I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (2024)

How much thought do you put into your shower water? Barely any? I was with you — until I spoke to experts. Shower water often has impurities like chlorine, heavy metals and sediments, which can irritate sensitive skin, further damage dry hair and even clog plumbing fixtures over time, says Doug Anderson, senior director of global engineering, research and development for Culligan, which sells water treatment systems. A solution? Filtered showerheads. They have built-in filtration systems that purify water before it hits your body, says Aldo Ceja, a home care expert for Thumbtack, a platform that helps people connect with home care professionals.

Below, I share my experience testing filtered showerheads from four popular brands — Jolie, Canopy, Act+Acre and Afina. I also spoke with four experts about the benefits of using a filtered showerhead and their tips on how to find the right one for your home.

SKIP AHEAD How I tested filtered showerheads | The best filtered showerheads to shop | What types of filters to look for | What is flow rate?

Selected.Our top picks

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How we picked the best filtered showerheads

While shopping for filtered showerheads, think about the following factors:

  • Filter type: This dictates what impurities the showerhead removes. Activated carbon, KDF-55 and calcium sulfate are some of the most common filter types you’ll find in showerheads — they remove chlorine, heavy metals and other minerals from water that can impact your skin and hair. Brands often add different filters to their fixtures to offer maximum purification. (Read more about each type here).
  • Certified claims: Make sure any filtered showerhead you buy has evidence backing up its performance claims, preferably via third-party testing data, says Anderson. This information may be available on brand websites, or you can contact a brand and ask for a copy. There are no federal regulations around residential water filters, but there are voluntary standards (set by organizations like public health nonprofits) that brands can test their products against. Anderson recommends buying from a brand that tests its filtered showerheads against the National Sanitation Foundation’s NSF 177 standard, which certifies models that reduce chlorine in water. (Chlorine can cause dry skin and hair damage, according to experts.)
  • Flow rate: Flow rate, measured in gallons per minute (gpm), refers to the amount of water that comes out of a fixture (like a showerhead) during a certain period of time. In the U.S., showerheads can’t exceed a flow rate of 2.5 gpm, according to federal standards created to conserve natural resources like water. To further conserve water, some states require a lower maximum flow rate, which means you may need a device called a flow restrictor to reduce the water stream. (Learn more about flow rate and your state’s regulations here.)
  • Shower compatibility: Most filtered showerheads are designed to work with all standard U.S. showers, according to experts we spoke with. Many will also come with a mini wrench and plumbers tape for installing.
  • Spray settings: Some showerheads have different spray settings — some only offer one; common options include mist, rain or dual. Think about your personal preference and those of anyone you live with.
  • Replacement filters: You’ll have to replace the filter every few months, depending on what the brand recommends. Consider the cost of replacements and how easy they are to buy. Some brands have subscription services that will send you a new filter when it’s almost time to replace yours.
  • Finish: Filtered showerheads often come in different finishes and colors so you can pick one that matches the hardware in your bathroom.
How I tested filtered showerheads

I’ve been testing filtered showerheads since July 2023. Each of the brands on this list sent me a model to try. I installed each one myself in my small New York City apartment bathroom. In New York, showerheads legally can’t exceed a 1.8 gpm flow rate, so I had to install a flow restrictor in all of the showerheads I tested.

I used each one for at least a month, taking note of how easy a model was to install, whether it impacted my water pressure, how it worked and any changes I noticed in my skin or hair.

The best filtered showerheads of 2024

All the showerheads I tested came with one pre-installed filter, a wrench and plumbers tape. (To continue using them beyond the first 90-day period, I had to buy replacement filters.) They’re also all tested to meet NSF-177 standards, according to the brand websites. Each showerhead is easily adjustable, so I could point the water stream in any direction and none of the models I used impacted my shower’s water pressure.

Best overall: Jolie Filtered Showerhead

What we like

  • Multiple finish options
  • Easy installation

Something to note

  • One spray setting

Jolie’s filtered showerhead is the first model I installed, a process I found easy and stress-free thanks to the included step-by-step guide. I love that it looks like a typical showerhead— it doesn’t look like anything special, so it blends into my space. The Jolie comes in five finishes, more than any of the other shower filters I tested: Moden Chrome, Brushed Steel, Jet Black, Brushed Gold and Vibrant Red.

