After two months of immersive testing with 13 shower head finalists, we’ve picked the Moen – Magnetix Attract Handheld as our top recommendation for a new shower head. If you’ve avoided upgrading to a handheld shower head because they’re tricky to pick up or put back in place when there’s soap in your eyes, let us introduce you to a world of flexible rinsing and nearly-magical magnetic docks. Moen also managed to deliver a good showering experience with this head, even while meeting the EPA’s strict WaterSense two-gallon-per-minute standard.
For those who want a little bit more elegance in the bathroom, the best “rainfall” shower head is definitely the Moen – Velocity Rainshower. With generous coverage, a gentle-yet-ample primary flow pattern and a sufficiently-vigorous second flow pattern, the feature that really seals the deal in this head is an adjustment lever that feels great (and you won’t need a manual to figure it out).
If you’re on a budget, the Speakman – Reaction fixed shower head provides simple, efficient, powerful rinsing at a great price. The styling of this shower head is a bit unorthodox (choose from three colors of translucent plastic), but the single spray pattern is better than anything else we tested. All the while, it saves water with a two-gallon-per-minute flow.
Top Pick: Moen - Magnetix six-function handheld
A handheld shower is a flexible and powerful rinsing tool, and Moen solves all the biggest problems with a great magnetic dock.
Table of contents
- How we selected finalists to test
- The 13 best shower heads
- Important features to consider
- How we tested
- The best handheld shower head: Moen – Attract
- The best fixed shower head: Moen – Velocity
- Best on a budget: Speakman – Reaction
- Other finalists we tested
- The bottom line
How we selected finalists to test
A shower head is a simple thing. This is the kind of household fixture that’s usually only replaced in time of need. Sometimes they break, sometimes they get clogged with scale to a point where you can’t clean them anymore. Despite how frequently we use them, most people don’t spend much time thinking about their shower head.
If you’re like us, though, you’ve probably stood under your aging-but-functional shower and wondered “is there a better shower head out there?”
We looked hard at the long list of bathroom fixtures on the market, and after spending some time in Ferguson’s showroom full of large, designer-focused options, we found that the broadest differences in shower heads comes down to aesthetics.
If you’re working with an interior designer or contractor to set up a new or remodeled bathroom, you can pay a few hundred dollars for a basic bathroom fixture setup (matching sink, tub and shower included), a few more hundred for a premium set in a designer finish, or thousands if you want a look from European design houses like Grohe.
What we didn’t find was a lot of differentiation in function. Even the top-end shower fixtures tend to use familiar design considerations. Shower heads are generally round and spray as much water as they’re allowed by water-conservation regulations. Handheld shower sprayers mostly sit in cradles. Nozzles are now made of silicone or other clog-resistant materials.
So, while you may want to call a plumbing distributor if you want a very particular look (or especially if you need a replacement shower head that matches an existing tub set) we payed more attention to customer feedback for popular and economical options that you’d find in a home improvement store.
We looked at handheld shower heads, fixed shower heads, variable-pattern and even a ones with a flexible gooseneck.
Amazon ratings were, as always, important guides for our choices. We looked at fixtures recommended by Consumer Reports and online review sites like The Sweet Home, and we payed attention to brands referenced in plumbing discussion boards and places like r/HomeImprovement. Our focus was on hardware from established manufacturers, but we did try some well-reviewed budget brands as well.
The 13 best shower heads
|01. Moen - Magnetix Attract||$$$$||handheld||Y||6||2|
|02. Moen - Velocity Rainshower||$$$$$||variable||Y||2||4|
|03. Speakman - Reaction S-4002-E2||$$||fixed||Y||1||3|
|04. Waterpik - Aquascape AST-233E||$$$$||variable||Y||1||1|
|05. Speakman - Hotel Anystream S-2005-HB-#2||$$$||variable||N||3||4|
|06. Hydroluxe - Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury||$$$||handheld||N||5||1|
|07. Ana Bath - SS5450 Handheld Shower||$$$$||handheld||N||5||1|
|08. Delta - 75152 Shower Head with H2Okinetic||$$||variable||N||2||1|
|09. AKDY - AZ-6021||$$||fixed||N||1||1|
|10. Waterpik - PowerSpray+ FlexNeck||$$$$||gooseneck||Y||6||1|
|11. American Standard - Easy Clean 8888.075||$||fixed||N||1||1|
|12. WantBa - 6 Inches Rainfall||$$||fixed||N||1||1|
|13. Niagara - Conservation||$||handheld||Y||3||1|
Types of shower heads
A standard shower head is a relatively simple affair: it attaches to a shower arm (the water pipe that comes out from your wall, always with a ½” male pipe thread on the end) and directs water with some combination of spray nozzles into an efficient, cleansing stream.
