- The best shower head should provide a relaxing and satisfying shower experience.
- I tested 12 shower heads and determined that the Kohler Flipside was the best.
- It has a convenient rotating head, a large variety of spray settings, and an accessible price.
If you think that all shower heads are the same, you might have a second opinion once yours starts sputtering. Even though it’s something you use every day without a second thought, it’s important to choose one that provides the look, flow rate, and stream settings you need.
After testing 12 shower heads and consulting two experts – CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors Nick Yahoodain and remodeling expert Monica Higgins – the Kohler Flipside is our pick for the best shower head.
You can read our full testing methodology here, and if you want to learn about the different types of shower heads, you can skip to the end of the guide. But if you’re just here for the best shower heads, keep reading.
Here are the best shower heads in 2021
- Best shower head overall: Kohler Flipside
- Best high-pressure shower head: WASSA High Pressure Shower Head
- Best rainfall shower head: Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower
- Best shower head for water conservation: High Sierra All Metal 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Showerhead
- Best shower head with a handheld component: American Standard Spectra+ Duo
The Kohler Flipside produces an impressive 1.81 GPM flow rate and has a unique rotating head to change through its flow streams.
Pros: No fragile levers or switches, chrome finish, soft rubber nozzles
Cons: Flow rate can be too high for some states
After testing 12 models with high flow rates, impressive stream settings, and practical designs, the Kohler Flipside was the perfect combination of them all. That’s why it beat out everything we tested, including our previous top pick of the Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray.
The Flipside impressed me as soon as I opened the box — its heft, chrome finish, and sturdy design gave it a high-end look. The circular wheel that supports the shower head was easy to install and twist into place; you could turn it like a steering wheel. It fit snugly on my existing half-inch shower arm.
I really liked how the Flipside switches streams by flipping the head around the axis, as opposed to using a lever, switch, or handle. I worry about the durability of small parts like these since they’re usually made of plastic. The design gives me a lot of confidence that there aren’t any moving parts to break or snap. The tension of the rotational force of the head is perfectly balanced — not so soft that it doesn’t stay in place, but not so tight that it won’t turn easily.
I assumed the Flipside’s swiveling operation would negatively affect its performance, but testing revealed a 1.81 GPM flow rate, coming close to its 2.5 GPM limit.
There are four stream settings on the spray head. My favorite stream was the dense and soft spray, which produced a thick, drenching stream of water. The narrow sides of the spray head produced thinner, focused streams, which were perfect for rinsing shampoo and conditioner out of my hair. I was surprised at how effective this flat stream was, compared to the circular spray patterns of most showerheads. It was easy to rotate on its axis even when my hands were soapy and slippery.
The rubber spray nozzles on the main spray head face were nice and soft, which made me appreciate the quality of the Flipside even more. During my time testing kitchen faucets, I found that the softer and more flexible the rubber nozzles, the easier they are to clean and remove any mineral buildup inside.
Despite its low price tag, the WASSA High Pressure Shower Head generates an impressive amount of power at 1.9 GPM, providing a better shower experience than other models priced much higher.
Pros: Affordable, high flow rate, flexible rubber nozzles
Cons: No options for water flow
Installation was a breeze and WASSA even included a roll of Teflon plumber’s tape in the box, which is always helpful in sealing pipes.
Even though it’s made of plastic, the WASSA had a solid feel to it. I was never concerned with it cracking or snapping as I was twisting it into place, and I was surprised with how modern it looked. The plastic construction doesn’t look cheap, and the rounded head gives it a clean, modern look. I got the feeling that the company made some effort in this department, instead of just manufacturing the cheapest shape they could. The rubber nozzles are nice and flexible, which are essential for dislodging mineral deposits.
What distinguished the WASSA from other competitors was just how satisfying the shower felt. Its 1.9 GPM flow rate was the highest I tested, and that power was definitely noticeable when rinsing out shampoo and conditioner. I especially noticed how effectively it rinsed my lower body since the stream maintained its strength all the way down to my legs and feet.
The WASSA doesn’t have any special features or other stream modes to choose from, but its ball joint is nice and sturdy, making it easy to swivel around and angle the stream where you’d like.
Though this high flow rate may be ideal for some, those with more sensitive skin could find it too powerful, so keep that in mind.
The elegant design, sturdy metal construction, and wide coverage area justify the high price tag of the Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower.
Pros: High flow rate, elegant style, quiet adjustment lever
Cons: Only two settings, somewhat difficult to install
If you have the budget, the Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower has a high-quality construction and practicality that make it worth the price. The Delta In2ition 5-Spray and Delta HydroRain Two-in-One 5-Spray are within the same price range, but their clunky designs and inconvenient operation left them off our list.
