Accident-Proof Your Bathroom
6 ways to prevent slips, falls, burns and more in the most dangerous room in the house
For Janet Leigh’s character in “Psycho,” the biggest bathroom threat was knife-wielding Norman Bates. For everyone else, it’s the more commonplace things, like slippery tiles and too-hot water. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 250,000 people are injured in the bathroom each year, largely due to slips and falls.
Most bathroom mishaps are preventable. Here are six simple things that can make your bathroom safer.
Grab bars aren’t just for nursing homes and hospital rooms. Anyone can slip climbing in or out of a tub, and towel bars and other fixtures are not designed to withstand the weight of person. Grab bars no longer look like something you’d find in a medical supply store. You can find sleek ones that blend in with the rest of the fixtures in your bathroom.
Besides in the shower, consider installing a grab bar next to the toilet. It can be helpful for someone who has trouble standing up. Grab bars should be secured to wall studs and positioned vertically or horizontally, not diagonally.
Bath mats and shower liners
Most surfaces are slippery when wet, especially under bare feet. This goes for the bottom of the tub or shower (the slope in the floor of most tubs doesn’t help either) and the floor outside of the tub of shower. To prevent slips, put down a tub or shower mat, anti-slip tape or decals. Outside the tub or shower, lay down an absorbent, rubber-backed bath mat. It will prevent water from pooling and help dry your feet before you step off of it.
(Photo: Venus Angel/Shutterstock)
A shower seat
If you’ve ever tried to shave your legs in the shower, then you know you’re risking more than a nicked knee. A shower seat would make this task much safer; it could also be useful for anyone who has trouble with balance or standing long enough to bathe.
As with grab bars, you aren’t limited to cheap-looking plastic models. You’ll find plenty of choices at home building supply stores and big box retailers, including attractive options made from rot-resistant wood like teak.
A handheld showerhead
The less you have to move around in the shower, the less likely you are to take a tumble. A handheld showerhead lets you stay in one place rather than having to twist and turn to rinse off.
If you use a seat in your shower, your handheld showerhead should have a six-foot reach so you’re not stretching to get under the water.
Water temperature that’s just right
Many hot water heaters come pre-programmed at 140 degrees F, which is hot enough to cause scalding. To reduce the risk of getting burned, reset your hot water heater to 120 degrees F. This adjustment may save you money and help prevent the growth of legionella bacteria in the tank. These nasty bugs love to hang out in hot tubs and are the cause of Legionnaire’s disease and Pontiac fever.
An alternative to lowering the setting on your hot water heater is installing fixtures with mixing valves. Or, if you’re in the market for a new hot water heater, opt for an energy-efficient model that eliminates the risk of bacterial growth by doing away with the tank entirely and heating water only as it’s needed.
If a bathroom redo is in your future, look for floor tile with friction or grip. Until recently, most tile manufacturers included a COF rating, short for coefficient of friction. A new industry rating called the DCOF measures friction on wet tile. It’s an important number to know. To be safe and suitable for a bathroom, tile should have a DCOF rating of at least 42.