There are a multitude of shower head styles and finishes available for a multitude of tastes, but in our research and testing we narrowed our picks down to two categories: shower heads for people who want a detachable hand-sprayer, and shower heads for people who don’t. Since the best fixed shower head is pretty pricey, we also included a recommendation for the best budget-friendly fixture.
Important features to consider
Shower heads with a handheld sprayer will be especially appealing to anyone with small children or pets: rinsing a toddler’s hair or washing a dog is far, far easier with the extra control. The flexibility also makes rinsing your shower walls quick and easy, and you’ll probably find even more uses (like washing your feet or hand-washing clothes). Even if this is a feature you’ve never considered, once you try it you might not be able to go back.
Adjustable spray patterns
Multi-pattern shower heads add a twist to the spout-on-the-wall design. If you want a tighter high-pressure stream, a pulsating massage stream or a rainfall-like laminar flow, many shower heads aim to offer variety in your showering experience.
This becomes an especially important feature in water-conserving heads that put out less than 2.5 gallons per minute. If you have long or thick hair you might find a higher-pressure burst helps you rinse more thoroughly. Most of the variable-spray-pattern fixed shower heads we tested offer just those two patterns (wide coverage and concentrated blast) but the handhelds offer more options.
Shiny, easy-to-clean chrome is by far the most popular finish in American bathrooms, but some have brushed, bronze, or other finishes and you will need to find a new head in something that matches. If your tub spout and valve handle aren’t mirror-finished, check out our chart to see which shower heads come with other finish options.
WaterSense water conserving design
That’s a lot of water, and it used to be even more. “Water conserving” shower heads are broadly defined as consuming two and a half gallons per minute; that’s been a national requirement since 1994, but the new WaterSense recommendation is 20% less, just two gallons-per-minute with 80 PSI water supply pressure. WaterSense is a voluntary EPA standard that encourages everyone to save water, but California, Georgia, Texas and Colorado have passed laws that require those savings.
(Californians note: restrictions are set to change again in July of 2018; fixtures that comply with that 1.8 GPM flow rate are few and far between right now, but we’ll test again when the manufacturers update their lines.)
A note about water pressure
WaterSense is a standard that’s supposed to save water “without sacrificing performance”, so theoretically manufacturers can’t just put flow restrictors in old heads… but for all intents and purposes, that’s what many of them do. 80 PSI is plenty of pressure, so it’s easy to get some force behind a spray that will compensate for the reduced overall flow.
One of the confusing parts of the regulation, then, is how it impacts those with supply lower than what’s given in the standard. 80 PSI isn’t crazy-high, but pressure in the real world of plumbing is variable. Plumbers we talked to say that 40-70 PSI is typical, but if you’re in an apartment on a top floor you might be on the lower end (it’ll also be even less if everyone in your building showers at the same time). Low pressure means less flow than even the water conservation engineers intended.
Many who live with low water pressure will look for shower heads that use a rubber or plastic flow restrictor sitting in the neck of the shower and remove it to increase flow. (It seems to be an often-searched “feature” among Amazon reviews.) Obviously, that’s not what was intended by the design, and we can’t say we recommend it.
Instead, we looked at shower heads that would still perform well with only mediocre supply pressure. We can’t say precisely what our testing pressure was for each head because, like many, we suffered from pressure fluctuations. Both bathrooms we tested in were within the “normal” 40-70 range most of the time.