Installing the Moen wasn’t as straightforward as other models I tested due to the short connection that attaches to the shower arm. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it did take a few extra minutes to get the threads to catch. This may have been due to my shower arm though, and having a longer one would probably cut down on installation time.
Once installed, the Moen looked great. Its extra-wide 8-inch face gives it a classic rainshower look, and 100 nozzles let you know it takes functionality seriously. I think it’d look even nicer with a longer shower arm so it could be angled completely downwards, like a real rain-shower head.
What put the Moen on top of other high-end models I tested was the overall feel of the water, which was surprisingly strong. Its 1.85 GPM was one of the second-highest I tested, and the high flow rate was definitely needed for a wider shower head like this one to work effectively.
Without taking apart the shower head to see how the water flowed, I can’t attest to the brand’s “self-pressurizing ” technology, which claims to force water around the shower head in a circular pattern so that it’s three times more powerful. But based on my objective testing, the Moen still had the second-highest GPM.
One of my favorite characteristics of the Moen was the movement of the adjustment lever. Unlike other models that have loud mechanical clicks when you switch from one setting to another, there’s a lever that smoothly and quietly transitions from a full-coverage mode to focused rinsing. The entire unit swivels on a ball joint connected to the water supply arm and provides a decent amount of rotation, though its wide shape restricts it more than slimmer models.
Though Moen only offers those two spray modes, I found myself appreciating the simplicity of not having a dozen to choose from.
Best for water conservation
The high-pressure water dispersion and solid metal construction of the High Sierra High Efficiency make it ideal for anyone looking to conserve water, abide by their state’s low-flow regulations, or just lower their monthly utility bill.
Pros: High flow rate, durable construction, less likely to clog
Cons: Only one spray mode, 1.5 GPM may be too low for some
Installing the High Sierra was simple, and its small size made it possible to screw in one-handed, unlike larger bulkier models that required two hands. The small cylindrical shape and lack of adjustment lever also mean that you don’t have to deal with straightening it out after installation.
The sturdy construction gives the feeling that you could grip it nice and tight during installation, unlike plastic models that might crack at the connection. Its compact size also makes it easy to reach around and use a wrench to tighten or loosen it, if necessary. The chrome finish is easy to wipe clean and adds a sleek, modern feel to your bathroom. Some people may find it too small though, especially in a spacious shower, and would want a larger option with a little more character.
The overall feel of the High Sierra delivered a dense, pressurized spray, which surprised me coming from such a small shower head. In my testing, I measured a 1.37 GPM flow rate, which was impressive considering the High Sierra maxes out at 1.5 GPM. This efficiency means it’s great for those who want a shower head that will produce the strongest stream, while still conserving water. If your main priority is a high flow rate though, and you live in a state that allows 2.5 GPM products, you should probably choose a different model.
In a 2020 Wirecutter review, High Sierra founder David Malcolm explained that the single opening design helps prevent mineral deposits and buildup, something that can occur in the tiny holes of typical low-flow models. However, this also means that the High Sierra doesn’t have any other settings to choose from, so it wouldn’t be great for anyone who wants more spray variety.
Best with a handheld component
The American Standard Spectra+ Duo has a 9.5-inch rectangular face and strong magnetic dock so you can switch from the main shower head to the handheld one quickly and safely.
Pros: Powerful magnetic dock, easy to install, wide spray coverage
Cons: Plastic components may not be durable, maybe too complicated for a shower head
Unlike most options that have a single spray head, dual showerheads are more functional and versatile. The American Standard Spectra+ Duo allows you to detach the smaller shower head to use as a handheld wand, making it convenient to target certain areas while still having the overhead spray of a fixed unit.
Despite its bulky size, I didn’t have issues installing the American Standard. The main head twisted right onto my existing shower arm, and the hose and wand were easy to attach. The packaging included plumbers tape in a flat kite-string spool, instead of the more convenient round spools that you can roll around the pipe fitting.
The American Standard features a unique rectangular head and a large, center-set handheld wand. The construction and finish had a nice solid look, and even the gray plastic components felt intentional and durable. I got a slight “medical” vibe, probably from the gray color of the components, but it didn’t bother me much.
The American Standard provided a nice wide spray coverage, and the water droplets were direct and had a dense, soaking feel to them. Unlike most dual shower heads, it didn’t lose pressure when I used the main head and the handheld wand simultaneously. This was surprising considering the relatively low 1.4 GPM during testing. The American Standard has a massage function similar to the Waterpik, but it lacked strength.
Using the American Standard took more effort than others, but it’s intuitive once you get the hang of it. In addition to the adjustment clicker on the handheld wand, there’s a separate paddle on the main shower head that controls the amount of water used by each one. Even though this paddle felt sturdy enough, it’s made of plastic so I would be concerned about its long-term durability.
