Ask Jean: Do I Need to Detox My Shower?
Dear Jean, I read a piece in The New Yorker about mold in showerheads and something called “shower sickness” that people get as a result. I am totally grossed out—how do I clean my showerhead?—Jennifer D.
Dear Jennifer, I am not—to the dismay of some in my life—the most obsessive person when it comes to cleanliness: I abide by the five-second rule, I avoid detergents and antibiotic anything except in an emergency, and I definitely think the garbage-scavenger microbiome-encouragers of this world have a point.
Gross facts like how much bacteria is on my phone/kitchen counter/toilet seat don’t send me into the panic they’re supposed to. We’ve coexisted with bacteria for eons, literally. I think when we sterilize everything in sight, we in fact miss out on stuff we actually need.
Mold in showerheads, though, I hadn’t considered—until I learned of a brilliant, beautifully designed solution to it: Shower Clear’s Original Showerhead. Its inventor came up with the idea when his mother came down with a respiratory infection that was traced back to her showerhead. He quickly discovered how impossible it is to clean one, and to keep one clean, long-term: Showerheads are enclosed, warm, wet places and their ability to grow mold and bacteria is exacerbated by the fact that, to save money, they tend to be plastic on the inside.
He was looking at the gas cap on a vintage car when the “aha” moment came: What if you could easily snap open your showerhead? It makes so much sense—you snap it open after you shower, so it dries in the air (there is also no plastic anywhere; it’s 100 percent solid brass), and snap it shut before you turn on your shower. That’s it. In theory, it also makes cleaning easy, but you don’t really need to clean it.
Along with my non-cleanliness, I’m also not so good at fixing things—and yet I screwed in this showerhead the way I would a lightbulb, with no problems. And it looks fantastic (I love the chrome, but it comes in bronze, gold, and chrome nickel).
Cleaning your current showerhead can be done, to answer your question: You need bleach and the ability to take things apart and put them back together. You also need a tolerance for ambiguity—it’s nearly impossible to tell if you’ve cleaned it thoroughly or not—a quality that does not often characterize people obsessed with cleanliness.