Turning on the faucet to wash your hands or fill a glass with water is a daily routine we often take for granted. But have you ever wondered why some older sinks have separate hot and cold faucets instead of a single mixed tap?

This design that seems outdated today actually has some interesting history and practicality behind it.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Separate hot and cold faucets originated in the 19th century before modern plumbing and continue being used today in some public and commercial settings for safety and preventing scalding.

Origins of the Separate Faucet Design

The separate faucet design, with distinct hot and cold handles, has a fascinating history that dates back to the early days of plumbing. This design has evolved over time and continues to be used in many households and public restrooms today.

Let’s explore the origins and the reasons behind its usage.

Prevents cross-contamination before modern plumbing

Before the advent of modern plumbing systems, separate hot and cold faucets were a practical solution to prevent cross-contamination. It was common for water sources to be contaminated, and having separate handles for hot and cold water helped to minimize the risk of mixing these potentially harmful elements.

This design feature ensured that individuals could wash their hands without fear of contamination, promoting better hygiene practices.

Allowed control over hot water temperature

One of the key advantages of separate hot and cold faucets is the ability to precisely control the temperature of the water. In the past, hot water was often heated in a separate water heater or boiler, and having a dedicated handle for hot water made it easier to adjust the temperature to one’s preference.

This level of control remains a valuable feature, especially for those who prefer their water to be at a specific temperature for different tasks, such as washing dishes or taking a shower.

Saved water compared to letting it run to get hot or cold

The separate faucet design also helps conserve water. Instead of letting the water run until it reaches the desired temperature, users can simply turn on the hot and cold water separately and mix them in the sink or basin.

This approach saves both water and time, making it an eco-friendly choice that aligns with modern sustainability practices.

Seen in public restrooms for durability and vandalism

The use of separate hot and cold faucets is particularly common in public restrooms. This design choice is not only practical but also serves as a deterrent against vandalism. By having two separate handles, it becomes more challenging for individuals to tamper with or damage the faucet.

Moreover, these faucets are often built to withstand heavy usage, making them a durable and reliable choice for high-traffic areas.

Advantages of Separate Hot and Cold Faucets

Avoid scalding with very hot or very cold water

One of the main advantages of having separate hot and cold faucets is the ability to avoid scalding yourself with water that is too hot. With a single mixed tap, it can be difficult to control the temperature precisely, and there is always a risk of accidentally turning the water too hot.

However, with separate hot and cold faucets, you have complete control over the temperature of the water. This can help prevent accidents and keep you safe in the bathroom or kitchen.

Control temperature to personal preference

Having separate hot and cold faucets allows you to adjust the water temperature to your personal preference. Some people prefer cooler water for washing their face or hands, while others prefer warmer water.

With separate faucets, you have the flexibility to choose the temperature that is most comfortable for you. This can enhance your overall experience and make everyday tasks more enjoyable.

Conserve water compared to single mixed taps

Another advantage of separate hot and cold faucets is the potential for water conservation. When using a single mixed tap, it is common to leave it in a default position, resulting in a constant flow of warm water.

This can lead to unnecessary water wastage, especially if you only need cold water for certain tasks. With separate faucets, you can easily turn on and off the hot or cold water as needed, reducing water consumption and promoting sustainability.

Withstand heavy use and abuse in public settings

Separate hot and cold faucets are commonly found in public restrooms, and for good reason. They are designed to withstand heavy use and abuse in high-traffic areas. Single mixed taps, on the other hand, may be prone to wear and tear or damage from constant use.

By using separate faucets, public establishments can ensure that their plumbing fixtures remain functional and durable for a longer period of time.

Disadvantages of the Two-Faucet Design

The traditional two-faucet design, with separate hot and cold taps, has been around for centuries. While it may have served its purpose in the past, it does come with a few disadvantages in today’s modern world.

No ability to get warm mixed water from a single tap

One of the main drawbacks of having separate hot and cold faucets is the inability to easily obtain warm mixed water from a single tap. This can be quite inconvenient, especially when you need to quickly adjust the water temperature for activities such as washing your face or doing the dishes.

With separate taps, you have to manually mix the water in the sink, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.

More costly and time consuming to install two taps

Another disadvantage of the two-faucet design is that it can be more costly and time consuming to install. You need to have two separate pipes and valves for hot and cold water, which requires additional plumbing work.

This can increase the installation cost and complexity, especially if you’re remodeling your bathroom or kitchen.

Separate knobs can be confusing for some users

The separate hot and cold knobs can be confusing for some users, especially those who are not familiar with this type of faucet design. It’s not uncommon for people to accidentally turn on the wrong tap and get a blast of hot or cold water when they were expecting something else.

This can be particularly dangerous for children or elderly individuals who may have difficulty maneuvering the knobs.

Less convenient than single-lever faucets

Compared to single-lever faucets, the two-faucet design is generally considered less convenient. With a single-lever faucet, you have the ability to easily adjust the water temperature and flow with just one hand.

This can be especially useful when you have your hands full or when you need to make quick adjustments. The separate knobs of the two-faucet design can be cumbersome and require both hands to operate.

While the two-faucet design may have its historical charm, it’s clear that it comes with its fair share of disadvantages. If you’re considering a faucet upgrade, you may want to explore the convenience and functionality of single-lever faucets, which offer a simpler and more efficient way to control water temperature and flow.

Situations Where Separate Faucets Persist

Public restrooms and parks

In many public restrooms and parks, you may still come across separate hot and cold faucets. This is primarily due to concerns about hygiene and safety. By having separate faucets, it ensures that the water coming out of each tap is not mixed, reducing the risk of contamination.

This is especially important in public spaces where multiple people are using the facilities. Additionally, separate faucets can help conserve water as users can control the temperature and flow independently.

Older sinks in residential bathrooms

Older residential sinks often have separate hot and cold faucets due to the traditional plumbing systems used in the past. These systems were designed to have separate hot and cold water supplies, and retrofitting them to accommodate a single faucet can be costly and time-consuming.

While newer homes often have single-handle faucets for convenience, many older homes still maintain the separate faucet setup.

Laundry and utility rooms

Separate hot and cold faucets are commonly found in laundry and utility rooms. This is because these areas often require different water temperatures for various tasks. For example, hot water may be needed for washing clothes or cleaning purposes, while cold water may be used for filling up buckets or mopping the floor.

Having separate faucets allows for greater control and flexibility in these areas.

Commercial kitchens and laboratories

In commercial kitchens and laboratories, separate faucets are still prevalent to meet specific requirements. In these settings, precise control over water temperature is crucial for various tasks such as cooking, sterilization, or conducting experiments.

Separate faucets allow for accurate adjustment of hot and cold water flow, ensuring optimal functionality and safety.

While the use of separate hot and cold faucets may seem outdated in some contexts, it is important to understand the reasons behind their persistence. Whether it’s for hygiene, tradition, or specific needs, these situations continue to rely on separate faucets to fulfill their unique requirements.


While separate hot and cold water faucets may seem antiquated, this dual-handle design has some benefits in the right contexts. Originating before modern plumbing, it continues being used today in public, commercial, and some residential settings for practical reasons.

Understanding the origins and rationale behind this iconic faucet style provides insight into its lasting presence.

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