After many a year living in the lowlands I’ve made some serious progress in deciphering the Dutch: I’ve mastered the art (and pronunciation!) of gezelligheid, I’ve gotten used to the constant presence of Dutch directness, agendas and red pants. Heck, you might even find me with the curtains wide open and chewing on drop.

However, there is one mystery that continues to evade me. One particularity I can’t seem to get a straight answer on: why the heck can you only find *cold water* in Dutch toilet sinks?!?  Why my friend, why?? Why is there that one lonely tap? And why is its only job to provide glacial H2O? What could possibly be the logical explanation behind said torture?

I would LOVE to think there is something else going on here. Something else other than the obvious: sheer Dutch cheapnessthriftiness“. So please, someone (anyone!) fill in the blanks here and give me another plausible explanation. Don’t tell me that the Dutch are really so incredibly cheap that they are worried about those extra few cents in providing their guests with warm water to wash their hands. If so, then I’m afraid I’ve lost all hope for these peeps!

I can understand the argument that in those charming old canal houses and cozy brown cafés the ancient plumbing doesn’t allow for much. But head to a newly built apartment, restaurant or even a modern office tower in Amsterdam’s WTC, enter the toilet and you are still destined to find only icy water flowing from those shiny new taps.

Now folks, you are probably reading this and thinking “what’s the big deal here?” And I’m here to tell you: it is a big deal! This flat, peculiar little country spends a lot of its time being grey and cold and wet and the simple act of washing your hands without gasping from the arctic temperature goes a long way on a Dutch winter’s day!

Am I alone in this one? Is it that Dutch hands are simply more resistant to the cold? If you grow up dousing your hands in ice water multiple times a day, do you then longer feel the cold? And what about basic hygiene? Does cold water really do the trick?

typical dutch sink

Tiny sinks for big people

Don’t even get me started on the size of these tiny sinks! They are normally less than 10 inches wide and 5 inches deep which essentially is useful for washing one finger at a time (especially for those freakishly tall Dutch folk)!

Perhaps my concerns fall on deaf ears. Perhaps Dutch people have never known the luxury of washing their hands in warm water. Perhaps when they travel abroad and wash their hands in warm water for the first time, their hearts are suddenly filled with joy and find themselves start humming for no reason! Perhaps, one day they will bring this civilized behaviour back to the lowlands. Perhaps…


381 Responses

  1. colocha

    Hahaha, you have brightened up my day again. Especially on a grey Monday morning like this. Being a Dutch girl I have no clue why we only do the cold water. I have to admit though that I do like it because I can refill my own bottle with water whenever I want (which is def not possible with those lousy warm water taps in for example the States 😉 – and no, not sure refilling is because I care about the environment or just because I am a greedy and just incredibly cheap Dutchie 🙂

    • Sharon

      Strange. I refill my water bottle in the kitchen by putting the tap into the cold position. And I get very cold water when I do so. Your argument is flawed.

      Also, my old house had a WC with a tap that went from hot to cold (because I had it built that way in the verbouwing). The cold water was very cold when in full cold position, so it was a pleasure to wash my hands in that little WC in both the 2 weeks of summer we get here (with cold water) and the rest of the year (with warm water)!

      • Pieter

        I rekon she means the public space toilets, so she can fill her water bottle on the way. I do think, however that it is a very heroic thing to do, imagining how many people have touched that tap… Brrr

    • Kristin

      But here in “The States”, we call it U.S., we can still turn on just the cold and refill our water bottles, although most people use a Brita.

      • Karen (@calkaren33)

        haha I wish that were true, but have you seen how many chemicals in the water are found? it’s really crazy stuff, maybe bay area water, but definitely not los angeles water!

      • vroon

        We Dutchies do not need a filter because our water purifying plants are publicly owned, so our water is of a consistent quality better than most bottled waters. And very cheap as well. In fact our water quality is right up there with that of the Swiss and the Scandinavians.

    • henk

      Nouja, die flessen bronwater zijn 10 keer zo duur als wat water in een flesje doen vanuit een kraan. In het buitenland zou je dit echter niet moeten doen:p ik heb geen idee trouwens maar volgens mij worden die dingen nooit gebruikt en hangen ze er voor spek en bonen haha

    • Cyndi Wilcox

      Hahaha….just returned to the states after 26 years in the low’s to remember there are possibilities for warmth in washing your hands in “toilet” rooms, where you’d think it was most necessity huh? My other confusion never figured out was why no heat on wc’s with outside walls…indoor completely ok…but not supported by direct outside wall. Don’t even wish to ponder how often I had to peel my backside off the seat. When you bring these things up you are answered with a blank stare as if your from another planet. Even when you buy a home not yet built just not on the I’ll pay extra list. I guess somethings must remain a puzzel for those of us without the Dutch gene.

    • wendy

      You came up with the correct answer yourself….

      Perhaps Dutch people have never known the luxury of washing their hands in warm water. Perhaps when they travel abroad and wash their hands in warm water for the first time, their hearts are suddenly filled with joy and find themselves start humming for no reason! Perhaps, one day they will bring this civilized behaviour back to the lowlands. Perhaps…

      it is that simple

      • Jan Verstegen

        well no.. since I’m used to cold water i’m pretty satisfied with just cold water in a foreign country as well. But maybe that’s because my body stays incredible warm throughout the year and I find it harder to cool down then to warm myself in comparison to other dutchies. But that’s still no answer. I guess it’s the cheapskate way to only use a cold water tap, but there is soap, and that does the job good enough to kill germs if you ask me.

    • Rogier Voet

      if I look at my social circle. Almost no one bothers to install a warm water tap in the toilet because there is one nearby when you step out of the toilet usually in the kitchen.

    • Kevin Meij

      Never did I asked myself why that is, but now i read this, hahaha, now you’ve opend my eyes hahaha, my live wil never be the same hahaha, I think it’s Dutch zunigheid (Cheapness)

      • Stella

        No, pragmatism. No need to if you are healthy and meant to grow up to sound people.

