Reasons to Buy a Copper Bathtub
Copper is one of the most durable yet malleable and attractive metals, which makes it a prime candidate for use in the manufacturing of bathtubs. While expensive to purchase, copper tubs are long-term investments that have added character and a feeling of luxury to bathrooms for hundreds of years.
Copper bathtubs are produced in many countries, including China and Mexico. They are made by heating copper sheets and then hammering them into shape according to the design and size of the intended bathtubs. One of the benefits of buying a copper tub is its ability to complement almost any type of bathroom décor, including traditional, modern or antique style bathrooms.
A Historical Perspective: From Wood to Copper
Back in colonial days, some people had wooden tubs. They worked fine, but they required a lot of maintenance and were one reason why bathing was considered to be a luxury back then. Consider also that the tub had to be dragged in from wherever it was stored, and water had to be brought in from the well or a stream. The water was then heated and poured into the tub.
Additionally, soap was not in common supply as they all had to be handmade. Soft soaps were often made with mutton fat, wood ash, and natural soda ingredients. Sometimes they included flowers and herb oils for a sweet scent. However, these soaps were very expensive and beyond the budgets of most families. Hard soaps usually consisted of olive oil, soda, lime, herbs, and flowers, but they were also expensive.
Towels also didn’t exist, and there were few if any, private areas to bathe — further complicating the bathing process.
Some of the obstacles, though, were less about difficulty and privacy, and more about a belief system. Some colonists believed that bathing destroyed the body’s natural oils, leaving them vulnerable to disease. Therefore, a lack of sophisticated bathing areas was not a factor for them.
Other colonists, however, didn’t buy into that belief. They swam in rivers and lakes to stay fresh — some even in winter. William Bryd II, considered the founder of Richmond, Virginia, was known to take hygienic baths in the James River in Virginia, much to the displeasure of his unenlightened neighbors.
Eventually, St. George Tucker of Williamsburg, Virginia, a prominent legal and constitutional scholar during the time of the American Revolution, installed the first copper bathtub in the colonies. He placed the bath in his barn, got his hot water from the laundry and the cold water from his well. No lugging and hauling, and the rest is copper history.
The Rise of Modern Bathtubs
The mid-1800s saw the arrival of the modern bathtub as we know it, including bathtubs with indoor plumbing that made it possible to heat up the water more easily. Tubs were made of copper or steel, and in some cases, lead. The most expensive tubs featured bronze legs for decor.
Cast iron was often used in sinks, but it wasn’t pratical for bathtubs because it was more likely to corrode and rust. The cast iron itself would expand when exposed to hot water. Some tubs of the time used porcelain or ceramic instead. While these tubs weren’t as susceptible to rust, and the smooth surface was more comfortable to sit in, they were heavy and hard to transport.
Homeowners who had the space and could afford it designed spa-like bathrooms with multiple water fixtures. Instead of bringing a tub into the bedroom, Victorian bathers could make use of elaborate bathrooms, powder rooms, and more. For the first time, the three components of the modern bathroom — the tub, sink, and toilet — could be found in the same room.
Other designers took a more strategic approach. One of the most original is this folding bathtub advertised by the Mosely Folding Bath Company. Featured in the Montgomery Ward Catalog in 1895, took the form of a wooden wardrobe and mirror that opened up to reveal a tub and water heater, with a design similar to that of a Murphy Bed.
Another manufacturer, Bruschke & Ricke, advertised a couch with a bathtub hidden under the cushions, although this model was allegedly a fire hazard.
Other features that could be found in Victorian and Edwardian bathrooms included shower heads and shower curtains, steam rooms, and the sitz bath, a therapeautic bath used for soaking the lower body. One Brooklyn home listed for sale in 1897 featured “exposed nickel plumbing,” which was both a way to show off the home’s plumbing technology, and provide easy access for repairs.
In the post-WWI era, more Americans moved into city apartments, and the bathroom became more and more compact. Some New York City tenements only had outdoor bathrooms, and had to retrofit apartments to meet the requirements of the New Tenement Law of 1901. The tourism industry also needed an affordable way to install baths and showers in motel and hotel rooms at scale.
As a result, heavy porcelain tubs were replaced with recessed bathtubs made of cheaper materials like fiberglass and acrylic, which are still commonly used today. Natural color schemes fell out of style and were replaced with vitrolite surfaces that came in a variety of modern colors.
