Slow Running Water: Unclog the Aerator

Simple fixes for a pull-out faucet

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Introduction

If your spray head has a weak flow, the problem is usually a clogged inlet screen or aerator. We show you how to fix these and troubleshoot other possible causes as well.

Tools Required

  1. Adjustable wrench
  2. Pliers

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Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Unscrew the sprayer

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Turn off the water at the faucet and use a pliers to loosen the nut that holds the sprayer to the flexible hose. Remove the sprayer. Hold the tube facing down into the sink and gradually turn on the water at the faucet to check the water pressure.

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If your pullout sprayer delivers a weak spray, here’s what to do. First, make sure the problem is with the spray head and not farther down the line. Start by removing the sprayer (Photo 1). Clip a clothespin or small clamp on the hose to keep it from snaking back down the spout. If water flows from the hose when you turn on the faucet, then you know the problem is in the spray head—unless the flow is still weak. In that case, there’s a problem with the faucet or supply lines. Type “faucet repair” into the search box above for help with this problem.

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Step 2

Clean the inlet screen

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Look down into the hose end of the sprayer and see if there’s a small screen. If there is, remove it by tapping the sprayer or gently prying it out with a small pointed tool. Clean the holes with a toothpick or plastic dental pick.

Most pullout sprayers have an inlet screen (Photo 2), a removable aerator (Photo 4) or both, which can get clogged with mineral deposits or other debris. But there are dozens of different types of pullout spray faucets, and they all have slightly different parts, so yours may not look exactly like this. The biggest difference is in how you remove the aerator. On some faucets, the aerator has flat spots for a wrench or pliers and you simply unscrew it (Photo 4). Other faucets require a special tool (sometimes included with new faucets) for unscrewing the aerator. You can clean out the holes in the inlet screen with a dental pick or other pointed tool (Photo 2), but it’s not worth trying to clean a clogged aerator since they seldom work quite right when you’re done. Take the aerator to a hardware store, home center or plumbing supplier to find a replacement. If it’s not available, go to the manufacturer’s Web site to find out how to order one.

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Step 3

Check the backflow preventer

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Inspect the area under the inlet screen to see if there’s a backflow preventer. Gently press a pencil against this round disc to make sure it moves freely. Clean off any mineral deposits around the edges.

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Step 4

Check the aerator

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Unscrew the aerator with a pliers or wrench. Some pullout spray heads don’t have removable aerators. Call the manufacturer if you can’t tell.

If these fixes don’t work or you don’t want to do them, simply replace the entire spray head. First contact the manufacturer of your faucet. It may be guaranteed so that you can get a new spray head free. If not, go to the manufacturer’s website for information on ordering a new one (it will cost about $30 to $40). Also, many home centers stock a generic replacement that fits most faucets (about $25).

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