Shower Heads 101

Set your bathing experience with a wide range of shower heads to satisfy every mood, style, and budget

shower heads

What’s your preferred method of bathing? If like most Americans, it’s the shower, then you probably have a showering style. But it may not be the same for all the members of your family. Perhaps you like a gentle relaxing wash, while your partner prefers a bracing, wake-me-up experience. Maybe the type of spray depends on the day. Good news: Many shower heads include adjustable features that let you select the spray pattern and the intensity of the water flow.

There’s a lot to consider. As you narrow down the selection, a few factors play first into your decision:

*The type of shower experience

*The size of the shower

*The style of your bathroom

Experience: If you’re going through the trouble to replace the head, or remodel your bath entirely, consider thoughtfully how you shower. What’s the most important function for you? Rinsing off after a workout? Soothing tired muscles? Unwinding with some water therapy? Many manufacturers today offer features that allow you to get a custom luxury experience at home.

Size: Take into account, too, the dimensions of the shower. If it’s big enough for two, you may want twin shower heads, or one adjustable and one fixed. Or you may indulge in an oversize rain shower centered overhead.

Style: Take into account your bath décor. Whether your look is traditional or contemporary, you can find a shower head to suit the space. However, most of the new products tend toward the sleek and straight-lined, which may not suit a Victorian-style bathroom.

shower heads

Shower head fixture options

Even a simple, inexpensive shower head can provide a satisfying shower, but a higher price point provides more options. Here’s a rundown of the types of shower heads you’ll find as you shop. (Note: Check with your contractor before your final selection. You need to be sure your home’s plumbing can handle the model you want, particularly if you choose to install more than one.)

Single-head: The simplest go-to style, the single-head is attached to the wall at the height you determine and then it stays there. Some models come with an adjustable shank so you can tip the head higher or lower or side-to-side, as you wish. You can find this version with one or multiple spray modes, from concentrated to mist and even pulsating, which can be adjusted with a lever or a twirl of an encircling ring.

Handheld: Attached to flexible tubing, this shower head can be moved to spray wherever you want, including rinsing down walls after cleaning the shower stall. When not in use, this type hooks into a wall-mounted cradle or onto a slide bar that lets it glide up and down on the wall. Either installation method allows it to be used as a fixed shower head. This is a great option for its versatility and convenience. It also benefits a shared shower with bathers of different heights or a person who may need to be seated when showering.

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Dual-head: As the term indicates, this style offers two shower heads, one fixed and one handheld. Another combo could be a rain shower head and a handheld. A single set of levers or handles controls temperature, but a diverter valve can allow the bather to operate one or the other shower head, or both, at the same time.

Rain shower head: This fixture comes round or square in shape. The face is flat and large and fitted with many small holes through which water flows to simulate a rainstorm. The water flow is typically gentle, and best suited to a soothing experience than to routines like washing and rinsing hair.

Shower systems: More elaborate than a dual-head arrangement, a shower system typically comprises multiple shower head components including a rain shower head, a hand shower, body sprays, and misters, to achieve an ultra-luxurious spa experience.

shower heads

Spray patterns

Shower heads come with a single spray mode, or with multiple functions, like these popular water works:

*Full-body spray: a full, even stream of water for daily bathing

*Massage or pulsating spray: emitting a pulsating stream of water tension

*Soft aerated: mixing air and water to provide a gentle flow

*Needle: a fine yet penetrating spray

Most of these shower heads will also include settings that let you toggle between wide and narrow water flow. Some manufacturers will go up to 12 settings with varying intensities and combos of the above-described modes.

shower heads

Fixture finishes

Just like your sink faucet, you can expect a vast array of finishes—brushed or polished chrome, brushed or polished nickel, stainless steel, brushed or oil-rubbed bronze, polished or antique brass, as well as baked-on enamel or epoxy finishes that come in a few colors, most commonly black or white.

Manufacturers also boast finishes that resist water spots, particularly an issue if your water is hard, but polished finishes will still require attention with a soft cloth to keep that mirror-like appearance.

shower heads

Saving water

All shower heads made today are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to emit water at a flow of no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM). Look for the WaterSense label, a program from the EPA that certifies shower components that use no more than 2 GPM, or 20 percent less than the 2.5 GPM requirement. The program also covers standards of performance, so a WaterSense product should offer a satisfying shower experience. Another benefit: In addition to conserving a precious natural resource, you’ll save on your utility bills, including the water heater.

A shower head may be small, but it packs a lot of power in its compact form to give you the bathing experience you want in any given moment. Choose wisely, and enjoy the soothing, rejuvenating, invigorating results. You deserve it!

If you’re looking to kick your shower game up a notch, check out luxury shower systems with add-on features like steam, chromotherapy, and music.

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