  2. twansparant

    Hmm, never thought about this untill I read this…
    Maybe the dutch find washing their hands in cold water more refreshing then in warm water? I personally DON’T like the fact that when I’m at a British airport for example, only warm water comes out of the toilet sinks… What is that about? You can’t even take a sip of some refreshing COLD water??? Pure waste of energy all that unneccessary warm water 🙂

  3. Gelukkeling

    I wonder if by ‘bathroom’ you mean toilet? I have lived in many different houses, and my bathroom sinks always (ALWAYS) had both hot and cold water. However, the tiny sinks in toilets usually don’t. You got me thinking on why this is, and probably it has to do with the fact that washing your hands takes about 10 seconds, whereas getting hot water out of the tap might take up to a minute. Especially if the CV installation is on the attic, and you’re using the bathroom downstairs, it can take quite some time before the hot water reaches your tap. All this time you’re just running cold water through the sink, waiting for 10 seconds of warm water. I can imagine this could be the reason 🙂

    And ofcourse, we’re die-hards! Nothing is too cold for us, we should get taps that only supply icecubes!

      • jord

        and btw a common job for someone from the netherlands goes from 9 to 5 thats not the least of europ it 5×9 is 45 ours a week if they dont work saterdays

      • Peter

        Or in the US “restroom”, “boys-room” or “the ladies”. Maybe the Dutch WC?

    • Don

      Not even close. Have you noticed that those sinks are about waist high, not higher like a normal sink? These little sinks are also used as urinals. Just a twist of the tap and they are flushed with a minimum of water. And you can wash your hands afterwards too, if you’re so inclined.

      • Lynn

        NOW I understand why Dutch people prefer NOT to wash their hands in those sinks/urinals.

      • Fred

        Bakhoogte is zakhoogte!

        The height from the floor to the sink is the same height of the scrotum to the floor.

      • Kevin

        I can’t even call it funny what you say. Most time the sink isn’t that low, I’m 2 metres long (yes the Dutch are long people) and I can’t come even near the sink with my *youknowwhat*. So please tell me where those little sinks are?

      • Mavadelo

        Bullkaka Maybe in some student houses some drunk students might do so but that is not something that is considered “normal” in the Netherlands

      • Guido

        Or notice how high the urinals are? As being 5 feet 9 inches, I need to aim high when I go to hit the urinal.

      • Daniq

        This is just simply not true. Sinks in the netherlands are NOT low and NOT used to pee in. Like never.

      • mar

        stop this nonsense ……………… you put this on as a joke didn’t you 😉

      • Jan Verstegen

        sarcasm mode off haha. But they are stupidly small, not even enough to fit your fist in.. how are 2 hands gonna wash eachother.. weird shit.

      • Tony

        How many wait for warm water to appear out of a washroom tap. I would say, most if not all, wash their hands with the cold water. What is the big deal .. gewoon onnodig

    • Bill

      This was a point of contention between me (and American) and my Dutch wife. I remarked on the tiny size of the sink in the bathroom (and the entire room in particular) and she said “That’s not the bathroom! That’s the toilet!”. I don’t know why Americans call bathrooms without baths “bathrooms”. I’m supposing it’s a drawback from our Puritan culture when we couldn’t be so crass as to actually mention that there’s a toilet in a certain room, so we use the euphemism “bathroom” or “restroom”.

      Contrast that to Dutch directness. “Restroom” vs “Toilet”
      and “I have to use the restroom”
      vs. “Ik wil plassen”

      • HeleenH

        Well, the more common way of announcing you are going potty is ‘ik ga even naar de wc’.

      • Stella

        of: ik ga een plasje plegen

        Ik heb me een keer in stilte een rotje gelachen, toen iemand na veel ongemakkelijk geschuifel voor de draad kwam met zijn vraag: “Waar kan ik mijn handen wassen?”

      • jennyrecorder

        I hate toilets in bathrooms! Recently at a function, a woman asked me if I knew where the “bathroom” was, I said I didn’t think there were any as we weren’t in a residential place… she was very embarrassed! It took me a while to understand she wanted the toilet, to which I was happy to give her directions! They are toilets here in Australia, but occasionally there is an adoption of the US term.

      • Bertine

        I love to use the old fashioned phrase “ik ga mijn neus poederen” (I’m going to powder my nose). Some people don’t know what I’m on about, and some get really weird ideas, judging by the looks on their faces…

    • Z

      If you are washing your hands after using the toilet for only 10 seconds, I’m afraid you are not doing it right

      • jessicarichter79

        I was thinking the same thing. Washing your hand should take at least 30 seconds. You are supposed to be rubbing them together and creating lather, squishing your fingers together, rubbing the palms and back of your hands. 10 seconds is NOT a hand washing, it is a hand rinsing, which is gross.

    • Ria

      Exactly, I was thinking the same thing. It takes way too long to get the warm water to your hands about anywhere in the world. That is the reason for the cold water. I worked in a hospital and it took ages in this good USA to get warm water to wash your hands with. Nobody had time to wait that long. We all used the cold water as long as you use the soap, scrub those hands hard and give it a good dry. So my experience shows it happens in other countries too.

      • vince stalin

        I recently replaced the pipe from the water heater to the hot water tap with a 1/4 inch line. about 25 feet long. The water that used to take about a minute to get to the tap now gets there in 6 seconds and more than enough volume.

  4. Michiel D

    I’d say that commonly, washing your hands is seen as wasteful and decadent. Don’t forget that Calvinistic doctrine forbids most luxuries, which is where a lot of the Dutch thriftiness/ cheapness is rooted in.

      • joanna

        Are you looking for an answer that fits your first ideas? Or are you looking for information? 🙂

      • degt

        I think it started with frugality, just like cycling. But nowadays for a lot of people it is part of the sustainability mindset. It is not necessary to use the extra amount of energy and water to get hot water to the toilet tap. So it adds to passively being sustainable. If someone really needs hot water, that person can go to the kitchen for hot water. This works better than the other way around: supply of hot water at the toilet, whilst counting on people not to use the hot tap.

      • riez

        I’d say for 2 reasons, 1. the toilet is usually small. 2.over here it takes some time for the warm tap to become warm (up to +/-40 secs). I’m not going to wait for 40 secs to wash my hands after taking a piss.

