Showering is one of the biggest uses of water in a typical residential home, according to the EPA. You don’t want to use too much water in your shower, but you do need more than a few minutes to get fully clean. So where is the balance?
Shorter showers are good for your skin
Dermatologists recommend keeping showers short. If you have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, hot water can be irritating, and so can soaps and other products you use in the shower. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends keeping showers under 10 minutes if you have itchy skin, and if you have psoriasis, you may want to go further and limit showers to just five minutes. (Lukewarm water is better than hot, which will also help you save energy.)
But you need to get clean
A five-minute shower doesn’t mean you should stand under the showerhead for four minutes and then do a cursory lather in the last minute. Good hygiene is important; if you’re getting into the shower, make sure you’re washing what needs to be washed.
That may mean taking a lot more than five minutes. Those of us with long hair may need to be in there 10 to 20 minutes to wash and condition properly, and comb out the tangles (a job best done while conditioner is in wet hair), not to mention shaving our legs. Arguably some of these jobs can be done while the water is off, but if you aren’t willing to give up your long hot showers, perhaps you can counter the detrimental effects on your skin and the environment by taking fewer of them. One shower a week is hygienic enough for most of us, and better for our skin anyway.
I’m calling it: Eight minutes is the time to beat
A lot of shower advice out there seems to centre around five minutes as the ideal shower time. But if dermatologists are ok with five to 10 minutes, and some of us need more time, perhaps we should aim for the middle of that range. Eight minutes turns out to be the average length of a shower for most of us, which means that if you can get through your next shower in seven minutes or less, you can feel like an overachiever. Five minutes? Great, I’m proud of you.
When it comes to water usage, standard showerheads use 11 l per minute, but showerheads with the WaterSense label all use 8 l per minute or less. So you can shower for 6.2 minutes with a low-flow head and use as much water as someone showering for five minutes with a standard head. Since you’re also using less hot water, you’ll also save energy.
So to benefit both your skin and the environment, get an efficient showerhead, turn down the heat, and don’t spend any longer in there than you really need to.