I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (7)

After testing four filtered showerheads, Jolie’s model is the one I returned to and continue to use now. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that my skin isn’t as dry and my hair is softer. In fact, my hairdresser recently said my curls have never looked or felt healthier, which she credited to my filtered showerhead. I also appreciate how easy Jolie makes managing my filter subscription online, and that it lets me skip or delay a filter delivery if I want to. For example, if I’m away for a while and don’t use my showerhead, I might want to push back the next time I swap it out.

Though it only has one spray setting, the showerhead’s stream is wide enough for my liking because it covers my whole body when I stand underneath it. The first time I replaced the filter, I found twisting the fixture’s head off its base challenging — but it got much easier with practice.

Filter type: KDF-55 and calcium sulfate | Flow rate: 2.5 gpm, comes with 1.8 gpm flow restrictor | Spray settings: 1 | Filter lifespan: 90 days | Price of replacement filters: $36 without subscription, $33 with 90-day subscription | Finish options: 5 | Return policy: Return within 60 days for a full refund

Best for multiperson households: Canopy Filtered Shower Head

What we like

  • Easy to change filter
  • Three spray settings

Something to note

  • Tarnishes, in my experience

Canopy’s filtered showerhead is the only model I tested that has three spray settings: wide, narrow and dual. You can seamlessly switch among them using a sliding notch on the bottom of the fixture. Since each person who uses the shower can choose the setting they like best, it’s great for multiperson households.

I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (9)

Changing the Canopy filter was easier for me than with other models — there’s no twisting or turning involved, making for a quicker process.

When shopping directly from Canopy’s website, you have three buying options: the fixture; the showerhead and a filter subscription; or the showerhead, a filter subscription and an aroma subscription. The aroma subscription comes with essential oils and hook-shaped felt diffusers to hang on the showerhead. I tried the aroma subscription and, while I liked adding fragrance to my showers, I don’t reach for it often enough to need repeated refills.

Filter type: activated carbon, KDF-55 and calcium sulfate | Flow rate: 2.5 gpm, comes with 1.8 gpm flow restrictor | Spray settings: 3 | Filter lifespan: 90 days | Price of replacement filters: $35 without subscription, $25 with 90-day subscription, $40 with 90-day subscription plus aromas | Finish options: 4 | Return policy: return within 60 days for a full refund

Best return policy: Afina A-01 Filtered Shower Head

What we like

  • Longer than avg. return window

Something to note

  • One spray setting
  • No flow restrictor instruction

Afina’s filtered showerhead has a simple design and is available in nickel and chrome finishes. It only has one spray setting, but thanks to its square face, the water stream was wide enough to fully cover me.

I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (11)

Overall, installing the Afina was straightforward. However, the included directions didn’t have specific instructions for adding a flow restrictor, and I didn’t find it on the brand’s website either. Because I had installed a few other models already, I knew enough about adding a flow restrictor that I eventually figured it out. But if I’d been new to the process, I would have been very confused. Replacing the filter, on the other hand, was easy — I just twisted the face off its base.

Notably, Afina offers the most generous return policy of the brands I tested. You can return the showerhead within 90 days of purchase for a full refund. The other brands had return policiesbetween 35 and 60 days.

Filter type: Blend of KDF-55 and calcium sulfite | Flow rate: 2.5 gpm, comes with 1.8 gpm flow restrictor | Spray settings: 1 | Filter lifespan: 90 days | Price of replacement filters: $40 without subscription, $29 with 90-day subscription | Finish options: 2 | Return policy: return within 90 days for a full refund

Best compact model: Act+Acre Showerhead Filter

Act + Acre Showerhead Filter $84.00$120.00

What we like

  • Multiple flow restrictors

Something to note

  • One spray setting
  • One finish option
  • Shorter return window

Act+Acre is one of our favorite women-owned businesses, and because I’ve had a great experience using the brand’s hair care products, I wasn’t surprised that its filtered showerhead is designed well. It has a circular face like the Jolie, but it’s smaller by about .75 inches. That means Jolie’s water stream is a bit wider than Act+Acre’s, but not by enough that I found it particularly noticeable. If you have a very small shower, you may appreciate the compact size.

