It’s unlikely you have ever thought of the aerator at the tip of your kitchen faucet, and why would you. As with many other things in our home, we don’t think about some appliances or fixture parts until they stop working.
What is an aerator, and why is it in my kitchen faucet?
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Kitchen Faucet Aerator
A kitchen faucet aerator is a part that fits at the end of your kitchen faucet. It is a small mesh screen that breaks up the flow of water into smaller streams and adds air in between them.
The aerators dilute the stream and significantly reduce the volume of water to conserve consumption and usage while at the same time maintaining the feel of a high-pressure flow. They also reduce splashing.
But, as we mentioned, we don’t think about them until they stop working. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Why Do Aerators on Kitchen Faucets Stop Working?
Aerators may become clogged with mineral deposits, leading to low water flow or an erratic stream. Cleaning an aerator is one of the simplest household fixes, though.
Our water supply has minerals, as well as particulates, that enter the water supply system in the ordinary course. Their presence is not a cause for alarm, except when they gather and deposit themselves in the fine mesh of the aerator. Water flow lessens, and streams become more diffuse.
As we said, though, it’s a pretty simple fix.
How to Remove the Aerator From a Kitchen Faucet Without Tools
Basically, aerators are either “outies” or “innies.” By that, we mean the aerator that affixes to the end of the faucet and the aerator that is recessed, or “cached,” into the faucet end.
The outer aerator screws onto the end of the faucet. You likely won’t need a wrench to attach it, as your hand is strong enough to screw it on as tight as it needs to be. The inner aerator was installed by a tool and then held in place by the ring cap that is hand-tightened at the end of the faucet.
To remove the former, you will usually be able to remove it by hand. To remove the latter, you’ll frequently need a special tool. Sometimes, though, they don’t cooperate, and a bit more than a simple hand turn is required.
If you can’t turn the aerator by hand, put on a rubber glove to give yourself a better grip, and try again.
How to Remove a Faucet Aerator That is Stuck
If it’s still stuck, here are a few suggestions to help:
- Lightly fasten a wrench around the aerator (the outie one) and give it a light turn. If it won’t cooperate, grab a hairdryer to heat the aerator a bit (heat causes the metal to expand), and give the wrench turn another try. Or,
- Fill a cup with vinegar or a citric acid solution (diluted with water) and heat it in your microwave. Prop it up under the faucet so that the aerator’s threads are in the solution. Let it sit for an hour, periodically reheating it and lightly tapping the aerator to loosen the residue causing it to stick.
What about the “innie” aerator, the recessed or cached aerator? For that, you’ll need a faucet aerator removal tool. They are usually plastic, circular with teeth on one end and a grasp on the other. You insert the tooth end into the recess, find the notches on the aerator for the teeth to fit into, and give it a turn.
If you need to remove a recessed aerator without the special tool or key, try a flat head screwdriver. Find one of the notches on the aerator that the toothed key would fit into, and give it a push. Perhaps a tap or two will be sufficient to move it, and once loosened, it should come out easily.
Again, if the threads have become mineralized, you might have to use the heated vinegar trick to loosen the aerator and then use the tool or screwdriver to turn it. These tools are available at most any plumbing supply store, hardware store, and the big online retail stores.
Cleaning An Aerator
Now that the aerator is out, let’s clean it.
Soak the screen and other aerator parts in a vinegar or citric acid solution, diluted with water. This will help to dissolve mineral deposits that gummed up the threads.
Leave the screen, etc., in the vinegar solution overnight. Any sediment deposits caught in the mesh screen are easily washed away by rinsing, and the vinegar solution can be used to rinse away any stubborn parts stuck to the mesh, along with a toothbrush.
Even so, aerators should be replaced from time to time to maintain peak performance. They are inexpensive, and as you can tell, easily installed and removed. Depending on the flow volume, aerators can conserve anywhere between 2 – 16 gallons of water per day.
As we said, an easy fix when needed. And an inexpensive item to replace every once in a while.