Showering uses nearly as much water and energy as bathing, says Unilever

A pioneering study by Unilever UK and Ireland that monitors Brits' showering habits has revealed that showering uses nearly as much water and energy as running a bath - with power showers using potentially more.

The Sustainable Showering study by Unilever, which manufactures UK personal care brands such as Radox and Dove, found that the average shower time in the UK is eight minutes long, costing the average four person family £416 a year and using around 90,000 litres of water.

Meanwhile, the average power shower could cost families as much as £918 per year, as an eight minute power shower uses nearly twice as much energy and water as taking a bath.

To gather the data a shower sensor device was used to monitor 2,600 showers taken by 100 families, over 10 days – totalling 1,000 days of research. The device recorded when showers were being used and for how long.

In addition, participants were asked to keep shower diaries to track of when they were showering and what they did. This provided Unilever scientists with the opportunity to monitor the differences between actual and reported showering behaviour by running a separate self-report survey.

According to Unilever, findings from the study, which it claims is the first to record accurate data on how we shower, will enable scientists to help consumers save energy, water and money. It also hopes the study could be used to provide a benchmark for the environmental and financial benefits of reducing shower time to save energy and water.

Unilever has estimated that around 95% of the greenhouse gases associated with shampoos, soaps and shower gels come from people using hot water when showering. It hopes that the new study will provide better understanding of shower behaviour which will help it develop solutions and products to counter this.

Commenting on the findings, Unilever behavioural psychologist Dr Hilde Hendrickx, said: “This study will help us start to understand what the catalysts are for changing people’s behaviour in order to reduce the amount of energy and water they use during showering.

“It will also enable us to shape new products and other solutions to deliver savings in energy, water and money, both for us and our customers. This sort of work is vital if we are to grow our business while reducing our environmental footprint.”

Young boys were, perhaps surprisingly, found to be the worst shower offenders taking on average ten minutes per shower.

Women were found to be better multi-taskers than men, generally taking shorter showers, while, perhaps less surprisingly, teenage girls were found to spend the longest time in the bathroom.

Carys Matthews

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