The best shower heads in 2021

  • Shower heads are one of those things you use without a second thought — until it starts sputtering.

  • The best shower head is from Waterpik because of its various spray settings and affordable price.
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If you think that all shower heads are the same, you might have a second opinion once yours starts sputtering mid-shampoo. A shower head is something you use every day, so it's important to choose one that provides the look, flow rate, and stream settings you need. 

After testing nine shower heads and consulting two experts — CEO of Advanced Builders and Contractors Nick Yahoodain and remodeling expert Monica Higgins — the Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray is our pick for the best shower head.

You can read our full testing methodology here, but essentially, I installed each shower head (this is where my four years as a general contractor came in handy) and used them three times a day, going through the same routine with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. After comparing a variety of criteria, it was clear that the Waterpik performed the best. 

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: Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray
  • Best budget shower head: WASSA High Pressure Shower Head
  • Best high-end shower head: Moen S6320 Velocity Two-Function Rainshower
  • Best for low flow: High Sierra All Metal 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Showerhead
  • Best dual shower head: American Standard Spectra+ Duo

The best overall

The Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray is affordable, has a variety of useful stream options, and a 1.8 GPM flow rate that meets guidelines in all 50 states.

Pros: Water saving mode, secure cradle, impressive GPM, affordable price 

Cons: Plastic construction reduces durability, rubber nozzles are too stiff

For something named so intensely, installing the Waterpik was simple and straightforward. I was able to hand-tighten its connection right onto my existing shower arm and I appreciated the removable label on the hose that clearly indicated which end to attach to the connector and which to screw onto the shower head itself. 

Though the mount on the Waterpik model we tested came in a chrome-colored finish, it's actually made of plastic. Visually, you can't tell, but you will notice that it's not as sleek or modern as higher-end models. Nonetheless, it has a nice, functional look to it, and that's what most of us need anyway. It fits snugly and securely into its cradle, and the long neck is ready to be grabbed whenever you want to switch to handheld operation. At this price, I was expecting a cheap, plastic hose, but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the metal. 

The Waterpik is restricted to a max GPM of 1.8, making it acceptable for use in all US states. Because of this relatively low flow rate, I was surprised when my testing showed it hit 1.5 GPM, nearly hitting its max flow rate at 64 PSI. 

The long-handled design of the Waterpik allows it to be completely angled downwards so it's effectively a rain-style unit. The nine stream settings offer a nice variety and include a water-saving pause setting. This is convenient when you want a little break to lather shampoo or while washing your dog.

When I used the Waterpik after a day of yard work in the Florida heat, its Powerspray mode produced an impressive amount of power, easily blasting off lawn debris and layers of bug spray. When I used the PowerPulse massage setting, streams of water would pulse onto my skin, and I was more relaxed than usual during my shower. It was not as powerful as a real massage, it did give some relief to my sore muscles. 

The rubber spray nozzles were much stiffer than other shower heads I tested. In my line of work as a contractor and when I tested kitchen faucets, I found that the softer and more flexible the rubber was, the easier they are to clean any mineral buildup inside, so you may need to put a little extra muscle into cleaning this one. 

The best budget shower head

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 plumbing pipes.  

Even though it's made of ABS 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 clean and modern it looked. Its plastic construction doesn't look cheap at all, 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 best high-end shower head

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

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 though, 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. As good as it looks, 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. 

The best for low flow

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 a simple process, and its small size made it possible to screw in one-handed, unlike larger bulkier models that require 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.

The best dual shower head

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

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 simple to attach. The packaging did include plumbers tape, though it came in a flat kite-string spool, instead of the more convenient round spools. Not a huge deal, but I definitely would have preferred the round spool that you can roll around the pipe fitting.

The American Standard can look a bit intimidating at first. It's big and bulky, but in a robust way, with a unique rectangular head and a large, center-set handheld wand. The construction and finish had a nice solid look to it, and even the gray plastic components felt intentional and durable. I liked the look, though it did give me a slight "medical" vibe, which was probably from the gray color of the components. It didn't bother me at all, but someone else might take issue. 

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 much pressure when I used the main head and the handheld wand simultaneously. This was surprising considering the relatively low 1.4 GPM I got while testing. The American Standard featured a massage function similar to the Waterpik, but it lacked the strength.

Operating the American Standard does take some getting used to, 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. When pushed back, it focuses all the water pressure on the wand, which has all the extra settings. When pushed forward, it redirects all the water to the main head. 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. Unlike other magnetic docks that are too weak, the American Standard has a really solid feeling when locked into place, giving you a satisfying "clunk" sound. You do need to give the fixed shower head some support as you remove the wand though otherwise, it'll move around a little. That said, I would rather deal with that issue than a weaker magnet and a handheld shower head that could 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 we don't recommend

We tested nine shower heads for this guide after researching more than a dozen, and some didn't perform as well. Here's what we tested and why they didn't make the cut:

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 In2ition 5-Spray 6.06 in. with H2Okinetic Technology, $343.95: A shower head should be flawless but the Delta In2ition just didn't have the pressure to be used effectively, and its magnetic cradle was far too weak. 

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, $39.98: 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 look forward to testing soon

Kohler K-22169-G-CP Forte 1.75 GPM Multifunction Showerhead ($110.78): The Kohler Forte is a popular model with three distinct stream options. I'm excited to see how it stacks up against the Waterpik High Pressure Powerpulse 9-Spray, especially considering its relatively low price tag. 

Kohler Flipside 4-Spray 5.4 in. Single Wall Mount Fixed Shower Head ($49.99): I'm very interested to see how the Kohler Flipside stands up to a flow rate test. Its unique design looks like a lot of fun to use, but I can't help but think that the configuration makes for inefficient operation. 

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo ($89)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.

How we test shower heads

I researched more than 15 shower heads based on reviews from shoppers and other consumer review sites, and tested nine in total. 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. 

I used five basic categories to compare the 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 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 Business 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 have a GPM of no more than 2.0 GPM.

Shower head types

There are several shower head types to choose from, each with their 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."

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. 

Check out our other bathroom guides

The best shower curtains

The best shower curtain liners

The best shower curtain hooks

The best bath mats

The best bath towels

The best bathtubs

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