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How to light your bathroom with LEDs: advice, ideas and the best bulbs to buy

Lighting the bathroom isn’t as simple as it seems. If you want the best lighting for your bathroom, you will need to look at types of light, IP ratings and colour temperatures. In this guide, we will go through every consideration you need to make.

In this guide

Expert contributors

Types of bathroom lighting

Type of lighting

Key information

Task lighting

  • Best kind of light to see yourself
  • Needs to be the brightest type of light you install
  • Helps you perform fiddly tasks
  • Important use near the mirror

Accent lighting

  • Designed to showcase a particular object or area of the room
  • Provides focused illumination
  • Adds a stylish flair
  • Not a necessity

Decorative lighting

  • Offers chance to show off some style
  • Lots of decorative lights available for a variety of styles
  • Try experimenting

Ambient lighting

  • Acts as a fill light
  • Can be placed along the perimeter of the bathroom to give it a smaller, cosier feel
  • Mostly used to create a relaxing atmosphere—perfect if you enjoy a soothing bath

How to properly light your bathroom

Varying the lighting types in your bathroom is incredibly important. Emile Azan says “I would suggest that you consider having different levels of lighting. Then, if you’re taking a late-night trip to the bathroom, you can turn on the low level lighting without waking up others – or yourself – too much!”

Lighting can be broken down into five key areas:

  • Mirror
  • Ceiling
  • Cabinet
  • Wall light
  • Shower

Lights to use near the mirror

Mirrors need task lighting. This provides the brightest light and will give you the most accurate representation of how you look. It will also help you shave/apply make-up more easily.

Avoid placing task lighting above the mirror unless you use vanity lights (see next paragraph). Just using task lights above your head can cast deep shadows below your eyes, nose and chin and change the look of your face.

As well as task lighting above the mirror, you should add some ‘vanity lights’ either around the mirror or to the side of it. These can be a simple strip light or softer bulbs. They will help remove any shadows from your face and allow you to see yourself more clearly.

Lights to use in the ceiling

Ceiling lights can use task, ambient or accent lighting. It’s best to use a range of all three, to make your bathroom safe yet stylish.

Your task lighting should illuminate the bathroom as brightly as possible. You can use GU10s or downlights for this. Make sure they are 3000k or higher, as this offers a whiter colour of light.For more information on colour temperature, see below.

For accent lighting, you can use downlights. Look for a downlight with a longer neck that you can point in a specific direction. Don’t recess your accent lighting as this stops you from illuminating different parts of the room.

Create ambient lighting by using strip lights or coloured LEDs. To get the right atmosphere, experiment with where you place your ambient lighting—it all depends on the size of your bathroom. Discuss with your designer/electrician what options they recommend.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of lighting when it comes to creating your dream bathroom. Vital to setting the ambience of a room, the right light, with the right features, can make all the difference.”

-  Emile Azan

Designer at Chameleon Interior Design

Cabinet

If you have a large cabinet in your bathroom, it might be worth adding some light to the inside. Strip lights are an easy way to illuminate the inside without the need for excessive wiring.

You may be able to purchase a cabinet/mirror combo, in which case follow the advice regarding which lights to use near the mirror.

Wall light

Wall lights can use either task lighting or ambient lighting. If your task lighting consists of downlights in the ceiling, you can use the wall lights as an ambient alternative. You could set up a light switch to change between the two: task lights in the ceiling for general use and ambient wall lights for a relaxing bath.

You will want to use a lower Kelvin (2700k—3000k) to create a warmer atmosphere. See below, for a brief overview of Kelvins and how they can improve your bathrooms.

Shower

Showers should only use task lighting, as without proper lighting, they can be one of the most dangerous places in the house. Make sure you use bright, white lights that are IP65 rated. This means they are water-resistant and won’t cause a safety issue if they get wet.

IP ratings for the bathroom

IP ratings (also known at international protection or ingress protection ratings) define the degree to which an electrical device is protected against intrusion from things like water or dirt.

The first digit (e.g. the 6 in IP65) explains the level of protection against solid objects. The second digit explains the level of water protection.

IP ratings are incredibly important for potentially wet areas, like the bathroom. They are designed to keep the lighting protected and people safe. Martyn Allen says “The lighting in a bathroom needs to be compliant with the requirements of British Standard 7671 Requirements for Electrical Installations (commonly known as the IET Wiring Regulations) – those requirements call for where lighting can be located, the type, and the ingress.”

