It may seem like a contradiction, but your showerhead is probably one of the filthiest things in your house — not really that surprising when you think about it.
This is because a showerhead is the perfect breeding ground for microbial communities, many of which can be harmful to you and your health. Even if you have a filter on your shower, it’s likely you’re not safe, as most filters are designed to remove chlorine and other inorganic particulates, but are way out of their depth when it comes to microbial invasion.
The worst offenders are called “atypical mycobacteria,” which are a common group of microbes that constantly surround us in our day-to-day lives. They are most often found in water and soil, but can also be found in the air when they become aerosolized into tiny droplets of water (essentially water vapor or mist), and these droplets are small enough to enter the miniscule alveoli of our lungs.
Atypical mycobacteria belong to the same family as the bacteria responsible for causing tuberculosis and can cause a range of serious health problems particularly in those people with poorly functioning immune systems or already suffering from chronic illness. These problems include skin infections (particularly via open wounds), lung infections, sinus issues, infection of the lymph nodes and negative interactions in other areas of the body. One species of atypical mycobacteria in particular has been implicated in the development of Crohn’s disease.
Under normal conditions, our exposure to atypical mycobacteria would be relatively insignificant and certainly not enough to pose a risk of infection. In fact, low-level exposure to certain bacterial strains from this group has been shown to boost immunity.
Showering changes all that. The conditions created within your showerhead are perfect for the colonization and rapid growth of atypical mycobacterial populations, meaning your exposure is now regular and intense. This exposure puts your body’s natural defense mechanisms under serious pressure and sometimes can prove too much — particularly in the case of children, elderly and those who are already sick or have weakened immune systems.
For those of us who are normally healthy, the risk of infection is still very real. All it takes is something to weaken an immune system, such as poor sleep, over-exercising, stress or an ongoing illness, and your colony of hostile showerhead bacteria can strike. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased mucous production and in some cases fever or general weakness. Really makes you think twice about opening your mouth to drink the water or brushing your teeth in the shower, doesn’t it?
Luckily, the solution is simple. Treat your showerheads as you would any other surface of your household and clean them on a regular basis, preferably at least once a month. There’s two ways you can do this. The first involves filling a large glass or metal bowl with distilled white vinegar, removing the showerhead and soaking it for at least one hour in the vinegar. After the hour is up, reattach the showerhead and dispose of the vinegar — it should not be used for anything else!
An even simpler method, particularly if your showerhead is difficult to remove, is to find a strong, leak-proof bag and fill it with white vinegar. Place the bag and vinegar over the showerhead, making sure that the showerhead is immersed within the vinegar, and attach the bag to the showerhead stem with a couple of strong rubber bands. Once again, leave in place for at least an hour, and dispose of the bag and vinegar afterward.
Vinegar is a proven natural way of killing bacteria and cleaning surfaces, so it should ensure that your showerheads aren’t raining down sickness on your head every time you wash yourself.
Amazed at the cleaning power of vinegar? Here are 18 more ways to clean your home with white vinegar.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.