Picks

Upgrades We’d Make to Any Bathroom

We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing bathroom accessories and fixtures.

Shower caddy filled with products.
Photo: Michael Zhao

By Harry Sawyers
Wirecutter Staff

We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing bathroom accessories and fixtures to find the best upgrades for any home—including a rental. There’s a limit to what you can do in a space you don’t own, but a few minor upgrades to the bathroom can make it feel a lot more like it’s yours.

Essentials

Showerhead

Few bathroom upgrades offer so much life improvement for so little effort. Wrap a little Teflon tape on the threads before screwing the new showerhead on, and save the old one so you can put it back when you move out.

The best showerhead

Kohler 22169-G-CP Forte Showerhead

This elegant, three-spray showerhead offered the fullest, most powerful rainshower spray of any model we tested, with huge, soft drops that felt gentle on skin.

The best low-flow showerhead

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—but there’s only one (strong) setting, which may feel overwhelming.

Shower curtain

Even if you already have a shower curtain you love, treat yourself to a new liner. And if you need a curtain but this style is too neutral for you, we have more options in the design section of our shower curtain guide.

Neutral and durable

Threshold White Waffle Weave Shower Curtain

This shower curtain will fit in with any neutral, white-forward bathroom. It’s affordable, machine-washable, reinforced with metal grommets, and made from a durable cotton/polyester waffle weave.

A great liner

Maytex Water Repellent Fabric Shower Curtain or Liner

This washable polyester shower liner works as well as liners twice the price. It won’t attract soap scum like a dime-store plastic liner, and it can also double as a shower curtain.

Bath mat

When testing bath mats, we focused on absorbency, durability, and a range of options to suit everyone’s decor, seeking mats that would dry quickly and wouldn’t skid on a wet floor.

Good quality, guaranteed

Lands’ End Supima Non-skid Bath Rug

This woven cotton rug absorbs and dries quickly. Its latex nonslip backing is the best we found, and it’s backed by a lifetime guarantee.

More plush, less money

Momentum Home Modern Bath Premium Bathroom Rug with Non-slip Backing

This soft polyester rug absorbs water as well as our pick and dries faster, but it has few color and size options and isn’t as sturdily made.

A wood mat option

ToiletTree Products Bamboo Bath Mat

With a sleek look, nice finish, sturdy feel, and good price, this model was the best wood mat we found. Just don’t expect it to absorb water.

Hooks

No bathroom ever really has enough places to hang a towel, a robe, or a wet bathing suit. We have options for hooks you can drill, stick to an adhesive, or hang over the door.

If an adhesive hook will do

Command Large Double Bath Hook

Command hooks are a great temporary way to keep clutter off the floor without leaving holes in the wall. They’re also good for tile walls or inside the shower where you can’t drill.

If you can mount hooks

Liberty Flared Tri-Hook Rack

This rack can mount onto a wall or behind a door, and it’s one of only a couple we found with tri hooks for maximizing storage and reducing wear and tear on clothing and gear.

If you need over-the-door hooks

Spectrum Duchess Over the Door 5-Hook Rack

This rack comes with five hooks and is a great way to take advantage of lost space on the back of a door.

Small trash can

We’ve found that the best garbage cans last longer, look better, and stink less than cheaper ones—all good reasons to justify getting something nice. Like a lot of good bathroom upgrades, this one can come with you when you move.

Roomy, tough, and stylish

Simplehuman 10-Liter Profile Step Can

This good-looking can’s pedal and lid are durable and move smoothly. The liner design allows for clean removal of small trash bags or plastic grocery sacks.

Not as big but built to last years

Simplehuman 6-liter Semi-Round Step Trash Can

With a smaller footprint and height than our top pick, the Semi-Round model contains odors well and fits standard grocery bags. It also performs better and offers more durability than other small cans we tested.

Shower caddy

Unless your shower has some excellent recessed shelving, you’ll likely need more storage than you’ll find at the corners of the tub. We tested 12 caddies to find versatile options that would last a long time and be easy to keep clean.

The best shower caddy

OXO Aluminum 3-Tier Shower Caddy

This shower caddy is easier than others to install and remove, has better stability, ample capacity, high-quality materials, and a durable design that’s backed by OXO’s guarantee.

Excellent quality, easy to organize

Simplehuman Adjustable Shower Caddy Plus

More adjustable and versatile than the OXO, this Simplehuman product is a truly excellent shower caddy, although it costs a lot and is not quite as simple to install.

