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Updated 11:16 AM EDT, Mon May 17, 2021
Anyone who’s spent a night in a dingy motel knows that not all shower heads are created equal. And these days, when self-care is a priority and we’re spending more time at home than ever, upgrading your shower head is a no-brainer. First up: deciding the flow that’s right for you. Are you a rain shower devotee or someone who prefers intense water pressure pointed directly at your back’s aching muscles? Next up: finding a quality head that is easy to install, doesn’t leak, looks great and, of course, delivers one heck of a shower.
To help you narrow down the selection — trust us, there are thousands out there — we spent hours researching the top options on the market and decided on 11 shower heads to test, retest and triple-test over the past several months. The good news (beyond the fact that we’re very, very clean) is that all those IRL showers resulted in four winners:
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
If water conservation is a top priority for you, look no further than the High Sierra Classic Plus Shower Head. Limiting water flow to just 1.5 GPM — that’s a full gallon below federal regulations (read more about that below) — this compact head is serious about sustainability. Switching to the High Sierra will save you 600 gallons of water per month and you’ll use way less energy, because natural gas isn’t needed to heat all that unused water. Given its small size and relatively few parts, the product’s carbon footprint is also smaller than most. And even with all that environmental friendliness, it still manages to deliver a deluge of water and a very satisfying shower.
We all love to treat ourselves every now and again, and that’s why the Moen Attract Dual Shower Head and Handheld Shower Head also made our list. The chrome version will set you back $79, and the brushed nickel and bronze options will cost you $89 and $99 respectively. The Attract will have you feeling like you’re showering at a 5-star hotel. With an ultra-broad face and handheld shower head (with six settings, no less!), this gets you three shower heads in one: Use the main rain shower head, the hand shower or both simultaneously for a head-to-toe water immersion experience.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s no shame in the budget shower head game either. The Wassa High-Pressure Shower Head, coming in at just under $20, is ultra compact (it’s only 3 inches wide) but delivers an intense, high-pressure stream of water out of 45 silicone jets, providing the perfect marriage of a rain shower and massage setting.
Kohler K-22169-G-CP Forte Shower Head
The primary reason the Kohler Forte topped our list is because of the immersive shower experience it provides. Delivering a powerful rainfall spray, comprised of big, full droplets of water, the shower head’s main “full coverage” setting is all-encompassing and perfect for daily use. The intense pressure makes washing shampoo and conditioner out of your hair a quick process, and it’s super helpful when rinsing off soaped-up little ones who are much shorter and farther away from the head.
The water also manages to be gentle due to those full droplets that are created, thanks to the brand’s “Katalyst” air-induction technology, which forces 2 liters of air per minute into the shower head. Whereas competitors’ streams seem to blend together, we could literally feel each droplet being issued out by this Kohler standout.
Fear not — Forte’s other settings are equally great. The pulsating massage can target specific areas, making it perfect for a post-workout shower, delivering a pummeling force of water to sore muscles and other aches. And then there’s the “silk spray” setting. Typically, this type of setting is ineffective at best, creating a steamy mist that isn’t able to rinse off anything. The Forte’s mist setting, however, produces a dense spray that is ultra light but also still full enough to get all your washing needs done.
The Forte manages to achieve all of this while also being low flow. At only 1.75 GPM (2.5 is the federally mandated ceiling for GPM; more info on GPM below), the shower head is not only WaterSense-certified but also California Energy Commission-approved — disproving the notion that low-flow shower heads are synonymous with low pressure.
Elegant in design, Forte comes in six finishes — the French gold hue is hot in the bathroom design world right now, but it will cost you an extra $37. The 5.5-inch-wide shower head isn’t the biggest on our list, but it’s also not the smallest. While it won’t be the focal point of your bathroom (turn to Glacier Bay’s giant square shower head if you’re looking for wow factor), Forte’s graceful sloped shape and broad head will blend in beautifully with glamorous and no-frills bathrooms alike.