      • Patricia

        the dutch watch their money …. no need to spend money on a hot water tap nor on the hot warer installation for the little sink in the toilet. cold water washes your hands just as well ….

    • Saskia

      uhm I hope you mean that washing your hands with warm water is decadent! I wouldn’t want everybody to think that the dutch don’t wash their hands after using the facilities…

      • Sarah

        I’m afraid most Dutch people do not wash their hands after using public toilets. When I first got here it was one of the things that stood out to me, but I guess I’m used to it now. I’m glad I’m not a hygiene freak or I’d be wearing latex gloves constantly. 😉

      • Michiel D

        Yeah, brain fart on my part, of course I meant washing with warm water.

      • Kevin

        Sarah, what you’re saying isn’t true. Only place where I can tell people don’t wash there hands are at the bars. But that isn’t typical Dutch that happens in every country. If we work with foods etc. you can get fired if you don’t wash your hands after you visited the toilet. The public toilets I always see every man washing there hands, but ok you’re a female so I can’t speak about the toitets you visit as I am a male 🙂

      • Dennis

        After being in NL for more than 10 years now, I can say, based on many, many observed events, that Dutch men above 40-45 years of age are VERY unlikely to wash their hands after a visit to the toilet. They just turn from the urinal or shoot out of the toilet stall and go directly for the door. So, why bother placing a large sink with a warm water tap if you’re not going to use it anyway? I have to say that younger Dutch men seem to take hygiene a little more seriously and generally do wash their hands after using the toilet. So maybe these cold water sinks are just a tradition thing from the past, when they were not used at all 🙂

      • Stella

        Hm, bad thought of man not washing their hands. But times ago I wondered about a collegue who allways arranged his clothes when coming from the toilet. For the usual sequence is rearrange your clothes and wash your hands. The other way round would be more hygienic, that’s true.

    • Henri

      To be honest, that’s bull.

      Washing your hands is not wasteful and decadent. Living in the black belt myself, I have never ever heard anybody suggest such a thing.

      The sink in the downstairs toilet is just too far away from the boiler. The pipes are usually filled with cold water, as you don’t keep the hot water running all day for those 15 seconds you wash your hands every so often. By the time the hot water would have finally reached the water tap, you would be done washing your hands.

      • cloggy

        Luckily the newer houses in the Netherlands have their toilets inside the bathrooms, so there is always hot water.

        A suggestion : don’t pee on your hands ! (just kidding)

        What about this one : You want to wash your hands, so u open the tap. The bacteria on your hands is now tranferred to the tap. You wash your hands and then close the (dirty) tap again ! so the bacteria (and not only “your” bacteria) are transferred back to your hands! So does that make your hands any cleaner or is it the opposite ?

        This is why I don’t like to shake hands. No matter what you do, hands are ALWAYS dirty.

    • Jordi

      Michiel I would say that this is a spot on answer! I’ve been brought up never knowing who ‘Calvijn’ was, but living by such doctrines nevertheless. When I’m abroad, I wash my hands with cold water, I don’t even consider otherwise. As for the point of resistance to cold: I’m personally inclined to think quite a lot of Dutch indeed resist cold more/better. Most of my friends can be spotted, as I, in their houses in midwinter (freezing outside), windows open and going about their home business wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

      • cloggy

        I always sleep with a window open summer or winter. no yammies

    • Jan

      Not completely valid though, the Dutch are also historically the cleanliest people in Europe. There’s reports from early-modern travellers from Italy that couldn’t help but remark the incessant scrubbing and cleaning of the Dutch(which had to do with the necessity of hygiene in butter and cheese production and the fact that farmers girls would often become cleaning girls in the cities).

      • Jan M.

        I don’t agree with you Jan, Basically Europeans are dirty people, and the Dutch aren’t very different. I know, I was born dutch and lived throughout Europe for many years. I only found out how dirty old world people are, since I came to Brazil, qhere everybody takes between 3-5 baths a day, instead of once a week in some European countries.

      • lizeschlebusch

        I don’t really agree… I’m from South Africa and people always use to make fun of the dirty Dutchies (even though we are related) who don’t like to take a bath regularly. People who visited the Netherlands came back with stories of how surprised their Dutch friends were when they wanted to bath EVERY DAY. As an au pair now, I also think it’s true. If I send the kids to the douche, they usually say “but we did it yesterday…”

    • daniel

      Not washing your hands after using the toilet is plan nasty 😮

  5. Thijzzz

    I think it’s a practical issue : you just want to wash your hands for hygienic purposes and be on your way. It would take too long to between opening the hot tap and actually getting hot water because the boiler has to start, then the water has to reach the tap. etc. In my house this will take half a minute at least. So I think we just don’t want to wait.
    (Not sure about industrial systems where hot water is available immediatley, just working on a household basis here.)

  6. Suzanne Lokker

    We only have sinks with cold water?…
    Hmm not in my house. But now that I think about it.. in my school they do only have cold water!
    Which is in my eyes kind of logical actually.. if they had to pay for about 700 kids washing their hands with warm water everyday they’d shut down in no time.
    But I don’t really recal any other places where they only had cold water… some places even have ONLY warm water so you can’t fill up a plastic bottle. Yes I’m looking at you Schiphol >:(
    But maybe I’m wrong, maybe I got used to the cold and am having delusions about the water being warm xD
    My brother and mom really love extremely cold water though! The kind that starts to hurt if you wash your hands for longer than 10 seconds (another trick to save money?!) They like to wash their faces with it in the morning… brrrr

    • mivvy

      Schiphol has only hot water, that is right. But this hasn’t always been the case. I think this was introduced at the same time that the ‘liquid rule’ was implemented. It is now impossible to fill your own water bottle for a longer journey. You will have to buy water from the shops at ridiculous prices

      • Henri

        Or you fill your water bottle and let it cool down… 😉

        Alternatively, bring a tea bag and make a bottle of tea with it.

    • Jules

      Schiphol has drinking water taps where i fill my bottle!

      • S

        Yeah guys, pay attention. There are drinking water fountains all over Schiphol and have been for years.

