I just traveled to Ireland. I was amazed to find that water sinks (at home, restaurants and public) have separate taps for hot and cold water.

If you use only the cold water, your hands freeze. If you use only hot water, your hands burn.

How do people use it? Is there tool at plumber shops to mix both of them (for my accommodation)?

Sink with separate hot/cold taps

  • 9
    How is this a travel question?
    – user141
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 15:15
  • 3
    You think that's messed up... I've been to apartments in Israel where the toilet had no tank... you need to turn a valve to start flushing, then turn it back to stop the flushing. It was cheaper for the landlord to install and maintain and the tenants tolerated it.
    – JoelFan
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 19:06
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    For a historical perspective, consider the pre-plumbing washbasin. You pour water in it, use the water for washing, then dump it. So having a way to draw hot & cold water directly in to the basin was a huge improvement! Washing your hands in running water came along much later.
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 5:42
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    I think this is an appropriate question or topic for travel.se. It's something that travellers might encounter around the world, and hence advice on this would be benefitial for travellers. Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 9:17
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    @Andra: I'd say it's a travel question in the same way as questions about electrical adapters
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 22:16

7 Answers 7


I had the same problem after arriving to the UK. There are two basic techniques:

  1. Plug the sink, pour the water and wash yourself in this water. I think this was how it was meant to be used when this system was first introduced years ago. You can mix it in any other container as well, depending on your needs. One potential downside to this method is that if the sink is not very clean you don't exactly want to be letting the presumably clean water sit in the basin.
  2. Open both taps and move your hands quickly between both taps. If you do it quickly enough you almost get the water mixed :)

Why did these nations decide to use this system and why haven't they replaced it with mixer taps is a mystery to me.

  • 5
    You don't waste water if you plug the sink. I think of it as a smart design choice for saving the Earth.
    – mouviciel
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 14:29
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    I didn't like this "fill the sink, and wash your hand", sinks are not that clean!
    – Yousf
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 14:51
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    @mouviciel, the thing is you can do the same thing with a mixer tap. And many people use option (2) mentioned above, which wastes by far the most water.
    – Grzenio
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 14:53
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    Why do they use it? Probably a combination of resistance to change and willingness of the public to tolerate inconvenience. I'm sure the 2 tap system is cheaper so if there's no motivation to spend more money they won't.
    – JoelFan
    Commented Oct 26, 2011 at 19:05
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    @hippietrail, it doesn't explain why in many new developments they would still install separate taps. And today the price difference between mixer and separate taps in negligible comparing to plumber's fees.
    – Grzenio
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 8:49

I just found this gr8 (well, not very great) workaround. work around to deal with separate taps!.

Didn't try it yet, but looks like it may work.

  • 2
    A thing of beauty! (And I hope you're not infringing anybody's copyrights) Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 13:50
  • regarding the copyrights, I found this photo like this, I searched for its origin but failed. full copyright and patent for the unknown photo owner.
    – Yousf
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 13:55
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    +1 for the creativity. But wouldn't it be a problem to have hot (or very hot) water running in a plastic bottle?
    – Vince
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 14:17
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    @Vince The melting point of plastics used for bottles is significantly higher than the boiling point of water. No reason for any concern.
    – Bernhard
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 20:16
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    This answer fits on Lifehacks.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:40

While others have answered how, I'll try to answer why:


The hot water used to come from a hot water storage tank, usually in the attic. The stagnant water in the tank isn't considered safe for drinking. That's why there has to be a separate system, all the way down to the taps, so it can't contaminate the safe cold water from the mains (should there ever be a pressure failure or some such).

Even though water tanks aren't used that much anymore, old habits die hard.

It's explained by Tom Scott in the YouTube series Things You Might Not Know.

