The Best Showerhead

The satisfaction-to-effort ratio with a showerhead upgrade is off the charts.

Three showerheads
Photo: Sarah Kobos

By Sabrina Imbler
Wirecutter Staff

After taking more than 100 showers with a dozen showerheads, the one we’d be happiest using every day is the Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Multifunction Showerhead. You won’t regret this splurge—the satisfaction-to-effort ratio with a showerhead upgrade is off the charts, and completing the job is surprisingly easy.

Our pick: Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

The Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Multifunction Showerhead has the best rainshower spray of any showerhead we tested: a powerful, dense soak that envelops your entire body. The Forte aerates its stream, creating larger and softer water droplets that make the spray feel fuller and warmer. The three-spray Forte has two other excellent settings: a pummeling massage spray and a dense, drenching fine spray. The showerhead installs easily, the spray settings adjust smoothly with one hand, and its brass ball joint securely pivots the head to hit far corners of a tub or stall.

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

This model offered the fullest, most powerful rainshower spray.

Upgrade pick: Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

The powerful and versatile Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo pairs a handheld and a rainshower head, along with six spray patterns, to produce an exceptional variety of great showering options. The handheld unit’s ingenious magnetic dock snaps securely into its own dedicated socket—far easier than maneuvering a handheld shower into a narrow holster within the main showerhead, as on some competitors. The 26008 is almost as easy to install as a fixed showerhead and also includes a pause button, which allows you to stop its 1.75 gpm spray without losing your temperature setting.

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

This efficient and versatile showerhead has six distinct settings and works as a handheld or rainshower.

Also great: High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead

At only 1.5 gpm, the High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead is a low-flow model that feels luxurious. It’s the most powerful low-flow showerhead we tested, spraying drenching, heavy droplets that felt more powerful than some 2.5 gpm settings in other showerheads. And we appreciated its sturdy all-metal construction. The High Sierra has only one setting, making it less versatile—especially if its strong spray pattern feels too overwhelming. It’s also not as attractive as our other picks.

High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead
High Sierra

High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead

At just 1.5 gpm, this exceptionally low-flow showerhead has one of the fullest sprays of any model we tested.

Why you should trust us

I spoke with product managers—who oversee every aspect of a showerhead, from design and engineering to materials, manufacture, and quality control—at Moen, Kohler, Delta, Toto, and High Sierra. I also attended the gargantuan Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where I met with company representatives.

This guide builds on the work of senior staff writer Tim Heffernan, who spent months testing showerheads for the 2016 version of this guide and met with industry reps at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). The guide’s longtime editor Harry Sawyers has written about how a home’s shower worksand has interviewed lots of people in the bath fixture business on trips to KBIS and the International Builders’ Show.

Who this is for

Renters can and should upgrade a showerhead—just save the old one and put it back in when you move out. (Homeowners, you already know you can do this.) Here’s how to install a showerhead, which honestly is a job we believe you can do if you’ve never picked up a wrench.

Investing in a showerhead may seem like a splurge, but a good showerhead, with a gushing, steady spray of evenly heated water under any pressure, will significantly improve your daily routine. And any good showerhead is likely to be an upgrade over what you inherited when you moved in. You may not know how bad your showerhead is. Before writing this guide, I didn’t realize I’d been living with an uneven and sparse spray and a ring of cold mist encircling a too-hot center. I hate that showerhead now. Our picks will probably make you hate your old showerhead too.

How we picked

an assortment of showerheads
Photo: Sarah Kobos

Beyond the basic categories of fixed and handheld—the former being the one mounted up on the wall, the latter the one with the hose that you can pick up, aim, and spray where you need it—the world of showerheads presents an abundance of aesthetic choices. Showerheads take multiple forms (rectilinear, curvilinear, … exotic) and styles (traditional, transitional, contemporary), and every brand advertises unique spray technologies with obscure trade names. But all showerheads must, at least, deliver a satisfying, consistent spray using any water pressure or showerhead height. We set out to present both fixed and handheld options, and we narrowed the field to a dozen finalists that met the following criteria.

Meet current regulations: We only considered showerheads with a water flow of less than or equal to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), the federally mandated flow rate. In 2018, California reduced the maximum showerhead gpm from 2.0 to 1.8; Colorado has similar restrictions. We sought models that are available everywhere.

Include multiple spray patterns:
 * A rainshower should be wide enough to drench and envelop your entire body.
* A massage spray should target sore muscles or quickly rinse shampoo.

Be easy to use and handle:
 * In most multifunction showerheads, a spray dial sets the spray pattern. Settings should be clear and easy to adjust, especially while the water is pouring out.
* For handheld models, the head should mount and detach easily, securely, and never fall out unexpectedly.

Install in minutes: You should need an adjustable wrench and some Teflon tape, and ideally nothing else—that ruled out options that required drilling or mounting hardware.

