/ Home & Energy

Are you prepared to cut your shower time in half?

On average we apparently spend eight minutes in the shower. That’s double what we should be spending. And I mean ‘spending’ quite literally – at 30p a pop, UK families are wasting £416 a year keeping clean.

Put your left hand up if you’re a shower person, or your right hand up if you prefer a bath. Put your left hand down if you shower for less than five minutes.

If your hands are by your side, well done, you’re being relatively good to the environment. However, for some reason I expect most of you still have your arms dangling in the air, dripping wet from all the water you’re wasting.

Almost as much as a bath

A new survey by Unilever has found that the average shower lasts eight minutes – that’s 62 litres of hot water washing down your plug hole, compared to the average bath’s 80 litres.

The average shower was previously thought to be under five minutes, but this was based on anecdotal questionnaires asking people how long they thought they were in the shower. That obviously wasn’t terribly reliable, so Unilever took a more objective response.

No, they didn’t stand next to people showering with a stopwatch and clipboard. Instead, Unilever used ‘data loggers’ attached to the shower pipe of 100 families recording 2,600 showers over a 10-day period.

Why are we spending so long in the shower?

To be honest, I didn’t think eight-minute showers wasted so much water. I’ll get the stopwatch out next time, as I’m sure I’m in the water for about that long. But there’s a bigger sting than just the shampoo in my eyes – I use a power shower.

An eight-minute power shower uses 136 litres, nearly twice as much as taking a bath, and will cost about 63p. I shower once a day (unless I’m being a slob) so that’s me spending £230 a year on keeping clean and wasting almost 50,000 litres of sparkling clean steaming hot water. Am I worth it? Probably not.

But I’m not the worst. Some people I know have two showers a day, and even shower closer to the half an hour mark…

Tips to save water when you shower

Paula Owen, an independent environmental consultant, told the BBC that four-minute showers are optimal:

‘The results here show that the average time spent in a shower is double that. This wastes not only water, but also the energy needed for heating the water.

‘If you are partial to singing in the shower, pick a short pop classic to shower to; and when lathering up think about turning the flow off until you’re ready to rinse.’

If those tips don’t float your boat, I have some others to save water when you shower:

  • Invest in a water-saving shower head.
  • Keep your showers to no longer than five minutes, or use a water-saving timer that lets you know when you’ve exceeded 35 litres.
  • Try not to run your shower before you get in – keep your shower set at your preferred temperature so you don’t have to spend time adjusting before use.
  • Use a less powerful setting to reduce water use, or select the eco shower setting if you have one.
  • Over time, the water that escapes from a dripping shower adds up – get it fixed to avoid needless water waste.

So does this peek into Britons’ cleaning habits compel you to spend less time in the shower?


First I must admit to washing my hair in the shower. That may well use more water than the jug method.

Until recently my practice was to turn the shower on and wet my hair, turn it off and shampoo, turn it on and get wet, turn it off and wash, turn it on and rinse. Recently however I had a new bathroom installed and I can no longer do this. The new shower detects that it has been used within the last 15 minutes, declares a water feed blockage and shuts down until everything has cooled down and it is power cycled at the consumer unit. I pointed this out to the plumber and he said that is by design for a ‘modern’ shower. So is this water saving idea hopelessly old fashioned?

John Whitehead says:
14 June 2012

I use the same hair washing method as did Mary Davey (wet hair, turn off shower and lather up, turn on shower tp rinse). I’m awfully glad that my shower (that I installed myself three years ago) does not incorporate such inconvenient and wasteful logic (that shuts down the shower for 15 minutes if you turn it off during use). This looks like another piece of daft technology that is being foisted on the unsuspecting consumer, some of it in the name of environmental care but often counter-productive. And, I know it is utterly disconnected to showers, but what about electrically operated parking brakes in cars? Is there anybody who actually likes these and finds them preferable to a lever actuated, mechanically operated brake, that is reliable?

Presumably the parking brake uses a little less muscle power to operate, so is suitable for very lazy people. I would expect it to be less reliable too, which is not a good idea for brakes.

It is a good idea for a shower to shut down if it overheats. The design fault is not distinguishing between energy economy and overheating.

Paul says:
16 August 2014

I stay in the shower 20-30 minutes. If I am in a hurry I take a 15 minute shower. I am not worried about saving water. I am sure there is enough water to last a long time.

Water is not like fossil fuels since it is a renewable resource. It is more of a precious commodity in some areas than others. If there is plenty of water available then long showers are just a waste of energy, but still more economical than filling a bath.

Why the assumption that everyone is on a power shower? This is not going to make me sound green but a power shower is a luxury I can only dream of. We have a bog standard shower head at home. If I set the hot water stream too low the hot water cuts out for some reason, leaving you to shower in cold water which not everyone likes, and certainly not what you want in the middle of winter. So I have to turn both taps up to get a temperature that will last consistently for the duration of the shower. If heating-to-dribbler-shower systems were more efficient, I could shower perfectly well on a slower stream.

And pardon me, but I don’t see how everything can get done efficiently in 5 minutes, especially if you include the washing of long-ish hair. I notice that no one bothers to point this out in these types of discussions.

…not to mention waiting a full minute for a dribbler shower to heat up (I am NOT climbing into a cold shower in January, ever).

Ana – If you select a shower head designed for low flow and keep it descaled you might solve your problem, otherwise it may need to be serviced.

Shower as long as you like – life is too short. Personally mine lasts around 5 minutes if anyone is interested, but then i have short hair. if you are dedicated to saving energy then don’t make unecessary journeys or go on foreign holidays. Otherwise, enjoy life – it does eventually cease. 🙂

New build houses appear to have aerated taps which claim to reduce water consumption but according to http://www.telegraph.co.uk Property – Renovating and DIY – Jeff Howell 3 sept 2012, you are more likely to save on heating the water than its actual consumption. I have an aerater fitted to my kitchen tap which seems to increase the flow and the main reason I fitted it but I can’t say how efficient it is at saving water or whether it’s possible to fit an aerated shower head to my power shower.

Speaking to my daughter until i am blue in the face she still spend best part of half an hour in our electric shower, are there timers that can be fitted to stop water flow after about 10 mins or cut electric off after same

It is not HOW LONG you spend in the shower that is important it is HOW MUCH WATER you use. If you have a shower in your bath just put your plug in one time & see how much you use.
I tried this and I use as much water as you would put in for a shallow bath for a toddler but that was over 15 mins. I have long hair and turn it off while shampooing & conditioning & soaping myself.