This shower head was also incredibly easy to install; it took less than two minutes from opening the box until it was attached and running. It came preinstalled with a washer (many of the others required us to manually install those), so all we had to do was screw the head onto the shower arm, though the instructions suggested using a wrench to tighten.
And it’s easy to clean too: Just rub the head’s silicone jets and any mineral buildup will come right off. Truly, the only thing we could find wrong with this product was its limited warranty, which covers it for just one year — this was the lowest warranty of all our tested shower heads, which typically offered five- to 10-year (or, in some cases, lifetime) warranties.
Overall, if you’re looking for a shower head that checks all the boxes and delivers a consistently powerful water stream, the Forte is a sure bet and worth its relatively high price.
High Sierra Classic Plus Shower Head
The importance of water conservation in the United States and world beyond is clear, and if it’s a top-of-mind concern for you, then let us introduce you to the High Sierra Classic Plus. The lowest of the low-flow heads on our list, the Classic Plus boasts a 1.5 GPM, making it both WaterSense-certified and California Energy Commission-approved. As mentioned above, there is certainly a high-efficiency shower head stigma, with some believing these heads would deliver nothing but an ineffectual trickle of water. The Classic Plus dispels the notion, however, by producing a bursting stream of high-pressure water, easily rinsing off soap and dirt.
Perhaps what we loved most about this head during multiple tests was just how purist the product is. Single-function and made solely of metal — trust us, this is not the shower head industry norm! — the Classic Plus is small but mighty. Measuring 1 inch by 1 inch by 3 inches, the fixed shower head weighs just about half a pound, and yet it’s able to produce a wide, forceful stream that easily rinsed products out of even the longest hair. More eco-friendly details to know: Made in the USA, the Classic Plus’ compact size correlates to a smaller carbon footprint, as the company uses less material and energy during the manufacturing process.
The nozzle’s patented design is worth mentioning too, as it’s unlike any other shower heads we tested. Shooting water out of one single orifice — rather than, say, via a pressure regulator and through dozens of tiny silicone jets — the Classic Plus is virtually clogproof. This design also makes installation a breeze; just screw it onto the shower arm, and voila, it’s attached. Same goes for cleaning, as you just run your finger through the hollow cavity to do so.
We also liked the product’s customizability. Available in four finishes (chrome, nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and polished brass), the Classic Plus comes in three flow rates as well (1.5, 1.8 and 2 GPM). If the shower arm height is over 6.5 feet high, the brand recommends opting for a 1.8 or 2 GPM, which dispel larger water droplets, to ensure that optimal rinsing can be achieved. And if you want to save even more water, opt for the trickle-head version, which comes with a turn-off valve that reduces water to a trickle while you’re lathering or shaving (or chasing a toddler to get back into the shower).
Perfect for smaller and outdoor showers, the High Sierra Classic Plus emits a surprisingly strong, consistent spray for its miniature size. If you’re looking for something with more bells and whistles, this isn’t the shower head for you. But if you’re A-OK with a simple product that delivers a nonstop drenching stream, all while conserving water, the Classic Plus is your best bet.
Moen Attract Dual Shower Head and Handheld Shower Head
One look at the Moen Attract and it’s easy to see that the shower head would be right at home in a fancy hotel. Simultaneously tasteful and luxurious-looking, the Attract’s oversize “rain shower” head (measuring 6.75 by 3.75 inches) topped our list not only because of its lustrous aesthetics but also because it delivers a doozy of a shower. It’s no wonder the head has raked in nearly 1,900 likes on Home Depot.
For one, there’s the fact that it’s a dual shower head, offering up a powerful stream via the rain shower head, in addition to six effective sprays via the handheld. When testing it out, we felt pampered by the three-in-one optionality, whether succumbing to rainfall deluge from the main head alone, opting for one of the intense handheld sprays or combining both for all-encompassing water coverage. The shower heads continually deliver a blissed-out experience akin to something you’d expect from a spa.
