Shower time should feel relaxing and luxurious: a place to think, to sing, to get energised for the day. Ultimately, it is your choice of shower head that determines how the water flows, whether you prefer a gentle rainfall shower or a high-pressure jet. Before you buy and install a new shower, there are various factors to consider, such as water pressure, heating system and the water hardness in your area. When it comes to shower heads, there are many options to choose from, each with their pros and cons. This guide is designed to help you find the best option for your home and lifestyle.

Related reading: The Pros & Cons of Having a Walk-In Shower.

Fixed vs. handheld shower heads

There are two main types of shower head: fixed and adjustable—or handheld. Of course, there is much variation within these two categories.

Fixed shower heads are permanently plumbed in and, as the name suggests, fixed to the wall or ceiling, so while you may be able to change the direction of the spray, you can’t move them around or adjust the height. Also known as wall-mount shower heads, they are the most common type of shower head found in the home as they are cost-effective and easy to maintain. Within the scope of fixed shower heads there are many different styles to choose from, along with a range of functionalities such as adjustable spray patterns and flow rate.

Handheld shower heads, on the other hand, give you total control over your water flow. These shower heads come with a fixed mounted unit in addition to around 150 cm of hose, which allows you to remove the shower head and direct the water exactly where needed—ideal for bathing kids or pets, as well as rinsing shower walls. Handheld showers are often found on baths as well, connected between the taps, to allow you to rinse off soap and bubbles. These practical shower heads are extremely popular, but if you’re looking for a particular effect, such as rainfall or body spray, then you may find yourself limited by a handheld shower head.

Contemporary Family Bathroom

An overarm rainfall shower head with a dual handheld shower from a recent installation—note the additional handheld shower next to the bathtub.

Rainfall shower heads

Rainfall shower heads are considered a premium upgrade compared to traditional shower heads. They are usually larger in size, between 8-12 inches, and can be mounted from the wall or ceiling—provided there are pipes running through the ceiling. If not, an overhead shower arm offers much the same experience. A good choice for wet rooms and walk-in showers, rainfall shower heads give lots of coverage and a luxurious showering experience.

If you’re considering a rainfall shower head, it pays to be mindful of water pressure. No matter the diameter, you are still working with the same amount of water. Rainfall shower heads are designed to produce large drops, not strong jets, so you’re not looking for sharp pressure, but this is something to consider if you live in an area with low water pressure.

High/low pressure shower heads

Low pressure shower heads, as you might guess, are designed to maximise water pressure in areas where it is typically low. By constricting the spray, these shower heads increase the speed of the water jet hitting your skin, giving the impression of higher pressure while actually using less water. Though more costly to install, they will likely save you money in the long run. If you’re tired of lacklustre showers there are two options: install a pump or a low pressure shower head—or both.

High pressure shower heads are the opposite (you don’t say). If you’re a sucker for a powerful jet and the water pressure is strong enough, a high pressure shower head gives an invigorating shower experience, often with various spray patterns to choose from. If you need to hop in and out of the shower quickly, or you have thick hair that takes forever to rinse, a high pressure shower head may be a beneficial option for you.

Dual shower heads

Want the best of both worlds when it comes to fixed vs. handheld? Then you’ll want to take a look at dual shower heads, which typically comprise a fixed overhead shower head alongside a handheld shower head for maximum comfort and flexibility. These units, also known as combo shower heads, mean you reap all the benefits of both fixed and handheld shower heads, but with one drawback—using both at once can mean a drop in water pressure, unless you install a pump. If you sometimes shower together with your partner or children, a dual shower head can be a good way to go.

copper bathroom

The above installation contains both a fixed rainfall shower head and handheld shower head, ideal for a walk-in shower.

Filtered shower heads

Last but not least, we have filtered shower heads, designed for use in hard water areas. A filtered shower head, as the name implies, filters out chemicals and impurities like chlorine and limescale, which is particularly good if you suffer from dry skin or frizzy hair. One thing to bear in mind is that the filters don’t last forever and will need replacing around every six months. Oxfordshire has a water hardness level of 295.31 ppm (parts per million), which on the scale of hard to soft water is relatively hard, so a filtered shower head—or a just a separate filter—is certainly something to consider.

As we’ve covered, there are many different shower head styles to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Now you have the information, it’s up to you to decide. Before you start looking, make a list of what’s important to you. The average lifespan of a new bathroom is around 10 years—that’s a decade of showers to think about! Choose wisely.