A hot shower can cure a lot of what ails me. I can relax after a workout or wake up and get energized when I’m groggy in the morning. A bad shower tends to have the opposite effect. If the water pressure feels weak or the spray pattern isn’t covering my body, I tend to come out of the shower more cranky than when I started.
A good showerhead can make all of the difference, but picking out a new one can be a tall task. You can find dozens of options at hardware stores and online retailers. Most look similar and lots offer the same general combination of features — a full coverage “rain” setting and a narrower, more intense stream often called “massage.”
Delta’s clever showerhead tucks a handheld into the main body.
The price, finish and materials can vary wildly and you can also look for a showerhead with a lower gpm (gallons per minute) rating if you’d like to save water. Some showers include a handheld attachment and others include a wider variety of spray pattern settings.
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To help you pick, I’ve spent the past few weeks testing a wide variety of showerheads. All feature easy and non-invasive installs — which was important for my rented apartment. All are reasonably priced between $50 and $200. All are relatively efficient with water — with ratings between 1.5 and 2.5 gpm. Otherwise, all of the showerheads I tested are highly regarded in terms of both customer and industry reviews.
If you’re looking for an affordable showerhead that you can install yourself, here are my picks for the best options you can find. Once you make your purchase, here’s a guide to installing a showerhead yourself and here’s how to keep your showerhead clean.
The affordable $50 High Sierra Classic Plus showerhead gets all of the basics right. It sprays in a wide pattern with great coverage and plenty of firmness. I tend to like a relaxing stream on my body and a firm spray on my face and hair. The Classic Plus doesn’t offer any alternate spray pattern settings, but the main one balances both of those needs well. If you tend to find a good default and stick with it, look no further.
The Classic Plus has a simple and elegant design. It’s one of the most affordable showerheads on this list and conserves water as well with a 1.5 gpm rating. The default coverage setting offers as much coverage and velocity as showerheads that use a full gallon more. That velocity isn’t overpowering. I was able to relax while taking a shower but it was firm enough to make quick work of soap and dirt on days when I needed to get clean quickly.
If you’re looking for something fancy with a wide variety of settings, I have plenty of alternate options below, but this is the Amazon Echo Dot of showerheads. It’s simple, affordable and elegant. If you don’t care about extras and just want something to get the job done well, go with the water-saving $50 High Sierra Classic Plus.
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The $85 Aquadance 7″ Premium showerhead is a great choice if you’re looking for a showerhead with a lot of features. It includes a handheld wand that sits in place behind the showerhead. Both offer a full coverage setting, an intense massage setting, one that mixes those two, and a mist.
The full coverage setting on both the main shower and the handheld felt great. It balances firmness with wide coverage and still feels relaxing. The intense massage provided a great way to mix it up when I wanted to really feel the pressure. I ended up leaving the main shower on full coverage and kept the handheld on the massage setting if I wanted that extra intensity.
You can pause the stream of either if you want to save water while you suds. You can run both showerheads simultaneously on the same or different settings. You’ll lose some water pressure that way, so you could just as easily switch back and forth. You can switch settings by turning a dial or you can use the splitter to easily swap between the main showerhead and the handheld.
Whatever you want your shower to feel like, this Aquadance has an option for you. If you’re the type that likes options and likes to change settings based on your mood, this is the best showerhead for you.
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The $152 Moen S6320 looks like a high-end shower with its 8-inch diameter and polished chrome finish. The main full coverage setting again strikes the right balance between relaxing coverage and firmness. Plus, the S6320 switches to an intense massage setting that also felt great. Lots of the massage settings that I tested were too narrow to be useful outside of spot cleaning. Moen’s is still wide enough to provide actual coverage while still providing a nice boost of intensity.
You can also switch back and forth easily with a handle on the side of the showerhead. It’s simple enough to control that I was able to find it and switch the setting while my eyes were closed after sudsing my face.
