Your Choice: Burn Or Freeze?

I've had a reader question: Why in so many places in the U.K. (and in Ireland) are the hot and cold taps still separate?

Or precisely how she put it: How do people wash their hands in these double faucets? It's so annoying. I'm constantly burning or freezing my hands by accident. 

I told her I'd investigate it and write a post. She told me to call it: "Burn. Freeze. Not Cool."

I do see her point. And I've been here for so long that I hadn't even noticed recently how often I wash my hands in cold water -- and not just in old Victorian houses like mine, but in recently refurbished upscale gastro pubs. So why are they still installing separate hot and cold taps? 

The historical reason is that Victorian houses had open water tanks to heat for the hot supply, so they could be contaminated by rats (ew) or even dust particles or mold. The only water that was safe for drinking was the cold water, attached to the main water supply. Therefore, the two could not be mixed. 

That, my friends, is no longer the case. From someone who owns a Victorian house, I have yet to find evidence of this open water tank somewhere. But yet, as you can see from the picture above of our upstairs bathroom, the people who lived in the house before us installed two separate taps in a refurb done sometime between 2000 and 2014. (For the record, our downstairs bathroom and the kitchen sink both have mixer taps.)

I think there are two reasons why. The first is just a matter of taste. Because this is the way sinks traditionally looked, there is a desire for this kind of retro look. In a lot of pubs and restaurants the taps even have those old porcelain hubs at the center that say "hot" and "cold" and do look pretty cool. 

The second is that this just falls into the camp of the way things are done here or maybe "people can get used to just about anything." It's similar to the fact that barely anyone in the U.K. uses a dryer for their clothes. Most people hang them on drying racks. This really drove me batty at first -- what sense does it make to hang up your clothes to dry in the what is possibly the dampest country on Earth? But now I don't even think twice about it and I have even been brainwashed into thinking it's actually better for my clothes.

When I asked the Hub about the taps, he didn't see why there was any problem with washing your hands in cold water. He said the only time he used our hot water at the sink was to shave. 

And then he gave me his reason: energy efficiency. For some reason he thinks the Brits are just really green. I'm not totally convinced. I think this is a rationalization of the fact that this is just the way things are done. People -- and countries too -- seem to be creatures of habit. (Well, except when it comes to staying part of the EU apparently.)

This conversation started making me really nervous. The Hub seemed way too comfortable with cold water usage. I just hope he doesn't get any crazy ideas about limiting our use of hot water even further -- I am not a fan of cold showers. 

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