What Is an Electric Bath?

Elizabeth West

An electric bath refers to several different devices, notably an early-style tanning booth, a steam bath powered by electricity, or a Japanese bath with actual current running through it. Steam is believed to have several health benefits, except for people who have certain medical conditions or are pregnant. No longer the province of the rich, an electric steam bath has become much more commonplace, along with numerous automatic bathroom accessories.

The first electric bath systems were early versions of the modern tanning bed.
The first electric bath systems were early versions of the modern tanning bed.

The first electric bath systems were metal-lined boxes with ultraviolet lights, an early version of the modern tanning bed. The famous White Star Line ship RMS Titanic had one in a chamber near its Turkish bath facility. Admission to the Turkish bath on the ship cost the equivalent of one US dollar, and men and women were admitted at separate times. After a sauna or a tanning session, the bathers could take a cooling plunge in Titanic’s swimming pool.

Pregnant women should avoid electric baths.
Pregnant women should avoid electric baths.

A modern electric bath is usually steam powered by electricity. Steam showers for luxurious bathrooms are contained in elaborate cabinet enclosures and use a steam generator to immerse the bather in vapor rather than a water flow. They are mostly found in spas or gym facilities. These electric bath units can have amenities such as a seat, aromatherapy dispensers, and even lighting and music. Steam baths should typically be used in short stints to avoid overheating.

Many people believe that moist heat from a steam shower or electric bath is good for relaxing stiff joints and muscles, especially after exercise. It can also help stressed people to relax. Those with cardiac conditions, diabetes, blood pressure issues or who are pregnant are usually advised to avoid the high heat. Scientists and health experts have also determined that the ultraviolet rays from modern tanning booths can cause skin cancer.

Denki buro, or denki furo, is a small bathtub with electric plates that discharge a low-voltage current through the water. They are found in some Japanese bathhouses, or sento The bather sits between the plates in the current, which causes muscles to contract and is purported to relax them. Japanese electric baths are thought detrimental to sperm count, although no one is sure. Since these baths are usually extremely hot, the heat is more likely to reduce sperm motility and production with regular use.

Modern facilities that contain steam baths can also be fitted with electric bath accessories. An electric bath tissue system dispenses bathroom tissue when the user passes a hand under or over a sensor. The tissue is then extruded in pre-set lengths, with indicator lights that let maintenance personnel know when the device is low on paper. Paper towel dispensers and electric hand dryers like this are common in public bathrooms in stores and airports. These and other devices like electric mirror defoggers help keep bathrooms neat and easier to clean.

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