Clean Your Aerator and Improve Water Quality

Aerators are small and easy to forget, but taking a few minutes to clean them will improve your water quality by removing contaminants.

Aerator in faucet


Aerators are a small but important part of your tap. Ultimately, they reduce water consumption and save money without sacrificing pressure. But they can harbor lead particles, yeast, and bacteria that contaminate your water, so regular cleaning is necessary. It’s generally an easy task, but brands will vary in assembly, so if you haven’t removed the aerator before, you may need to consult the manufacturer’s website first.

What is an aerator?

A faucet aerator, or tap aerator, is a small piece of mesh attached to the end of a kitchen or bathroom tap. It’s usually made of plastic or metal. Besides the mesh, an aerator is also made up of a rubber washer, a mixer disc, and a plastic housing unit.

What does an aerator do?

An aerator allows air to mix with the water as it runs from the tap. This improves water pressure while reducing water consumption, which ultimately saves you money on your water bill. It also shapes the stream to reduce splashing as well as catch sediment and debris. That’s a lot from one small mechanical device!

Why do you need to clean an aerator?

Mineral deposits can build up on the aerator, which reduces your water pressure or gives you an irregular stream. Aerators also catch particles and sediment, some of which may contain lead. As these lead particles sit in your aerator, they further contaminate your water. Finally, all of this debris can harbor mold and bacteria, which can contaminate your water and possibly cause illness. So make cleaning your aerators a part of your home maintenance routine.

How often should you clean aerators?

Clean your aerators at least every 6 months to keep them functioning at their best. You may need to clean them more often if you have especially hard water and experience a lot of limescale build-up. Examine the parts at each cleaning for excessive wear and replace any parts that are worn or broken. Aerators are generally inexpensive. Be sure to take the old parts with you to the hardware or home improvement store so you’re sure to get the correct replacement.

In addition to routine cleaning, aerators should be cleaned after any construction in your home or neighborhood that disrupts your water service. This might include a water main break or repair, service line replacement, and any pipe or connection replacement or repair. Any of these events could cause excess sediment or debris in the water line, which may include lead or other dangerous particles which might contaminate your water. 

If you are ready to clean your aerator, start by assembling some supplies:

  • An adjustable wrench or a pair of pliers
  • A couple of rags
  • A cleaning brush like an old toothbrush
  • A container large enough to fit the loose parts
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • You may need a key or small screwdriver depending on the type of faucet

Once supplies are gathered, prepare to remove the aerator. Bathroom taps are usually simple. Kitchen taps with a pull-down faucet can be more complex. Each brand is a little different to disassemble. Some can be unscrewed by hand, some require special keys, and some have quick-release connections. Most brands have information on their websites describing how to disassemble the faucet and remove the aerator, so consult the manufacturer if you haven’t done it before. 

Most unscrew easily by hand from the faucet which makes disassembly easy. Some recessed aerators that require a key to unscrew them can be pried gently instead with a screwdriver or a small hex wrench to catch the key grooves. Use caution, though, as the plastic parts can break. Also, be sure to protect the finish on the faucets from scratches with some masking tape or a rag. 

Steps to cleaning an aerator

  • Cover the drain with a rag or a stopper
  • Unscrew the end of the faucet
  • Make note of the order of the parts as you remove them or take a photo
  • You may need to gently push or pry the aerator out of the housing unit
  • If there is excessive limescale buildup, you may have to soak the whole thing in vinegar first
  • Gently brush off large pieces of debris
  • Place loose parts in a container
  • Submerge in white vinegar for at least 5 minutes and up to 24 hours
  • Gently brush the screen, threads, washer, and anything else with limescale
  • Use a toothpick gently if brushing isn’t enough to clean the mesh
  • Rinse well
  • Reassemble the parts
  • Reattach them to the faucet and tighten by hand
  • Turn on the faucet and check for leaks
  • If there is some leaking around the attachment, gently use a wrench or pliers to tighten it further
  • Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Final Thoughts

Aerators are small but mighty parts that improve our water pressure, reduce our consumption, and screen debris. But they can also harbor contaminants and they need to be cleaned occasionally. This is an easy task that takes 10 minutes plus soaking time and is essential for maintaining your water quality. You’ll be glad you did!