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17 July 2017

How to prevent legionella in showers

Legionnaires disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with legionella.

How to prevent legionella in showers

To prevent legionella bacteria building up in your shower, keeping showers clean and sanitary is essential. Legionella bacteria causes Legionellosis (a collective of diseases – the most serious of these is Legionnaires disease).

What is Legionnaires disease?

Legionnaires disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with Legionella. Symptoms of Legionnaires disease include severe sickness and pneumonia. As a result, Legionnaires disease can be fatal.

Showers are often a breeding ground for legionella bacteria - the water is at an ideal temperature for Legionella pathogens to survive. The build-up of limescale (and other residue) in the shower provides nutrition for the bacteria to grow and multiply.

5 ways to prevent Legionella in your shower

  • To kill any organisms, detach the shower head and run water at 60°C for a minimum of 2 minutes on a regular basis (legionella bacteria breed at temperatures between 20-45°C). Bacteria is dormant at temperatures below 20°C but can still survive.
  • Clean and disinfect the shower head regularly to prevent the build-up of limescale, minerals and other residue. This build up can clog up the shower head, cause small pools of stagnant water to form and create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Well maintained shower heads can last a long time but should be changed when standard cleaning becomes less effective. Mineral build up will result in standard cleaning methods to have less of an impact.
  • Antimicrobial chemical water treatments clean and disinfect tanks and showers to provide protection against bacteria. Chemical agents in the water treatments destroy bacteria by breaking down the cells and preventing growth.
  • Consider a thermostatic mixing valve. This valve blends hot and cold water to prevent scalding but allows water to be stored at high temperatures.
  • Consider carrying out a legionella risk assessment if you are an employer or are in charge of any premises.

Tips for cleaning your shower head

How to prevent legionnaires disease in showers

  1. Remove the shower head from the pipe.
  2. Take apart the shower head and remove all detachable parts including the filter screen.
  3. Place the parts into the sink and soak them in a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar and hot water.
  4. Use an old toothbrush to remove any stubborn built-up residue.
  5. Rinse off the parts and refill the sink with a mixture of dish detergent and hot water. Soak the parts for 10 minutes.
  6. Empty the sink again and boil a kettle of water to pour over the now cleaned parts to remove the last of the cleaning agent – being careful not to scald yourself.
  7. Dab dry with paper towel and then leave in the open to dry completely before reattaching to the shower pipe.

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