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What is a tap aerator (and why do taps have them)?

A tap aerator is a cap that sits on the end of your tap, most modern taps have them built in automatically so you may not even know your tap has one. Tap aerators serve multiple purposes; they reduce the amount of water you use, increase your water pressure and reduce splashing – all of which have many advantages for the home.

They look like this:

tap aerator

Tap aerators have small holes in the nozzle which separate water into many streams allowing air to mix with the water flow. The combination of air and water increases the water pressure and reduces the amount of water you need to use. The thin streams created by the water might seem inefficient as you may expect to receive less water as the outcome, however the nozzle creates multiple smaller streams all centred in one direction so what you actually achieve is an increased water flow.

Aeration is the process of mixing air with water, or other liquids, and is used in various places in your home. While aerators are used for your kitchen taps you will also find them used in shower heads, Jacuzzi baths, hose pipes and garden pond pumps.

Benefits of faucet aerators

There are multiple benefits to using aerators:

  • Increased water pressure. An aerator constrains the water from the tap into a single powerful stream. This increases the water pressure making it more efficient to use.
  • Water reduction. By having the water at a higher pressure in one stream you are reducing the amount of water that escapes the tap and in turn, reducing the duration you need the tap to run for. This saves you time, water, and money.
  • No splashing. If you’ve ever used a traditional tap without an aerator you’ll know that water flows erratically. This is quite messy and often causes splashes not only on yourself but the surrounds of your sink. Aerators are often tilted downwards so they direct water in one singular direction, containing the water fall.

When should you clean a tap aerator?

You should clean your tap aerator regularly to avoid build-up of limescale. The small holes in the aerator can get clogged easily and this will create blockages. How often you clean it will depend on how often you use your taps but generally you should aim to clean your aerator once a month. If you make efforts to clean your aerator regularly you will very rarely have to change it.

How to remove an aerator from the faucet 

If your aerator is in bad condition and cleaning with a cloth and detergent is no longer viable, you may need to replace your aerator with a new one. Most aerators are screwed on to the tap and with a little pressure you should be able to remove it easily.

  1. If the limescale has built up on the aerator and you can’t remove it, you may have to use a pair of pliers. If you are replacing the aerator rather than removing it for cleaning you don’t need to worry about scratches. If, however, you plan on replacing the same aerator you should wrap it in a cloth before connecting the pliers.
  2. Hold your tap when trying to unscrew the aerator as the last thing you want to do is damage the tap in the process. Be careful when applying pressure as you don’t want to break the aerator in the process of removal. If this happens, there’s a good chance you’ll need to buy a new tap because it’ll be too difficult to remove.

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How to replace your tap aerator

You should be able to replace your tap aerator pretty easily and cheaply.

  1. Once you have your part it should simply screw back in to the tap. You should only need your hand to do this – don’t worry about tools.
  2. Check it’s fitted correctly by lightly turning the tap on.
  3. Gradually increase the pressure until it reaches its maximum, then turn off and apply the tap again at full pressure.
  4. Put your plug in the sink when testing however, in case the aerator isn’t tight enough and does fall off.

You do not necessarily need to buy an aerator from the same tap manufacturer but you will need to check you have the right part. Aerators come in either male or female fittings to match the male or female spouts on your taps.

If your tap hole is inside a covering – for example if the hole is underneath your tap – this is a female spout and will require a male aerator. If your tap hole is on the outside, it will require a female aerator. You will also need to consider the size of the aerator when choosing a replacement as you have three options; regular, junior or tom thumb – the latter being the smallest. The best way of ensuring you get the right size is removing your current aerator and taking it with you as a guide when choosing your replacement part.

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