John Foster: Coming clean about trends in bathing

Saw an interesting “factoid” the other day: Prior to 1950, the typical American did this on average once per week. Now that average is closer to daily.

What is it?

Bathing or taking a shower.

Dermatologists say for most people three to four showers a week is fine. That would indicate about three to four baths a week is okay as well.

By today’s standard, my family, growing up in Mansfield, Ohio, would have had time management issues galore if we tried to bathe or shower daily. There were two adults and four youngsters … and one small bathroom.

I often wonder how we accomplished that. Did Mom give us assigned bath dates and times? Then I realized that through much of my early years, daily bathing or showering was not the standard. That made six people using one bathroom more believable or possible.

My wife and I live in a house with two full bathrooms, so that means most times, we each have one to ourselves.

It’s funny, but when we have guests, sometimes I find myself thinking, “This is somewhat inconvenient” to have to share the master bath with my wife.

As a kid growing up, we had a bath and shower combination but I rarely remember anyone ever showering.

There’s even a picture somewhere in the family albums of my 3 sisters and I all seated in the tub of water.

Can’t say I remember if our parents performed “group washes” like that often, but I do remember a childhood ceremony involving bath towels and talcum powder that we 4 kids took part in.

Today it would probably be a segment worthy of “The Dr. Phil” show.

I have friends who remember the big washtub filled up in the kitchen and everyone bathing on Saturday night so you were all clean and fresh for Sunday school and church the next day.

Sometimes I avoid both the bath and shower and take what we call a “sink” bath. You grab the wash cloth, suds it up and wash off all the “suspicious” places and then hang over the edge of the bathtub to wash your hair.

Those cleanups work fine if I haven’t been performing laborious tasks in a hot and/or dirty environment. It’s not like I work in a foundry or coal mine.

So I guess technically we might fall a bit short of the national average when it comes to a daily shower or bath.

The average of a daily bath or shower today in America makes we wonder if our sense of smell was dulled years ago.

As a kid, I can always remember the aroma of Old Spice aftershave in the bathroom after my Dad had whisked away his facial hair, mixed with bouquet of Right Guard deodorant spray.

I could also get a whiff of Butch Wax in the air, too.

But I was out of that one bathroom home when I turned 18, leaving a little more room for my Mom and 3 sisters.

Going to school and later the military, shower rooms were the standard and privacy was minimal, at best.

Today, home builders suggest two bathrooms for every 3 bedrooms in a house.

Based on those guidelines, TV’s “The Waltons” family was probably a bit short on the bathroom count. Plus, theirs were outdoors.

Somehow, my Foster family managed to shuffle 6 individuals in and out of the lone bathroom while were were growing up.

So bathe and shower away, America. It’s what we do in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

John Foster anchors “All-News-in-the-Morning” weekdays on 1010 WCSI-AM and 98.1 FM. You can read his weekly blog at and monthly in The Republic. Send comments to [email protected]