Why does touching the shower head hurt me?

So there I am in the shower. I’m wet and I’m nekkid. I move to adjust the shower head to make myself even wetter (since gettting more nekkid isn’t an option). Ow! That stings!

What causes this?

A long time ago, I heard it has something to do with the house electricity supply grounding through the water pipes. How could this happen? So apparently, touching the shower head (aka shower rose, aka faucet, depending on where you live) while wet gives you a small electric shock, if there are cuts on your fingers. (Which is true. My cuticles - I think that’s what they’re called - are shredded at the moment.)

How plausible is this explanation? I’ve been electricuted before (don’t ask :rolleyes: ), but this shower thing is more of a sting than a shock.


A typo in my thread title. How embarassment. It should read, of course, Why does touching the shower head hurt me?
Now I’ll go cower in the corner and wait for the jokes… :o

Flowing water can cause a buildup of static electricity (although I’m not sure if that’s what is happening here).

I seem to recall an experiment with a running tap, some curved bits of wire and a couple of buckets which generates enough charge to spark about an inch in air.

Although could it not just be that the needle-fine jets of high pressure water are physically hurting you?

Where can I buy that shower head attachment? Yowza!

I wish I got head when I touched the shower.

To answer your question though, I’m 35 now and I’ve been taking showers all my life -that would make AT LEAST 35 showers I’ve taken. And of those 35 or perhaps more showers I’ve never felt what you are talking about.

Narrad, I’ve felt this often too. It’s definitely not water pressure, I’m sure. It only seems to ‘get’ me on my cuticles… you too ?

Anybody ? We need to know why the shower head bites our fingers :slight_smile:

Dammit, I was bored all night and I thought “yay!!! some excitement!”

Alas, it was not meant to be. :frowning:

I think the ragged cuticles are most likely the explanation, coupled with the fine jets of the shower.

If it was grounding through the water pipes, and you were wet, wouldn’t be be having barbecued Narrad right about now?

:: counts on fingers ::

'ooray! Only three jokes at my expense. That’s not too bad. :slight_smile:
Mangetout & LolaBaby: no, it’s definitely not the pressure. I hold my hand a centimetre away from the shower rose and nothing. Touch it… and ouch!

To elaborate, it feels like getting a paper cut. No pressure though - unless I physically make contact with the metal head, there’s no sting.

Goo: glad to hear it’s not just me. (And the first poster to suggest this shower-zapping is just another Aussie oddity shall be beaten with Kylie Minogue CD singles. :p)

Keep your hand on it longer next time.
brings out Worcestershire Sauce and tongs


If this is what it looks like it may be it is an extremely dangerous situation and you should have it checked without delay. I once experienced something similar at a washbasin when washing my hands and it was due to a faulty electrical circuit. I would not wait to have it checked.

I know exactly what you mean. Ever since the plumber installed that damn water saver shower head it’s almost painful!

I was thinking that it would be weird that that would happen since all the water pipes are grounded. But, perhaps something in your house is shorting out, or something. By any chance does it only happen when your foot is also on the metal drain, or doens’t that make a difference?

Joey P: the drain cover is plastic.

sailor: I’ve experienced this in a number of showers over the years (just not at home, until this month.) I don’t think I’ll call the plumber just yet. Appreciate the warning though. But it doesn’t feel dangerous. It’s only a tiny shock. (Famous last words, anyone?)

Here lies Narrad, well done

It didn’t feel dangerous

It was only a tiny shock

Pity the fool, his brain was made from rocks

Stay away from the bidet!

To expand my experience: I used a washbasin to wash my hands and got an unconfortable tingling. I told the owners and they said they were aware and it was no big deal, it had been like that for a long time. The trick was to fill the wash basin rather than wash under the running water and then you felt nothing. A few weeks later a ten year old kid with bare and, possibly wet, feet was killed when he went to wash.

Appliances often have small capacitive leaks to ground. If the appliance is well grounded this does not present any major danger. But if this is what you are feeling, if you are in the shower when a short to ground happens you can become toast. At least you’ll die clean.

It is not a plumber you need. It is an electrician. You can do a first, simple, test yourself: cut off all power at the general circuit breaker and see if this stops it from happening (it probably will).

My guess is your system is grounded to the water pipes and these are a bad ground. You would do well to get a separate ground.

Hopefully, a real electrician will pop in to tell us if this is really the best way to test your problem. I’m just sort of figuring this out by my own limited knowledge of how houses are supposed to be wired.

Do you own a multimeter (voltage tester)? It seems like you could test this by putting one probe on a faucet or bare pipe and the other on the ground terminal of an electrical outlet. Be sure to start on the highest range of your meter and move down only if you don’t see anything. If there is any voltage showing, then your pipes aren’t grounded and your electrical system may not be. A potentially (ha-ha) very hazardous situation.

If you do see a voltage, I think an electrician is who you should call, not a plumber.

Other questions: How old is your house? Are all your outlets 3-prong types? Do your bathroom outlets have ground fault interrupters (the ‘test’ and ‘reset’ buttons)? If you don’t have these, the electrical system may not be up to today’s standards. That might be easy to fix or it might be a major deal, but this isn’t the kind of thing you want to ignore.

The test I described won’t work if sailor is correct about your system being hooked to the water pipes as ground. You’d have to find a separate ground to test against.

sailor’s test will work either way, but it puts you at risk of electricution one more time. However, probably not a great risk, since you say you’ve done this many times.

I fixed the thread title for you. Even though I kinda liked the other title better.

DrMatrix - General Questions Moderator