The concept of showering has been around since nearly the dawn of human civilization.
From our earliest ancestors using natural showers — rivers and waterfalls — to upper-class ancient Egyptians having servants pour water on them in private bathhouses, to ancient Greeks building early “showers” in their public bathhouses, humans have always had an interest in getting clean via an alternative to a bath.
It’s easy to see why: showers take less time to get clean, require less water than filling a bathtub, and were potentially viewed as less dangerous. While “danger” may not be the adjective that first comes to mind when thinking of a bath, humans in the Middle Ages viewed baths as something that could, “relieve digestion and stop diarrhea — but done improperly could lead to weakness of the heart, nausea, or fainting.”
Showers have an interesting history and have morphed into a feature of modern homes that have as many types and personalization options as you could imagine.
Read on to learn about showers as we know them today — from invention, to ubiquity throughout private homes, to all the features and types available on the market.
History Of Modern Showers
Showers, as we know them today, began in the late 1700s and became ubiquitous through the advent of indoor plumbing.
According to Hunker, the first iteration of the modern shower came courtesy of William Feetham in 1767. Feetham, a stove maker, had devised his grand invention with house servants in mind. On a regular day, servants of the time would have to haul up buckets and buckets of water to a bath area every time the lord or lady of the manor wanted to take a bath. Feetham’s design allowed for servants to hand pump the machine, thereby eliminating the need to go up and down floors with buckets of water.
However, there were two main problems with his design: the water was recycled (in other words – previously used), and there was no way to heat the water.
While the initial design of Feetham’s shower was met with mixed reviews, he laid the framework for continuous iterations due to its’ inherent benefits for the working class.
Hunker notes that in 1883, the Berlin Public Health Exhibition proclaimed the shower, “The simplest, quickest, cheapest, cleanest, and withal best bath for people’s bathhouses; the one which requires the least space, the least time, the least amount of water, the least fuel for warming water, the least attendance, the least cost of maintenance.”
Spreading through military bases and boarding schools, the shower sprang up in many public places throughout the 1800s, and by the turn of the century, the shower was on the cusp of becoming a feature in everyone’s home.
The need for amendments to various laws and regulations, as well as the slow spread of indoor plumbing, resulted in at-home showers catching on slowly throughout the 1900s, but once these hurdles were bypassed, showers became immensely popular.
In 1940, 44% of American homes did not have a shower connected to running water, but by the 1960s, showers could be seen in nearly every home throughout the developed world.
The “shower boom” of the 1960s laid the framework for what came next: the personalization craze of the 1980s.
It was during this time that a consumer could construct their shower experience how they saw fit: from showerheads with lights and different jet streams to designer soap trays, the opportunities and customization became endless.
Nowadays, consumers can fully dictate how, and where, they shower.
Types of Showers
On the market today, there are two main types of shower profiles, each having the ability to be fully customized and altered.
1. Bathtub/Shower Combo
This is possibly the most common setup that can be found in nearly every home. Most homes have this design due to the ability to choose, of course, between a bath or a shower.
The main benefits of these setups are the space-saving feature of having all bathing needs in the same spot (rather than having a walk-in shower and a free-standing bathtub), as well as a bit of added privacy when factoring in a shower curtain.
The main downsides of these setups are that they traditionally require more cleaning, as well as
being hard to access for mobility-impaired people due to having to step over the tub wall.
2. Walk-In Shower
A walk-in shower combines ease of use with a look and feel of luxury.
These showers are traditionally much easier to keep clean than bath/shower combos, and they also take up less space while making a bathroom much more aesthetic.
The downsides of these setups are that they can be pricey, and of course, there is no way to take a bath.
Types of Shower Heads And Systems
Picking out a showerhead can be as complicated as picking out a new vehicle. There are a tremendous amount of showerhead setups and types, and it all boils down to what features are most important for you.
There are three main types of shower heads: fixed showerheads, handheld showerheads, and showerheads attached to the tap.
Fixed shower heads are mounted to the wall or the ceiling, and offer different options such as “rainfall” or “waterfall” settings to take a shower experience to the next level.
Handheld showerheads are detachable from the main faucet, and offer a multitude of jet and spray options to provide a comfortable experience.
