The nasty reason why you need to clean your shower head regularly

Research shows your shower head can store potentially harmful bacteria and mould.

The nasty reason why you need to clean your shower head regularly
© Getty/ Iuliia Mikhalitskaia
The nasty reason why you need to clean your shower head regularly

You might think that the shower head ought to be self-cleaning, but apparently it’s not. It can be home to disgusting and potentially harmful bacteria.

What’s lurking in your shower head?

Researchers from the University of Colorado have found that the shower - where you go to rid yourself of germs on your body - could be harbouring bacteria that can make you sick.

To arrive at this conclusion, the team of experts swapped shower heads from some 656 homes in the US and Europe and discovered the presence of several strains of bacteria. When you think about it, this makes sense as most bacteria thrive in damp and warm spaces, two conditions that shower heads meet.

Noah Fierer, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the university, said:

There is a fascinating microbial world thriving in your shower head, and you can be exposed every time you shower.

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Although the findings suggest that not all the bacteria are harmful (so you should continue showering), there are some harmful bacteria in some swabs which could cause a lung infection known as nontuberculous mycobacteria.

Prof Fierer explained:

Most of those microbes are harmless, but a few are not and this kind of research is helping us understand how our own actions — from the kinds of water treatment systems we use to the materials in our plumbing — can change the makeup of those microbial communities.
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Shower heads made from metal were more likely to carry bacteria than plastic ones Getty/ Simon McGill

Risk levels

The research, published in the journal, mBio, also found that shower heads made from metal were more likely to carry bacteria than plastic ones. Also, the treatment of water with chlorine disinfectants, could cause a build-up of bugs.

As with any bacterial or viral diseases, people with weakened immune systems are more at risk of infection from shower head bugs than others. Otherwise, exposure to bacteria can be beneficial to our health as it compels it causes our immune systems to build up resistance to different germs.

That being said, you should consider cleaning your shower head regularly; experts recommend at least once a week using disinfectants. To truly make your bathroom less friendly for bugs, wash your shower curtains and the entire space just as regularly.

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