We tried some force-measuring jigs and other methods of deriving a definitive set of measurements for shower performance, but at the end of our testing we decided that the most important qualities came from the way the water is shaped and spread, and those qualities are difficult to assign a number to.
We are well aware that many people will pick a gallon-guzzler over a modern water-saving design, but if you’re buying locally in an area that requires a 2.0 GPM flow rate then it won’t help you much if we’re favoring high-flow shower heads on our chart. We included shower heads from both groups in our testing to get a sense of what’s available, but our picks are either WaterSense compliant or, in the case of the Moen Velocity, at least available in a compliant model.
How we tested
We used each of these shower heads in an alternating cycle for two months across two test bathrooms. Testers gave us feedback on how much they liked the spray pattern and the construction of each shower head. We also looked at ease of use, including installation and cleaning.
Spray and coverage
This is our rating of what the shower head does and how well it does it, but there are a number of different factors involved.
Coverage isn’t the strictest requirement in rinsing performance, but most people will prefer a full-coverage spray to a narrow-coverage stream. All of the adjustable-pattern heads feature at least one wide-coverage pattern.
Sometimes this is accomplished with a cone-shaped pattern, other times the head itself is made extra-wide to get more coverage. Generally, a cone-shaped spray will use water more efficiently, while the wide head designs will need to divide the available water pressure among more nozzles (and thus seem weak when the designer has to restrict the flow to meet efficiency standards). If you can mount your shower head up high, though, the wide-coverage heads can provide a pleasant “rainfall” effect that some people prefer.
The factors that distinguish the good design from bad are often difficult to reduce to numbers, but one way to think about good design is to ask “how much do I have to think about this object in order to use it?”
Some examples of good design that we saw include: a magnetic dock that basically attaches itself, a lever that intuitively and smoothly adjust pressure and a simple slotted plastic faceplate that creates a great spray pattern with far fewer parts than any of the other shower heads.
Easy cleaning is another attribute of good design. Silicone nozzles are a wonderful advancement that help prevent scale buildup; however you may find that the simple silicone-nozzle designs (like the AKADY and WantBa fixtures) force you to use a bristle or other small scrubber to get between all of those tiny nozzles.
The good designs, like the Moen heads, at least sink the nozzles behind the chrome faceplate so you can easily wipe it off when you’re cleaning. The flat face of the Speakman Reaction really is marvellously simple to clean, no nozzles to maneuver around, just wipe with a towel or sponge.
Materials, well-fitting parts and refined finishes are all attributes we considered when ranking these shower heads. A plastic shower head may do the job, but nobody disputes that a metal body looks better and inspires confidence about longevity.
Mirror-plated fixtures shouldn’t be cleaned with abrasives the way brushed stainless can be, so we didn’t deliberately try to scratch any of these finishes. We did try to assess how long we think the plating will stand up to regular cleaning, though.
There’s typically only one threaded joint involved in a shower-head installation, but not every threaded fitting is made equal. Some heads leaked, even with the normal amount of thread-sealing tape.
We prefer fixtures that are designed to be installed or removed with a wrench: two (or more) flat sides on the coupler allow you to get a wrench on securely, especially important if you have to take a fixture off a few years after someone’s made it too tight.
If you don’t have a wrench handy when you’re installing a shower head then you might complain about user-hostile design, but if there’s no way to get a wrench on, you might have no way to tighten or loosen the shower head without tearing into the coupler with pliers or a scary pipe wrench.
The best handheld shower head: Moen – Attract
This is a great showerhead on all counts. The Moen – Magnetix Attract handheld shower head has a good spray pattern, is easy to use and comes at a great price.
With good coverage and enough variety in the adjustable patterns to give the essentials (without getting into anything like pulsating jets) the Magnetix Attract made the most of its water-conserving 2.0 GPM flow rate. The rotary selector works reliably even with wet hands and better than the other shower heads in this category.
Aside from being a great shower head, the magnetic dock really made this handheld a pleasure to use. The magnet holds everything in place with just the right amount of force; engagement is satisfying and positive but without enough impact that you’re worried about something breaking. Removing the head is easy, but it won’t fall off accidentally.