  7. Victoria Raw

    I was only complaining about this yesterday! My Dutch boyfriend said it’s to do with a building regulation where you can only have one water line running into the premises. As someone who suffers from arthritis and someone who hates icy cold water, I find this really outdated and stupid, not to mention uncomfortable. Whether you’re in the bathroom at a restaurant, bus station, airport, cinema or elsewhere, why not offer either warm water or a mixer tap so you can choose your own temperature? It seems really backward to me. In our apartment we have a toilet and a bathroom and in the toilet we have a sink large enough to wash one finger at a time with one tap running icy water. In the bathroom we have 2 sinks each, both with a mixer tap offering anything from icy water to scalding water, depending which you require (usually something in between the two). We’re renting this apartment so it’s not something we can change.

  8. Emma

    It never occurred to me that you need warm water to wash your hands. For a shower OK, but just your hands can stand a little bit of cold! You non-Dutch people must be a bunch of sissies! 😉 What I find strange is wash basins with 2 separate taps: one cold, and one scorching hot. Who’s going to put their hands under that?

    • Gaga

      I think you’re supposed to fill in the basin with the mix of hot and cold water and then wash your hands. but i find them super annoying to.

      • cloggy

        Yet another way to spill more water

    • Barry Wijnandts

      That is absolutely true, that has me baffeled too in some foreign bathrooms. I gues the idea is that you have to fill the sink with a mix and wash in the bowl, or so. Rubbing your hands over the ceramics.
      The topic remembered me on a story of a Dutch immigrant in Canada who for the first time in her life had a indoor bathroom (shower and bathtub). That was not common in the fifties in The Netherlands.
      It can’t be our particular toughness for cold. I was amazed by the freezing temperatures of beer in Canada. Even at -30, Canadians, when they drink a beer, they must experience that brain freeze. That is worse than cold hands.
      The secret is when a Dutch put his hands in water, their hands don’t get wet. The water gets Dutched!

      • lynn

        ROTFLMAO !!!
        The water gets DUTCHED!!! You’re priceless!

      • Stella

        The filled sink is to wash your body each morning. It is not at all unusual or strange. Most countries had this before design pushed up functionality. It was common before all (new) houses were obliged to have a douche/bath.

    • Danni

      I live in England and 2 separate taps seems to be the norm here. When we sold our previous house the buyers were absolutely flabbergasted by the modern mixer taps in the kitchen and bathroom, but (obviously) dissapointed there was only cold water in the toilet!

    • Bilbobaggins

      Actually Emma,we are not sissies, need HOT water to wash any germs away! We have hot and cold taps which is not odd as you put it.We just put the plug in and mix the two temperatures together,or alternate between each tap! I am from the UK.,

      • Lettertjes

        You’d need skinburning hot water to wash germs away. Or soap. But defnitely not the comfortable 30 to 40 degree water that most peope use when they wash their hands with warm water. That’s the ideal temperature for germs to breed in.

      • cloggy

        That’s funny, so bacteria multiply faster in a cold condition ?
        A mixed tap is way better than 2 separate taps and more hygienic.

      • Stella

        To hush the germs away you must soap your hands during a quarter of an hour with antiseptic soap and then rince soap and dead germs and skin flakes away.
        The common washing uses the soap only to wash things off your hands, like potting soil after gardening, flour after kneading, urine after urinating over your hands and an itsi bitsy of what men get on their hand during urinating. Not the germs but the moisture. It is unhealty to make your hands antisceptic.

    • natas

      That is to fill the sink up and use that water (at your desired temp) so you can wash yourself. That way your not standing under the shower and waisting more water… then need to.. again this goes back to the old days before Showers

    • Ronald Shamier

      There you hit the nail on the head.
      The reason there is only cold water in the sink is because its cheaper to install and no one complains
      about it!

  9. Vero

    Wow, the world is weird. Here the two comments tell of only warm water, and you tell of only cold?! In Norway (never noticed anything else in Denmark or Sweden?) we have both! Wow, magic?!

    And yes, it is a big deal. Agree on having cold water for filling bottles, say at work where there may be no time to go and buy more to drink. But I have icy hands a lot, and I usually set the tap (both temperatures in the same!) either between warm og cold or straight on the warm side (if I know the sink!) to wash in, so I can get a quick warm-up without burning myself.

    Thanks for the warning I guess 😉 if I ever go to this weird country 😉 Amazing blog by the way!

      • Ine

        Yes, but you in the UK have two faucets, each on one side of the basin, close to the edge, which makes it impossible to wash your hands, unless you have a way to keep the water in the basin and mix it….

      • Dutchie living in New Zealand.

        In New Zealand, we have having these taps that mix the hot and cold into a single mixed stream. The amount of hot and cold can be adjusted separately so you can get whatever temperature you personally find comfortable. Mind you, most great things in New Zealand were invented by Dutch immigrants so it would surprise me if they don’t have this technology back in the home land.

      • Lettertjes

        Yes, Dutchie living in New Zealand, we have those in the Netherlands too. In the kitchen and in the upstairs bathroom. Just not in the downstairs bathroom.

      • C. Matt Hewes

        Vero is talking about mixing taps (2 in one), which are NOT the standard here in the UK..

  10. nickf84Nick

    Ha, I totally agree, there should be hot water to0, I mean come on! I am (kinda) used to it now but still dislike it. When I had visitors from America over, a lot of them would actually not wash their hands in the bathroom, but come out to the kitchen and wash them there! ha

      • dizvis

        I also wash my hands in the kitchen, but with cold water… the sink in the toilet is just to small! But as a kid I used to drink that icy water, refreshing 😀

    • Princess Pompoentje

      hahahahaha…. I am Swiss and I do the very same at my mother-in-law’s house. And that for the same reasons… sink is too small in the bathroom (or better call it the tiny closet with a toilet in it) and there is no warm water…In combination with a house that has no central heating I can only say: BRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

  11. amansterdam

    We only have cold water in the office toilets and it was extremely painful to wash your hands during the “big freeze” – the water was ARCTIC cold. I often wash my hands in the cold water and then go to the kitchen and run them under warm water to thaw them before I head back to my desk.

    Also, there’s a good chance that a Dutchie isn’t actually even washing their hands after the toilet, especially the men. And they admit it!