I was impressed with how well the magnetic docking system worked — there was a really solid feeling when the wand locked into place, giving you a satisfying “clunk” sound. You need to give the fixed shower head some support as you remove the wand otherwise, it can move around a little. That said, I would rather deal with that issue than a weak magnet that could cause the handheld wand to fall on me during my shower.
I also appreciated the plastic connection panel on the fixed shower, which prevented any scratching to the shiny chrome when docking the wand.
What else we tested
We tested 12 shower heads for this guide after researching more than a dozen models.
What else we recommend and why:
They didn’t crack our top five, but these shower heads tested well and are still quality options to consider.
Kohler Moxie, $162.20: The integrated Bluetooth speaker of the Kohler Moxie was easy to set up, fun to use, and sounded great — I even removed it from the cradle and used it as a standalone speaker in my office for a while. Unfortunately, the thin stream and relatively weak flow rate made this shower head more of a novelty than a legitimate contender. That said, if you prefer a thin, light water stream, you may want to consider it.
Kohler Forte, $29.98: While it looked sleek and stylish, I wasn’t impressed with the 1.26 GPM flow rate of the Kohler Forte and thought that the mist setting wasn’t very functional. I enjoyed the satisfying click of the control lever though, and the sophisticated design. If the flow rate is on the bottom of your priority list though, and you aren’t concerned with having a wide variety of spray settings, this could be a good choice.
Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray, $39.98: Though this was our previous top pick because of its variety of streams and impressive flow rate, the Kohler Flipside was superior in both categories. It produced a 1.5 GPM compared to the Flipside’s 1.81, and while it had more spray options, it wasn’t as intuitive to use — the Flipside’s swiveling design was much easier.
The Waterpik’s long-term durability was also a factor because it’s made of plastic and had more small parts than the Flipside, whose metal components and fewer moving parts make it less likely to crack or split over time. I haven’t tested either model long enough to experience any kind of damage, but I’ll continue to use both and report back.
The Waterpik is still a great option for those who looking for a hand-held model at a reasonable price. Its powerful massage setting could also be useful for sore muscles.
What we don’t recommend and why:
HOPOPRO 5-Setting Upgraded Bathroom Showerhead, $19.99: Though it was even cheaper than our budget pick and offered some nice flow settings, the HOPOPRO was just a little too flimsy to beat out the WASSA.
Delta HydroRain Two-in-One 5-Spray, $99.98: Even though the Delta HydroRain had good pressure and its rain-can head was positioned at exactly 90 degrees, its high price tag and bulky size made it too inconvenient to edge out our high-end pick, the Moen S6320.
Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse XRO-763, $39.99: The cheap and plastick-y Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse was flimsy to use, and its hose was stiff and very unattractive. It did not give me a good shower and ranked dead last in my testing.
What we’re testing next
Moen Attract with Magnetix 6-spray 6.75 in. Dual Shower Head and Adjustable Handheld, $99.98: The Moen Attract provides a full-sized fixed shower head, as well as a handheld component. This might make for a bulky layout, but I’m interested to see how it stacks up against our current dual shower head, the American Standard Spectra+ Duo.
Moen Attract with Magnetix 6-Spray 3.75 in. Wall Mount Handheld Adjustable Shower Head, $44.98: This is a smaller version of the Moen Attract and has one head that works as the main shower head and a handheld unit. It looks like this combination model will avoid the functionality issues I have with most 2-in-1 options.
Delta Hydrorain Two-in-One Dual Wall Mount, $99.98: Although it’s similar to the Delta Hydrorain model that I tested previously, I’d like to see if this version produces a different result. This model has the same rain can head, but with the added benefit of a handheld showerhead as well.
Our testing methodology
I researched more than 20 shower heads based on reviews from shoppers and other consumer review sites, and tested 12. I also leaned on my experience as a residential carpenter for four years and consulted two experts — Nick Yahoodain, CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors in Los Angeles, CA, and Monica Higgins, a remodeling expert based in Southern California.
I installed each shower head and used it at least three times during the day. I would go through my usual cleansing routine with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and made sure to stagger my showers to reduce the chances of other appliances or household plumbing factors affecting my testing. Showering while running dishwashers or washing machines, or even at the same time as someone else, will increase the demand for your water supply and can sometimes result in a lower flow rate than usual.
After whittling down to my top five, I showered several more times — sometimes consecutively — to get a better idea of how specific features like massage or “power spray” settings felt.
Here’s how we compare shower heads:
Installation and fit: I installed each shower head to the existing shower arm in my shower, timing how long the process took with a stopwatch, and noting any issues that came up. I’ll caveat this by saying I’ve got four years of experience as a general contractor so my installation time will most likely be quicker than yours. Nonetheless, I made sure to note if the installation was easy or not.
