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A typical stall shower with height-adjustable nozzle.
A combination shower and bathtub.

A shower (or shower-bath, walk-in shower, steam shower) is a place in which a person bathes under a spray of water.[1] The water is drained through a drain in the shower base. Modern showers come with configurable temperature and spray pressure settings, along with adjustable showerhead nozzle settings.

Showering is common in western culture due to efficiency of using it when compared to a bath. Its use in hygiene is therefore common practice.[2]

A shower uses less water on average than a bath: 80 litres for a shower compared to 150 litres for a bath.


The original showers were neither indoor structures nor man-made, but were common natural formations: waterfalls.[3] The falling water rinsed the bathers completely clean and was more efficient than bathing in a traditional basin, which required manual transport of both fresh and waste water. Ancient people began to reproduce these natural phenomena by pouring jugs of water, often very cold, over themselves after washing. There has been evidence of early upper class Egyptian and Mesopotamians having indoor shower rooms where servants would bathe them in the privacy of their own homes.[4] However, these were rudimentary by modern standards, having rudimentary drainage systems and water was carried, not pumped, into the room.

The ancient Greeks were the first people to have showers. Their aqueducts and sewage systems made of lead pipes allowed water to be pumped both into and out of large communal shower rooms used by elites and common citizens alike.[5] These rooms have been discovered at the site of the city Pergamum and can also be found represented in pottery of the era. The depictions are very similar to modern locker room showers, and even included bars to hang up clothing.[6] The ancient Romans also followed this convention; their famous bathhouses can be found all around the Mediterranean and as far out as modern-day England. The Romans not only had these showers, but also believed in bathing multiple times a week, if not every day. The water and sewage systems developed by the Greeks and Romans broke down and fell out of use after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Modern showers[edit]

The first mechanical shower, operated via a hand pump, was patented in England in 1767 by William Feetham,[7] a stove maker from Ludgate Hill in London. His shower contraption used a pump to force the water into a vessel above the user's head and a chain would then be pulled to release the water from the vessel. Although the system dispensed with the servant labour of filling up and pouring out buckets of water, the showers failed to catch on with the rich as a method for piping hot water through the system was not available. The system would also recycle the same dirty water through every cycle.[8]

This early start was greatly improved in the anonymously invented English Regency shower design of circa 1810 (there is some ambiguity among the sources).[3] The original design was over 10 feet (3 m) tall, and was made of several metal pipes painted to look like bamboo. A basin suspended above the pipes fed water into a nozzle that distributed the water over the user's shoulders. The water on the ground was drained and pumped back through the pipes into the basin, where the cycle would repeat itself. The original prototype was steadily improved upon in the following decades, until it began to approximate the shower of today in its mode of operation. Hand-pumped models became fashionable at one point as well as the use of adjustable sprayers for different water flow. The reinvention of reliable indoor plumbing around 1850[9] allowed free-standing showers to be connected to a running water source, supplying a renewable flow of water.

Modern showers were installed in the barracks of the French army in the 1870s as an economic hygiene measure, under the guidance of François Merry Delabost, a French doctor and inventor. As surgeon-general at Bonne Nouvelle prison in Rouen, Delabost had previously replaced individual baths with mandatory communal showers for use by prisoners, arguing that they were more economical and hygienic.[10] The French system of communal showers was adopted by other armies, the first being that of Prussia in 1879, and by prisons in other jurisdictions. They were also adopted by boarding schools, before being installed in public bathhouses. The first shower in a public bathhouse was in 1887 in Vienna, Austria. In France, public bathhouses and showers were established by Charles Cazalet, firstly in Bordeaux in 1893 and then in Paris in 1899.[11]


Many public swimming areas offer poolside showers


Domestic showers are most commonly stall showers or showers over a bathtub. A stall shower is a dedicated shower area which uses a glass door to contain water spray. The shower over a bathtub saves bathroom space and enables the area to be used for either a bath or a shower and commonly uses a sliding shower curtain to contain the water spray. Showers may also be in a wet room, in which there is no contained shower area, or in a dedicated shower room, which does not require containment of water spray. Most domestic showers have a single overhead shower head, which may be adjustable.


Many modern athletic and aquatic facilities provide showers for use by patrons, commonly in gender segregated changing rooms. These can be in the form of individual stalls shielded by curtains or a door or communal shower rooms. The latter are generally large open rooms with any number of shower heads installed either directly into the walls or on posts throughout the shower area. Open showers are often provided at public swimming pools and at popular beaches.