Showerheads attached to the tap are most common in free-standing bathtubs. These, of course, attach right to the bath faucet and are very similar to handheld showerheads.
In addition to the different types of showerheads, there are also five different types of shower systems as well.
Electric Shower Water Heater
Electric showers traditionally draw water from the cold water supply and heat it into the system itself. Due to the fact that it doesn’t hold or store any hot water, this type of system can provide hot water even during a water-heater issue.
Mixer showers do exactly as the name indicates: mix water. They draw in water from both the cold and hot water supply, which leads to an increase and improvement in the water flow rate in the shower.
Eco showers inherently use less water, yet provide the same experience, due to their ability to regulate water usage. This option boasts a 50% water usage reduction during a shower compared to traditional systems.
By relying on a gravity-centric tank system, power showers increase the water pressure and flow of a showerhead. This can result in a more luxurious experience, and also can alleviate issues in homes with low water pressure.
Digital showers are the pinnacle of modern shower systems and more resemble a smart thermostat than a traditional hot/cold water faucet. Digital showers have a control panel that allows someone to set the exact water temperature, pressure, and a host of other options to truly elevate a showering experience.
Shower Usage Statistics
Shower time, usage, and overall preference varies dramatically between sexes and age groups. Below, we have compiled a few interesting statistics to illustrate just how different people – and households — can be in the shower.
Average Shower Time
The EPA currently estimates that the average shower time for an individual is around eight minutes, but both the time and frequency of showers vary across all demographics and age groups.
Women, on average, take longer showers than men and have a greater tendency to take them at night. They use this time before bed to do some of their biggest thinking, with 84% of women surveyed saying they reflect on their day in the shower, and 78% of them saying they use that time to run through any pertinent to-do lists.
Men, on the other hand, take shorter showers than women and have a greater tendency to take them in the morning. Those surveyed said they did not spend significant shower time reflecting on their day, and despite showering for less time, they took more showers than women.
Shower Fact: Did you know the Average Shower Time is roughly 8 minutes?
How Often People Shower
According to Harvard Health, approximately two thirds, or 66% of Americans shower daily. While this may seem low, experts at Harvard Health suggest “showering several times per week is plenty for most people” unless you are very dirty.
Does Sex play a factor in shower frequency? Based on survey results of 562 participants on Reddit, 54.1% of Males shower 7 or more times a week, while only 24.6% of Females shower 7 or more times a week. While the reason for this discrepancy between the sexes is unknown, many believe it is because women take more particular care of their hair, take more baths than men, and do not get as sweaty or dirty during the day as men.
Average Shower Temperature
Studies have shown that the average shower temperature is around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but that can vary greatly based on age, personal preference, and especially sex, as women traditionally enjoy hotter showers than men.
A 2015 study conducted by Dutch scientists found that — in regards to general air temperature — women prefer temperatures around 2.5C (36.5 F) hotter than men, usually between 24-25C (75.2-77 F).
Additionally, a study published in The Lancet (and referenced in The Guardian) sought to find differences in skin temperature when exposed to cold conditions. Their findings determined that in a frigid environment, women, on average, had hand temperatures that were 3C (37.4F) colder than males.
While there isn’t a reliable answer for exact shower temperatures both genders prefer, women preferring hotter air temperatures and also having colder skin temperatures (which is an important factor in a person’s perception of hot and cold), can certainly be contributing factors as to why women seemingly prefer a hotter shower temperature.
Shower Output: Gallons Per Minute (GPM)
Gallons per minute (GPM) in the context of a shower is exactly how it sounds: how many gallons your showerhead and shower system use up in a given minute.
In a homeowner sense, it’s a way to find out how fast and how much water comes out of a showerhead, faucet, or hose. Knowing this information is key to determining how much water is being used at one time, therefore aiding you in any conservation or money-saving efforts.
According to Delta, the average showerhead uses roughly 2.5 gallons per minute, although showerheads that label themselves as ‘water-saving’ or ‘WaterSense’ must legally use no more than 2 gallons per minute.
Pre-1994, an average showerhead used roughly 5.5 gallons per minute, but a federal restriction that was enacted in 1992 — and enforced in 1994 — capped maximum GPM levels of showerheads to what we see them today.