Copper Hot Tubs
The 1968s and 70s saw the development of whirpool baths and hot tubs, which turned bathing into a therapeautic, recreational, and even communal activity. Wooden tubs were back, this time in the form of round hot tubs that looked like large barrels and could be installed in the backyard, rather than in the bathroom. Other modern hot tubs are made with acrylic or vinyl.
While copper isn’t widely used as a hot tub material, it’s becoming increasingly popular, largely due to its aesthetic appeal. Copper pairs well with natural building materials, such as stone or brick, and its dark, earthy color is especially stunning in outdoor settings. Also, copper hot tubs can be shaped into customized designs to match your architectural and landscaping features. For example, it can be built into an outdoor deck or turned into an infinity pool.
Copper also has antimicrobial qualities that make it a more hygenic choice for a hot tub that other spa materials. You can even install copper jet covers for a consistent look and feel.
Bathtubs in Art and Media
Copper’s appeal as a bathing vessel means it has been featured in countless works of art throughout history. One of the most famous is called Woman in a Bath Sponging Her Leg by Edgar Degas, and is featured at the Musee d’Orsey in Paris as part of its Impressionist collection. Painted in the early 1880s, it depicts a copper bathtub that shows up in many of Degas’ paintings.
At the Salvador Dali museum in Spain, you can see the copper bathtub he bought in 1952 for over 100,000 francs, that had originally been made for Edward VIII. According to one description, “The long graceful neck of a swan jutted from one end of the tub. The rear portion of the bird, complete with intricately crafted tail feathers folded in at the sides, completed the exterior.”
Not just a plumbing fixture, this copper bathtub was a work of art in itself. Modern copper bathtub afficianados can turn to Instagram, where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for your own home.
A copper bathtub was also featured in a scene from the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr., proving that shiny copper bathtubs look great in HD!
Why Should I Buy a Copper Bathtub?
For us in modern times, where bathing is not necessarily a luxury, it might be a bit daunting to buy something as unique as a copper bathtub. However, once you see how copper bathtubs always look great, you might become a believer. Copper bathtubs also get even better looking over time as the finish ages and take on a more vibrant, deeper color. Copper tubs are available in many shapes and styles so that they can be installed in almost any size bathroom.
In addition to looking great, copper metal is bacteria and mold resistant — making copper bathtub care a walk in the park because it’s easier to maintain a clean and sanitary tub.
Like anything else, knowing what to look for is critical when buying a copper bathtub. This article describes the many benefits of copper tubs, outlines some reasons to buy a copper bathtub and will help you select the ‘right’ tub — one that meets the demands of yourself and your family is easy to care for and can be counted on to last for generations.
Copper Tubs Are Easy to Maintain
If you’re used to those shiny copper-bottomed pots and pans that need to be scrubbed and polished regularly, you might not believe this. However, the fact is that copper — pure copper — is virtually indestructible. While it’s possible to scratch the patina finish, there are fast, easy ways to avoid doing that.
Copper bathtubs, like this copper soaking tub, come with patina finishes that are baked into the material, imparting an amazingly weathered or aged appearance. If you scrub or polish the bathtub with any abrasive or acid-based materials at all, you’ll damage the finish. So keeping your copper bathtub in tip-top shape is simple and straightforward — don’t scrub or polish!
Here are three things you can do to maintain a beautiful finish on your copper tub:
- Rinse the bathtub with water after each use to avoid mineral deposit buildup, and then pat the surface dry. This is especially important if you live in hard water areas.
- Clean the tub with mild soap and a soft cloth from time to time. Copper is naturally antibacterial, so your bath does most of the work to keep itself clean and sanitary. However, an occasional cleaning helps.
- Stay away from abrasives at all costs to avoid scratches and other unsightly damage to the finish.
The Beauty of High-Quality Copper Bathtubs Increase as They Age
Copper has a natural quality known as a ‘living finish.’ This is a unique characteristic that distinguishes copper from other metals, and it’s the primary reason why a pure copper bathtub increases in beauty as it ages. Pure copper interacts with its environment and organically deepens in color and tone as time passes. It starts with a pinkish, almost salmon-like color, and it gradually darkens in intensity as it progresses through a range of red browns. It will eventually stabilize as a deep, rich tone.
