How to Choose a Shower Head

Find an effective shower head for both rushed mornings and relaxed evenings.

A large shower head in a shower

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Showering is a quick, efficient method to get clean in the morning before heading out for the day, but showers are also more affordable and space-saving than bathtubs. Showers can also be very relaxing as water falls down from overhead or massages aching muscles with firm, consistent water pressure.

Your shower experience can be greatly influenced by the shower head. This part of the shower connects to the shower arm and redistributes the flow of the water through numerous spray holes. The direction of the spray, water pressure, and even where the spray hits your body depends heavily on the shower head mounting position, spray pattern, and type. This article will help you learn more about shower heads and the important product factors to consider before investing in a new shower head for your home.

Before Replacing Your Shower Head

Not every problem needs to be solved by replacing the existing parts. A shower head that has blocked sprays holes can be cleaned and a leaking shower head can often be repaired, saving you the cost of a new shower head for the bathroom.

Buying Considerations for Shower Heads

Before you decide on a new shower head to replace a broken, leaking, or clogged fixture, it's necessary to consider several product factors in order to make an informed decision.


In many cities and towns across the country, the incoming water can have heavy mineral content, chlorine, and other contaminants that can dry out your skin and hair. It's typically recommended to install a whole-home water softener or water filtration system to filter these contaminants as soon as they enter the home, but this isn't always an option. For instance, condo owners or apartment renters generally do not have access to the main water line and may have more than one water line coming into the unit.

This issue can still be handled relatively easily by investing in a shower head with a built-in filter to remove the contaminants before the water exits the shower head, allowing you to enjoy your showers again without worrying about damaging your skin and hair.

Spray Pattern

While a filtered shower head is often selected due to need, the spray pattern of a shower head is typically chosen based on personal preference. Only you really know how you like the water to feel when you are standing in the shower. Common options include rainfall, massage, and jet spray patterns, though there are also full-panel shower products that can massage your entire body with multiple sprayers that can be adjusted to hit all the right spots after a hard day at work. Massage and jet settings on the shower head can also provide users with a mild hydrotherapy experience, while an overhead rainfall spray is purely for calm, quiet relaxation.


A factor that is important to consider when you are choosing a new shower head is the mount. Most showers have an angled shower arm that protrudes from the top of one wall, allowing the shower head to spray down into the shower. These shower arms can be used with fixed, handheld, dual, and even rainfall shower heads, though rainfall shower heads should be used with horizontal shower arms that extend over the shower, instead of being angled down from the side.

A ceiling mounted shower head is another option that is similar to an overhead horizontal shower arm. The rainfall shower head connects to a shower arm mounted in the ceiling, allowing the water to fall straight down. However, if you don't already have the existing plumbing for this type of shower head, then you will need to factor in the cost to have this plumbing installed if you want a ceiling mounted shower head.

Shower Head Types

There are several types of shower head to choose from when you are looking to replace the old fixture in your bathroom, including fixed, rainfall, handheld, dual, and panel shower heads.


The most affordable and basic option for the shower is a fixed shower head. These plumbing fixtures connect to a protruding shower arm and the direction of the spray can typically be adjusted, though this fixed shower head can only spray within a limited range. Some fixed shower heads have a multi-function sprayer that allows you to choose from several different spray patterns, however this feature is not standard for all fixed shower heads.


A rainfall shower head is larger in size than a fixed or handheld shower head and they are made for overhead installation. This mounting position allows the water to fall straight down into the shower, creating a relaxing shower experience that is intended to mimic a heavy rainfall.


While fixed shower heads used to be the most common option, handheld shower heads have since replaced them as the most popular style. These shower heads typically look and feel like fixed shower heads, and they can even sit in a wall-mount to spray down on an angle into the shower. However, the main difference is that a handheld shower head isn't attached directly to the shower arm. Instead, it is attached to a long hose, allowing the shower head to be held in the user's hand in order to better control the direction of the spray.