Military forces around the world set up field showers to enable the washing away of dangerous residue from modern weapons such as caustic chemicals, deadly biological agents, and radioactive materials, which can harm forces on both sides of a conflict.[12]

Wet room[edit]

A wet room is a bathroom without internal dedicated or raised areas which has an open shower. Structurally, a wet room requires the bathroom to have a gradient or slope towards a drain hole, and a foul air trap connecting the floor to the waste pipes.


Rib shower
  • Air shower, a type of bathing where high pressure air is used to blow off excess dust particles from cleanroom personnel
  • Electric shower, a shower stall device to locally heat shower water with electrical power
  • Emergency showers, installed in laboratories and other facilities that use hazardous chemicals, and are required by law in the United States;[13] designed to deluge continuously at around 30–60 US gallons (110–230 l) per minute [14] for at least 15 minutes [15] and should be located at most 10 seconds away from potential users[16]
  • Graham shower,[citation needed] any type of shower taken in limited environment where normal shower facilities do not exist (e.g., under a rain-filled gutter, under a spigot)
  • Navy shower, a method of showering that allows for significant conservation of water and energy
  • Power shower, a shower stall device to locally increase the water pressure available to the shower head by means of an electric pump
  • Roman shower, a shower that does not use a door or curtain
  • Steam shower, a type of bathing where a humidifying steam generator produces steam that is dispersed around a person's body
  • Vichy shower, a shower where large quantities of warm water are poured over a spa patron while the user lies within a shallow (wet) bed, similar to a massage table, but with drainage for the water


Shower usage in the latter half of the 20th century has skyrocketed. Personal hygiene became a primary concern, and bathing every day or multiple times a day is common among Western cultures.[17] Showering is generally faster than bathing and can use less water.[18] Showering, as opposed to taking a bath, is recommended for older people because it reduces the risk of injury related to falling.[19]

Taking a shower in the morning, instead of taking a shower at night is sometimes used in referring to the working class showering when they come home from work, and white collar workers showering before work.[20] An equal number of reasons can be offered for showering at night as for showering in the morning.[citation needed] Contrary to myth, there are no adverse health affects from showering at night.[21]

Some people take more than one shower each day – in the morning, after working out, and at night, or during hot weather.[22]

Cultural significance[edit]

Showering is mostly part of a daily routine primarily to promote cleanliness and prevent odour, disease and infection. Advances in science and medicine in the 19th century began to realize the benefit of regular bathing to an individual's health. As a result, most modern cultures encourage a daily personal hygiene regimen. Showering has also developed the reputation as a relaxing and generally therapeutic activity.[23]

Structure and design[edit]

Repairing damaged tile in a shower stall with a caulking gun

Designs for shower facilities vary by location and purpose. There are free-standing showers, but also showers which are integrated into a bathtub. Showers are separated from the surrounding area through watertight curtains (shower curtain), sliding doors, or folding doors, in order to protect the space from spraying water. Showers with a level entry wet room are becoming very popular, especially due to improvements in waterproofing systems and prefabricated components.

Places such as a swimming pool, a locker room, or a military facility have multiple showers. There may be communal shower rooms without divisions, or shower stalls (typically open at the top.)

Many types of showers are available, including complete shower units which are all encompassing showers that include the pan, walls, and often the shower head, as well as pieced together units in which the pan, shower head, and doors are purchased separately. Each type of shower poses different installation issues.


Though the installation requirements of each of shower will differ, in general the installation of a shower requires the laying of several water transportation pipes, including a pipe for hot water and for cold water, and a drainage pipe.

It is important that the wet areas of a bathroom be waterproof, and multiple layers of waterproofing can be employed. Grout is used to fill gaps between tiles, but grout and tile setting materials are generally porous. Tiles are generally waterproof. Thus small mosaic tiles offer less of a defense than large format tiles. Sub-tile waterproofing is important when tiles are being used. Best practice requires a waterproofing material to cover the walls and floor of the shower area that are then covered with tile, or in some countries with a sheet material like vinyl.


Shower repair showing drain piping with trap
This diverter valve about to be installed behind a shower mixes hot and cold water.

Some shower areas utilize a second emergency drain outside of the shower in case of overflow. In Australia and some European countries, but not in the United Kingdom or North America, plumbing codes require this second emergency drain.[citation needed]

Shower head[edit]

A shower head.

A shower head is a perforated nozzle that distributes water over solid angle a focal point of use, generally overhead the bather. A shower uses less water than a full immersion in a bath. Some shower heads can be adjusted to spray different patterns of water, such as massage, gentle spray, strong spray, and intermittent pulse or combination modes. Hard water may result in calcium and magnesium deposits clogging the head, reducing the flow and changing the spray pattern. For descaling, various acidic chemicals or brushes can be used or some heads have rubber-like jets that can be manually descaled. A homemade remedy is to immerse it in a solution of water and vinegar for a while, since the vinegar is able to dissolve limescale.