    • Henri

      Being a Dutch man myself, I can’t say that I know many people who don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet. Having worked in quite a few large office buildings, I hardly ever saw anybody leave the bathroom without at least splashing a bit of water on there.

      True, sometimes people in work environments are in a hurry and don’t have time to wash their hands for the 30 seconds with soap and then rinsing for 30 seconds the way you should, but still…

      Actually, come to think of it, the only two people that come to mind that I knew didn’t wash their hands after a stop at the toilet were British…

    • iemand

      to add on that, only washing with water after peeing was actually suggested to me by my parents when I was a kid, I used to always wash with soap but in winter I always had dry hands I had to treat with ‘uierzalf’, so my parents said me to try cut down on using soap on my hands, so to just use water after peeing when it isn’t necessary to use soap

  12. Jen

    We renovated our house that we purchased here in NL, and I insisted on piping in warm water to our WC sink. Our contractor thought we were INSANE. We had a heck of a time finding a faucet small enough to fit the standard Dutch miniscule powder room sink which could provide both hot and cold water, too. We couldn’t get a bigger sink because the space is too tiny. Seriously, it was a major hassle!

    I asked our contractor about the cold water thing and his reply was that he never even BOTHERED washing his hands after using the toilet, but would go do it in the kitchen afterwards. Eww, germs, doorknobs… *shudder* I HOPE this is not the norm!

    I do have to agree, though, that I think part of it is that so many houses have their boilers up in the attic. If the water has to get all that way just for a quick hand wash, it is a huge waste, and most of us aren’t that patient. We lucked out with the boiler in our garage, which is next to the WC (which means it takes forever to get warm water upstairs in the bathroom!).

    Our contractor thought my wish for a laundry room sink was even more crazy. So crazy, in fact, that he ignored my request and neglected to put the plumbing in at all! He didn’t forget – we had talked about it at length. (But there’s another post for you: why Dutch builders “like” to not listen to requests from the little wife unless their husbands are there to back them up!).

    • Victoria Raw

      That’s unbelievable about the laundry room sink. If you’re doing laundry, do you really want to do your hand-washing in the bathroom and then have to carry it downstairs? If you’re paying a contractor he should do what he’s told! It’s your house, not his.

      • Eefje

        wait, what is a laundry room, and if it’s a room just for laundry, why would you go through a lot of hassle to put a sink there?
        I wash my hands after I put the laundry in (detergent on hands and stuff) but it isn’t that hard to just walk into the next room to do that, right?

      • Victoria Raw

        @Eefje, it’s a room with a washing machine, dryer, laundry racks, maybe ironing board and iron if it’s big enough. And a sink for doing hand-washing is useful too if the room is large enough. Maybe more common in the UK/US than in NL where there isn’t usually the space for such a room.

      • Eefje

        @ princess pompoentje (can’t reply directly)
        Probably… and now that you mention, my dad’s house does have a sink there. It’s only used to wash your hands after you’ve been to the toilet though… as it’s bigger than the toilet sink and right outside the toilet door.

        (my student’s house doesn’t have a bijkeuken, the washing machine is in one of the kitchens)

    • Magnus - leaving soon

      Another dutch treat, contractors who don’t listen and do what they always done, never what you want them to do. Even if you pay. They will simply NOT do it.
      This can be applied to any kind of repair/work man. Still think about endless requests at the bike repair shop where he think he is always right to ignore your wishes. But be aware, you can’t show any sort of emotion (not even the smallest change in your skin tone) because then he gives you a “niet normal” and turn away. Or at the car mechanic, or our painter or…….

      So Jen, it has nothing to do with your gender or social status. You had a request he had never had or could not understand and will never try to understand. So he didn’t do it because he didn’t thought it was necessary.

  13. rowan

    It’s not ony in Holland, it’s the same here in Belgium; the sinks in the toilets also only have cold water.
    Why is that, I have no idea… gues the same reason as others here have said: warm water would take to long to heat up just for washing your hands quickly.

  14. Steffen M. Boelaars

    Hot water in the bathroom…. In my Dutch opinion that’s just ridiculously silly. A total waste of energy and environmentally unfriendly. It takes on average about 7 meters of pipe from the hot-water system to the bathroom tap. The bit of hot water used is usually less than actually gets sucked into the pipe, so you’re wasting a LOT of heat for an utterly tiny little bit of ‘comfort’. I can get quite annoyed when foreign visitors actually use the hot tap at the sink in the shower room where I brush my teeth. After they’ve been there, and I want to brush my teeth or wash my hands or some-such I always get greeted by a hot or luke-warm horrible flush. Ugh…
    Real men use real water. Sissies have to warm it first before their fragile skin can handle these ”extremes of nature”.

    • twansparant

      Exactly! Totally agree on this!
      It’s ridiculous, insisting to wash your hands with warm water in the toilet…

    • vania

      I live in Santos-SP- Brazil, coast, here is a hell this weather, always just as a summer, a lot sun, a lot rain, but its is very very hot.Then my boss wash his hands every minute in warm water at the taps over the home, this is a” luxuary” not a normal a sub country.
      The price of Gas is expensive, but he is a wastle man.

    • Nina

      +1 From a Dutch Girls point of view who has just moved to Africa, I can’t believe we are worrying about these small issues, I forgot how much people are used to their luxuries. Real women also use Real water, I’ve seen this lack of warm water “problem” all over the world. (<3 this blog btw)

      • lynn

        Aawwkk, Nina!
        Tnx for reminding us of how lucky we are to HAVE clean water at all. Good luck in Africa.
        I think I could survive there if I get at least clean water, because I wouldn’t necessarily need a tap, I can make do with a bucket. Or two. Maybe that would be my personal luxurious uitspatting.

    • Stella

      An know I remember the American man complaining on the cold toilet seat. We do hate lukewarm toilet seats.

      • Dee

        Oh ja…door andere billen opgewarmde brillen. Ieks!

  15. Anna

    In small toilets we mostly just have cold water. But in bathrooms we usually do have warm water.