Get positive reviews: People’s subjective impressions are important with showerheads, and we took notice of any with a high volume of customer satisfaction.

Look good: We sought showerheads with a sleek and understated look that could fit into all styles of bathrooms.

Clean easily: Scale-resistant silicone or polymer nozzles let you simply rub them clean with your hand, an improvement over more clog-prone plastic of metal nozzles.

Be reliable: We considered major manufacturers and smaller companies, weighing things like warranties, customer support, and availability of replacement parts.

How we tested

We showered. A lot. I used each showerhead we tested at least three times and probably used our finalists more than 10 times in stricter, back-to-back tests. Across two particularly wet days, I took more than 20 showers, installing a new showerhead each time. My two roommates also took their regularly scheduled showers with each showerhead and reported their observations and comparisons.

Aside from the feel of the spray, I took notes on how easy each head was to install, whether there was ever any leakage, how it felt to adjust the settings, and how clunky or sleek the head looked in my bathroom wall. Wirecutter senior writer Tim Heffernan also installed and showered with all our picks and competitors, and we compared notes.

Our judgments of performance were necessarily subjective. But our concerns boiled down to this: Does the showerhead feel good and work well? If so, how does it compare to the rest?

Our pick: Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Multifunction

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Multifunction
Photo: Sarah Kobos

The Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Multifunction Showerhead felt more luxurious and versatile than any other fixed showerhead we tested, and we were quite happy using it every day.

In our tests, the Forte’s three spray settings—a generous soaking rainshower, a narrow pulsating massage, and a drenching fine spray—felt denser, more powerful, and more pleasant than other showerheads we tested. Its coverage also felt fuller than other showerheads we tested, thanks in part to a design that aerates the droplets, making them larger and softer. Large droplets make the spray feel more full, and soft droplets are less likely to bounce off your skin, making the spray feel warmer and more drenching.

Unlike the sprays of other showerheads we tested, which often felt sparse and thin, the Forte’s enveloped the entire body in a lush drenching that felt like concentric circles of silky ropes battering at our back.

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

This model offered the fullest, most powerful rainshower spray.

The 22169’s rainshower delivers a solid cone of water that soaks every inch. Another setting is a dense, fine spray that envelops you in something like a cloud of warm water while being plenty strong enough to rinse soap and shampoo away. A narrow, pulsing massage setting gave our backs a real thumping (enough to work on some of the knots we’ve accumulated after toiling in media for the past year).

The Forte was notably easy to rotate and adjust after installation. You can spin its spray-setting dial with just one hand—easier than on other models (like the Flipside), which requires two hands to switch settings. That’s useful for anyone, but especially for people who have limited motion in their arms and shoulders.

A hand twisting through the Forte's three spray settings.
The Forte’s three spray settings—a soaking rainshower, a pulsating massage, and a gentle aerated rinse—felt denser and more luxurious than other showerheads. Video: Sarah Kobos

Like most fixed showerheads, the 22169 is easy to install: You simply unscrew your old model and screw in the 22169. And like many new models, if the Forte’s spray face clogs with limescale, you can run your fingertips firmly across the flexible spout tips to remove any buildup.

A notable detail about this model’s predecessor, the 10284, a now-discontinued former recommendation in this guide: We counted 47 Amazon reviews written by people who used this showerhead in certain hotels, such as the Holiday Inn Express and the Yosemite Valley Lodge, and loved it so much they ordered one for use at home after the visit. Kohler confirmed this partnership, which speaks to the powers of this showerhead: People tried it, realized they couldn’t live without it, and actually took the time to track down the model. In the words of reviewer Roger T: “Kind of weird being so enthusiastic about a shower head but it is really good.”

The two Forte models side-by-side.
We prefer the newer Forte, model 22169 (left) over its predecessor, the 10284 Forte. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like all fixed models, the Forte Multifunction lacks the flexibility of a handheld, and if you have small children or pets that require frequent cleaning, a combination model like the Moen Attract 6-spray 26008 Magnetix will make it easier.

The Forte has only three spray patterns. You can get more on some other showerheads, but we found these often blended into each other and were each individually less impressive than the Forte’s three distinct options.

Upgrade: Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo
Photo: Sarah Kobos

The Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo is the luxury SUV of showerheads: huge and powerful, with more options than any other showerhead we tested. The 1.75 gpm model’s six spray settings meet almost every possible showering need, its handshower connects (and disconnects) more simply than competitors’ designs—but like all handheld showers, its dangling hose takes up space and will block some shower caddies.

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

Moen 26008 Attract 6-spray 1.75 GPM Hand Shower and Showerhead Combo

This efficient and versatile showerhead has six distinct settings and works as a handheld or rainshower.

