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The best shower heads of 2020

A great shower head will make your morning routine more refreshing. We help you sort through the options to find one that will help make getting clean feel wonderful.

A competent shower head will make a big difference when it comes to starting your day on the right note. If I'm feeling groggy in the morning, need a boost of energy midday or if I'm trying to relax after a workout, a steamy shower can cure a lot of what ails me. On the other hand, a bad shower can leave me feeling more grumpy than when I started -- especially if the spray pattern doesn't provide enough coverage or the water pressure is feeble.

It can be a tall order to find the best shower head, but a good one can make all of the difference in your bathing experience. You can find dozens of options at hardware stores and online retailers. Most look similar and lots offer the same general combination of features -- which may include a full-coverage rain setting or a narrower, more intense massage stream. 

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Delta's clever showerhead tucks a handheld into the main body. 

Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The price, finish and materials can vary wildly, and you can also look for a shower head with a lower gallons-per-minute rating if you'd like to save water. Some showers include a handheld sprayer and others include a wider variety of spray pattern settings. 

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To help you pick the best shower head, I've spent the past few weeks testing a wide variety of them. All feature easy and non-invasive installs -- which was important for my rented apartment. All are reasonably priced between $50 and $200. All are relatively efficient with water -- with ratings between 1.5 and 2.5 gpm. Otherwise, all of the shower heads I tested are highly regarded in terms of both customer and industry reviews. 

If you're looking for an affordable shower head that you can install yourself, here are my picks for the best options you can find. Once you make your purchase, here's a guide to installing a showerhead yourself and here's how to keep your showerhead clean

Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The affordable $50 High Sierra Classic Plus shower head gets all of the basics right. It sprays in a wide pattern with great coverage and plenty of firmness. I tend to like a relaxing stream on my body and a firm spray on my face and hair. The Classic Plus doesn't offer any alternate spray pattern settings, but the main one balances both of those needs well. If you tend to find a good default and stick with it, look no further. 

The Classic Plus has a simple and elegant design. It's one of the most affordable shower heads on this list and conserves water as well with a 1.5 gpm rating. The default coverage setting offers as much coverage and velocity as shower heads that use a full gallon more. That velocity isn't overpowering. I was able to relax while taking a shower but it was firm enough to make quick work of soap and dirt on days when I needed to get clean quickly. 

If you're looking for something fancy with a wide variety of settings, I have plenty of alternate options below, but this is the Amazon Echo Dot of shower heads. It's simple, affordable and elegant. If you don't care about extras and just want something to get the job done well, go with the water-saving $40 High Sierra Classic Plus. Available in brushed nickel, bronze, polished brass or a chrome finish. Read more.

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Andrew Gebhart/CNET

The $58 Aquadance 7-inch Premium shower head is a great choice if you're looking for a dual shower head with a lot of features. It includes a handheld shower head that sits in place behind the main shower head. Both offer a full coverage setting, an intense massage setting, one that mixes those two, and a mist. 

The full coverage setting on both the main shower and the handheld shower head feels great. It balances firmness with wide coverage and still feels relaxing. The intense massage provided a great way to mix it up when I wanted to really feel the pressure and water flow. I ended up leaving the main shower on full coverage and kept the handheld shower head on the massage setting if I wanted that extra intensity of a high pressure shower. 

You can pause the stream of either if you want to save water while you suds. You can run both shower heads simultaneously on the same or different settings. You'll lose some water pressure with the dual shower setting, so you could just as easily switch back and forth from the main shower head to the handheld shower. You can switch settings by turning a dial or you can use the splitter to easily swap between the main shower head and the handheld shower head. 

Whatever you want your shower to feel like -- regular shower head, handheld shower or dual shower -- this Aquadance has an option for you. If you're the type that likes options and likes to change settings based on your mood, this is the best shower head for you.  Read more.

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The $164 Moen S6320 looks like a high-end shower with its 8-inch diameter and polished chrome finish. The main full coverage setting again strikes the right balance between relaxing coverage and firmness. Plus, the S6320 switches to an intense massage setting that also felt great. Lots of the massage settings that I tested were too narrow to be useful outside of spot cleaning. Moen's is still wide enough to provide actual coverage while still providing a nice boost of intensity. 

You can also switch back and forth easily with a handle on the side of the showerhead. It's simple enough to control that I was able to find it and switch the setting while my eyes were closed after sudsing my face. 

