We live in a confusing world.
It’s getting even more complicated as our modern world constantly changes; fluctuating between one standard to the next, giving you something completely new to learn just when you’ve figured out the last thing. It gets even worse when you factor in that the world is getting smaller, and something that has been the standard in one country suddenly starts leaking in and infecting the norms in another country. If you sat on top of an immensely tall tower and could see everything that was going on in the world; would you suddenly come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the world just doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on? Drive on the left or drive on the right? Who is right and who is wrong? Is anybody wrong? Is everyone right? Is this just confusing you?
I’ll get to the point!
Taps, bathroom taps! They’re not really that confusing; in fact they’re inherently simple. But there is one thing that can confuse you when you walk into any bathroom outside of your home; is the hot bathroom tap on the left or right?
I know – you’re nodding. Or maybe you’ve already given up and clicked away, in which case you won’t be reading this anyway. But haven’t we all been in that situation when we want to wash our hands under a hot tap, only to find it’s actually a cold tap? Have you gone to use the cold tap only to be scalded by water hot enough to make a good cup of tea? Going into a new bathroom these days can be a bit of a guessing game – and I’m not just talking about trying to pick a cubicle where someone hasn’t forgot to flush the toilet!
So, what’s the standard? Is there one?
The Baffling World of Bathroom Taps
At home my hot tap is on the right, but in my previous home the hot tap was on the left. I must admit that – even after over a year of living in my current home – I still haven’t got completely used to which tap is which and I every now and again I’ll turn on the wrong one by mistake. At work it’s vice versa, so already I’ve got a muddle of different tap positions in my life without the ones that strike whenever I go somewhere new.
Of course, at home and work it’s not a massive problem (apart from getting a little muddled up from time to time) but in a new place it can be quite punishing when you turn on an incredibly hot tap by mistake and you’re not prepared for it. Here you obviously have to wonder why the tap was so hot to begin with and it makes you consider how dangerous it is – especially when kids come to use it. I’ve seen plenty of signs in public toilets that tell you the taps can get pretty hot, but they’re not always there. It’s pretty much the same with having indicators to tell you which tap is hot or cold as you can’t really rely on the taps having any in the first place.
Since I mentioned kids it’s also worth pointing out that some people say the hot tap should be on the left because it’s normally the furthest out of reach from a child. I don’t understand this one though, as surely they could reach either tap if they managed to get their little hands up to the sink?
What about the blind or partially sighted too? Should they have to suffer being scalded by a hot tap because they assumed a hot tap would be on the other side? It’s instances such as these that make a good case for having a standard across the UK.
What’s the Most Popular Side in the UK?
While I was writing this post I decided to do a bit of research to find out what the most common bathroom tap position is in the homes of the UK population. I was pleasantly surprised to discover what a hot button issue this is, as I was flooded with responses to such a simple question. I’ll put the results in handy image form.
It seems that my home is a bit of an odd one then, as the vast majority obviously have the hot tap on the left of the bathroom sink. Well, apart from one guy who apparently has a tap in the middle. Going back to my points earlier, they were backed up by some of the comments we received;
“Hot tap should always be on the left so blind people know. Although in some homes parents prefer it on the right if it’s the furthest away from the edge of the bath in order to prevent young children reaching it.”
“Hot tap should be the tap furthest away so a child can’t reach it and turn on.”
There’s that kid issue again, although I’m still not really sure if it’s actually an issue or people just assume it will be.
“On the LEFT – which is an international standard. Hot Left, Cold Right. (That’s not politics!) I believe this is in building practices regulations.”
Is it an international standard? I decided to look into this and what I found harks back to a couple of hundred years ago.
It’s All About History
Apparently the position of the taps dates back to the 19th century when indoor plumbing was first introduced. Water was brought into the home by way of hand pump, and that obviously only supplied cold water. Since the vast majority of people tend to be right handed it made sense for the pump to be placed on the right hand side of the sink. So, when hot water was introduced, the logical conclusion about where to put this new tap was simply on the opposite side of the cold water tap – the left!
So, the common sense answer is that the hot tap is on the left because people are mostly right handed and the cold tap is used the most often. Or is it? That’s another article altogether!
As far as I’m aware there’s no UK law to state that a tap should be on a particular side. In the US it’s different, as Uniform Plumbing Code specifies that faucets “shall be connected to the water distribution system so that hot water corresponds to the left side of the fittings.” However, it is advised that the hot tap should be on the left to assist the elderly and disabled (especially the blind) in identifying which tap is the correct one to use. So if you’re fitting new taps then it’s probably a good idea to put the hot tap on the left.
As for using taps in public; you can never assume that the hot tap should be on the left. Although in the vast majority of cases it probably will be, but there are those places that will buck the trend (like my house). That’s our confusing country for you.
If you’ve made it this far then congratulations! There’s still one final question to ask though; which side is it on in your bathroom?
Answers on a postcard! Or in the comments section below…
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