Are you replacing an existing shower head or remodeling a bathroom? The answer to this question will guide many of your decisions. Most bathrooms have wall-mounted shower heads, and unless you’re remodeling, you should rely on current plumbing, ruling out ceiling-mounted options.
There are several shower heads with different spray settings to suit your needs: fixed or portable, or both, and rain or stream. Current bathroom accessories will help determine the material if you want everything to complement each other.
Shower heads are available in different types and vary in functionality.
A fixed shower head is smaller, with some having diameters of 5 inches or less. It connects to the water pipe coming out of the shower wall and has a ball joint to turn and change the angle of the jet. Most allow users to switch between different spray settings.
A handheld shower head sits on a base with a flexible hose attached. It can be used as a fixed shower head or removed from the crib to rinse off shaving cream, wash pets or small children, or clean a bathtub or shower. The best handheld shower head will have a long hose that won’t kink, so bathers can reach the end of the tub or shower without worrying about the hose getting tangled.
Combination or double Shower heads have a fixed and handheld shower head. Users can wear one or the other or both while showering. Some combination shower heads come with a rainfall showerhead and can be held in your hand.
Low Flow Showerheads control the amount of water used to help conserve water. Look for a shower head with a flow rate of 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) or less.
A high-pressure shower head provides a more pleasant rinse and a massaging sensation on the body. It also uses more water per shower.
Rainfall Showerheads are also attached to the wall, but range from 6 inches and up, unlike fixed showerheads, and often have a wider spray head.
The three most common materials for shower heads are brass, stainless steel, and plastic.
Brass is a high-quality, durable metal that will not rust or corrode. Brass shower heads can last for years.
Stainless steel is resistant to rust and stains. Stainless steel is also lightweight and durable and can withstand extreme temperatures. It is also more cost effective than brass.
Plastics such as ABS plastic are strong, non-toxic, and resistant to corrosion and chemicals. ABS is also BPA free and heat resistant.
Gone are the days when the only options for a “nice” shower were to get out of the tub with a high-pressure shower head or barely get enough water to feel relaxed and, well, clean.
Today, there are shower heads with 48 or more spray settings. For those who like their sprays to splash on the body, don’t worry, that’s still a popular spray pattern. Other favorite patterns include rain, full, and massage.
Rain provides a broad, soft spray. Full also provides a wide stream, but not necessarily a smooth one. The massage is a bit more forceful, like the jet, and also more targeted.
Flow rate is the amount of water flowing through the shower head, measured in gallons per minute (GPM).
For those looking to save water and lower their utility bills look for a low flow rate of 2 GPM or less.
As of 1992, mandates restrict all showerheads to have a water flow rate of 2.5 GPM. Some local governments ask for even lower flow rates. If you live in Colorado or New York City, there is a limit of 2.0 GPM. California has a restriction of 1.8 GPM.
Manufacturers still make it possible to enjoy high-pressure showers with low-flow showerheads. They can increase the pressure of the water coming out regardless of the pressure flowing through the shower head.
Most homes have wall mounted shower heads. Because of this, today’s plumbing setup limits you to wall-mounted shower heads. For those planning a renovation or building a new home, choosing a ceiling mounted shower head may be best.
Most ceiling mounted shower heads will not have the same spray pattern setting as they are so tall. The water from the ceiling mounted shower heads flows evenly over the body.
Unless you’re planning on redoing your entire bathroom, you’ll probably want to match your new showerhead to your current bathroom fixtures, including finishes and materials. Some of the most popular finishes are chrome, polished brass, brushed nickel, and stainless steel. Keep in mind that gloss finishes show smudging, while matte finishes resist smudging.
The size of the shower head itself can influence the design and style. If you have room for a nice standing shower and want a square rain shower up to 18 inches wide, why not? It can add a modern look and provide a relaxing shower experience. Conversely, those with smaller bathrooms may need to stick with something smaller.
But smaller doesn’t have to mean boring. You can find fixed shower heads with different arm styles. Of course, there is the traditional arm that sticks out a bit and points down. Others are offset and extend from the wall and curve upwards. Not only does this provide more headroom, but it also gives off a contemporary look.
Some additional features to look for when shopping for a shower head:
Ergonomic Shower heads can come with extra-long hoses that reach into the end or even outside of the tub or shower. This allows women to shave more easily, clean up children and pets, and clean the tub and shower. Or, if you want to fill a bucket with water, you can place it on the floor and fill it outside the tub.
Non- slip grip handheld shower heads come with rubberized handles so they don’t easily fall out of your hand while showering.
LED lights add an extra level to the shower experience. Users can select from various colors depending on their mood, or users can turn off the lights and just hide if they need to ignore the world for a while.
On/Off Switches Allow users to pause the shower while washing or shaving to save water.
Installing a shower head is not a difficult task that requires a plumber, especially if you maintain the existing shower arm. Look for a shower head that says it will work with standard shower arms (if the one you have is standard), and may have a leak-proof fit.
The tools most often required to change a shower head are a wrench and plumber’s tape. And in this scenario, it’s a matter of unscrewing and replacing. Other shower head installations require more complex instructions.
Our best picks
Selected based on the buying considerations detailed above, the following list contains some of the best shower heads on the market in a variety of categories.