Shower diverters are installed in showers with more than one outlet, such as a showerhead combined with a handheld device or a tub-shower combination. Unlike a shower valve, which turns the hot and cold water on and off, a diverter valve is only responsible for controlling the direction of the water flow in the shower. 

How A Shower Diverter Valve Works

Several types of diverter valves exist, but they all work in basically the same way. A mechanical or pressure-activated mechanism blocks water from exiting one or more outlets while allowing it to flow to another outlet. This means the diverter will send water to the showerhead, for example, while blocking water from exiting the tub spout.


There are three types of diverter valves: one that serves a tub-shower combination, one that serves a showerhead and a handheld device or a showerhead and a tub, and one that can be used to direct water to the showerhead, the handheld device, or the tub.

Tee Diverter

This diverter switches water flow between the showerhead and the tub spout. It can only service one outlet at a time, so water cannot flow from the tub spout and the showerhead simultaneously.

Two-Way Diverter

This U-shaped device has two ports, allowing water to be directed to one port or the other. It is seen in showers where the user desires water flow from either the showerhead or a handheld sprayer or between a showerhead and a tub spout.

Three-Way Valve

This type of diverter valve comes equipped with three ports: one for the showerhead, one for the handheld device, and one for the tub. By manually adjusting the knob, the water can be directed to any one of these outlets.

Four Mechanisms

The diverter valve can be manipulated in four different ways to direct the water flow to the shower user’s desired outlet.

Toggle Diverter

A manual manipulation of a lever or knob is used to direct the flow of water to the desired outlet.

Push-Pull Diverter

With this type of mechanism, the shower user manipulates a button or lever to change the flow of water. A push-pull mechanism is commonly found in showers with handheld devices and tub spouts.

Diverter Cartridge

Located inside the shower valve, this mechanism operates by turning a handle to control the water’s flow direction. A shower diverter cartridge is a small device that redirects water from a bathtub tap to a showerhead. 

Digital Control Panel

This modern approach allows for customized shower settings with a simple touch of a button, allowing the shower user to regulate the temperature, flow rate, and flow direction of the water.

Common Shower Diverter Issues

Although small in size and simply constructed, shower diverter valves occasionally develop problems over time. Here are two common problems associated with them.

Dripping Tub Spout

If, while showering, you find your tub spout is dripping, it is likely caused by a worn rubber flapper inside the diverter. Years of wear and tear are to blame, as is leaving the diverter constantly engaged, which can leave the flapper misshapen and leaking.

Rusty Water

Diverters have some plastic and metal components, and when metal comes into contact with water, it can cause corrosion inside the diverter. If the corrosion becomes severe, bits of rust particles can end up in the tub’s water, or shower water can become noticeably discolored. This condition requires replacing the diverter.


Maintenance for shower diverters is minimal but should be routinely completed to avoid premature replacement or repairs. Always remember to release the diverter valve after every shower to release the pressure on the flapper.

If hard water is an issue, the diverter valve can be removed from time to time and soaked in vinegar to remove hard water mineral accumulations.

Why You Should Care

A leaking tub spout, corrosion-filled plumbing components, and a poorly functioning shower are all causes of unnecessary distress and can lead to plumbing issues such as leaks, health-threatening mold growth, and structural damage.

Taking the time to maintain plumbing components such as shower diverters helps to extend the life of your shower, reducing the need for service calls or premature replacement of parts.

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