If you can't choose between a rainfall shower head and a handheld shower head, then a dual shower head is the right choice. These systems are made with a handheld or fixed shower head for quick, efficient cleaning before rushing to work and they also have an overhead rainfall shower head for more relaxing, calming showers.


Panel shower systems are not shower heads, but they are generally installed with a new shower head and can introduce a superior level of comfort and relaxation. These systems typically have a fixed or handheld shower head, as well as several body sprayers situated at the shoulder, hip, and knee. The direction of the spray from each sprayer can be adjusted, so that when you shower, you aren't just getting clean, you're also getting a full-body massage.


If there is a problem with your shower head or you just want a new model with a different spray pattern, then you are in luck. Most shower heads on the market are relatively affordable, with an average price ranging from about $50 to $150. Basic shower head products, like fixed or handheld shower heads, will sit on the lower under of the price range, while dual and panel products occupy the higher end of this range. Rainfall shower heads fall midway between the two ends, though if you need to install an overhead shower arm for the full rainfall effect, then this addition can increase the price.

More luxurious or involved shower head products can cost significantly more than the average, with some products reaching $1,000 to $1,200 for professional installation, according to Home Advisor. So, before deciding on a new shower head or shower panel for your bathroom, take some time to decide on a reasonable budget.

How to Choose a Shower Head

Take your time to consider the various shower head types, your current shower plumbing configuration, your preferred spray pattern, and whether your home has hard water that could be eliminated with a filtered shower head. The cost of the shower head, as well as the cost of installation for more luxurious products, should also be taken into consideration before you decide on a new shower head or shower panel for the home.

Do You Have a Shower Head Preference?

You can immediately narrow down your selection by choosing a shower head style. Fixed shower heads are the most affordable, though they don't have much else to offer. Handheld shower heads are also inexpensive and they are more versatile, allowing you to direct the spray of the water. Rainfall shower heads are relaxing, though you may not have the right shower arm to effectively use them, while a similar concern can be raised about dual shower heads. However, dual shower heads are the most versatile option among the various types. For a full-body experience, consider installing a panel shower system.

What Spray Pattern Is Most Appealing?

There are several common spray patterns for shower heads, but not everyone shares the same preference. Find a shower head with a spray pattern you can enjoy, regardless of whether you like the hard-hitting feeling of the jet setting, the firm pressure of the massage setting, the cleaning power of the standard shower setting, or even the cascading relaxation of the rainfall setting. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for an overhead rainfall shower head, you need to make sure that the home already has the right plumbing configuration, or you may need to hire a plumber to install the new plumbing setup in the shower.

Does Your Home Have Hard Water?

Hard water is water that is known to have a high mineral content. If the water in your town, city, or region is hard, then it can affect the plumbing throughout the home, causing faucets, fixtures, and appliances to become clogged and crusted with mineral deposits. Hard water can also dry out your skin and leave your hair dry and prone to breakage. It's recommended to invest in a whole-home water softener or water filtration system, but if you don't have the money to install one of these systems or you don't have access to the main water line, consider investing in a shower head with a built-in filter.

  • What type of shower head is best?

    The right type of shower head depends largely on the user's personal preference. For some, a basic fixed shower head is all they need to expeditiously scrub and get ready for the day. Other individuals may prefer to spend extra time luxuriating in the falling water from an overhead rainfall shower head or enjoy the full body massage of a panel shower system.

  • Do all shower heads fit any shower?

    Typically, all shower head products are designed with a connection (1/2" NPT) that is compatible with all shower arms. While there may be some circumstances where an overenthusiastic DIYer made some unique upgrades to the home before you bought it, in most cases, a shower head will fit the shower arm in any shower across the U.S. and Canada.

  • Is a large shower head better?

    Rain fall shower heads are known for being much larger than a standard fixed or handheld shower head, but this doesn't necessarily make them better. The benefit of a rainfall shower head is that the water can fully cover your body in a stream of falling water to mimic the feeling of a heavy rainfall. However, a larger shower head can also reduce the water pressure, so if you are looking for a firm, massaging spray, then a large shower head isn't the right way to go.