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Elevating the traditional bathing experience, a soaking tub is designed with an increased depth that allows users to fully submerge up to their shoulders. Ideal for anyone looking to take their relaxation to the next level, deep soaks are known for healing benefits that go far beyond washing up.
For those with active lifestyles, chronic pain, or everyday stressors, replacing your traditional tub with a soaking design is a step towards addressing your needs. With a variety of unique styles, silhouettes and features to choose from, read on to learn how you can soak your troubles away and find the best soaking tub for your space.
Soaking Tub Health Benefits
Stress Relief. Whole-body immersion bathing in warm water promotes more than just relaxation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s proven to decrease stress hormones, balancing serotonin levels that help regulate mood.
Pain Relief. If you struggle with arthritis or chronic back and joint pain, experts say regular hot baths are remarkably therapeutic. Even muscle soreness and tension experience relief with a few minutes submerged in a deep soaking tub.
Similarly designed for heightened relaxation, air tubs use tiny massaging air jets that envelop the body for a luxurious, rejuvenating hydrotherapy experience.
Heart Health & Blood Circulation. Immersion in hot water gives your body an automatic cardiovascular workout, dilating blood vessels and improving circulation, which in turn speeds up healing processes and helps to flush toxins from the body.
Skin Exfoliation. Fully submerging the body in warm water gives your skin time to soften—something not achievable in a shower nor fully encompassing in a shallow tub. This not only leaves you with soft, silky skin, but provides exfoliation when scrubbing.
Decongest. The depth of the water helps to keep it hotter for longer, and clouds of steam are part of the experience. Breathing in deep lungfuls can ease breathing and help with congestion—excellent for getting through cold season in comfort.
An additional benefit of a soaking tub is its small footprint. Many soaking tub styles, such as a Japanese bathtub, can suit a smaller bathroom where a traditional long tub would never fit. If you have a large bathroom, the space saved with a small soaking tub can be allocated to luxurious features like a walk-in shower, expansive double vanity, or bonus vanity station.
Since soaking tubs generally have less surface area than traditional tubs, they require less water to fill. This reduces your water consumption and, thus, the amount of energy needed to heat your tub, making both a cost-saving and environmentally friendly option.
The material you choose for your tub can further enhance its energy efficiency. A steel soaking tub makes an excellent option, along with those made of cast iron or copper. These materials possess heat-retaining properties, preventing the need to refill with warm water throughout use—perfect for those who enjoy extended soaks.
To enhance and personalize your bathing experience, soaking tubs are available with a variety of additional features. For those looking to further conserve energy, the simple addition of tub foam insulation keeps your tub warmer for longer. Tub foam also dampens the hollow sound between the walls of your tub that some find undesirable while ultimately protecting your tub long-term.
Additionally, your tub drain kit likely features numerous eye-catching finishes to choose from. Select your favorite corrosion-resistant finish that complements your soaking tub’s surrounding fixtures for a cohesive look.
Perhaps the best soaking tub benefit is that it’s entirely dedicated to self-care. Traditionally with Japanese soaking tubs, all hygienic tasks were taken care of prior to stepping in, reserving these for relaxing the body and cleansing the mind and spirit. With a soaking tub, you can indulge in spa-level comfort from the convenience of your home.
Japanese Soaking Tubs
When you visualize a soaking tub, your mind most likely goes to a Japanese soaking tub. Modern incarnations of a millennia-old tradition, Japanese soaking tubs are tall with an incorporated seat. Offering water depths of more than 22 inches deep, they ensure the average adult can be submerged up to their shoulders when sitting upright.
If you think that bathing while seated upright doesn’t sound as relaxing as stretching out in a traditional tub, the Japanese soaking tubs on the market are designed to support the body, allowing you to lean back and let go. This may also be a more comfortable position for individuals who struggle with mobility.
Japanese soaking tubs are available in a wide range of sizes, from single-person baths to larger sizes that accommodate multiple people. Their minimalist silhouettes honor their Zen origins, emitting an understated look that effortlessly complements any style bathroom.
The Japanese soaking tub originated from the Ofuro tub, which was built of a fragrant cypress wood called Hinoki—a sacred wood of the region used to build temples. As the popularity of this style tub increased, many other reliable materials have taken its place: cedar, copper, steel, and acrylic tubs are now common.
For those who prefer a deep soak without an incorporated seat, an array of freestanding soaking tub designs is available to provide that fully immersed experience.
From a style perspective, this is an excellent way to combine the benefits of soaking tubs with the style of more classic designs, such as the clawfoot tub, along with more contemporary round soaking tub styles.
An alcove soaking tub is perfect for those who don’t have space for a freestanding option or simply prefer their tub surrounded. This popular type of tub installation utilizes three walls that make showering and bathing possible all in one fixture. Instead of a traditional bath shower combo, this soaking tub shower combo features an increased depth for enjoying the benefits of a full-body soak.
This alcove bathtub style can often be found with a slanted back and built-in armrests for comfortable, serene soaking.
Drop-in soaking tubs offer the same benefits and features as alcove soaking tubs. The key difference between the two is that rather than sitting on its own, drop-in tubs are placed into a custom tub surround, hiding all sides of the fixture.
Often with a dual-mount design, these can be installed as a drop-in or undermount tub depending on your preference.
Potential Overflow. You may need to fill your soaking tub to a lower level, climb in, and then top it off to avoid excess water splashing onto your floor. This factor makes these tubs particularly suited for wet rooms, which are open-concept, waterproofed bathrooms.
You can also opt for models with overflow drains, which are placed just a few inches below the tub’s rim to prevent overflowing, especially once entering the tub.
Water depth. How deep should a soaking tub be? Aim for a minimum of 14 to 15 inches of water depth. This level should be deep enough to cover most of a person’s frame. Some tubs, like Japanese soaking tubs, offer water depths of more than 22 inches deep. Be sure to measure up to your overflow drain rather than the rim of the tub, if you’ve chosen a model with this feature.
Physical Restrictions. Consider that with a very deep tub or a drop-in style design, getting in and out will be more of a challenge for people with limited mobility. Designs with an integral seat or the addition of a small set of steps will make for a more accessible bathroom for any user. For a truly customized setup, consider building in steps and creating a platform around your soaking tub.
Insulation. Some homes may lack the heating ability to keep an ultra-deep soaking tub warm. Be sure to inquire about the gallons of water the tub will hold to help determine if your water heater will suffice. If this is an issue, a soaking tub made of heat retaining materials or those with air bath or tub foam insulation features would be ideal choices.
Installation. The installation of a soaking tub may require some minor reconfiguration of your plumbing. Because it is a specialized item, we recommend consulting a professional if you are unfamiliar with installing this type of fixture. If you decide to use outside help, make sure the installer has previous experience with soaking tubs.
How do you want to fill this new tub of yours? For those near a wall, a variety of wall-mount faucets are available which offer a calming, waterfall-like flow. If you choose a more nontraditional bathtub positioning or are seeking more of a statement, freestanding tub fillers stand tall in elegant options from ultra sleek to vintage-inspired. Read our tub faucet buying guide to compare all available styles.
To get the most out of your bathing experience, you need the proper accessories. Especially helpful with a freestanding soaking tub without surrounding storage, add a tub caddy for holding your essentials along with reading materials and a glass of your favorite drink for optimal, uninterrupted relaxation.
This upgrade adds foam insulation inside the walls of your tub, increasing heat retention and preventing condensation due to water and air temperature fluctuations.