I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (13)

Installing Act+Acre’s showerhead took me less than five minutes, and I easily twisted its face off its base to change the filter. If you subscribe to Act+Acre’s filter subscription program, you get your first replacement filter for 40% off, making it $19.20. But all subsequent filter replacements are 20% off via the subscription, making them $25.60 . (If you don’t opt for the subscription service, each filter replacement is $32.) Act+Acre’s filtered showerhead has the shortest return window (30 days) compared to the other brands I tested.

Filter type: KDF-55, calcium sulfite and coconut activated carbon | Flow rate: 2.5 gpm, comes with 2.0 gpm and 1.8 gpm flow restrictor | Spray settings: 1 | Filter lifespan: 90 days | Price of replacement filters: $32 without subscription, $25.60 with 90-day subscription | Finish options: 1 | Return policy: Return within 30 days for a full refund

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What types of filters are best?

Filter type is one of the most important factors to consider because it dictates what it can remove from your water. There’s no standard filter so understanding each one can help you narrow down the model you want to buy. Brands tend to include multiple types of filters in a showerhead to offer maximum purification, experts told us.

To figure out which type of filter is best for you, our experts suggest getting your water tested. Doing so tells you the exact impurities present in it and at what levels. It’s best to get your water tested by an EPA-registered lab, although you can buy at-home water test kits. At-home kits can’t give you in-depth information and tend to be much less accurate than lab results, plus they’re prone to user error, says Anderson.

Here are some of the common filters you’ll see when shopping and what each one does, according to our experts:

  • KDF-55 filters (aka kinetic degradation fluxion filters) reduce heavy metals and chlorine in water. Heavy metals can cause scale buildup (crusty mineral deposits) in your shower or tub, while chlorine can lead to dry skin and hair damage, says Anderson. Municipalities often add small amounts of chlorine or chloramine to water to kill germs, disinfecting it so it’s safe to drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. KDF-55 filters, among other types, then reduce the presence of that chlorine and chloramine in water before it touches your body. This can make for more hydrated skin and healthier hair over time, he says.
  • Activated carbon filters reduce chlorine and odors in water.
  • Ceramic filters reduce bacteria, dirt and debris in water.
  • Calcium sulfite filters reduce chlorine and chloramine in water.
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) filters reduce chlorine and chloramine in water.
What is flow rate?

As mentioned above, flow rate refers to the amount of water that comes out of a fixture (like a showerhead) during a certain period of time. States have different regulations on maximum flow rates for water conservation purposes. That said, not all showerheads are compatible with every state’s regulations — you may have to install a flow restrictor before using one. A flow restrictor reduces the amount of water that can pass through a fixture so it meets the regulatory standards in your state, says Ceja.

Here are the key rates to know:

  • 2.5 gpm: Showerheads in the U.S. cannot exceed a flow rate of 2.5 gpm, which is a limit set by the federal government.
  • 2.0 gpm: Seven states in the U.S. have tighter restrictions on flow rate: Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont
  • 1.8 gpm: Six states in the U.S. have the tightest restrictions on flow rate nationwide: New York, California, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington

Frequently asked questions

The water that comes out of showerheads and faucets in your home is either provided by a municipality, which is a public water supply, or a private well.

Municipalities are required to filter water to some degree to meet requirements set by the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act, which specifies legal limits for about 90 different contaminants, says Anderson. But by the time water makes its way through pipes and onto your skin and hair, it can pick up contaminants, says Anderson. If you get water from a private well, filtering water is up to each individual homeowner.

That said, most water is not thoroughly filtered when it comes out of a bathroom showerhead. That’s where shower filters come in. They’re point-of-use filters, meaning they reduce water impurities at the point water comes out. This is different from a point-of-entry filter, which reduces water impurities as it enters the home’s pipes, says Anderson. One isn't necessarily better than the other — it’s more about what works with where you live. For example, you can't install a point-of-entry filter in a rental building because it would impact the water every resident uses. Instead, you need to install point-of-use filters for the water fixtures in your unit. If you live in a house you own, you can install a point-of-entry filter.

Luckily, filtered showerheads are typically easy to install regardless of where you live. They’re also just as easy to uninstall, so you can take them with you if you move.