Protection needed to take account of the environmental conditions, as well as electrical protection.

To find out more about IP ratings, take a look at our guide: IP ratings for LED lights.

IP rating numbers and what they mean

First digit (protection against solid objects)

0—No protection

1—Protected against penetration by solid objects 50mm+

2—Protected against penetration by solid objects 12mm+

3 - Protected against penetration by solid objects 2.5mm+

4—Protected against penetration by solid objects 1mm+

5—Dust-protected

6—Dust-tight

Second digit (protection against protection)

0—No protection

1—Protected from vertically falling drops

2—Protected from water drops falling at a max angle of 15o

3—Protected from water falling at a max angle of 60o

4—Protected from splashing or projection

5—Protected from low-pressure jets

6—Protected from high-pressure jets

7—Protected from temporary immersion

8—Protected from long periods of immersion

Bathroom lighting zones and what they mean

Bathroom zones are best explained by looking at the illustration below. Basically, each zone dictates what IP rating of light you must fit.

Pay attention to the second IP number as this tells you what level of water protection you need.

Zone 0

Inside the bath or shower

Lights must rate at least IP67

Zone 1

Above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor

Lights must be at least IP45.

(IP65 is recommended)

Zone 2

The area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath/shower to a height of 2.25m from the floor.

IP44 is required.

Zone 3 (outside zones)

Anywhere outside zones 0, 1 and 2

There is no IP rating in these areas.

Best types of bathroom lights

Best strip lights for the bathroom

Strip Light Ribbon SMD5050—5m Reel

  • 60 ultra-bright individual LEDs per metre
  • Waterproof
  • Can easily be cut every 3 metres
  • Adhesive back
  • Last for 50,000 hours
  • Available in warm white, green and red

Price: £18.00

Click here to view product

NOTE: You need an LED driver to run this ribbon. If you need to purchase a driver, you can see our entire range by clicking here.

Why you should install LED strip lights in the bathroom

Colourful—LED strip lights can inject stylish colour into an otherwise standard bathroom. Our colour changing model offers a number of different colours at a touch of a button

Versatile—Their flexible design mean they can fit in hard-to-access places or areas with limited space. Try experimenting.

Inexpensive—The amount of light and ambience they offer for the overall price shows LED strip lights are great value for money. With Lamp Shop Online, you can get them for as little as £3.80 per metre.

Atmospheric—Strip lights can enhance features and completely change the mood of the room. They’re designed to give your bathroom a stylish yet practical twist.

Where to use LED strip lights

LED strip lights will give any bathroom a sleek and modern look. They are fully waterproof and only require a small amount of space. They’re excellent as additional mood lighting, or for using during the night instead of the main lights.

Some LED strip light ideas for the bathroom:

  • Outline of a bathroom mirror
  • Outlining a stand-alone bath
  • Inside cabinets
  • Underneath cabinets
  • Above sinks

Appropriate bathroom zones

You can use LED strip lights in:

  • Zone 1
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3 (outside zone)

How to install LED strip lights in the bathroom

  1. Purchase a profile – A profile is designed for the protection and housing of LED strip lights. They can be installed in recesses or onto counters/cupboards.
  2. Cut the profile to the length you need.
  3. Install LED strip lights into the profile.
  4. Install into desired location – if you are looking to place into ceiling/wall, you will need to cut a groove that is deep enough for the profile. You can also use silicon for a secure fit.
  5. Wire LED strip to driver - You should store the driver in a cool/dry place to keep it protected from moisture.

Spotlights for the bathroom

Spotlights are one of the most common types of lights for the bathroom. They are inexpensive yet offer the greatest scope in terms of designs and colour temperatures. You can either fix them to the ceiling or recess fit them into the ceiling itself. 

Best GU10s for the bathroom (by brand)

Philips

Master 5.5w LED GU10

  • Wattage: 5.5w (50w equivalent)
  • Lumens: 400lm
  • Colour temp: 4000k (cool white)
  • Average life: 42,000 hours

Price: £5.70

Click here to view product

Osram

8w LED GU10

  • Wattage: 8w (80w equivalent)
  • Lumens: 535lm
  • Colour temp: 2700k
  • Average life: 25,000 hours
  • Dimmable

Price: £4.98

Click here to view product

GE

3.5w LED GU10 4000k

  • Wattage: 5.5w (35w equivalent)
  • Lumens: 260lm
  • Colour temp: 4000k (cool white)
  • Average life: 25,000 hours