In addition to the superb water pressure coverage and consistency, we were also smitten with the Attract’s highly intuitive design. Specifically, we’re talking about the “Magnetix” technology, wherein the handheld lives in a magnetic dock, easily releasing and snapping back into place. Unlike other dual shower heads on the market, where you have to maneuver the handheld back into a slippery, narrow dock adjacent to the main head, the Attract seamlessly lands on the magnetic dock, conveniently located directly under the main head. This positioning is genius, because when combining the two heads, they’re able to work in unison, delivering one giant stream of immersive water. More to know: We appreciated the water-conservation-friendly “pause/trickle” button on the handheld — which allows users to stop water flow midshower while they, say, shave their legs or lather up — and the fact that the water temperature stayed consistent once the pause button was released.
Speaking of water conservation, a chief selling point of the Attract is that while being totally luxurious, it’s also a high-efficiency shower head, emitting 1.75 GPM (which is toward the lower end of the heads we tested). WaterSense-certified and California Energy Commission-approved, the Attract proves that low flow doesn’t have to mean low quality.
Like most dual shower heads, the Attract comes with more parts and pieces, which added to our installation time. All in all, from box opening to shower running, the installation took about 10 minutes. In terms of cleaning, the silicone nozzles are easy to wipe off, and the chrome version we tested out was indeed spot-resistant.
The Moen Attract checks all the luxe boxes — it’s beautiful to look at, it’s smartly designed, it delivers an incredible shower experience and it’s eco-friendly to boot. The only reason it didn’t make it as our top overall shower head is because, well, not everyone has the room or need for a dual shower head.
Wassa High Pressure Shower Head
Here’s the thing about the Wassa High-Pressure Shower Head: When we heard that it was $19 and had more than 11,000 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on Amazon, we were pretty much sold. Testing the head in-person proved what the many reviews touted, which is that this shower head delivers an incredibly powerful rain spray given its compact, 3-inch-wide head size and budget price. Reminder, folks: It costs less than 20 bucks.
If water pressure is your top priority, then you should seriously consider this shower head. Described as both “heavenly” and “magical” by myriad Amazon reviewers — one even called it a “power wash” for your shower — we were eager to discover for ourselves what exactly all the excitement was about. And, no surprise here, Wassa lived up to the hype. Shooting water out of 45 silicone jets, we found the stream to be intense and direct, and we could literally feel every single one of those 45 jets bearing down on us. While some Amazon reviewers complained that the pressure was too extreme to, say, wash your face, we’d have to disagree; the pressure is strong, for sure, but not to a level of discomfort. And if you’re worried about stream coverage, fear not, as a swivel ball joint makes it easy to maneuver the head, directing the stream to your desired angle.
There are some downsides, however, such as the head’s 2.5 GPM flow. Yes, this makes it WaterSense-certified, but it’s at the higher end of GPM levels in heads that we tested and it’s a no-go for Californians (more on that below). There’s also the fact that this shower head is single-function, with zero fancy settings to choose from. The product’s simple design, however, works to its advantage when it comes to installation and cleaning — both were easy and fast.
While the Wassa is missing some of the luxe features you’ll experience with pricier competitors — namely, a multitude of spray settings — you won’t find a better shower head at this price point. It’s totally sufficient for any bathroom out there.
After scouring the shower head market for bestselling, top-rated, trending and critically hailed options, we corralled a test group of 11 shower heads that (on paper) met the standards buyers are most interested in, including design, build, function, aesthetics and price.
We then tested each unit by taking a minimum of three showers — including a quick rinse, a long luxurious soak and the ultimate test: washing down four kids after a long summer day. Our testing process was intensive, lasting several months. In addition to those overall shower experiences, we also evaluated:
Water pressure and coverage: This category was clearly
We tested 11 top-rated shower heads: These 4 won us over
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