  • 7
    It disn't use to, it's still the same horrible piping system. I'm disappointingly surprised even after a couple of years, at how Brits and the Irish built and do build their houses in the most primitive ways even in 2016. Hygiene and convinience seems to be the last priority. Lame.
    – Neeku
    Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 12:08
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    @Neeku Hygiene, convenience, and staying alive are not prioritised. Tradition is.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:37
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    It should be mentioned mixer taps are becoming steadily more common as a lot of people (but not everyone) opt to install them when renovating their bathrooms. A modern combi boiler system poses no contamination risk. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:38
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    Besides, if you keep a storage heater hot (above oh, 55 deg C) you don't pose any contamination risks either, as it'll be too hot for nastiness to grow in there anyway. Which makes the whole separate tap system baffling to me... Commented Aug 14, 2016 at 21:50
  • "Even though water tanks aren't used that much anymore" [citation needed]. Hot water tanks are still common in the UK. I have one. For larger houses my understanding is that combi boilers aren't suitable. I have mixer taps that mix cold drinking water with hot water from the tank... it's not unusual!
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 14:55

I (an Irish person) only recently found out that this was an oddity of our country.

What I do usually is either use just one (like the hot tap, but quickly) or the cold tap. It's not that cold! Or just fill up the sink

  • 7
    It is not typical Irish. I do have 2 sinks in my house with separate taps. I have also seen it in dozen other countries. That is why I am really surprised this question appears on travel.se and not being closed as of topic.
    – user141
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 9:07
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    This is not an oddity of Ireland. I have seen this in the UK (where it is common) and in the US also. Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 17:44
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    I have only seen this in the UK, but I've mostly travelled to developed countries in Europe and North America.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:35
  • @gerrit Right now, I'm sitting in a house in California that has a mixer tap in the kitchen and separate taps in the bathroom, just like my home in the UK. OK, most other places I've been in the US have mixer taps in the bathroom, too, but separate taps aren't a British-Isles-only thing. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:26
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    @DavidRicherby I've only been in a handful of homes in North America. Not saying they don't exist, but they're not nearly as ubiquitous (relatively speaking) as in England.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:35

Separate taps are still pretty common in Australia though mixer taps are on the rise.

What I usually do is check if the hot water is hot straight away. Usually it's not but I suppose this could depend on how the hot water is set up which may be different in Ireland.

If the hot tap is not hot straight away I use the hot tap just on just a bit checking with my fingertips every second or so if it's warm enough yet. I usually have enough time to have a good wash before the heat gets too high.

If not I prefer cold hands to any degree burns, but again I suppose Ireland sometimes has colder tapwater than Australia too (-:


I am quite surprised at your question. Here in the UK, two single taps, one for hot water and one for cold water are the normal arrangement. You put the plug in the sink and half fill it from one tap, then you run the other into it until you have the temperature of water you want...or you do what I do, which is wash under a running cold tap.

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    It may be normal and fine in the UK (and Ireland etc), but still feel somewhat primitive and unwieldy for the rest of us. ;)
    – Jonik
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 14:25
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    Not for all the rest of us. But this answer only covers clean sinks. It won't work in lots of pubs and nightclubs and many other public toilets unless submerging your hands in diluted mystery ick is not a problem or you always keep some household cleaning products with you (-; Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 3:26
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    @Jonik When you go to another country you shouldn't expect things to be the same as when you are at home. The majority of modern homes these days have mixer taps, however its doesnt take a genious to use a 2 tap system
    – Simon
    Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 10:32
  • @hippietrail you're right for the cleanliness of the public places, that's why I never wash my hands in pubs except high grade restaurant. While traveling, I often use this portable alcool bottle: goo.gl/KbvveR
    – рüффп
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 23:40
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    @hippietrail Most pubs, nightclubs and public toilets in the UK these days have a combined/single tap, and an increasing number have a motion sensor so you don't need to touch anything.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 10:35

I have recently started to use the Retromixer.


It doesn't work extremely well but it's better than nothing. Whenever the water pressure is more than minimal, water tends to flow out along the top in addition to the bottom. And where it does flow along the intended bottom, the mixing isn't very good; I might get hot and cold water in rapid alteration in time and space. But it's progress nevertheless and I recommend it.

It's rather small and easy to install, so in principle you could carry one around for usage in public places, but it's marketed for use at your own home.

(I am not affiliated with the company making the Retromixer, nor do I personally know anybody involved.)

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