It’s amazing how painful it is when a full bottle of shampoo teeters off a shower ledge and crashes down on your unsuspecting foot. Having learned that hard lesson a few too many times, I recently invested in a hanging shower caddy for both bathrooms in my house. After a few weeks I’ve concluded – to my surprise – that the best part of this purchase hasn’t been the decreased risk of injury (though that is nice), but rather the reduced clutter in and around the shower.

If you’re not quite sure what I mean by “shower caddy,” I’m talking about those organizers that hang from your showerhead, shower door or tub wall. You may have heard them called bath organizers, shower racks or “those metal things that hold stuff in the shower.” Usually made of metal, shower caddies come in all shapes and sizes. Even though I work for a company that makes bath products, I was blown away by the available choices when I went shopping. (There is also an entirely separate subset of caddies that use a pole that runs from tub to ceiling, with shelves attached. I’ll re-visit these so-called "pole caddies" another time.)

Here’s what I learned from a few nights of caddy research and shopping, and then a couple weeks of real life (in-the-shower) experience:

Two Main Types of Caddies

  • Over-the-showerhead caddies are the most common style and offer the most choices in sizes and shapes. They fit over your shower head, and are held steady with suction cups if needed. These are pretty universal in how they fit most (though not all) showers, and these caddies place your bath items conveniently within reach. Their main disadvantage is that they sometimes can leave you with tall shampoo bottles positioned so they interfere with the flow of water from your shower.
  • Over-the-door caddies are a great alternative if you have a tub or shower with a sliding door. These caddies do the same things as over-the-showerhead caddies, but mount on the door, out of the way of your shower’s flow of water.

What Size and Style Shower Caddy to Buy?

In picking the best caddy for your needs, my experience suggests that a simple rule is this: Get a caddy large enough to fit all the bath items that you now have stacked in or alongside your tub or shower, but don’t get one any larger than you need. Remember that every square inch of space is valuable in a shower. If you have lots of tall bottles (like shampoos), you might want a caddy with higher-walled shelves. If you are looking for more versatility, pick a caddy with hooks for washcloths, razors and other items. If you have a showerhead that removes from the wall to become a handheld unit, look for an “expandable” caddy that is built to fit around these showerheads. (I got one of these, and for the convenience I don’t regret at all the few extra dollars it cost.)

What Material is Best?

Most shower caddies are made of metal, and most metals will eventually rust. So at the very least be sure to get a caddy that is coated with a rust-resistant finish. You can also skip metal and go with plastic. It’s rustproof and easy to clean, if maybe not as attractive. If you can afford to spend a little more, look for a high-grade stainless steel or a guaranteed rustproof aluminum caddy. That's what I went with, and I think it was money well spent. (My two caddies cost about $60 total. You can spend a bit less, or a little more, depending on wants and needs.)

Over-the-Shower or Over-the-Door?

If you don’t have a tub or shower door, the choice is easy here. You’ll have to select an over-the-shower caddy. But if you have a choice, next time you are in the shower take a minute to think about what location would be most convenient for your needs.

What If Neither Style Will Work for Me?

You can always consider a “pole caddy” instead of a hanging caddy. But first think about a creative installation for an over-the-shower or door caddy. Taking advantage of the way each kind of caddy is designed to mount on a shower or door, you can repurpose them to hang on grab bars, in-shower towel racks or even over your shower rod. Look online (Pinterest is great for inspiration) to see clever ways others have used shower caddies to suit their needs.

At the end of the day, a new shower caddy isn’t going to change your life. But I can vouch for how much it has helped me keep things organized in the shower. And knowing there’s less chance of an errant shampoo bottle toppling off a tub ledge is kind of nice, too!