Bathing Buying Guide

If you find it difficult to get in to or out of the bath, then this buying guide provides further information on the various products available to help you. Often you may need a combination of products to best suit your needs. Please use the following links to navigate to the best section:

Bath Boards

These boards sit across the bath on the rims, and are secured in place with adjustable brackets. The slatted surface allows for drainage. To use it safely, you should sit on to the board at the edge of the bath and slide or wiggle towards the centre of it. Then transfer your legs into the bath (a bath step may help here). From here you can either sit on the board and wash using a hand-held shower spray, or can move from it down onto a bath seat so that you can be nearer the bath water.

Bath boards come in different widths to fit most modern baths. The correct width is so that there is no over hang of the board from the rim edge to prevent the board tipping over when weight is placed on the over hanging section. If the board is too short then you won’t get the full support of the bath frame underneath the board.

The board is normally fitted to the bath using a fixing bracket on the underside of the board. This bracket adjusts so as to be flush with the insides of the bath forming a tight grip. Once in use, these brackets should be checked periodically to ensure that the fixings remain tight. The brackets usually have slip-resistant covers to provide extra grip and to prevent marking the bath. These should be checked periodically as they may wear after long-term use.

Often bath boards are used with grab rails on the wall. However, some bath boards have a handle incorporated into the board which should be placed furthest away from the edge used to get on to the bath board. This handle can be used to give you extra support and leverage when getting on and off the board. It is also recommended to have a non-slip bath mat under your feet.

Bath Seats

Bath seats can be used either on their own or in conjunction with other bathing equipment such as bath boards. You can use a bath seat as a stepping stone to move onto the bottom of the bath and move the seat out of the way until it is needed again for getting out. Alternatively you can stay on the seat, whilst bathing.

The seats come in different styles and heights from the bottom of the bath.

Suction Bath Seat

This is a bath seat that sits on the bottom of the bath, and is held in place with four suckers to grip the bottom of the bath. They come in different heights, dependent on how low you can or want to get to the bottom of the bath. Seats can come with drainage holes or slats and many have cut out areas at the front for personal cleansing.

If your bath has dimples or ripples, then the suckers may catch on a ridge, causing an air pocket, and hence reducing the strength of the suction cups.

Suspended Bath Seat

These seats hang from the side rims of the bath, with the seat suspended halfway down the bath sides. The hanging arms are width adjustable to fit most modern baths and the ends of the frame are covered in a slip- resistant material to provide extra grip and to prevent damage to the bath.

Unfortunately the seat height is not adjustable. Seats can come with drainage holes or slats and many have cut out areas at the front for personal cleansing.

Swivel Bath Seat

These chair style seats rest across the rims of the bath and provide greater upper body support by incorporating a back rest. They swivel to the left or right and many have a locking mechanism, which will secure the seat in a fixed position when you are getting on and off.

Most seats swivel only when a lever mechanism is released and this may be difficult if you have weak or painful hands and are bathing unassisted. You may need help to get on and off the seat as there is often a small gap between the edge of the bath and the edge of the bath seat.

Bath Lifts

If you find it difficult to bend or need more support when bathing, then a motorised bath lift may be the answer.

A bath lift is designed to lower you from the bath rim to the bottom of the bath, and back again. Most bath lifts are motorised and are powered by a rechargeable battery. The bath lift will be controlled by a remote control handset which will allow you to select up or down accordingly.

All battery operated bath lifts are completely safe to use in the water. The mechanics are sealed and water tight and the electricity used is safe low voltage DC electricity.

The battery is usually removable and will require charging from the mains outside of the bathroom. Some bath lifts incorporate the batteries into the remote control handset, making it very easy to detach for recharging. Different bath lifts have different battery life cycles, but you can normally get at least a week’s worth of baths from one battery charge. All the batteries will require charging for at least 8 hours, and in time will need to be replaced.

All bath lifts are programmed to stop the bath lift from lowering you down, if there is not enough battery power to bring you back up again. So you needn’t worry about running out of battery power!

Standard Plastic Bath Lifts

The typical plastic seat bath lift will be shaped like a chair with a seat and back rest. The seat will normally have flaps on the sides which will fold out to rest on the rim of the bath when the bath seat is in the upright position. This provides a continuous seat from the edge of the bath helping ease transfers to and from the bathlift. Some models have the optional extra of a swiveling seat or disc on the seat to assist with getting on and off.

These types of bath lifts are very flexible and portable. They are not permanently fixed to the bath and can be removed easily when not in use. Most lifts split in to two parts – the seat and the back rest – which reduces the weight to be lifted.

The bath lift is normally secured in place with 4 or 6 strong suction cups. The suction cups have quick release tabs, which are easy to lift for removal and cleaning. However you may have to use a flannel underneath suckers you’ve released to prevent them from sticking back to the bath when you are trying to release the other suckers!

Most standard bath lifts operate with a scissor action lift. Consequently, you should not expect the bath lift to go all the way to the bottom of the bath. This is due to the space taken up with lifting mechanism under the seat.

The majority of bath lifts have a reclining back rest which will recline you as the bath lift is being lowered. This can provide a more natural and comfortable position when in the bath. However, most bath lifts have the option to lock the back rest in the upright position if that is preferred.

Some plastic seat bath lifts are provided with washable cushioned covers. These are normally attached with poppers and provide additional comfort and traction. These covers are usually machine washable making them easy to clean. You can also buy spare covers so that you can still use the lift while the covers are being washed. You can sometimes get covers in different colours as well!

Inflatable Bath Lifts

These lifts are basically seat shaped air cushions which you inflate or deflate depending on whether you want to be lifted up or lowered in to the bath. They use a compressor to pump air in to the cushion.

