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What light bulbs are best for bathroom?

Choosing the right light bulbs for your bathroom is an important decision that can affect the ambiance, functionality, and safety of the space. With so many options on the market, from incandescent and LED to halogen and CFL bulbs, it can be tricky to know which are best suited for use in a damp bathroom environment.

Considerations when choosing bathroom light bulbs

Here are some key factors to consider when shopping for bathroom light bulbs:


Bathrooms require bright, shadow-free lighting for tasks like applying makeup and shaving. Look for bulbs that produce at least 800 lumens for adequate illumination. Dimmer bulbs can make it hard to see clearly.

Color Temperature

The color temperature (measured in kelvins or K) impacts the look and feel of the light. Lower color temperatures like 2700K-3000K give off a soft, warm white light, while higher temperatures like 4000K-6500K emit a cooler, bluer light. For bathrooms, stick to the 4000K-5000K range for an invigorating yet comfortable environment.

CRI Rating

The color rendering index (CRI) indicates how accurately a light bulb displays colors. Bulbs with a CRI of 80-90+ help ensure you apply makeup, shave, and style your hair with colors that look natural.

Wet Location Rating

Since bathrooms have high humidity, choose bulbs rated for wet or damp locations. These are designed to resist moisture and prevent shorts or burning out.


Dimmable bulbs allow you to adjust the light level to suit different tasks or moods. Just pair them with a compatible dimmer switch.


Enclosed fixtures like vanity lights need bulbs with adequate ventilation to prevent overheating. Opt for bulbs with an open or partially enclosed design.

Types of Light Bulbs for Bathrooms

Below is an overview of common light bulb types and their pros and cons for bathroom use:

LED Light Bulbs


  • Extremely energy efficient – use up to 90% less energy than incandescents
  • Long lifespan of around 25,000 hours
  • Available in many color temps and high CRI options
  • Dimmable and instant-on
  • Good in enclosed fixtures due to low heat output
  • Shatter resistant


  • Higher upfront cost
  • Sensitive to humidity and dampness
  • Directional light may cause shadows

CFL Light Bulbs


  • Use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs
  • Long lifespan of 6,000-15,000 hours
  • Low purchase price
  • Available in a range of color temperatures


  • Contain mercury – require special disposal
  • Slow to reach full brightness
  • Bulky shape may not fit all fixtures
  • Not ideal for dimming
  • Performance decreases over time

Halogen Light Bulbs


  • Bright, sparkling light
  • Dimmable
  • Small size fits most fixtures
  • Instant on
  • Inexpensive to buy


  • Hotter burning and energy inefficient
  • Short 1,000-2,000 hour lifespan
  • Not eco-friendly

Incandescent Light Bulbs


  • Warm, familiar light quality
  • Instant on
  • Inexpensive purchase price
  • Dimmable


  • Very energy inefficient
  • Short lifespan of just 750-1,000 hours
  • Generate a lot of heat
  • Prone to burning out frequently

Recommended Bathroom Light Bulbs

Based on the above factors, here are some top light bulb recommendations for bathrooms:

Light Bulb Key Features
Philips LED Bright White Light Bulb
  • 800 lumens, 5000K
  • CRI 80
  • 25,000 hour lifespan
  • Enclosed design for humidity
GE Relax LED Light Bulb
  • 950 lumens, 2700K
  • CRI 90+
  • 15,000 hour lifespan
  • Dimmable
Sylvania Ultra LED Night Light
  • 135 lumens, 3000K
  • CRI 82
  • 20,000 hours lifespan
  • Dusk-to-dawn sensor
EcoSmart Halogen Flood Light Bulb
  • 750 lumens, 3000K
  • CRI 99
  • 2,000 hour lifespan
  • Dimmable

Lighting Tips for Bathrooms

Beyond just the bulbs, also consider these tips for great bathroom lighting:

Layer Light Sources

Use several different lighting elements like a central ceiling fixture, vanity lighting, and accent lighting. This creates a nice balance for an evenly lit space.

Light from Multiple Angles

Position lighting to reduce shadows on your face at the mirror. Wall sconces by the mirror supplemented by vanity bulbs work well.

Zone Lighting

Group lighting by zones – brighter around the mirror and sink, subtler ambiance for the tub area. This allows you to customize the light for each task.

Uplighting and Downlighting

Direct ceiling flush mounts downwards to light the space, while wall sconces can uplight surfaces for a cozy effect.

Accent Lighting

Use directional bulbs or strips to highlight artwork, architectural details, or the shower area.

Dimmers and Sensors

Dimmers allow adjusting light levels for different times of day. Occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on and off based on detecting motion.

Moisture-Proof Fixtures

Use fixtures rated for bathroom use with damp, tight seals to protect bulbs and prevent issues.

Safety Tips for Bathroom Lighting

Bathroom lighting also requires some special safety considerations:

  • Place light switches away from water sources to prevent electric shock.
  • Only use bulbs approved for enclosed fixtures in covered lights.
  • Ensure adequate wattage is used for vanity and ceiling fixtures.
  • Do not overload outlets with too many bathroom appliances.
  • Install GFCI outlets to protect against electric shock.
  • Avoid using pendant lighting over tubs and sinks which could fall.
  • Position sconces and wall fixtures at least 60 inches from water sources.


Finding the perfect light bulbs for your bathroom depends on factors like brightness, color temperature, CRI rating, and suitability for damp locations. LED and CFL bulbs are the most energy efficient options, while halogens provide bright, sparkling light. Layer multiple light sources at different heights, use dimmers and zoning for flexibility, and follow key safety guidelines. With the right bulbs and fixtures, you can create a bathroom that is both beautiful and functional.