Moen - Magnetix Attract
A magnetic dock makes the flexibility of a great handheld even better.
The magnet may seem like a gimmick at first, but if you’re kneeling next to your tub bathing a child you might be able to detach and re-attach the hand sprayer from the magnetic dock without standing up—something that’s just not possible with the cradle-style retaining clips used by most handheld sprayers.
We looked at a number of other magnetic-docking shower heads, and the Moen was the most economical while also being the easiest to use.
Installation was easy, with rubber gaskets provided by the manufacturer that made all the joints leak-free when tightened by hand. (Even without thread tape!) As mentioned above, we prefer using a wrench for installation, but the Moen system worked well.
- Moen’s Magnetix Attract shower head is everything you need in an affordable shower head: good spray patterns, easy to install and WaterSense-compliant.
- The magnetic dock feature is remarkable. Once you try it, it’s hard to go back to cradle-style hangers.
- Even if you don’t think you need a handheld shower sprayer, at less than $50 this is probably your best buy.
The best fixed shower head: Moen – Velocity
The Moen – Velocity Rainshower is a premium bathroom fixture that happened to sneak into our testing lineup. Consumer Reports picked this fixture as their favorite, and we agree that it’s a great piece of hardware.
Often there isn’t much difference between a designer shower head and one you might find for cheap a home improvement store. In this case, we felt that the design quality really merits some consideration.
Many people have owned adjustable-pattern shower heads and never used the optional spray patterns, and they probably couldn’t tell you if it was easy or difficult to change. Today, with increasing demand for water conservation, adjustable spray patterns are becoming a more important feature, and that also means you could be using the adjustment lever every single time you shower.
The Velocity shower head gives great coverage with the spray set to wide-open: compared to the other “rainfall” style heads, this one actually felt like it was designed to maximize the area it’s covering and give you a gentle, steady flow. When you crank it down with the lever, the water concentrates into a narrow stream that rinses very effectively.
And that’s what set this head apart—not the stream, but the lever. The adjustment lever system Moen uses on the Velocity is so much smoother and easier to use than the other products in our tests, it’s hard to overstate the difference.
We spent some time in a high-end bathroom fixture showroom (Ferguson in Irvine, CA) to see what was available at the top end. Moen has really brought a top-quality look and feel to a (relatively) affordable price bracket. Yes, it costs almost four times more than our top pick; this isn’t for everyone. But, you might not even find comparable quality in an adjustment system until you’re spending four or five hundred dollars.
Everything else about this shower head is great, too. Installation is easy and leak-free: this coupler is designed for installation with a wrench, which is our preference. The nozzles are easy to clean, and the metal body looks and feels great. (It’s also available in a square-corner shape as well as four different colors and finishes.)
Speaking of installation: you can install the Velocity into nearly any shower, but the styling and gentle-rainfall spray pattern are even better when mounted overhead. If you don’t have a custom overhead shower mount, you can install a solid or adjustable arm that will maximize your rainfall bliss.
- The Velocity Rainshower is elegance and refinement epitomized. It’s a bit pricey compared to our other picks, but with an entirely different class of build and design quality.
- If you want to endure the extra work of adding a height-adjustable arm to get your shower head directly above you instead of at an angle, this is the fixture to get.
- This is the kind of shower head you don’t have to ask questions about or second-guess: everything works smoothly and perfectly.
Best on a budget: Speakman – Reaction
Speakman is a line better known among contractors and installers than among the big-box-store DIYers, but their products have a good reputation for reliability and performance within a very reasonable pricetag: the Reaction shower head is a great example.
This is the only single-pattern shower head we tested that complies with the strict two-gallon-per-minute WaterSense standard, and it was better than all the rest. The flow gives a good compromise between efficiency, comfort and effective rinsing. If you’re looking for a simple shower fixture that will cut back on your water use, this is a great choice on a budget.
Speakman - Reaction
If you want a simple shower head, this is it. Only one spray pattern, but it's probably the best we've used.
Installation and cleaning were simple tasks without problems, and the nozzle design looks relatively immune to scale buildup.