Price: £3.12

Click here to view product

Energizer

5w GU10

  • Wattage: 4w (50w equivalent)
  • Colour temp: 4000k (cool white)
  • Average life: 25,000 hours
  • Non-dimmable

Price: £2.12

Click here to view product

Eveready

5W LED GU10

  • Wattage: 5w (50w equivalent)
  • Lumens: 345lm
  • Colour temp: 3000k (warm white)
  • Average lifespan: 15,000 hours

Price: £2.04

Click here to view product

Appropriate bathroom zones

You should only use LED GU10s in Zone 3. GU10s are IP20 and so aren’t water-resistant. We recommend you use GU10s only in areas where they won’t be splashed with water (i.e. well away from the shower/bath/sink).

Legal requirements

Exposed downlight fittings with an exposed back must not be placed in the bathroom. It is a legal requirement to put GU10’s (both halogen and LED) in a fire rated downlight.

Best downlights for the bathroom

SOLO10 All In One 10w LED Dimmable Downlight

  • Wattage: 10w
  • Lumens: 860lm
  • IP Rating: IP65
  • Colour temp: 3000k—6000k
  • Fire rating: 90 minutes
  • Lifespan: 50,000 hours

The SOLO10 All In One offers a range of colour temperatures. It can easily be fitted in recessed spaces for added style.

Price: £17.99

Click here to view product

Britesource 6w LED Downlight

  • Wattage: 6w
  • Lumens: 590lm
  • IP Rating: IP65
  • Colour temp: 3000k (cool white)
  • Fire rating: 90 minutes
  • Lifespan: 50,000 hours

This a brand new Eco light is an efficient way to light your bathroom. Its energy rating is A** with a 3 year warranty. Fully dimmable.

Price: £16.49

Click here to view product

Appropriate bathroom zones

You can use LED downlights in:

  • Zone 1
  • Zone 2
  • Zone 3 (Outside zone)

Best recessed spotlight for the bathroom

Britesource 20w Round LED Panel 240mm

  • Dimensions: 240mm x 16mm
  • Colour temperature: 4000k or 6000k
  • Panel rating: IP40
  • Lumens: 1400lm
  • Warranty: 3 years

Ideal for shallow ceiling voids and any normal ceiling that accommodates recessed fittings. Available in two colour temperatures.

Note: due to IP rating, this product is only suitable for outside zones of the bathroom.

How to fit LED recessed lights

  1. Completely remove existing fittings before installing your new LED lights.
  2. Remove the bezel from the LED so just the main fixture is in your hand.
  3. Hold the product in place and mark the position of the holes.
  4. Make sure there is a joist at the point of fixing to support the weight of your LED.
  5. Fix into position.

Warning

Lights must be fitted by a competent and qualified electrician.

To prevent electrocution, switch off at the mains before installing or maintaining this fitting.

Colour temperatures for the bathroom

Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins—the higher the Kelvin, the more white/blue the light will be. Low Kelvins around 2700k make the lighting warmer and softer, which is excellent for a relaxing atmosphere. Higher Kelvins are designed to illuminate the room in the whitest way possible, which is better for fiddly tasks and staying alert.

Below is an illustration of Kelvins and what types of light they offer.

2700k

Extra warm white

3000k

Warm white

3500k

White

4000k

Cool white

6000k

Daylight

Best colour temperature for the bathroom

If you can budget for different types of light, we recommend a combination:

  • Ambient lights between 2700k and 3000k: Perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing atmosphere in the bath. The light will be warmer and softer and will strain your eyes less.
  • Bright task lights between 3500k and 4000k: This will illuminate you well for mirror viewing. It will also help with smaller tasks like putting on make-up.

Although, different colour temperatures will suit different colour schemes. Ramsey Dawson says: “Choosing the temperature of light really depends on the colour scheme of the bathroom, Greys and dark colours work well with Cooler light whereas softer earthy tones look better in warm white light.”

For more information about Kelvins, check out our guide: Guide to LED colour temperatures.

Lighting certain types of bathroom

Steph Briggs offers types of lighting for different types of bathrooms below:

Traditional

Keep it simple, a few spotlights, a wall light over the vanity mirror and candles for long soaks in the bath

Contemporary

You can be bright and bold with a contemporary room. I’d also use the biggest mirrors possible to bounce the light around.

Functional/family

Simple LED spot lights are an economical way to set light in focussed areas within a bathroom.

Wet room

I favour built in and minimalist for a wet room, slick fitted lighting with options on.

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