The great benefit of an inflatable bath lift is that it allows you to get to the bottom of the bath. The only thing between you and the bottom of the bath is the deflated cushion.

Inflatable lifts are generally more portable than rigid lifts as they weigh considerably less. The compressor unit is usually separate from the cushion and so lifting the cushion in and out of the bath is generally very easy. The bath lift is secured to the bottom of the bath with strong suckers.

The compressor unit that inflates the cushion is normally battery operated. Whilst it is possible to buy a mains operated compressor, most people find it difficult to plug in the bathroom or nearby without trailing wires across the floor. The unit is normally operated by a hand held remote control unit.

Whilst inflatable bath lifts have undeniable benefits over rigid seats, they may not be suitable for everyone. They generally require a reasonable amount of upper body strength. You will need to be able to balance yourself when descending or ascending. It is advisable to have suitably placed grab rails to provide support. If you are very unstable, a rigid bath seat would probably be more suitable.

Another issue that arises with inflatable bath lifts is the amount of water to put in to the bath. This is due to the size of the bath lift when inflated compared to the size when deflated. You should fully inflate the bath lift before starting to fill the bath and fill the bath up to at least three quarters full. When you deflate the cushion, the space taken by the bath lift will reduce and hence the water level will fall. You may need to top up the bath but do remember to let at least the equivalent amount of water out before you inflate the cushion again.

You should leave an inflatable bath lift in the upright position when not in use to let the cushion dry out fully.

Manual Bath Lifts

These lifts operate using a hydraulic piston and are sold pre-adjusted to a range of user weights. When you sit on to the bath lift, the piston will gradually lower you in to the bath until it locks into position at the bottom. When you want to get out of the bath, you simply release the lever and shift your weight and the lift will gently propel you up. The locking lever has 4 stages so that if you place your weight back on to lift it will not go back to the bottom but back to the last stage.

Manual bath lifts do not use batteries and therefore do not have the complication of charging batteries. However, they are only suitable for people who can lift at least some of their weight to allow the lift to come back up. For this reason it is essential that a manual bath lift is combined with plenty of grab rails. You should also make sure that you have a non-slip bath mat to give extra grip.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Bath Lift

Lifting Height

Checking the lifting height is sufficient to lift from the bottom to the rim of your bath. If your bath is especially deep you may need to look out for bathlifts which have extra tall lifting options.

Type of Bath

Baths with a rippled or dimpled surface may not provide a secure surface to attach bath lifts which use suckers to attach to the bath. Caution should be exercised when installing the bath lift to ensure that the suckers are firmly gripping and the lift is stable. If you are in any doubt don’t use the bath lift.

Grab Rails

Rails Fixed to the Wall

Grab rails are ideal at positions around the home where you need extra support and reassurance or need to carry out difficult physical activity. They are very commonly used in the bathroom to assist with bathing and toileting.

Some baths have small rails built in and provide a low level hand hold, but these may be too low to assist with getting in and out of the bath. Also, they can make positioning and securing equipment such as a bath board difficult.

Wall mounted rails used in the bathroom should have an anti-slip or coated finish to avoid your hands slipping of the rail when wet. The most suitable types of rail are plastic fluted or ridged rails which will give the best purchase. You should avoid steel rails in the bathroom as they are generally very slippery when wet.

When fitting a wall mounted rail, you must tailor the fixings used to the type of wall and you must check that the wall itself is strong enough to bear the potential load. It is for this reason that the manufacturers do not provide fixings with the grab rails, as these will vary depending upon the wall. In terms of positioning, placing the grab rail horizontal to the floor will help with movement forwards and back, and side to side. If the grab rail is positioned vertically it will be able to assist with up and down movements. In a movement such as rising up from the bottom of the bath where you have to shift your weight forwards before you stand, a combination of a horizontal rail and a vertical rail (or a single rail positioned at an angle rising away from you) may be the best combination.

In terms of aesthetics, you should look for a wall mounted rail with concealed screw heads as these may, in time, rust with the constant exposure to moist conditions. It is also advisable to use stainless steel screws to mount the rail which are rust resistant. Fixings should be checked regularly for signs of wear.

We strongly recommend that you entrust the fitting of grab rails to a qualified tradesman.

Bath Grab Rails

These clamp onto the side of the bath providing a vertical loop, which sticks up above the bath rim. The clamp secures to the side of the bath with a pressure fit which is applied when tightening up the fixing mechanism. It is for this reason that bath grab rails are not recommended for use on baths with plastic sides as the side will simply buckle under the pressure of the clamp. They are safe to use with solid bath sides such as wood.

The great benefit of this type of grab rail is that it will not leave any permanent fixing marks and the grab rail can be removed when not in use if required.

Tap Grab Rails

This type of grab rail clamps around the bath taps and folds down to rest on the bath rim. It can be folded up against the wall when not required. When sitting in the bath, the rail will be directly in front of the person at about chest height. In this position it will provide stability whilst in the bath and is at an ideal level to help with sitting up whilst in the bath.

In order to fit this type of grab rail, you need to have two separate taps – a mixer tap is not suitable.

You should bear in mind that the tap rail is only as strong as the taps, and dependent on your weight and the load applied it might be better to get a tap tail that fixes to the wall behind the taps rather than the taps themselves.

Again, this type of grab rail should be used with a non slip bath mat to help prevent slipping.

Bath Steps

These provide a slip resistant platform on the outside of the bath to reduce the height over which you need to lift your legs to get into the bath. A bath step can be used with any of the bathing products described in this guide. Again a bath step should be used where there is a grab rail for support.

We hope that this Bathing Buying Guide has been helpful in providing you with information on how to choose the right bathing aid for your needs. Discover our full range of Bathing Aids here.

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