Between its rainshower and handheld head settings, the 26008 offers every possible shower experience, including pulsating, massage-like sprays; drenching rainshowers; gentler, wavy sprays; effusive mists; and the traditional concentric rings of silky, ropelike spray. The 26008’s massage setting was the most powerful we tested. The main 6.75-inch head is more than wide enough to provide an enveloping waterfall, while the handheld’s 3.75-inch head has higher-pressure sprays that can easily clear out shampoo. There are so many settings on the 26008 that after a few weeks of use, we found ourselves going back to just a few. But the variety is exceptional—great for larger households with varying preferences.

The Moen’s flexible stainless steel hose
The Moen’s 5-foot flexible stainless steel hose is made to last, but like all combination models it dangles in the space where you may want a shower caddy. Photo: Sarah Kobos

Unlike fixed showerheads, the 26008’s detachable handheld head can rinse every corner to clean the shower or wash off kids or a dog. The 26008’s handheld comes with a 5-foot flexible stainless steel hose (6 feet with the handheld head included), which avoids kinks like cheaper plastic hoses. And the 26008’s magnetic docking system was the best of any we tested, with a separate omnidirectional socket and strong magnets that snagged the handheld when it came within inches of the connection point. Other docks (like the Kohler Converge and Delta In2ition) required a lot more fiddling to make the magnetic connection work.

Unique among our picks, the 26008 has a pause/trickle button that allows you to stop the water flow while you do other tasks in the shower that don’t require water, such as shaving. This saves water, and it retains your current temperature setting, which won’t happen if you turn the shower off with the faucet handle.

A hand removing the handheld faucet.
The Moen 26008’s secure magnetic dock snags the head when it comes within inches of the connection point—far easier than competitors’ designs. Video: Sarah Kobos Moen

Despite its complex appearance, the 26008 installs as easily as traditional showerheads. You simply connect the fixed showerhead, then attach the handheld via the hose. This isn’t unique to the 26008, but many hand showers require the installation of a wall-mounted slider bar or holster—lots of work for no appreciable gain in performance.

Also great: High Sierra 1.5 gpm High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead

High Sierra 1.5 gpm High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead
Photo: Sarah Kobos

For a very low-flow showerhead, the High Sierra 1.5 gpm High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead has a spray so lush it seems impossible: full and powerful, even compared with some 2.5 gpm showerheads. The High Sierra offers only one spray pattern, but we found its drenching, heavy droplets more than adequate to rinse out shampoo.

The High Sierra feels nothing like a low-flow showerhead. In fact, it feels luxurious, soaking you entirely in heavy droplets with no bare patches or cold mist. According to David Malcolm, High Sierra’s founder and designer, traditional showerheads separate water into discrete mini-streams via a constellation of nozzles. But those showerheads rely on a high volume of water at a high pressure to make those mini-streams feel effective. Inspired by his background as a nozzle manufacturer for agricultural irrigation, Malcolm instead created a nozzle that breaks a low-pressure stream of water into heavy, coarse droplets.

High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead
High Sierra

High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead

At just 1.5 gpm, this exceptionally low-flow showerhead has one of the fullest sprays of any model we tested.

In practice, that means the High Sierra’s spray feels a little less orderly but significantly more drenching than the other low-flow heads we tested. The High Sierra’s spray even felt more powerful than the rainshower setting on some 2.5 gpm Kohler models we tested. But the High Sierra’s single spray setting may feel a bit strong for some people, and if you don’t like it, there’s no way to change it.

High Sierra 1.5 GPM High Efficiency Low Flow Showerhead
The High Sierra is a low-flow showerhead that feels luxurious, with a drenching, powerful spray. But its single (strong) setting may be overwhelming to some people. Video: Sarah Kobos

The High Sierra lacks fine silicone nozzles that can be rubbed with a finger to get rid of scale, which our other picks have. But Malcolm say its wide passageway generally eliminates the issue. Several Amazon reviews from longtime users seem to confirm the High Sierra’s resistance to scale. If you do encounter scaling or a clog, High Sierra’s manual (PDF) suggests removing and soaking it in white vinegar for a few hours.

Last, we noticed during testing that the High Sierra has a more audible sound than your typical showerhead. We brushed it off—noise rarely comes up in the High Sierra’s reviews—but a friend who suffers from mild tinnitus also tried it and told us he found the sound “a bit uncomfortable.”

The ball joint on the High Sierra showerhead.
The High Sierra’s metal ball joint ensures the head pivots smoothly in any direction. Photo: Sarah Kobos

What to look forward to

The startup manufacturer Nebia launched a crowdfunding campaign in February 2019 to support the Nebia 2.0 showerhead, a low-flow model that achieves tremendous efficiency by putting out very small water droplets. (The original Nebia, which launched on Kickstarter in 2015, is no longer available.) The company claims the new version improves on the original, with warmer droplets and better coverage, especially in enclosed shower stalls. The installation process for a Nebia is more complex than an average shower, and at a preorder price starting around $350, it costs more as well. In an email, Nebia told us the 2.0 showerhead would start shipping in June 2019.