The speed with which your tub changes color and the ultimate depth of tone will depend on the amount and type of use it receives. The bottom line is pure copper bathtubs age gracefully and grow more beautiful with each passing day!
Copper Bathtubs Heal “Naturally”
Copper bathtubs don’t scratch any more easily than other materials, but if you do scratch the surface and leave behind a horrifying bright, shiny streak, don’t panic. Due to the living finish properties of copper, your bathtub will “heal” itself!
Within a short period, the scratch begins to darken, and it will slowly blend in with the original patina. Of course, you don’t want to damage the surface of your tub, but isn’t it nice to know that if you do, the blemish will disappear without you having to lift a finger?
Copper Tub Health Benefits
There are some health benefits associated with using copper tubs. One of the biggest is that studies indicate bacteria can survive for only hours on copper, compared to days on stainless steel and even longer other types of bath surfaces. That means you can throw away those disinfectants and antibacterial products stored under your sink.
Copper is also registered as an antimicrobial material with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s big news because this type of EPA registration has typically only been granted to liquids, aerosols or gases.
Additionally, copper has a therapeutic effect on joint movement and connective tissue by reducing inflammation associated with rheumatism, arthritis, osteoporosis, tendonitis and sports injuries. When your skin touches the surface of a copper tub, your body absorbs small amounts of copper — and without any of the gastrointestinal side effects so common with anti-inflammatory drugs. If your diet is deficient in trace minerals such as copper, a copper bathtub is a relaxing way to replenish your body with this essential element.
Some additional benefits of copper tubes are:
- Copper tubs heat faster and retain the heat longer. One of the pros of using a copper tub is that its metallic properties conduct heat faster and maintain heat longer than traditional bathtubs. When hot water contacts the surface of a copper bathtub, the walls quickly heat up and hold temperature longer than other types of tubs. An additional benefit is that many copper baths are very deep, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the water for the ultimate in a hot, relaxing tub.
- Suited for just about any bathroom. Among the benefits of using copper tubs is that it suits almost any bathroom, regardless of whether you’re creating a luxurious, regal air or a more rugged, industrial feel. Bathtubs can have different finishes depending on the atmosphere you’re building, from a glossy, lacquer-plated tub to a brushed copper finish. These finishes allow you to have a comfortable, opulent centerpiece for your bathroom that will be long-lasting and maintenance-free.
- Good for the environment. Copper is recyclable material, so using a copper bathtub is an environmentally friendly thing to do. Also, since copper retains heat better than other materials, you don’t need to keep adding hot water if you decide to take a long soak. That will reduce your water use as well as your water and energy costs.
Types of Copper Used for Bathtubs
Like anything else, the formula used to produce copper bathtubs impacts the quality, appearance, ease of use and longevity. It can mean the difference between loving your tub and not loving it, too. Here are the two basic types of copper to look for when purchasing your bathtub:
- Recycled copper
Because copper is durable, almost all of it is still in circulation — although most of it is in “recycled” form. When a copper item is discarded, it’s melted to form recycled copper. The majority of copper on the market today is of the recycled variety.
- Pure copper
Pure copper bathtubs, however, are not only functional, but they are also aesthetically pleasing. Many of the other materials available today for baths can’t compete with pure copper, especially when it comes to scratches or other minor cosmetic flaws.
For example, you’ll pretty much have to live with any scratches or stains that appear on cast iron, porcelain or acrylic tubs — or go to great lengths to fix them. The damage on a pure copper tub, though, will first appear as the color of a shiny new penny — which is the color of raw, unaged copper. However, as the tub is used over time, just like the penny, the copper will slowly age, turn the same dark and lustrous color as the rest of the tub and hide the damage. The bottom line is that only a pure copper tub can completely satisfy your functional, aesthetic and longevity needs.
Other Factors You Should Consider When Purchasing a Copper Bathtub
To ensure you select the ideal copper tub for your space — and that the tub is the best quality — keep in mind the following:
- Weight matters. Copper is extremely durable, but it’s also a very soft and malleable metal. So, it’s important that your tub is constructed using the proper weight (gauge) material. 48-ounce pure copper, which is the equivalent of 16 gauge, should be the absolute minimum weight of any copper tub you’re considering purchasing. This will ensure your tub won’t dent easily, will be tough enough to meet the demands of everyday use and will last for years — or even decades.