The build of this fixture relies on plastic parts (as do most of the shower heads in the under-$100 price range). Instead of hiding the plastic behind a cheap fake-metallic plating, Speakman features the material proudly with a disc of transparent colored plastic. (Available in three colors.)
[Note: We bought this shower head for $19.49, and at time of publication it’s listing at most online retailers for $25.99. If you can’t find it at that price or lower, its value starts to slip relative to some of the other heads we tested. We like this shower head for what it is, but if you want to spend more than $30, an adjustable-pattern head might make more sense.]
- Speakman’s Reaction fixed shower head delivers the essentials: one pattern that does it all, without wasting water, every time.
- A unique design that uses slotted plastic instead of nozzles, available in three tasteful colors.
- If you can get it for less than $25, this is a real bargain.
Other finalists we tested
AKDY – AZ-6021
The AKDY – AZ-6021 offers an avant-garde style that might look great in your shower, but otherwise it was fairly unremarkable. If your water pressure is good, it will allow plenty of water to flow through, but not with any pressurization or rinse-assisting pattern.
With the optional extension arm this eight inch square head would give you a basic “rainfall” experience, but in our testing that’s actually not as amazing or luxurious as it sounds. The price is good, though.
WantBa – Rainfall shower head
Like the AKDY head, but round. Wantba’s Rainfall Shower Head is a shower fixture you’d probably want if you’re going for a specific look on a budget, rather than performance requirements. At 2.5 GPM it’s not exactly drenching you with water, but with normal or high supply pressure it’s sufficient flow.
American Standard – Easy Clean Shower Head
The best thing about the single-function American Standard Easy Clean Shower Head is definitely the price. If you don’t need any special features or have any aesthetic concerns, this is a solidly-built shower head that will keep doing its job for a very long time. Undoubtedly, this is a product aimed at apartment complex owners and institutional maintenance departments that want something simple, reliable and without any fancy features to troubleshoot.
For about twelve dollars more, though, the Speakman Reaction shower head is superior in every way.
Waterpik – Aquascape AST-233E
The Waterpik Aquascape is a fixed shower head with adjustable flow that’s aimed at DIYers more than professional installers, and the design definitely makes a statement.
Waterpik optimizes the wide-head experience by lengthening the circle into a vertical oval, since most people will be installing this head on a 45° angle instead of directly overhead with a custom installation or extension arm. This means that the spray is actually aimed at the body of the shower user, instead of spraying in an arbitrary circle or square pattern like the other “rainfall” heads.
If you move a slide-through selector in the neck you can switch the spray from maximum coverage to maximum pressure for more effective rinsing. The selector seems durable and reliable, but it’s not as nice to use as some of the other selector mechanisms we tested. In a guest shower there’s little chance anyone would even realize it’s there. That said, if you want a water-saving shower head, but need extra rinsing power for long or thick hair, the feature works.
We were happy with the Aquascape, but for the money it’s not doing anything more than it needs to. If the flow-selector switch were a little more intuitive, this probably would have been a recommended fixture. As it is, we’d rather put the Magnetix in every shower.
Delta – 75152 shower head with H2Okinetic
Delta’s 75152 is called a “single-function” shower head, but it lets you adjust (restrict) the flow from a 2.5-GPM sprinkle to a focused 1.8-GPM blast. Adjustment is via a rotating ‘paddle’ adjuster on the side of the head.
The adjustment is handy if you need some extra force for rinsing, but unlike the WaterSense-compliant shower heads this one is using an extra half-gallon of water every minute when it’s on full-coverage mode, and still not really providing a really satisfying flow.
Speakman – S-2005-HB-#2 Hotel Anystream
Speakman makes good shower heads, and the Hotel Anystream has a lot going for it: a nice look that will work in any bathroom, good build quality and features that make sense. Like the other water-conserving fixed shower heads, this one offers adjustment between wider coverage and a more concentrated stream.
The Hotel Anystream isn’t a bad shower head, but it’s not our first pick for anything in particular.
Waterpik – PowerSpray+ FlexNeck
This was, without a doubt, the most unusual shower head we tested.
