Need to get clean? Go take a shower. Just turn on the faucet and luxuriate under the warm water. Wanna relax? Take a bath. Just fill a bathtub with water and you’re in business. Americans take running hot water for granted.
For almost a century, American homes have had hot running water – all you have to do is turn on the tap. But it wasn’t always like this.
For millennia, the only way to get hot water in the home was to heat it on the stove in the kitchen. The ancient Romans had hot baths and even steam rooms, but these were public. Until the invention of the residential water heater, everyone else had to heat their water in the kitchen. A pot had to be filled with water and placed on the stove or hung by its handle over the fire. The stove was fired by wood or in some cases coal. When the water was heated to the desired temperature, the pot was taken off the stove by hand and poured into the bathtub, which was also often in the kitchen.
Water takes a long time to heat up, and you have to boil several pots in order to get a decent bath of water. This was tedious and time-consuming – families could spend the whole Saturday cleaning up for Sunday church.