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I need to take off my shower head for cleaning and possible replacement.

I can see there is Teflon tape on the fitting where the head connects to the arm. When I reconnect the head, can I reuse the existing tape? Do I wrap an extra layer around the existing tape? Or do I need to go ahead and completely remove and replace the existing tape?

  • 7
    Note that many modern shower heads have rubber washers and don't really even need thread tape. – isherwood Nov 21 at 16:20
  • Good to know! Thanks! – Phillip Nov 21 at 19:58
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    I have about 5 or 10 rolls of Teflon tape in my shed; whenever I buy a plumbing fixture I always pick one up; invariably I come across one of the other rolls a few days/weeks/months later. $1 per roll < time / gas for extra trip! – Mark Stewart Nov 22 at 0:56
  • if the shower head fitting is plastic be careful with too much teflon tape u can split the plastic of the shower head screwing it on to the metal pipe. – ron Nov 22 at 5:03
  • @MonkeyZeus If this was an answer instead of a comment, I would upvote it. – Mike Waters Nov 23 at 7:00
2

Teflon tape is a one-time use item. It's sole purpose is to deform and tear itself into the threading of the pipe to prevent water from getting through the threads.

Clean the old tape off as much as possible. Use a metal wire brush to really get off the crusty stuff as well but don't scratch up the chrome/nickel/whatever finish and apply about 2-3 layers of new tape clockwise; assuming that righty-tighty applies here. This should take no more than 5 minutes.

Do note that if the shower head has a rubber gasket then that gasket is what produces the water tight seal and teflon tape may not do anything if the gasket fails. It all depends on how that joint was designed. In this scenario you can still apply the teflon tape as long as you don't put any tape where the rubber gasket meets the pipe.

42

You should remove the tape and replace it, a small roll at a big box store is less than a dollar.

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    I agree, though a few times i reused it when I got stuck doing some plumbing I hadn't planned on and left my tape at home... success rate about 50% so a second trip to the job site. – JACK Nov 21 at 16:47
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I agree with Ed Beal that you should replace it, but if you're in a pinch you certainly can reuse PTFE tape, assuming you recover enough of it and it's not totally shredded.

Carefully unwrap it and evaluate which end is in better shape. Re-wrap with that portion to the outside, respecting thread direction (you want the tape to tighten as you thread the parts together, not loosen or fold back). Usually that's clockwise looking from the pipe end.

Check carefully for leaks as the seal will not be as reliable.

  • I've had about a 50% success rate when reusing tape.... back to the job site again. – JACK Nov 21 at 16:49
  • Sure, but it's different if you're a homeowner and can monitor and respond to the results. – isherwood Nov 21 at 17:26
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    It really depends on the job... don't re-use teflon tape where you cannot easily access. Expect it to leak basically. – Nelson Nov 22 at 3:15
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As an additional answer alluded to by Nelson, it also somewhat depends on the use case. If it's a shower head (as in this example) where a drip really won't make any difference, if you don't have new, go ahead and reuse. However, if it's hidden or difficult to get to, you'll want to do it right the first time. Also, if your jurisdiction permits the use of Teflon tape on natural gas or other flammable gas/fluid connections, always use new, as a leak there could be catastrophic.

4

For an application like this where a slow leak would not be a disaster you can omit the tape or substitute something similar like cling-wrap.

That's if the tape is even needed, usually shower-heads use a washer.

  • Jason, I almost put this kind of advice in my answer, no shower head I have installed needed or used a washer , or I would up vote. I have used a bread bag a little thicker than cling wrap where I had a leak , I did come back and replace with fresh PFTE tape a couple of days later. I find many leaks where folks don’t understand tapered threads, like on hose bibs where I have seen 1/2 a roll of tape used when a simple washer was needed or on pipe threads where a washer was used when when it should have been tape or dope. – Ed Beal Nov 24 at 3:00

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