If you want a showerhead that looks higher end while still maintaining a simple elegance, the Moen S6320 fits the bill. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but the two settings are both awesome and switching between them is so easy that you can do it with your eyes closed — literally.
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Showering with the American Standard Spectra eTouch actually feels like standing under a gentle stream or being outside during a warm summer rain. It’s super relaxing. The Spectra eTouch is pretty expensive at $197, but it’s economical with water at a 1.8 gpm rating.
The Spectra includes a remote you can attach to your shower wall to switch between spray patterns or you can simply touch the rim of the showerhead to do the same. It feels high-tech without adding any complexity.
The different settings include a fine mist and two varieties of an intense massage spray — though I found both to be too narrow to provide any coverage. The rain setting was also a little too gentle on my face, so the Spectra doesn’t have a single setting that hits the perfect balance between a firm feel and full coverage.
Nevertheless, it has a massage setting for spot cleaning, so if you mostly want your shower to feel like a relaxing stream, this is a good pick and it works just fine at an angle. Most rain showers need to be directly overhead and lots take a specialized install. This one works with your existing equipment and still feels great.
Kohler Forte 22169 — Kohler’s $75 showerhead provides nice coverage. The main setting strikes the necessary balance between feeling firm but relaxing. You can easily switch to a concentrated massage mode or a fine mist. Overall, it’s a solid, well-balanced option that you should consider if you like the look or the brand. It even saves water with a 1.75 gpm rating. It simply didn’t stand out as much as the ones above and the concentrated massage stream is too narrow to be useful.
Delta In2ition Two-in-One — This $133 Delta showerhead features a clever design in which a handheld shower is nested within the main showerhead. The main shower provides the full coverage option, and the handheld offers a more intense stream. You can also run both at once, though the water pressure expectedly dips a bit. The handheld easily pulls free or you can leave it in place for a stationary massage stream. All of the settings are functional but the main coverage option is a little too weak for my tastes. The main showerhead is also a little hard to pivot. That’s definitely a minor nitpick. This is a competent shower that’s worth your consideration but the little drawbacks took away just enough to prevent it from ranking higher for me.
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Speakman S-2252-E175 — None of the showers I tested were outright bad, but this $85 model from Speakman doesn’t have a strong enough stream for my tastes. The main mode is fine if underwhelming. The alternate setting basically just lets water pour straight out without any added pressure at all.
Culligan WSH-C125 — This affordable $36 model from Culligan includes a filter and has a bunch of different settings. Changing between the settings is a pain. The main shower works well enough, but none of the alternate modes are inspiring. Again, this is a competent shower, but you have plenty of better options.
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Testing and cleaning
I’ve taken a lot of showers over the past couple of weeks. When testing showerheads, I look at a lot of factors: The diameter of the face, the gallons-per-minute output, the number of settings, the materials, the design and more. We also run an anecdotal test on the power of the spray pattern with dried egg yolk. More than anything, though, I showered and noted how each one felt.
Some settings did a better job of removing eggs than others.
I leave each model installed for a couple of days so I can take a variety of showers. During the first shower with a new showerhead, I’m paying close attention to each spray pattern and how they feel, but I also want to shower when I’m not thinking about it as much. With each model, I shower when I’m groggy in the morning and do a post-workout shower to cooldown.
After every shower, I take notes on the experience. Was it firm, relaxing or both? Was it intense enough to get the soap and shampoo off quickly or did I have to change settings? Is it easy to change settings?
For the egg test, I brushed egg yolk onto a cutting board and let it dry for 24 hours. Then I held the board 20 inches from the showerhead while it ran for ten seconds and noted how much yolk was removed. I ran this test for each setting on each showerhead. Most only removed a little yolk if any, but a few settings proved weaker or stronger relative to the rest.
Different showers check different boxes, but at the end of the day, what mattered most to me was the actual experience of showering. None of the models I tested were terrible, but a few rose above the rest and cleaned up the competition.