Bursting the Bath Bubble: Americans Now Much Prefer Showers

Personal Finance
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Bursting the Bath Bubble

On a particularly stressful day, when the kids just won’t stop screaming or your inbox keeps piling up, you might daydream about taking a bath—relaxing amid candles, bath salts and light music. But face it: When was the last time you did that? Anecdotal and statistical data suggest the average American homeowner is turning off the spigot of a slow-drawn bath in favor of a speedy, efficient shower.

“People really like the bigger showers. They like that there’s elbow room,” Susie Johnson, a real-estate agent with Coldwell Banker Gundaker in St. Louis, told MarketWatch this week. When potential homebuyers see once-popular whirlpool tubs at a property, comments, she said, often run along the lines of: “That’s a nice tub but I don’t take baths.”

That follows a report earlier this year from the American Institute of Architects that while showing a rebound in upscale bathroom renovations, found that people are seeking more shower space: 62% and 61% of home architects reported an increased interest in walk-in showers and stall showers without tubs, respectively.

Interest in bathtubs has long been circling the drain in hotels. Holiday Inn “has gone from roughly 95% of its newly built hotels having tubs a decade ago to only 55% of new structures featuring them now,” USA Today reported in 2012. “Marriott plans for 75% of the chain’s rooms to have showers only. And Hotel Indigo, a 6-year-old upscale chain, never had tubs, except perhaps in suites.”

This is a victory for environmentalists: A shower uses 10 to 25 gallons of water, whereas a bath takes up to 70 gallons, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Americans use 1.2 trillion gallons of water per year showering, the EPA says, and there’s hope that amount will decline. If showerheads were installed that were 20% more efficient, according to an EPA report, the average household could save $50 a year in water bills. For the nation, efficient showers would save $1.5 billion in water use and about $2.5 billion in water-heating bills each year.

Even more reason for singing in the shower.


Illustration by Brian Yee.