Halfway between a fixed head and a handheld sprayer, the Powerspray + FlexNeck allows for fairly easy repositioning to direct water where you need it. This seems like an ideal feature for certain people, like those sharing a shower who are of dramatically different height. The flexible neck is definitely less fiddly than the wingnuts on double-elbow adjustable extension arms typically used to offer the same function.
Waterpik - PowerSpray+ FlexNeck
The flexible gooseneck-style arm on this head makes changing height a cinch.
If you’re currently using an adjustable extension arm, but you hate having to loosen and tighten the joints on that arm, the FlexNeck might be worth checking out as a replacement. On the whole, though, it’s just not as good a shower head as most of the others we tested.
The “Powerspray” pattern wasn’t as nice as anything from our recommended fixtures, and adjusting the pattern you can feel how lightweight and flimsy the head has to be to allow the gooseneck to support it.
Niagara – Conservation
If you need to have a handheld shower head with reasonable build quality for the lowest possible price, Niagara delivers the essentials with the Conservation Handheld.
While nothing about this shower head failed or broke when we were using it, it’s definitely on the flimsy side of the build quality spectrum. Plastic body, plastic hose, plastic retaining clip. The threads on the mount-side of this fixture are the right size to screw onto our shower arm, but we needed some generous over-winding with Teflon tape to stop the joint from leaking. The knurled grip on the fitting is tricky to get tight, too, unless you commit to biting into it with channel-lock pliers.
The spray pattern provided by this head is sufficient to get clean, but it has relatively narrow coverage, and a disappointing lack of flow. Like most water-conserving heads, you can switch to a high-pressure stream for better rinsing, but this head shoots six needle-like streams that don’t really blast away shampoo lather the way other shower heads can.
Ana Bath – SS5450 Handheld Shower
Ana Bath has a good shower fixture in the SS5450 Handheld. We were impressed by the attention to detail in the packaging, with plugs and caps for each fitting to protect threads and plating during shipping. There was also detailed accounting of all the gaskets and where they need to be installed.
The Ana Bath fixture provides a good spray pattern and relatively easy-to-use control of all functions. The handheld spray head feels well-built, and the nozzles are easy to clean.
We didn’t pick this shower fixture for two reasons. First, we found the fixed wall-mount head entirely redundant. If you need both heads to go at once (if you’re doubling up your showers and don’t want to share your water, maybe,) you might prefer this design.
Second, the Magnetix docking system on our top pick is just so much better. Once you go magnetic it’s hard to go back (especially since the Ana Bath fixture costs 25% more, and we didn’t find an Ana Bath model that conforms to the WaterSense standard.)
Hydroluxe – Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury
Hydroluxe’s 24-function Ultra-Luxury Handheld achieves a good balance of features, build quality and price. Like the Ana Bath model, we found that this 2.5 GPM fixture provided good flow patterns that make for a refreshing shower.
While this shower head represents a reasonable compromise of features and price, it can’t really compete with the build quality and ease of use of our top pick, Moen’s Magnetix Attract.
The bottom line
The best shower head we tested is Moen’s Magnetix Attract Six-Function Handheld Shower Head. With a great water-saving spray pattern, this shower head can easily handle most users’ daily needs, and a high-pressure spray pattern fills in for more forceful rinsing requirements.
Not everyone will be considering a handheld shower, but for the price it’s better than all the other shower heads we tested. The removeable head is a game-changer if you ever bathe a child or pet. The magnetic dock might seem like a luxury perk, but it really does make using the shower much easier.
For those whose bathroom decor clashes with hoses and magnetic docks, the Velocity shower head (also from Moen) is a classy upgrade in looks as well as build quality. Just turning the adjustment lever tells you all you need to know. This shower head is masterfully designed and a pleasure to use. With adjustment between a full-coverage sprinkle and a high-pressure blast, we didn’t feel like the Velocity shower head was sacrificing shower performance for water conservation.
And for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money or worry about extraneous features, we really have to give full marks to the Speakman Reaction fixed shower head. If you only have one pattern to work with, it needs to be a good one, and we think Speakman has come up with a near-perfect balance of coverage, force and water conservation.