculosis, and other respiratory infections, especially for those with existing lung conditions or weakened immune systems.

“When the shower is used, water disperses the bacteria as tiny droplets, which can be inhaled into the lungs, leading to infections. This mode of transmission is particularly efficient in enclosed shower spaces, where water aerosols are more likely to be breathed in. Biofilms can also promote the development of antibiotic resistance, making infections harder to treat.”

In fact, research carried out by the American Society for Microbiology discovered mycobacteria found in the biofilms in hundreds of showerheads across the States. Which just goes to show that it’s a common bathroom cleaning mistake most people tend to make — and in most cases, totally oblivious to the serious health risks. 

a photo of a woman in the shower

a photo of a woman in the shower (Image credit: Shutterstock)

With the dangers of not cleaning showerheads in mind, it’s important to know how to clean a showerhead. In addition, forgetting to clean your showerhead can lead to a build-up of limescale and soap scum over time, especially if you have a hard water supply. And if you want to avoid this unsightly, chalky deposit in your bathroom, there are some ways to prevent limescale in your shower.

"While it's easy to overlook the showerhead during routine bathroom cleanings, its maintenance is crucial for health,” agrees Flynn, “Beyond the essential cleaning steps, consider incorporating the habit of running hot water through the shower for a minute before use. This simple practice can help flush out any stagnant water that could harbour bacteria. Additionally, improving bathroom ventilation can significantly reduce moisture levels, further discouraging biofilm formation.”

Top tips when safeguarding your showers

Pink gloved hands holding a spray bottle and a shower head

Pink gloved hands holding a spray bottle and a shower head (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Soak the showerhead in a vinegar solution — First, create a solution of 50/50 white vinegar and water in a basin or small bucket. Then remove the showerhead and soak for about 30 minutes. White vinegar is a natural cleaning solution, stain remover and descaler, and its acidity helps to remove the biofilm. “Detach the showerhead and soak it in the vinegar solution for about 30 minutes to an hour. For fixed showerheads, a bag filled with vinegar solution can be tied around the fixture to soak.”

After the solution has got to work into the showerhead, use an old toothbrush or a small brush to scrub the nozzles and the surfaces to remove any remaining biofilm and mineral deposits, until it’s clean and spotless. Finally thoroughly rinse the showerhead with water before allowing it to air-dry completely before use.

Invest in an antimicrobial showerhead — Another option is to buy an antimicrobial showerhead, designed with microban antimicrobial technology to keep shower nozzles free from bacteria, pathogens and even mold between cleanings.

“To further safeguard your bathroom environment, it's also advisable to invest in a showerhead with antimicrobial coatings. These specially designed showerheads are treated with substances that inhibit the growth of bacteria, mould, and mildew, adding an extra layer of protection against potential pathogens. By adopting regular cleaning practices and being mindful of the conditions that promote bacterial growth, you can ensure your shower remains a place of rejuvenation, not risk.”

You can find such showerheads in your local home store or online like this AquaDance Antimicrobial – Anti-Clog High-Pressure 6-Setting Shower Head ($9, Amazon), that has anti-clog nozzles.  

Regular use of showers — If you enjoy daily showers, rather than baths, this can also help reduce the growth of bacteria.Regular use of showers can also help mitigate the risk by preventing water from stagnating, which discourages bacterial growth. Ensure good ventilation in the bathroom to reduce moisture levels and further discourage the development of biofilms.”

In addition, it’s recommended to always clean and disinfect showerheads at least once a month to prevent biofilm build-up. This will also prevent the risk of future illnesses, or the likelihood of worsening existing conditions. 

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Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!