  16. rg

    Maybe it’s a remnant of days long gone by where the outhouse moved closer to the house ?
    It’s also practical to use one water line for both the toilet and the sink (unless you want the toilet itself use hot water too 😉 )
    I’m Dutch so used to this being a fact of life although I’ve never noticed things being different abroad in the way you do here. But hey, that’s what this blog is all about 🙂

  17. Paul Oosten

    Yep, don’t like it that I can’t have hot water. Have you ever tried to remove soap from your hands with cold water? You still end up with sticky fingers in a PAPER towl …

    • iemand

      I don’t see the difference between warm and cold in washing off soap… never had any trouble washing it off with cold water

  18. Christian

    Having just a cold water tap is strange, but something you can get over. What I really don’t get is the British system where you have two taps on a sink, one for hot water and one for cold water. And both are at opposite sides of the sink, so you can either scald or freeze your hand off, but you can’t get lukewarm water.

    Regarding thriftiness: My landlord installed a radiator in the bathroom (which includes the toilet, therefore I have hot and cold water at my disposal for washing my hands). However, said radiator is not connected to the heating system and therefore only serves as a dust collector. When I asked him why it’s not working, he said it wasn’t not working, but it was never connected since he felt he had already spent a lot of money on the radiator so he didn’t feel like paying a little more to make it actually useful. So now I have hot water but ice cold air in winter. You get to choose your pain in NL, methinks.

    • dutchgirl

      Yeah, the British system is weird. I really want to know the idea of that system, it’s to me even a bigger mystery then the Dutch system!

      • Catie Atkinson

        I think I can help you there… Many older british houses have the hot water tank in the attic, this is where the hot water comes from, whereas the cold water comes straight from the mainline – the hot water tank would often contain bacteria and microscopic pieces of metal/lead from the tank and would actually be extremely dangerous to drink, hence no mixer taps. I even heard once of someone having a dead rat in their hot water tank! The cold water would be safe drinking water. I remember being told not to use the hot tap when brushing my teeth when I was little! New builds are mostly fine but we’ve just got used to the two taps now… The small bathroom sink would always be used for daily “strip wash” as most working class houses didn’t have showers until the late 90’s so we would have a bath every week and wash at the sink every day. This didn’t make us less clean, just colder in winter!!! Definitely not pleasant standing in front of the sink on a cold winter’s morning naked and dripping wet, using a jug to wash my hair! And I’m in my 20’s by the way so this wasn’t long ago, but I did grow up in a council house which has been slow to catch up with the norm of what “essentials” should be in the bathroom.

  19. Gaga

    Even if you have a mixed tap they only use the icy cold water. But when after swimming I go under the cold shower everyone looks at me like I’m insane. 😉 and speaking of temperature, don’t get me started about the thermostat wars with my roommates!

  20. Miriam

    I jate this too, especcially that the sinks are always so tiny that you can’t even wash you hands without getting half the icy water on your pants! Therefor I refuse to use them. Problem solved. I always just walk to the kitchen and use happy warm water 🙂

  21. Veronica

    It is an odd one, and very difficult to explain (to myself) and to visitors. But it probably comes from when there was no warm water at all in houses and sort of just stayed on (as it usually doesn’t get too cold here anyway). I like to see it from an environmental perspective but don’t think that is the reason (then we should be able to seperate our garbage too…).
    What you also find in older houses, is the complete lack of a sink. Or if there is a sink it’s often filled with baby wipes, kids toys and the news paper. Thus not used for wasing hands. Many would wash their hands in the kitchen (non heard of in Sweden) or not at all.. something I often see at work and at the gym…

      • Vaal

        She probably is. We haven’t had an elfstedentocht in years.

  22. Rick Bleeker Kroef

    Hi, First off let me apologize for my spelling and grammar errors (i’m dutch after all). Let me try and explain this little sink with only cold water, it’s not because it costs les (though for some dutch people it could be the main motivation), but it’s more because of the limited space…

    As I am thinking about this we are probably one of the few countries that have separate toilets itn tiny cupboard like rooms… this mean that in many cases there is simply no room for a full-blown sink with hot and cold water… The other option would be to leave it out all together though i personally find it a refreshing idea to be able to wash my hands after i’ve used the porcelain throne even if it is only one finger at the time.

    As for the hygiene part… no the cold water is not enough that’s why we got these “zeep pompjes” we can buy in every supermarket…

  23. Sandeman

    I think it’s a combination of
    1) cheaper plumming
    2) you save water waiting for it to heat up
    3) you save gas used for heating up a lot of water (of which you only use a little)
    4) you save time when you use only cold water

    and the most important
    5) if the water is too cold for your delicate hands you are “een watje” 🙂

  24. Thea

    What would a Dutch person say to this subject; “Lekker belangrijk….” (important?…. NOT). I live in England as a cloggy and we changed two bathrooms from seperate hot and cold taps to mixing systems. That was odd. On top of that, often you see a bathtub without a (hand)shower…. How on earth do people wash their hair here?

  25. Cutlesnap

    Haha, that must be very Dutch indeed, because to me the notion of putting a warm water tap in a sink that is exclusively used for washing your hands is just plain rediculous. Just… A completely unnecesarry luxury.

    Anyway, I love your site! Everything here is just SO true!

  26. Gertjan

    I grew up in Holland washing my hands with cold water 99% of the time. When I came to the U.S., I was surprised to have warm water available to wash my hands. To this day, I still typically don’t even turn on the warm water faucet when washing my hands in a restroom here in the U.S. and just use cold water.

    I don’t think older houses in Holland had a central hot water supply (a water heater) like houses here in the U.S. have. I remember that in our house where i grew up we had the small “on demand” water heater in the kitchen that provided hot water to the kitchen sink and the shower & sink in the bathroom (badkamer) upstairs. That was it. Everywhere else you had cold water. We didn’t even -have- a sink in the restroom; As traditionally restrooms in Dutch houses are quite small (think small closet size), there just was no room for it.

    Also interesting to note is perhaps the differences between “bathroom” and “badkamer”:

    In Holland, the “badkamer” is typically a room where you bathe / wash etc. It may or may not have a toilet. Most houses have a room that is just the toilet (without bathing / washing facilities) and is called the “WC” (water closet), and is typically small, literally like a small closet.