A great, but more expensive pole-style pick

OXO Good Grips Quick-Extend Aluminum Pole Caddy

If you can’t use a traditional shower caddy, this tension rod fits into the corner and extends from 5 to 9 feet. Its easy, one-step extension beat out the others we tested.

Towels

A new towel feels great, but one of the unexpected pleasures of upgrading is seeing something luxurious hanging on a hook every time you’re in the bathroom. We’ve spent well over 100 hours trying dozens over the past three years to find the best.

The best bath towels

Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel

This towel is soft and plush like a luxury hotel towel, and it comes in several sumptuous colors.

Thin and affordable

Dri-Soft Plus Bath Towel Collection

Thinner and smaller than our other picks, this inexpensive towel is soft, with a pleasant ribbed texture that holds up to wear.

Nice-to-haves

Bidet (or just a new toilet seat)

If you can splurge on a bidet, go for it. But if not, even a new seat is nice.

Everything you’d want in a bidet seat

Toto Washlet C200

This model offers a heated seat and a water stream that you can calibrate to your preferences better than on any other at this price. The C200 forgoes extraneous features you wouldn’t use anyway, and it comes with a remote.

Only the essentials

Brondell Swash 300

This bidet doesn’t warm up water as quickly and has fewer options for the water stream, but it will make your bathroom experience better for an unbeatable price.

If you want a regular seat instead

Mayfair Molded Wood Toilet Seat

It doesn’t so much matter which toilet seat you get (as long as it fits your round or elongated bowl). The important thing is that you do get a new toilet seat—because who wants to share a seat with whatever strangers came before?

Shelving

A standing shelf or wall shelves can add storage and decor options in a room where counter space is at a premium.

A basic, stylish, minimal shelf

CB2 Piano White Wall Shelves

These simple screw-mounted shelves have a slender profile that’s not too obtrusive to mount a few feet above a toilet, and they’re good for small bath items on display. For lots of options on shelves (and hooks), CB2 is tough to beat.

Medicine cabinet organizer

Keep bottles and jars from tumbling off high shelves with clear organizers.

Order for small things

Linus Medicine Cabinet Organizer

This is the best organizer we’ve found for holding toiletries of all sizes. Its narrower dimensions leave more room for storing other bulky items on a medicine cabinet shelf.

Nice cabinet-door storage

MagnaPods (for 3)

The best small organizer for minimalists, the magnetic MagnaPods stick to a medicine cabinet door and are great for holding makeup, tweezers, or tubes.

Drawer organizer

Hair elastics and makeup brushes stay separated with modular trays.

The best drawer-organizing set

InterDesign Kitchen Drawer Organizer 6-piece set

Even though these are kitchen-drawer organizers, we like their height and durability for bathroom drawers. This six-piece set is more durable than other organizers and comes in better sizes.

If you need individual organizers

iDesign Linus Shallow Drawer Organizers

These organizers are made from thicker plastic but still shallow enough to fit in most drawers. They’re a better choice if you want to hand-select your containers for a perfect fit.

Toilet paper roll holder

A sturdy stand takes the place of a missing toilet paper holder while keeping a fresh roll handy and visible.

A roll holder with storage

InterDesign Classico

The InterDesign Classico dispenses a roll in use and holds four in storage, making it the highest-volume, most functional stand we considered.

Picture hangers

Unless your bathroom is tiled floor to ceiling, you probably have a small open patch of drywall to fill. Put up some pictures—even a couple of favorites can transform a small space nicely.

The best picture hanger

Floreat 30 lb. Hanger

The Floreats’ hanging strength is as good as advertised when they’re nailed to a stud or simply in drywall, and their slim, strong nails are easy to drive and leave a very small hole.

Things to save for the renovation

Faucet

Although it may seem simple to swap out a faucet, you’ll often find that you also must replace the angle stops that open and close the supply lines, which means shutting off water to the building and soldering new connections.

Toilet

A new toilet is nice to have, but installing one can be surprisingly difficult. You may have read that this is a landlord-friendly rental upgrade, but it’s more work than that.

Wall-mounted cabinets

Our main hesitation: Many wall-mounted cabinets (or even some floating shelves with storage, like CB2’s Hide n’ Seek storage shelf) install by mounting to larger cleats, which is more likely to cause wall damage and harder to remove if you move out.