When minerals like calcium, magnesium and chlorine build up on the skin, they tend to disrupt the skin barrier, leading to dryness and irritation, says Dr. Brooke Jeffy, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Btwn, a skin care brand for teens and tweens. These minerals can also bind with certain ingredients in skin care products, like surfactants (cleaning agents) in cleansers, causing them to leave a residue behind that may lead to irritation, clogged pores and breakouts. Hard water minerals can also shift the skin’s pH, resulting in irritation, says Jeffy.

Filtered showerheads can reduce the presence of those potentially-irritating minerals in your water, preventing some of their negative effects, which people with sensitive skin, dry skin or eczema are especially vulnerable to, says Jeffy. They can also make your skin feel softer, she says.

If your shower water has high concentrations of minerals like chlorine, calcium and magnesium, the protective outer layer of the hair strand (the hair cuticle) can absorb them, leading to dry, brittle, dull and discolored hair, says Sara Hallajian, trichologist and the founder of Ame Salon in California. These minerals also make it hard for products like shampoo to lather properly, limiting effectiveness.

Filtered showerheads prevent water from leaving behind drying, irritating mineral deposits on your hair and scalp, says Jeffy. Hallajian says she sees and feels the benefits filtered showerheads have on her clients’ and her own hair. She recommends trying one if your hair is rough, hard to detangle and/or dull in color or shine.

Hard water has high concentrations of calcium and magnesium, which can lead to skin irritation and hair damage, says Ceja. It can also cause scale, which is a white film you’ll see when water dries on surfaces like dishware, faucets and countertops, says Anderson. Scale buildup can clog water fixtures and appliances, shortening their lifespan, says Ceja. While filtered showerheads can’t soften hard water, they can reduce the concentration of calcium and magnesium, making it less likely to cause these issues, says Anderson.

Hard water is quite common in the U.S., but it doesn't cause issues for everyone. There are different hardness levels, which are measured in grains per gallon. The higher the calcium and magnesium levels are in water, the “harder” it is and the more likely it is to cause problems, says Anderson.

There aren't many places in the U.S. where water is considered soft. “Soft water is hardness below one grain per gallon, and that’s pretty rare,” says Anderson. “Your typical U.S. household will have anywhere from three to 10 grains of hardness per gallon of water.”

You can determine your home’s water hardness a few different ways, according to Ceja:

  1. Check for scale buildup on your showerheads and faucets. It appears as white or chalky deposits.
  2. Watch for soap scum in your bathroom that's difficult to remove, and dry or filmy skin or hair after showering.
  3. Consult a professional who can test your home’s water and talk you through an in-depth analysis.

Technically, no, shower filters don’t soften hard water, says Anderson. Softening hard water is a complicated process involving an ion exchange, which basic shower filters can’t do. However, shower filters can reduce the concentration of the minerals responsible for hardness in your water so long as they’re made with a filter that’s designed to do so, says Ceja. Reducing the concentration of these minerals means water is less likely to cause negative side effects like scale buildup and damaged hair, says Anderson. Generally, the purpose of shower filters is to reduce the presence of water impurities — not “soften” it, says Ceja.

Depending on their design, shower filters may slightly impact water pressure, but it’s often not noticeable, says Ceja. If you do notice reduced water pressure, check when you last changed the filter. “If you keep a filter in there forever and never change it, it’s going to get filled with debris and reduce your water pressure,” says Anderson.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Doug Anderson is the senior director of global engineering, research and development for Culligan, which sells water treatment systems.
  • Aldo Ceja is a home care expert for Thumbtack with more than 15 years of experience as a general contractor.
  • Dr. Brooke Jeffy is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Btwn, a skin care brand for tweens and teens.
  • Sara Hallajian is a trichologist and the founder of Ame Salon in California.
Why trust NBC Select?

Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select who has been writing about home care and wellness for over four years. You can check out her recent stories on dusters and eco-friendly cleaning products, as well as treatments for ingrown hair and razor burn. For this article, she interviewed four experts about filtered showerheads and tested four models herself over the course of 10 months.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Zoe Malin

Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor for Select on NBC News.

I tested four filtered showerheads in 10 months — and yes, they really work (2024)
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