A 2 Cent Shower Flow Restrictor

Looking for ways to save water at home? This reader improvised a shower flow restrictor that got the job done.
By Mike Murphy
January/February 1983
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A properly made shower flow restrictor will reduce the quantity of water coming out of your shower head but not water pressure.
Illustration by Jiripravda/Fotolia

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When the well begins to send up hollow echoes instead of a steady stream of water — and weather forecasters start intoning warnings about below-average levels of precipitation — you know it's time to pay attention to your family's water-consumption habits. And whether you live in a drought-prone area where cutbacks have already been mandated, or ever-increasing water bills are simply forcing your household to economize, it's a good idea to do your part to help conserve this rapidly dwindling limited resource.

You'll be happy to know, then, that you can significantly affect household water use by simply regulating the amount of the precious liquid that runs down the drain when you shower. If you live in a house that was built in recent years, your bathroom is more than likely already equipped with a water-saving shower head. However, for those who reside in somewhat older homes, there are reasonably priced brass washers that can be slipped inside a shower attachment to constrict the flow. Or — if you'd like an even lower-cost option — you can modify your shower head, causing it to use about 75% less water, by making my 2¢ shower flow restrictor.

To put together this almost no-cost adapter, you'll first have to remove the existing shower head (a crescent wrench is probably the best tool for the job). With that done, rummage through your workshop odds and ends (or pay a visit to the local hardware store or a plumbing supply house) to find a rubber washer, without a hole in the middle, of about the same diameter as the inside of the pipe that connects with the nozzle. Such washers are usually priced five for a dime or about 2¢ apiece.

The next step is as tough as this project is going to get. Using a pair of snips, cut a number of little wedges — all the way around the rubber disc — from the outside of the circle and not quite to its center.

Now, insert the saw-edged washer into the shower head as far as it will go, and refasten the whole affair to the connecting waterline. Finally, try out your modification: If the flow is too constricted, you'll need to disassemble the fitting and cut deeper notches in the washer. If the flow has not been reduced enough, however, you should start anew with another washer (even though doing so will inflate the project's cost to a full 4¢) and remove smaller slices this time.

Since I retrofitted my shower head, I've found that the water flow is about 25% of what it was before ... however, the spray has the same force regardless of how far I turn the faucet handles. All in all, this is one project that I think has really given me my 2¢ worth!

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