The Great Bath vs Shower Debate: Which Uses More Water?

Jennifer Rhodes

By Jennifer Rhodes · Updated

The Great Bath vs Shower Debate: Which Uses More Water?

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There's long been a debate over whether baths or showers require more water. And as it turns out, the answer depends on several factors, such as your tub's size, and the typical duration of your showers.

Generally, taking a bath uses significantly more water than a shower does. Most bathtubs require 30 to 60 gallons to fill up, while a ten-minute shower typically only uses about 25 gallons. However, taking a shower may consume more water if you enjoy long ones or wait before getting in.

So to clear things up, this article dives into how much they both usually consume—and how to test your personal water usage.

How much water a shower uses

How much water your shower uses depends on its GPM (gallons per minute).

Typically, most showerheads operate at 2.5 GPM. That means that for every minute you spend in the shower, you use about 2 ½ gallons of water. Or, in other words, 25 gallons in 10 minutes.

Since most baths require 30 gallons at a minimum, showers generally consume less water. That is, assuming you don't get carried away singing and lose track of time.

However, there are a couple of caveats:

  • For one, you might take showers for longer than ten minutes. And in that case, soaking in a bath instead might be more water efficient. Not to mention shower water gets wasted while waiting for it to heat up.
  • Furthermore, some showerheads operate at 3 GPM, meaning they use water faster than a standard head. Conversely, there are also 1.8 GPM products that you can buy to save water and money.

How much water a bath uses

The amount of water your bath uses depends on the size of your tub. Typically, bathtubs in the U.S. range from 40 to 80 gallons in size—although some get as large as 110 gallons or more.

However, it's also crucial to remember that we never fill our tubs all the way up. After all, you'd otherwise displace water all over the bathroom floor when you hop in.

So if your bathtub is 40 gallons in size, you probably only fill it to 30 gallons. Similarly, an 80-gallon tub would only get filled to 60 gallons most of the time.

In contrast, the average shower will spray about 25 gallons in 10 minutes. So unless you shower for longer than 10 minutes, your baths will almost always require more water.

How to measure your water usage

If you're unsure whether your bath or shower uses more water, there's a simple way to check.

Next time you take a bath, fill it to your preferred volume. But before hopping in, first mark where the waterline is with a piece of tape. Leave the tape there after your bath as well.

Then before your next shower, plug your drain first. And once you finish washing off, check to see if the water level is above or below the mark.

If it's above the tape, that means your showers use more water than your baths. But if the waterline is below the mark, then the opposite is true!

How to save water in your shower or bath

Enjoying a long shower or peaceful soak can sometimes feel like a waste of precious water. But thankfully, there are ways to cut down on how much you use:

  • Set a timer: Consider starting a ten-minute alarm the next time you get in the shower. That way, you won't ever use more water than you do in the bath.
  • Fill it halfway: Next time you take a bath, consider filling it up only halfway or less. Doing so regularly will significantly cut down your total water usage.
  • Recirculating showers: As the name suggests, recirculating showers purify and reuse water. Installing one can reduce your shower's total consumption by as much as 90%.
  • Low-flow showerheads: Standard showerheads typically go through 2.5 gallons per minute. But by installing a low-flow nozzle, you can reduce that to 1.5 GPM or less.

How long should you shower for?

The duration of your showers directly affects the amount of water you use. So naturally, you might be curious how long yours should optimally last.

In most cases, you should only shower for about 5 to 10 minutes. Rinsing for longer than that might deplete the natural oils in your skin and hair, leaving them feeling dry.

Not to mention keeping your shower under 10 minutes is also environmentally friendly. That way, you always use less water than a standard bath.

In contrast, you can enjoy soaking in the tub for up to 30 minutes. Since it's not getting sprayed at you, bath water doesn't carry away your skin's natural oils as quickly. Plus, the duration of your soak doesn't affect total water usage.

Can you reuse bath and shower water?

Believe it or not, you can recycle your bath and shower water. And one of the best ways to do so is with a recirculating shower.

These eco-friendly systems capture and scan water that goes down your drain. Water that is too dirty is allowed to pass. But the rest is filtered, purified, and returned to your shower's water supply. As a result, your shower water usage can decrease by as much as 90%.

However, recirculating showers can get a bit pricey. So if you prefer a more affordable option, consider installing a greywater reuse system.

Greywater is the water that comes from our tubs, showers, and sinks. While it usually goes to waste, greywater reuse systems collect and recycle it for other purposes—such as irrigating your yard. It's a great way to save money while going greener.

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