Helping consumers save energy, water & money

Unilever R&D is revealing new insights into showering habits that enable scientists to help consumers save energy, water and money.

Innovative sensor

A patented sensor attached to the shower pipe or head records data when triggered by the noise of water flowing. Details such as date, duration and temperature are stored in the sensor memory. Using algorithms, researchers extract the necessary information about people's showering behaviour from the raw data.

Actual versus reported behaviour

The monitors were first used in a landmark study in 2011 when they recorded 2,600 showers by 100 UK families over a 10-day period.

Previous studies have collected data by asking households to complete questionnaires. The problem is, people aren’t very good at estimating how long it takes them to do habitual behaviours such as showering.

Throughout the Unilever study, participants also kept shower diaries to track who was showering and what they did. Our scientists then compared the differences between actual and reported showering behaviour.

Revealing insights

The results showed that the average shower was eight minutes – much longer than the five minutes suggested by previous studies – and used nearly as much energy and water as a bath.

An eight minute shower with an average water flow rate uses around 62 litres of hot water compared to 80 litres for a bath. For power showers – an appliance that adds extra pressure to the water flow – the eight-minute shower required twice as much water and energy as a bath.

The fastest flow shower recorded by the study – at 17 litres per minute – used as much water as a bath in just 4 minutes 42 seconds.

Understanding behaviour

Around 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our shampoos, soaps and shower gels come from people using hot water, especially for showers.

This type of research helps us understand what the catalysts are for changing people’s behaviour in terms of reducing the amount of energy and water they use. It also enables us to shape new products and other ways to deliver savings.

Success in laundry

We are already using behavioural insights to reduce our carbon emissions. In laundry, a study observed that people consistently use more washing detergent than they need. It identified an opportunity to reduce packaging by creating concentrated detergents with smaller caps, making it easier for people to use the correct amount. The result is less plastic packaging and product wastage, and fewer lorries needed to transport the bottles.

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