    Houses in the U.S. have what are referred to as “full” or “half” bathrooms. The “full” bathroom has a toilet, sink and shower in it, where the “half” bathroom has a toilet and a sink. They seem to always have both warm and cold water. There is typically no equivalent to the “WC” room that I’ve seen.

    So the word “bathroom” may cayuse some confusion – when a Dutch person not familiar with the American setup reads “bathroom”, they may think of “badkamer”, when the American person is really talking about a “restroom” / “WC”. Of course the “badkamer” always has hot water, because that’s where you bathe! 🙂 Hence my use of the word “restroom”, which is what is generally used to refer to the room where you go to use the toilet, which is closest to the term “WC” in Dutch that I can think of.

  27. Larry Day

    When I lived in in Nederland & België in the 1960’s the usual home had only 1 on-demand water heater on the wall above the kitchen sink called a GEISER. No full bath room or shower, thus necessitating a trip to the bath house once a week. No central heating. No oven (a daily trip to the bakery).
    I haven’t been back since then, so I assume that things have changed, but the cost of retrofitting the older homes would have been prohibitably expensive.
    On-demand water heaters are much “greener” than tank water heaters for several reasons and are available in the US, though more expensive ( supply and demand).
    I think thetefore that the Dutch cold water-only toilet room is technological/historical not cultural.

    • Joshua

      We didn’t even have a geiser in our 200 year old house. Boil the kettle half a dozen times and fill up a zinc tub in front of the fireplace if you really needed a bath. Washing yourself was done with the only tap, cold of course, in the kitchen. My grandma lived in a newish flat and had a shower, sheer luxury. Then we wen’t overseas and discoverd how primitive Holland was in some respects.

  28. Debby

    I didn’t know that it was unusual to have only cold water in the toiletsink..made me think just one thing: why would you want warm water to wash your hands?
    Okay, hygiene. But other than that? No, don’t understand it.
    I even don’t like places where you do have (only) warm water out of the tap, feels un-natural somehow. Maybe because we aren’t used to warm water? The cold water on your hands is so lovely, a cooldown moment (i’m always wearing t-shirts ;)). No, wouldn’t even want a sink with a hot water tap in my toilet….

  29. Lulu

    This! And what about the fact that the toilet is usually in a totally unheated entryway (you have to walk through another door to enter the heated part of the house, where the living room, kitchen etc. are)? It’s so unfriendly (not to mention un-gezellig) to make your guests do their business in a tiny closet of a room on an icy toilet seat and not even warm water to wash one’s hands afterwards.
    –Not Dutch but have wondered about this many a time when visiting my husband’s friends & relatives

    • Desirée

      But I am very uncomfortable even when I have to use a WC next to the living room, because everyone will be able to hear my ‘sounds’ through the walls… I am really happy that we have separate hallways with separate toilets! And usually (I think) there is heating in the hallway of most houses, but why would you heat a room you only use 3 times a day? That’s a huge waste…

      • cheesehead

        What I don’t understand is that some have the assumption that washing your hands with warm water is better against germs. If you want to wash your hands comfortably the water is around 37 degrees celsius. This is a temperature your germs enjoy the most. I think it is really really disgusting to, on top of this, heat your toilet up to 25 degrees celsius. A temperature germs love to live in. So I’m quite happy with the cold Dutch toilets, helps against nasty odors.

        All the other points have been mentioned. Cheaper on gas, water, plumbing etc.

      • Lynn

        Cheesehead, you mentioned something very well worth noting: the temperature needed to kill germs.
        / “Adult skin can begin to scald at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius), but studies have shown that hands washed using water up to that temperature still don’t remove bacteria [source 1=”American” 2=”Burn” 3=”Association,” 4=”World” 5=”Health” 6=”Organization” language=”:”][/source].” /

        No way I’m gonna wash my hands in that! But I do prefer warm water for handwashing. That’s where the soap comes in. And the disinfectants. Lysol, Dettol, Pinesol anyone?
        / “The second [reason] is that many modern soaps are designed to be most effective in warm water [sources: Hand Washing for Life, Christophersen].” /

        And then, again:
        ” Another reason to avoid using hot water is that it can remove natural oils from the skin. This loss of oils can lead to dryness or even cracking of the skin. In some cases, people may even begin washing their hands less to avoid making these symptoms worse [source 1=”Starobin” language=”:”][/source]. In other words, it’s important to use water that is warm but not uncomfortable.

        It’s worth mentioning that modern soaps are still effective at colder temperatures; so, if you don’t have access to heated water, it’s still better to wash with cold water and soap than with no soap at all [source 1=”Hand” 2=”Washing” 3=”for” 4=”Life” language=”:”][/source].”

        Handwashing 101:

      • Menno

        Lynn removing bacteria from your skin isn’t healthy at all. They form a first line of defense against the nasty bacteria. Normal soap therefor won’t wash away (m)any bacteria but only the dirt and grease. Although disinfectant soap isn’t actually effective, you’d have to wash way longer then people usually do. (for surgeons it is effective but then again they wash for a long time with a stronger desinfectant soap).

        btw love your blog 🙂

    • isabelle

      “it’s so unfriendly (..) to make your guests do their business etc..”
      But it’s quite standard in most Dutch households, so your (mainly Dutch) guests are probably just as used to it as you are.. I understand that it’s probably not the most comfortable way to ”do your business” but it has nothing to do with unfriendliness or lack of hospitality.. It’s just how we roll 😉

  30. TCM

    I love this blog – as an English girlfriend of a Dutch man I have been despairing of innumerable idiosyncrasies but am delighted to find out that many, many other people find the Dutch just as weird as I do. Thank you. 😉

  31. Penny

    I am afraid they are not used to washing their hands after toilette at all (well, to avoid being judgmental I must say not the great number of them I’ve seen in ladies’ room at the university at least!)
    It was disgusting at first. Now I am slowly getting used to the fact that they are not the cleanest of all people.

  32. Eefje

    My bathroom sink is bigger as it has a shower there too and stuff, so it has hot and cold water. I always use only the cold when washing my hands… Why would you need warm water to wash your hands? It only takes a few seconds and it’s just your hands! What a waste to wait for the water to warm up… is that really the norm in other countries?

