How to

13 January 2017

Showering: The Best Advice for Getting Warm

If soap is a yardstick of civilisation, taking a warm bath was a revolution in the way humans have managed to keep themselves warm. There have always been hot springs here and there in which people can take a dip. But as technology developed, humans became increasingly adept at trapping and harnessing the power of fire to heat water – and therefore themselves. In Tenochtitl├ín, the Aztecs had communal steam baths called temazcals, where up to ten people could kick back, heat up and relax; long before the Romans dedicated bath houses to the ritual. Medieval knights would carry on a similar trend in Europe, sinking into baths of fire-heated water.

However, it’s only since the Industrial Revolution that humans have been able to harness copper pipes, faucets and electric pumps to satiate their desire for a refined, toasty soaking. Indeed, the fashionable thing nowadays is to undertake the whole procedure whilst standing upright. Unfortunately, this is usually quite a quick process, being as we are highly capitalist and all. So, in accordance with the normal norms of our times, here’s some of the internet’s best advice for harnessing your shower in the chill before the morning commute.

Dry yourself!

Starting at the end of the process, this one’s a basic rule that everybody learns when they’re young: if you don’t dry the water off your skin, you’ll get pretty cold pretty quick. Indeed, if you’re showering during winter, it might only take a few seconds to undo all the warming-up you’ve undertaken throughout the morning rush. Really, because we all know that we should get dry quick, the real question we should answer is why.

Essentially, it’s the same principle as when we sweat: water conducts heat something like 25 times faster than air. That means that, if it’s touching your skin, all your body heat is going to rush into the moisture and out of your body. It may make the water evaporate away: but by the time it’s gone, your teeth will be chattering. So, grab a towel!

Warm Your Towel

Here’s a nifty invention for you: a towel rack. Some are heated, some are not. The virtue of the former is that the heat in your body won’t escape into it once you wrap it around your shoulders. When you come into contact with any external substance – water, towels, even the air around you – your body heat naturally moves into that area. It’s just what stuff does: a process called dissipation, which sees substances move from areas of high concentration to low. The flip-side of that rule, then, is that if your towel is warmer than you, it will actually heat you up, not the other way around! (Or, at least, it will help your body heat to warm the water that’s on you).

If you don’t have a heated rack to do this for you, just hang your towel above or near a radiator; preferable from a rail or coat peg. That way it’ll absorb the heat and make you warmer. Just make sure it isn’t touching the radiator, as it could be a potential fire hazard.

Heated Flooring

This one’s a doozy, and it works on the same principles as above. Not only is it uncomfortable to walk on a cold floor, but it could also be making you feel disproportionately cold. That’s because if a region of your body starts to experience sudden heat loss, your brain goes into panic mode. Just like a medieval knight of the realm pulling up a drawbridge (I’m a History geek, no apologies), your brain will order blood from all over your body to retreat a little back towards your vital organs; its Alamo procedure for cases of extreme cold. So, to prevent this, only come into contact with surfaces that won’t rush heat away from you.

If the rule of three is good for thee, hopefully I can leave you be. Remember those golden rules, and have a happy shower: make sure you get dry fast as you can, use a warm towel and consider the surfaces you contact once you’re done. Oh yes, and remember: when you’re in the shower, make sure the faucet is turned to ‘hot.’ 

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.