How To Clean A Faucet Aerator

Cleaning a faucet aerator is an easy task to perform. Frequently people wonder why the pressure is low at one faucet while all the other are flowing well or, the water stream may come out of the faucet at an angle or be in several small hard streams that splash up out of the sink. In the worst cases the water may even stop coming out of the faucet all together. The answer is always the same, the aerator is plugged up with debris. There could be many causes for the debris such as work done on the water lines in your home or, even out in the water mains in the street. Sometimes even just turning a valve off in your home then back on again can cause the washer in the valve to break apart and run through the pipes until it clogs an aerator. Sometimes to the aerator can clog with mineral deposits from hard water.

Another common cause of aerators that started in recent years was defective plastic dip tubes that were installed in many makes and models of water heaters between August 1993 and October 1996. Perfection Corporation supplied plastic dip tubes for many of the water heater companies as a component, that was defective resulting in a Class Action Lawsuit which is now past. The dip tubes broke down into small pieces, which are white or, whitish grey often-clogging aerators, washing machine inlet screens, showerheads, and other restrictions where the debris could catch. You can check the debris to see if it is a dip tube problem by soaking the debris in vinegar and see if it breaks down in the vinegar or, not. If the debris does not break down chances are that the debris is not minerals but is a dip tube problem. Researching your water heater serial number you probably will find your water heater on the list of water heaters with the defective dip tube. The remedy in this case with the newest water heater with the defective tube being 13 years old at the time this article was published is probably best to just replace the water heater with a new one. The water heater would be close to the end of its expected service life.

To clean the aerator simply unscrew the aerator from the faucet, once the aerator is off the faucet run the water to flush out the faucet with any debris which might be remaining coming out. Take the aerator apart keeping the parts in order of assembly so you will be able to reassemble the parts then clean out any debris in the aerator. Usually a sharp pointed tool can pick any debris caught in the restrictor and make sure the holes are all clear. The screens usually rinse clean or, may need a finger rubbing across them to clean them. Then reassemble the parts in order putting them all back together. Then screw the aerator back onto the faucet and test for proper operation. In cases where the aerator has a severe build up of minerals from hard water you can soak the aerator over night in vinegar or CLR to remove the mineral build up then reinstall the aerator on the faucet. Aerators are very inexpensive and can be replaced as well.

Posted in Faucets, How To Plumbing Tips, Water Heater Repairs Tagged with: , , , , ,
3 comments on “How To Clean A Faucet Aerator
  1. Speedbump says:

    I have had mixed success in cleaning aerators. I am an advocate of simply replacing them.

  2. David Drehmel says:

    I tried all this without success. The faucet still leaked on the sides of the screwed in aerator retaining piece and the flow of the water was partially spraying sideways. An Ace Harware sales person suggested manually reaching inside the faucet and using a thick rag or cloth cleaning any remaining debris inside the faucet. When I did this not only did I find a lot of black debris and small pieces of rubber on the inside walls of the faucet but I actually found a whole washer that had become dislodged. I just used a thick rag and continued to rub the inside of the faucet until the rag came out clean. This completely solved the problem. The faucets all now work perfectly.

    • Redwood says:

      Hi David,

      Yes there are other factors which can restrict the water flow in a faucet like the larger debris caught in the waterway.
      The cleaning of the aerator is a first step in the diagnostic process. A misplaced washer for the aerator can cause the leaking you mention as well as a restriction. I would be concerned with debris trapped in the waterway especially if it was a washer that came from a valve or, large pieces of one. This would indicate that somewhere down the line a valve has failed and probably will not shut off.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *