Which Is More Sustainable: Taking Baths or Showering?

One of the biggest debates in creating an eco-friendly hygiene routine is whether baths or showers are more environmentally friendly.

Water usage is a big part of living a sustainable life.

In the past, for some people, a bath meant dipping into the water used by the rest of the family once or twice a week for a few minutes. Nowadays washing is a choice between a nice soak or standing under a showerhead for usually a shorter amount of time.

While showering is more sustainable because it uses less water overall, a long shower is less eco-friendly than a long bath because water usage goes up every minute.

10-minute long showers are more sustainable if you wash frequently throughout the week, but if you like a good soak you should try reducing the amount of water you use in the bathtub.

More important is whether your bathroom products are eco-friendly or not!

Are baths or showers better for the environment?

There’s no evidence on whether baths or showers are better for cleaning, but is there evidence for which is better for the environment?

Everybody has their own preferences, but it’s worth considering the environment throughout your daily life to reduce your impact on the planet.

If bathing uses an estimated 25 gallons of water and a showerhead releases 2.5 gallons of water per minute, a 10-minute shower uses the same amount of water as the bath. If it takes you 10 minutes or less to shower, you use less water than you would in a bath.

Buying a shower head that uses fewer gallons per minute (GPM) gives you more time to have a shower. A 2.0 GPM showerhead means you can stay in the shower for longer without using more water than a bath would.

So while showers are better for water usage, we also have to consider other factors like routine, frequency, and preference.

If you like having a long soak or use any oils or bubbles (hopefully the plant-based kind), a bath is almost necessary. It also works out to be a lot more eco-friendly than a long shower.

45 minutes soaking in a bath filled with even 30 gallons of water will be much better than a 45-minute shower using up 90 gallons of water. Just make sure you don’t top up your water too much or close to when you get out, otherwise, you’re wasting needless hot water.

The more often you jump in the shower or bath, the more water you’ll use over the year. With a bath, this can add up really quickly, but showering every day will still be more eco-friendly than bathing daily.

If you exercise or go to the gym regularly, you’ll probably end up needing to wash more often, so try and make them quick showers to make sure you aren’t contributing massive amounts of water usage every year.

Your preference between baths and showers will ultimately win out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think about how to reduce your water usage and be more eco-friendly when washing!

Ways to reduce water usage in the shower or bath

Reducing water usage in the shower or bath is the best and easiest way to be more eco-friendly.

Every gallon adds up, so the frequency of your washing contributes to this a lot. Think about how often you wash and whether you really need to spend all that time and water.

Approximately two-thirds of Americans and 80% of Australians shower every day, according to Harvard Medical School. That’s at least 175 gallons of water per week! But is it really necessary to shower or bathe so often?

Harvard says that while people often consider it to be healthier, it’s mostly tied to societal norms. In China, half of the respondents reported bathing just twice a week. Harvard suggests that showering several times a week is plenty for most people, or having quicker showers of less than 5 minutes should suffice.

You can reduce your water usage in the shower even more by purchasing water-efficient products like showerheads.

WaterSense is a label for products that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s specifications for water efficiency and performance. Products with the WaterSense label are guaranteed to be more efficient and save water.

Showerheads with the WaterSense label are guaranteed to not use more than 2.0 GPM. A 10-minute shower with a 2.0-or-under showerhead will drastically reduce your water usage over time.

You can also get WaterSense labeled faucets to help reduce water usage in sinks and baths.

The simplest way to reduce water usage in the bath is to only use as much water as you really need.

If the average bathtub holds 42 gallons of water, a half-filled bath will use only 21 gallons. Consider whether you need it that high.

If you use a showerhead to wash your hair while in the bath, you probably only need the bath filled enough to cover your legs, or maybe a third filled. Ideally, you should use a jug to reduce how much water you’re using and only cover your legs.

Once you’re done with your bath, does all of your bathwater need to go down the drain?

Not necessarily! Provided you use eco-friendly, plant-based hygiene products, you can safely use the bathwater in your garden or house plants.

Are bath and shower products safe for the environment?

The products we use when washing are also essential. Shower gel, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, bubble bath, and more all have an environmental impact.

Most bath and shower products are made from synthetic chemicals that can be toxic to aquatic life and the environment.

Organic, plant-based products are far better for the environment and I recommend making the swap.

And soap bars use less plastic packaging than liquid soap and often have a lower carbon footprint. You can even buy shampoo bars to cut down on plastic packaging and commit to more ethical brands.

You should be wary of products with palm oil in them unless the brand sustainably sources the palm oil. Researching local or national ethical brands can help you find the best eco-friendly products with smaller carbon footprints.

How to make your bathroom more eco-friendly

Going the extra mile is sure to help the environment in the long run, so here are some tips for making your bathroom more eco-friendly:

  • Collect the cool water while your water heats up and use it to water your plants.
  • Buy responsibly sourced toilet paper.
  • Look out for refillable products like deodorant, shampoo, and body wash.
  • Or find more bars for deodorant, shampoo, and body wash.
  • Reuse old towels as cleaning rags, picnic blankets, or for wet pets.
  • When it’s time to buy new towels and flannels, opt for organic cotton or bamboo.
  • Reuse old toothbrushes for cleaning and swap to bamboo toothbrushes.
  • Check out reusable makeup removers or pads to cut down on.
  • Try making your own soap!

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