Some governments around the world set standards for water usage and regulate shower heads. For example, in the United States, residential and most commercial shower heads must flow no more than 9.5 liters per minute (2.5 gallons per minute) per the Department of Energy ruling 10 CFR 430. Low-flow shower heads, less than or equal 7.6 liters per minute (2.0 gallons per minute), can use water more efficiently by aerating the water stream, altering nozzles through advanced flow principles or by high-speed oscillation of the spray stream. USEPA administers a voluntary water saving program, WaterSense, which can certify low-flow shower heads.

Shower curtain[edit]

Shower curtains are curtains used in bathtubs with a shower or shower enclosures. They are usually made from vinyl, cloth or plastic. The shower curtain has two main purposes: to provide privacy and to prevent water from flooding or spraying outside the shower area. Shower curtains usually surround the bath inside the tub or shower area, and are held up with railings or curtain rods on the ceiling. To accommodate the different types of bathtub shapes, railings can come in different sizes and are flexible in their design. Some people use two shower curtains: one that is inside the tub, which is mainly functional or decorative as well, and an outer shower curtain, which is purely decorative. The bottom portion of the inner curtain often comes with magnetic discs or suction cups which adhere to the bathtub itself.

Shower door[edit]

Shower doors are doors used in bathrooms that help keep water inside a shower or bathtub and are alternatives to shower curtains. They are available in many different styles such as framed or frameless, sliding or swing. They are usually constructed of aluminium, clear glass, plexi-glass or tempered glass. Shower doors can come in many different hardware finishes and glass patterns that can match other bathroom hardware such as faucets and shower heads. There are also shower doors that are in a neo angle design for use on shower pans that have the neo design as well. The design of the shower pan is extremely important as the shower door must be the type required for the pan in order to work. A shower door requires plastic lining along the edges of the door to protect against water leaking out.


  • Pressure balanced valve, a device to provide constant shower water pressure and prevent temperature fluctuations
  • Shower cap, a cap worn while showering or bathing, to protect hair from becoming wet
  • Shower radio, a radio that is waterproofed to allow it to be used in a bathroom or other wet environment
  • Sunshower, a device to locally heat shower water with solar power
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Washing mitt, a tool for applying soap to the body
  • Water heat recycling units to reclaim much of the waste water's heat and recycle it to the shower head and minimize heat lost to the drain

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OUP 2009, p. 772. Shower, def 3.
  2. ^ Shove 2004, p. [page needed].
  3. ^ a b "The Stand-Up Bath". Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  4. ^ James & Thorpe 1995, p. 460.
  5. ^ Humphrey, Olsen & Sherwood 1998, p. 280.
  6. ^ James & Thorpe 1995, p. [page needed].
  7. ^ "A 19th Century Regency Era Shower". Janeaustensworld. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "The History of Showers". Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "History of Plumbing in America". Plumbing & Mechanical magazine. July 1987. ISSN 8750-6041. Retrieved 6 January 2011. "by 1845, the installation of sanitary sewers began to pay off ... In 1874, ... an unknown plumber solved the problem of venting." 
  10. ^ Hervé Dajon, La douche, une invention d’un médecin des prisons, le docteur Merry Delabost, Criminocorpus, 2010 Online text - in French
  11. ^ Feltgen, Dr. (11/8/2000). "Dr. Merry Delabost, inventor of the shower?". Hopitaux de Rouen. Retrieved 2012-09-30. 
  12. ^ Jones 2004.
  13. ^ "1910.151: Occupational Safety and Health Standards — Medical services and first aid". Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR). Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 18 June 1998. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  14. ^ Mayer 1995, p. 155.
  15. ^ Vincoli 2000, p. 343.
  16. ^ Brauer 2006, p. 533.
  17. ^ Shove 2004, p. [page needed].
  18. ^ "Shower vs. Bath". Consumer Energy Center. California Energy Commission. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Mullick 2005.
  20. ^ Look Out, Are You About to Join the White Underclass?, Joe Bageant, The Silver Bear Cafe
  21. ^ Is Taking A Shower At Night Bad For Health?, Malaysian News Agency
  22. ^ Take A Cold Shower To Cool Off This Summer, John Westenhaver, Energy Watcher, 20 June 2009
  23. ^ Shove 2004, p. [page needed].


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  • Humphrey, John W; Olsen, John P; Sherwood, Andrew N (1998). Greek and Roman Technology: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-06136-0. 
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