If you want a showerhead that looks higher end while still maintaining a simple elegance, the Moen S6320 fits the bill. It doesn't have a lot of features, but the two settings are both awesome and switching between them is so easy that you can do it with your eyes closed -- literally. Read more.

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Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Showering with the American Standard Spectra eTouch rain shower head actually feels like standing under a gentle stream or being outside during a warm summer rain. It's super relaxing. The Spectra eTouch is pretty expensive at over $100 for the brushed nickel or chrome finish, but it's economical with water at a 1.8 gpm rating. 

The Spectra includes a remote you can attach to your shower wall to switch between multiple spray settings or you can simply touch the rim of the shower head to do the same. It feels high-tech without adding any complexity. 

The different settings include a fine mist and two varieties of an intense massage spray -- though I found both to be too narrow to provide any coverage. The rainfall shower setting was also a little too gentle on my face, so the Spectra doesn't have a single setting that hits the perfect balance between a firm feel and full coverage. 

Nevertheless, it has a pulsating massage setting for spot cleaning, so if you mostly want your shower to feel like a relaxing stream, this is a good pick and it works just fine at an angle. Most rain shower systems need to be directly overhead and lots take a specialized install. This one works with your existing equipment and still feels great. Read more.

Honorable mentions

Kohler Forte 22169 -- Kohler's $75 shower head provides nice coverage. The main setting strikes the necessary balance between feeling firm but relaxing. You can easily switch to a concentrated massage mode or a fine mist. Overall, it's a solid, well-balanced fixed shower head option that you should consider if you like the look or the brand. It even saves water with a 1.75 gpm rating. It simply didn't stand out as much as the ones above and the concentrated massage stream is too narrow to be useful. 

Delta In2ition Two-in-One -- This $133 Delta shower head features a clever adjustable shower head design in which a handheld shower is nested within the main shower head. The main shower provides the full coverage option, and the handheld shower offers a more intense stream. You can also run both the main and handheld shower at once, though the water pressure expectedly dips a bit, and I'm not a fan of low water pressure. The handheld showerhead easily pulls free or you can leave the shower arm in place for a stationary massage stream. All of the settings are functional but the main coverage option is a little too weak for my tastes. The main shower head is also a little hard to pivot. That's definitely a minor nitpick. This is a competent shower that's worth your consideration but the little drawbacks took away just enough to prevent it from ranking higher for me. 

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Not recommended

Speakman S-2252-E175 -- None of the showers I tested were outright bad, but this $85 model from Speakman doesn't have a strong enough stream for my tastes. The main mode is fine if underwhelming. The alternate nozzle setting basically just lets water pour straight out without any added water pressure or water flow at all. Overall it was a low water pressure shower experience.

Culligan WSH-C125 -- This affordable $36 model from Culligan includes a filter and has a bunch of different settings. Changing between the nozzle settings is a pain. The main shower works well enough, but none of the alternate modes are inspiring. Again, this is a competent shower, but you have plenty of better options.

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Testing and cleaning

I've taken a lot of showers over the past couple of weeks. When testing a shower head system, I look at a lot of factors: The diameter of the face, the gallons-per-minute output, the number of settings, the materials, the design and more. We also run an anecdotal test on the water flow, water pressure and power of the spray pattern with dried egg yolk. More than anything, though, I showered and noted how each one felt.

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Some settings did a better job of removing eggs than others. 

Andrew Gebhart

I leave each model installed for a couple of days so I can take a variety of showers. During the first shower with a new shower system, I'm paying close attention to each spray pattern and how they feel, but I also want to shower when I'm not thinking about it as much. With each model, I shower when I'm groggy in the morning and do a post-workout shower to cool down. 

After every shower, I take notes on the shower experience. Was it firm, relaxing or both? Was the showering experience intense enough to get the soap and shampoo off quickly or did I have to change settings? Is it easy to change settings? 

For the egg test, I brushed egg yolk onto a cutting board and let it dry for 24 hours. Then I held the board 20 inches from the shower head while it ran for ten seconds and noted how much yolk was removed. I ran this test for each setting on each shower head. Most only removed a little yolk if any, but a few settings proved weaker or stronger relative to the rest.

Different showers check different boxes, but at the end of the day, what mattered most to me was the actual showering experience. None of the models I tested were terrible, but a few rose above the rest and cleaned up the competition. 

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