- Copper weld versus solder. The joints and seams of copper bathtubs are usually joined by using one of two different processes: welding or soldering. Soldering is a weaker process, and joints tend to split or break apart after a certain period-of-time.
By contrast, welding results in a much stronger, longer-lasting joint. The joints and seams of a properly welded copper bathtub will not break apart even after years of constant daily use. Our suggestion: Choose a copper tub that has been copper-welded. In addition to joint and seam strength, copper weld areas are less complicated to detect when the bathtub is new and almost impossible to discover after it has aged.
- Hammered detailing. Is the hammered detailing uniform, or is it irregular? If it’s uniform, the tub is probably machine-made, as opposed to hand-made. Hand-hammered patterns are more irregular in depth, size, and texture, adding character and a distinctly original look.
- Smooth edges. Be sure to notice the edges around the rims of the tubs. Preferably, they are smooth to the touch, evenly sized and adequately curved under for a more finished, polished look.
- Patina finish. Has the patina finish been applied as evenly as possible? Even though the nature of the process leaves room for uneven finishes, it should never look like it was painted or wiped on over the surface. You’ll also want to be sure the finish isn’t blotchy or streaked and that it doesn’t easily rub off.
Copper Bathtub Styles
There are many different styles of copper tubs — enough to meet the preferences of just about every homeowner, including rectangular, circular and many other shapes in between. Some bathtubs come decorated with flowers or other attractive designs, particularly on the outside surfaces. Some manufacturers are also happy to custom-produce copper bathtubs designed to suit specific bathrooms. Custom-made tubs will likely be more expensive at first, but it might be worth the cost to own a bathtub that is designed specifically for your bathroom — and one that will last for many years to come.
While there are many different types of bathtubs, there are two common styles you’ll find when it comes to copper bathtubs:
- Freestanding: our freestanding copper bathtubs for sale make a great addition to any bathroom and give it a lush, lavish feeling.
Because freestanding tubs are finished on every side, they can be placed wherever you like best in your bathroom. It can be in any location and facing any direction, which is an excellent feature of this style.
- Clawfoot: Claw foot tubs are a type of freestanding tub. They tend to be a bit bigger than generic freestanding tubs, so they are often more conducive to a long and enjoyable bath.
These types of tubs also often evoke images of grand Elizabethan age kind of soaking. Clawfoot tubs can be the centerpiece of just about any bathroom design with their elegant looks and character. Whether your bathroom exhibits a vintage style or a modern motif, you can find a claw foot tub to fit.
Since they are more large than standard tubs, claw foot bathtubs do need more room. They are also very heavy — sometimes too heavy to be installed anywhere but on the lower floor. The flexibility to fit the bathtub almost anywhere in the bathroom can result in higher purchase and installation costs. For example, adding a shower attachment can be inconvenient, and therefore very expensive. However, a bigger investment up front may have the potential to save you even more down the road with a durable copper tub lasting for decades.
Accessorizing Your Copper Bathtub
Accessories encompass the small things that make your copper tub complete and functional. There are numerous designs and types of accessories available today, and it’s crucial to select fixtures that complement the bathtub and other bathroom features — for instance, copper tiles and other copper-themed accessories designed to go with specific bathtub styles and looks.
Be sure to have your accessories in mind when choosing a copper tub and, if possible, purchase them together. This will ensure they match, and you’ll avoid finding out that you’re missing an accessory after everything has been installed.
You Can’t Go Wrong With Buying a Copper Bathtub
Bathtubs are available in a wide range of materials and designs to suit the equally wide range of needs and tastes of homeowners. Copper tubs are entirely appropriate for all types of usage, adding aesthetic appeal to your home and contributing the benefits of its antimicrobial properties.
Copper tubs also lend a sophisticated air that can beautify the look of your bathroom. The bronze glow and gleaming surfaces of copper tubs can change the look of your space, giving it an entirely new ambiance.
With only a minimum amount of care, your pure copper tub could last for years, decades or even centuries. It could be a family heirloom, passed onto your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond. Copper bathtubs are not just beautiful and practical — they’re resilient. They can’t be destroyed, and they can last for generations.
If you’re ready to add a copper bathtub to your bathroom, CopperSmith can help. Take a look at our selection of styles and designs, and contact us if you have any questions or when you’re ready to order. Hopefully, our blog post about copper tub benefits was able to shed some light on why copper tubs might be the right fit for you.