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The Difference Between Aerated and Laminar Flow in Shower Heads

Who doesn’t like saving money? One of the easiest ways is to switch to a low-flow shower head, that consumes less than 2.5gpm, or gallons per minute.

When choosing a low-flow shower head, you will often be presented with two main options: aerated and laminar.

The main difference between the two exists in the fact that the aerated shower head adds air to the water stream, while the laminar shower head consists of streams of only water.

Both types of shower heads have benefits and drawbacks to take into consideration when deciding which is the best to purchase.

How an Aerated Shower Head Works

As water flows through an aerated shower head, there is a mesh screen, typically made of either plastic or metal, that the water is being pushed out of allowing for air to enter the stream. This often results in streams of air mixed in between the streams of water, creating a firm misty spray.

The main advantage of an aerated shower head is that it conserves water by using less water than a traditional shower head since the air mixed in assists with the pressure of the stream without using excess amounts of water. Therefore, the aerated shower head can cut your water consumption by up to 50% (source).

An additional advantage is that aerated shower heads produce a wide spa-like stream. Additionally, since the water is mixed with air, it allows for an even and firm pressure without needing to use excess water.

While an aerated shower head can benefit your water bill, one of its main disadvantages is that it can put some extra stress on your energy bill. The aerator on the shower head is blending the water with room-temperature air, which results in a slightly colder stream, requiring you to turn up the heat further than you would with a laminar shower head.

Here’s a great demo from Hansgrohe:

How a Laminar Shower Head Works

Laminar shower heads have individual streams consisting of only water, rather than being mixed with air like in an aerated shower head. This provides a more steady massage-like stream.

The main advantage of a laminar shower head is that it is often described as a more soothing shower experience than the more pressurized aerated shower head. For example, rain shower heads primarily use laminar flow, which allows for a gentler stream. Alternatively, laminar shower heads often have an adjustable switch to allow you to choose the gentler spray or the more robust aforementioned massage-like flow.

Another advantage is that laminar flow does not generate as much steam as the aerated flow, so this would be ideal if your bathroom does not have as much ventilation or if you live in a humid area.

However, the primary disadvantage of laminar shower heads is that they are not as efficient in their water usage. Because the stream consists of only water with no air in between the streams, it uses more water than the aerated shower head.


While both aerated and laminar flow shower heads have their advantages as low-flow shower heads, aerated shower heads are generally more environmentally friendly.

This is due to their function allowing for less water consumption, and even with their higher energy consumption as a result of needing more heating, there is still a lower amount of water needed to heat. If your primary focus when choosing which flow is best is determined by its sustainability, aerated flow is the optimal choice.

Cleanliness and Hygiene

The result is different if cleanliness is your primary focus. Cleanliness is an important factor to consider when it comes to shower heads, as the water that comes from them is meant to ensure good hygiene.

While both types of flow allow for a satisfactory amount of cleanliness, laminar flow faucets and shower heads are often preferred for health care facilities’ sinks due to their higher levels of hygiene. Air and water mixing as it does in aerated flow shower heads can allow for bacteria to develop within the pipes, so laminar flow shower heads are less susceptible to microbes than their aerated counterparts which can be especially essential if you have people who require extra care in their hygiene within your home.

Pets & Children

Pets and children are an example of individuals who may be part of the reason you need to opt for a more hygienic shower head. While aerated shower heads do allow for a firmer cleaning, laminar flow shower heads provide a gentle, sensory-friendly, experience for children and pets as well as extra assurance of cleanliness in the piping. .

Other Considerations

While function, cost-effectiveness, cleanliness, and how all of these can affect you and the individual in your home are all important factors in deciding which flow is best in your shower head, there are still some more questions to ask yourself before making the choice Are you concerned about how your paint will hold up against steam? How fast do you need the water to get hot? Is water pressure a concern for you?

Impact After The Shower

As explained previously, aerated flow shower heads mix water and air to create a misty stream.

In addition to its spray-like flow, this also means the added air in the stream enables steamier showers than the strictly only-water flow of a laminar shower head. This is mostly fine if your bathroom is well-ventilated, but if this is not the case or you live in a high-humidity area, it may be best to consider a laminar shower head. The laminar flow shower head does not generate as much steam, which is a plus if you have painted walls in your bathroom and are concerned about the extra moisture in the air from an aerated shower head negatively impacting its longevity.

Water Temperature

If you prefer your shower to be not only hot but hot quickly, then the laminar flow shower head would be ideal. Due to its function, the aerated shower head on average is reported to cool the water by around 5-15 degrees Fahrenheit. While this can be remedied by turning the heat up in your shower a bit more, it does result in waiting a bit longer for the water to heat up than you would with its counterpart.

Water Pressure

While we’ve gone over the difference in feeling between aerated and laminar flow shower heads, we’ve yet to go over the difference in actual water pressure.

Since air is being pushed alongside the water, aerated shower heads do have less water pressure, but depending on the model purchased, it can imitate the feeling of high water pressure. However, if you prefer that high water pressure feeling to be from only water, laminar shower heads are the way to go.


As you can see, aerated flow shower heads and laminar flow shower heads are similar in the sense that they are low-flow shower heads that have several cost benefits. However, due to their different techniques, they are several factors to consider when deciding which type of shower head to purchase.

If you are primarily looking to be more eco-friendly in your buying choice while saving money, then aerator flow shower head fits the bill best between the two. However, if you prefer to spend a little extra and use a little more water to ensure the best hygiene or your bathroom ventilation is not equipped to handle too much steam, then the laminar flow shower head may be the one to go with.

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Frank Harmenstein

From humble beginnings as a plumber and handyman, Frank Harmenstein has emerged as a leading authority on shower heads, a title he has earned through years of dedication and hard work. With over two decades of experience in the plumbing industry, Frank has developed an unrivalled expertise in the installation, maintenance, and repair of shower systems. His passion for shower heads has led him to write extensively on the subject, sharing his knowledge and insights with readers around the world.

Born and raised in a small town, Frank's interest in plumbing was sparked at an early age by his father, who was a respected plumber in their community. Inspired by his father's dedication to his craft, Frank pursued an apprenticeship in plumbing and soon discovered his niche in the world of shower heads. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled handyman who could fix any shower-related issue and provide expert advice on selecting the perfect shower head for any bathroom.

After years of honing his skills and knowledge, Frank decided to share his passion for shower heads with a wider audience by becoming an author.