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I recently rented a new apartment that has water-saving hardware in the bathroom. My bath pressure is decent, but my shower water pressure is barely a trickle. How do I increase the water pressure and flow, i.e. the force and amount of water?

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    Are you using the word 'pressure' when you actually mean to use the word 'flow'? Do you want the stream striking you with great force, or with just a whole lotta water coming down softly? Is a massaging showerhead involved? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 27 '17 at 17:54
  • I want both pressure and a lot of water. It is not a massaging showerhead. – lizasperling Sep 27 '17 at 18:35
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    I know this isn't a DIY answer, but does the apartment have a maintenance group? Have them fix/replace the head if it is noticeably low output - or at least ask them to and see what they say. If it really is just a low flow showerhead, then I would take Dan's advice below: purchase a new showerhead of your own and just put the old one back on before moving out. – TFK Sep 27 '17 at 19:43
  • We do have a maintenance group. I called and am waiting to hear back. I figured I could try to find an answer while I wait. – lizasperling Sep 27 '17 at 19:44
  • Very good edit btw... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 27 '17 at 20:20
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If Jeff's suggestions don't fix the problem, it could simply be that the water-saving showerhead doesn't allow the pressure / flow rate you want. This was the case in all of the apartments I lived in; I went to Home Depot and bought a decent new showerhead for $30, and moved it with me from apartment to apartment. Each time I moved out I simply put the original one back on.

They aren't difficult to replace; all you need is:

  • A pair of pliers large enough to grasp the collar (tongue-and-groove pliers work best)
  • A rag to wrap around the collar, to prevent damage from the pliers
  • A small amount of Teflon pipe thread tape

Take the old one off and clean the threads of any old sealant or Teflon tape. Apply 2-3 wraps of new Teflon tape in a clockwise direction - direction of wrap is important so that when you thread on the shower head, you're going in the same direction as the wrap and not unraveling it as you tighten. Thread on the new showerhead until snug and check for leaks.

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    I'm going to second this. Apartments (especially those that include water in the rent) like to use some wimpy showerheads. If water pressure and volume are fine throughout the rest of the apartment, then just buy a nice showerhead and put theirs back on after leaving. – TFK Sep 27 '17 at 19:35
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    I find a rubber strap wrench to be better than pliers + cloth, both for grip and to prevent damage. The strap wrench should apply just enough gripping force before turning, while you might still accidentally crush through the cloth. – Bob Sep 28 '17 at 1:02
  • It's not just for apartments. I take a shower head with me on every trip; motels and hotels are the worst these days. Sadly, shower controls aren't so portable and they're different every time. – Brock Adams Sep 28 '17 at 4:56
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If everything else has a nice flow, then you could have a sediment or calcium build up in the shower faucet or after. I have to take my shower faucet cartridges out and shower head off once every few months and clean them out to remove sediment and calcium build up. I am on city water as well and it is worse than when I was on well water in a previous home.

I also had a rubber washer that wasn't seated and had turned sideways and was blocking half the pipe and only allowing half the water flow.

  • I have pulled the flow restrictor on my showerheads and drilled the plastic out that might be a problem with a rental. – Ed Beal Sep 27 '17 at 19:08
  • I've had some heads perform worse after removing the entire restrictor. Now I usually just remove the black O-ring and put the rest back. Just be a little wary of permanently altering parts you can't replace easily. – Mazura Sep 28 '17 at 1:45
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There is no water-saving shower head with high flow; water-saving is by definition lower flow than the "standard" 2.5 gal/min. The management may be OK with your changing to a head which gives a more satisfying shower for you, and some do this without having a high flow. The management may have put in water-saving heads because the municipal water system requires it as the default head, but may allow a resident to change if they have a special head they want. They may have limits on the stated flow rate such as 2.5, 2.0, or 1.5 gal/min.

If the apartment has a central hot water system, then the proper functioning of the system as a whole may depend on all occupants using lower flow shower heads. Does each apartment have its own water heater or is there a central system?

The flow limitation could possibly be in the valve. If I were going to try to limit water consumption in the shower in a tamper proof way, I would install a shower valve which limits flow because the head can be so easily changed, but I don't know if this is done in practice. You could unscrew the head and see if there is a high flow coming out the shower pipe without a head in place. If that flow is low, then a new head will make no improvement. When reinstalling the head or installing a new one be sure not to cross thread it. It should screw in easily until the seal makes contact.

If you do change the head, you generally don't need Teflon tape on the threads. The shower head will have a rubber or plastic seal that seals against the end of the pipe. Tighten just enough to seal. If this joint would leak, it would only do so when the shower is on and it would drip into the tub.

If you take the existing head off, you may be able to remove a "flow restrictor" and get significantly higher flow with the same head, but of course the management may not approve of this. If you do remove it, then keep it and reinstall it when you leave. Depending on the diameter of the restrictor you may be able to get one which allows a more flow, but still limits it to say 2.0 gal/min. The management might approve this.

A head with a flexible hose that can be hand held gives a better result without a high flow. The one I have installed in our house and the houses of two relatives is an inexpensive one (Niagara 1.5 gal/min IIRC ~$15 through Amazon) that works well, but with the flow restrictor in place it does not have the flow rate of the original 2.5 gal/min head. The hose on this Niagara is long enough to reach under our dog to wash him in the tub. The head is adjustable from a gentle spray to a pulsing, more forceful stream.

EDIT

This 2.0 gal/min head might be a good compromise between water saving and performance: https://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Conservation-Handheld-Massage-Showerhead/dp/B002OSMVE4/ref=pd_lpo_vtph_60_tr_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=6AQWCB7W5V8Z987KJ7Y3&dpID=31F%252BeqaR9dL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=detail

  • To test whether it is a showerhead issue or not with the amount of water coming through, one could take the showerhead off and turn the water on (being careful that the water coming out of the shower pipe doesn't splash all over the bathroom). This would give a good indication if there is a water supply issue, or if the issue is with the head itself. Also check both hot and cold water supplies to see if there is a pressure/flow problem only with one side, which might indicate a restriction in the shower valve or elsewhere in your plumbing. – Milwrdfan Oct 3 '17 at 18:27
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The so-called water saving shower heads (which are not just a nuisance but really water wasting devices since you need to shower three times as long) that I have encountered in my life were very primitive, and simple to fix.

The secret to the hardware's working is nothing but a removable little piece of plastic with a small hole, accessible under the screw where the collar meets the hose. You might need pliers, but I've done it with a towel and bare hands in virtually every hotel I stayed during the last years.
Screw off head, throw plastic piece into trashcan, screw on head again, get naked, enjoy.

Needless to say that if the landlord ever asks you, you should deny any knowledge or having done anything. The shower head has always been like this to your knowledge, never any different.

  • I cannot agree that it is the right thing to do to remove the flow restrictor in a hotel shower. Removal of the flow restrictor in an apartment without checking with management is in a grey area in my view. I removed the flow restrictors in our two Niagara 1.5 gpm shower heads because our tankless water heater would not stay on with the low flow of these heads. I first tried to get new restrictors in the 2.0 gpm limit, but could not find them in the right diameter for this head. Then I tried drilling out the restrictors but that didn't work so I just removed them. – Jim Stewart Sep 28 '17 at 23:52

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