The four-minute shower: how to wash to save money, water – and stay stink-free

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Name: The four-minute shower.

Age: Over before you know it.

Appearance: Hot rain in a box.

Four minutes isn’t really a shower, is it? More a brief interval of dampness. Nevertheless, that is the recommended duration for 2023.

Why? Is there a drought on? No, it’s January, and raining everywhere.

What’s this about then? It’s about money. The cost of hot water has risen dramatically, and is set to rise again in the coming year. As a consequence, showers are getting expensive.

In that case I’ll have a bath instead. At least then I can linger. Well, obviously you don’t want to do that. According to Yorkshire Water the annual cost of having baths rose from £303.70 in 2021 to £542.88 in 2022.

Yikes. And it could rise to as much as £1,023.00 when energy tariffs increase in April.

Is a short shower really that much cheaper? The average bath uses about 80 litres of water. Over the course of four minutes a normal shower head produces about 36 litres. Less hot water also means fewer carbon emissions.

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I see. So, showers are better than baths for both the environment and my pocketbook. Case closed, debate ended. Thank you. Hang on, it’s not quite that simple.

How could it possibly be more complicated? A normal shower dispenses between nine and 10 litres per minute, but a power shower can use up to 20 litres, about the same as a bath over four minutes

Even so, as long as I stick to four minutes I’ll be fine. Unfortunately, studies have shown that people routinely misreport how much time they spend in the shower.

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Really? How do scientists measure such lying? In one study, participants kept a shower diary while a device monitored the actual water flow. It found that people spent eight minutes in the shower on average, even when they imagined they were in and out in five.

And an eight-minute power shower would be equivalent to … Up to two full baths.

So as usual, the real answer is: we’re screwed either way. Don’t give up – companies including Wessex Water offer free timers to get you out of the shower after four minutes.

Great, thanks. Or have you considered a cold shower in the morning? It’s meant to boost alertness, mental health and your immune system.

Can I stay in for longer than four minutes? Trust me, you won’t want to.

Do say: “These days I use a leave-in conditioner, as well as leave-in shampoo, and leave-on soap.”

Don’t say: “It’s OK, because I bring the dishes in the bath with me.”

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