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How Does a Faucet Aerator Work: Homeowner’s Plumbing 101

how does a faucet aerator work
Written by Lewis Turner

Unless your house was built in 1940 and you’ve never changed the faucet, your home has at least one faucet aerator.

It may have more than one depending on how many taps you have.

But how does a faucet aerator work? Let’s find out.

Knowing more about these money-saving gems will help you maintain them.

Here we look at the aerator’s advantages, how to clean and replace an aerator, and how a faucet aerator works.

Anatomy of a Faucet Aerator

Anatomy of a Faucet Aerator

**Photo Courtesy: Buzzfeed

A faucet aerator is a flow regulator made up of three main parts: the flow restrictor, the screen, and the mounting piece that holds all the other parts inside the faucet, including a rubber washer that keeps the sink from leaking.

Depending on your faucet type, the aerator will be inside or outside of the faucet head.

The aerator regulates the amount of water that flows through the faucet but won’t affect the water pressure.

The aerator’s job is to inject air into the water stream by separating the water flow with the screen, so the air mixes with the water creating a steady stream of “aerated” water.

The aerator regulates the air because it is narrower than the faucet itself.

Because the water is aerated, you perceive it as a high-pressure flow of water when it is not.

There is no difference noted as you wash your hands, but if you fill a sink, it may take a bit longer.

Honestly, if you have had an aerator on your sink for a long time, you may never notice the difference until it is clogged.

Types of aerators

There are three main types of faucet aerators, the kind of faucet you have dictates the type of aerator you need.

  • A Recessed Aerator/Internal Cache requires a key to remove or replace threads into the tap. An internal cache is vandal-proof and is frequently used in public washrooms
  • An External/female aerator has threads on the inside of the aerator. The standard thread size for a female aerator is 55/64 inches. Female aerators screw on the faucets outside.
  • The Internal/male aerator threads are located inside the aerator. The standard thread size for a male aerator is 15/16 inches. The internal/male aerator is the most common. Male aerators screw into the inside of the faucet.

Aerator Advantages

  • Noise reduction is created by a constant flow of water and less splash, so there is less noise
  • The aerator’s screen snares debris that comes from your pipes
  • Water conservation of up to 30% as the aerator regulates the water flow
  • Creates the perception of high water pressure even in homes with low water pressure
  • It gives water a fresher taste and lighter feel that is created by the bubbles
  • Produces an evenly-pressured water stream that flows straight down
  • By reducing the amount of water flow, you save on energy used by the water heater
  • Bubbles created by the aerator activate the soap and reduce the amount of soap needed

The savings add up

Aerators cost about $10, which you can recoup in less than a year in water savings.

Faucets in older homes can use up to 3.9 gallons of water a minute.

Adding a standard aerator can reduce that faucet’s use to 2.2 gallons a minute. While adding an efficiency aerator will further reduce that to 1.5 gallons a minute.

Using a high-efficiency aerator could save a family up to 700 gallons of water per year, according to the EPA. That is enough water for 45 showers!

You can install faucet aerators in most faucets, showerheads and handheld showerheads, bathtubs, and sink hose attachments.

They come in multiple colors and designs. Aerators are eco-friendly in their water conservation!

When to clean a faucet aerator

Frequently a decrease in water pressure comes from debris caught by the screen.

The most common reason is new home builds where dirt particles get caught in the piping and trapped in the aerator when the faucet is first used.

Cleaning the aerator once you move in will eliminate this issue.

Other reasons to clean it include releading your service line where the screen can catch small bits of piping.

If a water main breaks or is replaced, dirt particles and bits of pipe can be snared by the faucet aerator’s screen.

Aerators need cleaning every 6 months unless one of the above situations unfolds.

Cleaning the aerator is an easy task that takes little time but is worth the effort.

How to Clean the Aerator


  • Pliers
  • Wrench
  • Clean rag

Knowing what type of faucet aerator is on your faucet will make cleaning it easier. If you are cleaning an external (female) faucet aerator, you will use the plier or the wrench.

If it is the internal/male aerator, it screws into the faucet, and no tools are needed.

You will need the key for the recessed faucet aerator. You can buy a new one at the store or online if yours is lost.

Most manufacturers will send a new key if you contact them. Just make sure you have the model number when you call.

Step 1: Ensure the plug is in the drain so you don’t lose any parts. Then unscrew the aerator from the faucet. Place the aerator on a clean cloth or paper towel.

Step 2: Disassemble the aerator and soak the pieces in undiluted white vinegar for 1 hour. If your water is hard, you can soak it in CLR.

Step 3: Take the parts out of the vinegar and rinse them with water.

Step 4: Put the aerator back together and reattach it to the faucet.

Once the aerator is in place, turn on the water to ensure the pressure is back to normal.

How Does a Faucet Aerator Work: Easy Replacement Guide


  • Pliers
  • Wrench
  • Clean rag/towel

Step 1: Remove the old aerator. Then clean the inside of the tap, getting the inside threads.

Step 2: Check the aerator to be sure it is fully assembled. If not, assemble the aerator. Be sure the rubber washer is inside the aerator to prevent water leaks.

Step 3: Put the aerator on the end of the faucet and catch the threads.

Step 4: Using your hand, screw the aerator firmly into the faucet using a clockwise turn.

Step 5: Use the towel to wrap the spout so you can use the wrench to tighten the aerator.

Step 6: Once you’ve installed the new aerator, turn the water on full till to test the aerator.

Helpful hint: Overtightening the aerator can cause strip the threads on the faucet and aerator. If water leaks around the aerator, loosen the aerator a little.

About the author

Lewis Turner

Market Researcher

Lewis has been a contributor to FaucetsReviewed for the last five years. After graduating in Marketing and Business Administration, he joined a multinational farm that used to be a leading manufacturer of plumbing fixtures and appliances. His professional experience opened doors for him to the diversity of the industry. His deep insights and product analysis add to the site’s authenticity. He is an avid reader and spends most of his past time studying. Lewis is also a trained photographer. He does the most photography of the site. His in-depth reviews are highly informative and insightful.

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