Appearance: I took the overall style, design, finish, material, and size into account when comparing the appearance of each shower head, keeping in mind that people may have vastly different bathroom styles, and some options may match better with certain aesthetics.
Overall feel of water: This factor was based on how the water physically felt throughout the shower. I noted the size of the water coverage coming out of the shower head, how focused or dispersed the water droplets and streams were, and how strong and pressurized the water felt overall.
Operation and special features: Along with noting how easy or difficult the unit is to operate and switch between modes, I also made sure to pay attention to any special features, like the number and variety of settings, or interesting operational functions.
Flow rate: I calculated the actual flow rate of each shower head and compared it to the max it could handle. I would fill a 5-gallon bucket for 60 seconds, weigh it, subtract the weight of the bucket, and divide that number by 8.3 (the weight of a gallon of water). This gave me the gallons per minute (GPM) of each shower head.
These flow rates can’t be compared exactly across all the products because they all have different flow rate restrictions. But by looking at the max flow rate of the product along with the tested rates I calculated from my shower (which has an average pressure of 64 parts per square inch, or PSI), you get a general idea of how each shower head performs under the PSI of an average household.
Regardless of the style or design, a shower head boils down to whether or not it provides an effective and satisfying shower. This is purely subjective and everyone will have different preferences and priorities, so I made sure to keep consistent and objective notes as I collected my findings.
What to look for in a shower head
We go into more detail below, but here are the main factors to consider when shopping for a shower head:
- Type: Consider whether you want a fixed, handheld, or dual (a combination of fixed and handheld) shower head.
- Mount: Determine whether you’ll mount your shower head on the wall or ceiling.
- Spray pattern: Decide if you want one or many spray options. Some shower heads come with multiple spray patterns, such as rain, full, jet, and massage.
- Flow rate: Consider the amount of water that comes out of your shower head. A low flow shower head can help save water, but many people find shower heads with a high flow rate more pleasant.
Types of shower heads
There are several shower head types to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. It’s important to take all these factors into account when shopping for a new shower head.
Fixed: These models are attached directly to the shower arm — the existing water pipe coming out of your shower wall — and usually have a ball joint that allows you to pivot and adjust the angle of their spray. These can be basic models that have just one spray option, as well as multi-functional options that have a range of functions and spray settings.
Handheld: These shower heads sit in a cradle, and can be used like a fixed shower head if you like, but also have a long, flexible hose that allows you to use them as a handheld unit. These are great for rinsing off body wash or shaving cream, bathing your pets, or for cleaning the shower itself.
Dual shower heads: These are a combination of fixed and handheld models, and usually use some type of cradle built into a fixed shower head face. This allows the fixed shower head to be used at the same time as the handheld wand, though this diverts water and can result in decreased pressure. Yahoodain recommends these types of shower heads and designed his own bathroom to have both fixed and handheld options. “Since they’re useful for different things, I can choose which one I want. If I want a regular pressure head for cleaning, or handheld for rinsing, or relaxing rain shower, I have the option to choose.”
Types of mounts
Wall mounted shower heads: The majority of homes and apartments have wall-mounted shower arms, which is why I limited my testing options to products compatible with those fittings. These are your traditional shower heads that are attached to a wall — naturally.
Ceiling mounted shower heads: Ceiling-mounted shower heads allow for larger, rain-style shower heads, but since they’re so high up, they usually aren’t accessible enough to have different stream settings.
What is flow rate?
The flow rate indicates how much water can flow out of your shower head, and is measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Since 1992, federal regulations have mandated that no shower head can have a flow rate higher than 2.5 GPM, and in some states like California, that limit is even lower at 1.8 GPM. These regulations have been put in place to help conserve water — a 10-minute shower at 2.5 GPM uses 25 gallons of water.
However, when you see a 2.5 GPM shower head model, it doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically get that flow rate. Your home’s water pressure is the ultimate factor that dictates your flow rate, and is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). A high PSI of 80 will probably get you 2.5 GPM, but most US homes hover around 60 PSI, so your flow rate will be lower.
Higgins told Insider, “If the low water pressure is an issue, consult with a plumber to boost the water flow by adjusting or replacing the pressure regulator.”
While a shower head itself can’t increase the flow rate of your home, effective “low-flow” models can limit the amount of pressure lost during operation. Flow rate preferences can differ from person to person where some prioritize high GPM over all else and others prefer a lower flow. Make sure to check with your household so you can effectively take flow rate into account when choosing a shower head.
If you’re interested in conserving water, look for shower heads with a “WaterSense” label. This indicates that they meet EPA criteria and max out at 2.0 GPM.
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