The competition

We recommended the Kohler 10284 Forte Multifunction Showerhead in previous versions of this guide. It’s our pick’s predecessor, and it’s very popular, but its spray patterns are not quite as good as those of the newer version. Discontinued as of mid-2019, it’s still available at some retailers—the prices are usually high for this model, but if you find it in a finish you like at a discount, go for it.

Our previous top pick, the combination Delta In2ition 58480, performed poorly in 2019 tests against newer models. Its spray patterns were disappointing—the fixed head provided an unpleasantly sparse halo, and the other settings felt weak. This is no doubt due to the issues we had installing the showerhead: No matter how much Teflon tape we wrapped around the threads or how tightly we wrenched the head, it leaked at the connection point. We tested a dozen other showerheads and never had this problem. In the years since we last tested a new 58480, its reviews have dipped, and in the approximately 3.5-star average we now see a pattern of reviews complaining about leaks, and others that criticize the showerhead’s low water pressure.

We purchased the Delta 58471 in 2012 for the original version of this guide. We switched our recommendation from it to the 58480 in 2016 as the newer version offered additional features and usually a lower price. We did not test this model again in 2019, but it is similar enough to the Delta 58480 that we feel the Moen 26008 has similar advantages over it.

Our previous budget pick, the Delta Faucet 75152, compared poorly in 2019 tests against some newer models released since our 2016 tests. While the 75152 does offer two gpm settings (2.5 and 1.85), the spray felt uneven and weak, and the inconsistent droplet sizes made the exterior of the spray feel cooler than the center.

We liked the Moen Magnetix 26100EP, an affordable handheld showerhead with six spray settings. If you want a handheld option but don’t want to shell out $100 for the Moen 26008, the 26100EP could work for you. We didn’t recommend the 26100EP because a significant portion of the head (the part that allows it to swivel) is made of plastic, which is softer than metal and easier to cross thread and damage when installing. We prefer metal construction.

We tested the Moen S6320EP and found its sprays underpowered. Its 1.75 gpm flow felt too low to create a satisfying rainshower experience. The head is a whopping 8 inches wide, offering significant coverage, but making it harder for each individual spout to deliver a great deal of water. It’s also so wide that it won’t fit in showers with shower arms—the bit that comes out of the wall that the showerhead screws into—less than 3 inches long. And 4 inches or more is preferable, because it gives the head its full range of motion.

The combination Kohler Converge 2-in-1 5-Spray directs all the streams of water to converge in the center, which is the only point of the showerhead where the pressure actually felt strong. As this YouTube reviewer points out, this means that you need to hold the showerhead 18 inches away from your body to feel a massagelike spray. To detach the handheld, you push it forward by its handle, like shifting from first to second gear in a manual-transmission car. But if you don’t have enough room behind the shower arm to push out the handheld, it’s basically stuck. Wirecutter’s Tim Heffernan found it too tight on his bathroom’s 3-inch shower arm; 4 inches or more should be enough. (Measure straight out from the wall to the nearest edge of the shower arm’s threaded section.)

The Kohler K-15996-CP Flipside is a popular but strange model that changes settings by rotating a nozzle-filled disk nestled inside a circular holster. Two of these settings are traditional—a constellation of separated jet streams, or a gurgling waterfall. These were fine, but the settings that emit from the narrow edges of the disk are sparse and flat mistings that we did not find desirable. When you rotate the disk to switch settings, it sprays your face in the process.

We tested the 1.5 gpm Niagara N2915CH, a model similar to the High Sierra. With two spray settings, the Niagara is technically more versatile, but its rainshower is far less powerful and lush. Its second setting, with six swiveled jets of water that come out from the head in pairs of two, creates uncomfortably cold gaps at the center under a higher showerhead.

We tested the Hydroluxe 24 Function 3-way 2 in 1 Shower Head, one of the most popular and least expensive showerheads on Amazon. The model broke as we were trying to assemble it (a surprisingly difficult task), which probably speaks to the quality and longevity of the head.


1. David Malcolm, founder of High Sierra Showerheads, phone interview, November 12, 2018

2. Anne Shafer, representative from Kohler, email interview, November 21, 2018

3. Emily Burns Morgan, Shower Heads 101, BobVila.com

4. Choosing a Shower Head or Shower System, Lowes.com

5. California Energy Commission, Energy Commission Approves New Standards to Save 38 Billion Gallons of Water, August 12, 2015

6. Inexpensive Shower Head?, Reddit, 2017