  33. Hermien

    Hi there, love your work! When you wrote about this cold water business I was thinking about a story a friend of mine told me a few years back. He couldn’t figure out why the older style toilets in Holland had some sort of ‘ledge’ inside it, as he called it. I knew straight away what he was talking about, as would most Dutch people, and laughed my head off at the memory. Maybe worth another post?

    • iemand

      where else would you put the soap??
      not only older styles tough, pretty much all sinks I know off except in kitchens.

  34. Cras

    Ah, you silly Americans and your over the top hygiene issues… Don’t worry, live a little. A little dirt on your fingers doesn’t make you die instantly, it’s good for you, if I may be so blunt. The sink in my bathroom is used as a table to hold my comics and magazine which I read when I’m on the loo. It hasn’t been turned on for months. When I need to wash my hands the kitchen is only some meters away, with a huge sink so I have all the room I need. And yes, I use cold water, of course. I agree with all the people above me who said that it is a waste of pipe and energy to be able to use a little hot water.

    Even then, your own (and beloved by me) George Carlin had this to say about the matter: “I only wash my hands when there’s shit on my fingers!” (I’ve no idea from what show that was or I would’ve posted a youtube-video, which i’m sure there is)

  35. Bass

    Love this blog, as a Dutchman I recognise a lot of our typical behaviour.

    Although concerning this topic I wouldn’t really see the big issue on the cold water thing, rather I cant seem to understand how it is possible other countries find it completely normal to use the bathroom (including where you take a shower/bath etc) to do lets say the ‘smelly thing’. To have a toilet in the room where you shower… ok and for the ‘small visit’……hmm ok, but the long visit??? I am still completely puzzeled. (that you do in a seperate room :))

    Ah cultural differences always nice for discussions!

    • chiara

      I totaly agree with you there. Why would you want to poop in your full bathroom. Next to your shower? It’s disgusting!
      When I grew up only my father was allowed to use the bathroom-toilet for the big thing because he had a condition. I always used the one downstairs with only cold water and i can’t remember complaining about it once. But mostly i wash my hands at the kitchen sink after using the toilet.
      But hey even dutch people think i am weird because i always wash cold in the morning (face, arms, etc). How do you wake up otherwise? It’s refreshing!

  36. Fredpie

    How in the world would you refill your water bottle in an 8cm deep sink? Or are you using your toilet-germed hand as a funnel or scoop? Talk about wasting water for little gain!! I’ll carry hand sanitizer or something for when my hands get actually dirty, fine. But why bother putting in a sink and plumbing when a shelf or a few cm of knee-room would serve you better? 🙂

    I grew up in Kansas. We have mixing taps anywhere we have a sink. I prefer the ones I can control myself, because when the temp is pre-set it’s usually cooler than I prefer, but occasionally scalding. At home, I turn on the hot tap, which warms up just enough to wash my hands in the time it runs. I don’t “wait” but it’s nice to finish warmer than I started. I have high tolerance for heat, but never for cold. My in-laws loved the “brisk and refreshing winter” here while I was buried in blankets with hot tea, but they begged me to “come in before you get heat stroke!” during a lovely, balmy (90F/32C) summer.

  37. jensrasmussen

    Bass, for the long visits, other countries have better toilets. The stuff is left below water, not on a plate where you get to look at it (and smell it) while it flushes.

    • Arnold

      I never got how people can have problems with the hygiene of washing their hands but find it no issue at all that the stuff tey produce just splatters back on their behind while sitting on the toilet. I have to admin that I find plunging toilets extremely goce…

    • manon

      The problem with those toilets (where the stuff disappears) is that you can’t check if your stool is one or changing. This is very important to do every time so you can react quickly to any disease you might have.

  38. Meredith

    I love your blog. I only had to read the title this time and busted up laughing. Unfortunately, as mentioned, many people(not just the Dutch!) don’t wash their hands. To respond to the plethora of comments saying it only takes a few seconds: if you are expecting to actually succeed at washing your hands, the CDC says you have to do it for at least 15 seconds. Not 2. Not 10. And if you want to reduce bacteria by a factor of ten, they say do it for a full 30 seconds. Maybe more people would wash their hands properly if the water was warmer?

  39. IMS

    In our downstairs toilet there is only cold water available to wash your hands. Especially in the winter I prefer to use the toilet upstairs, in the bathroom, where you can not only choose at which temperature you want to wash your hands, but there is central heating as well.

    • Stella

      Only when it is very, very cold the central heating warms my bathroom upstairs.

  40. israelkwalker

    It doesn’t take “a few seconds” to WASH your hands. It should take at least a minute. You need to fully wet your hands, soap them, scrub for 30 seconds, and fully rinse. Cold water will not rinse soap off, certainly not in a few seconds. At 2 or 3 degrees, the soap just turns into lard on your hands and slides around. Germany frequently has only cold water in public bathrooms. At

  41. Lisa

    Not to be rude or anything, i really enjoy reading your blog, but I dont think a lot
    Of people care about this subject, dutch people arent hygiene freaks and most often they wash
    Their hands in the kitchen . Last year I was in the us and my college only had mixed taps and a lot ans I mean A LOT of girls do not was their hands at all. And you cant drink out of taps here because the water is not that clean. I rather wash my hands with cold water than not washing my hands at all 🙂
    Looking forward to your next post

    • Peter

      This is so funny!!

      You dont care about warm water in the wc because you wash your hands in the kitchen. Well hello!! If you had warm water in the wc you would’nt have to go to the kitchen now would you.

      And you dont think à LOT Of people care?? Count the number of replies here please. Shows to me you are wrong..

      Great blog!


  42. Len

    Gotta love your blog!

    Anyway, i don’t really think the Dutch are botherd with warm water in the sink, maybe just a handfull. It’s just embedded in our system to wash our hands with cold water :-). But thinking about it, it can really be inconvenient for foreigners =D

    Tough luck!

  43. Victoria Raw

    And why do the Dutch have tiny cupboard-sized toilets next to the bathroom. Why not just HAVE the toilet in the bathroom like pretty much every other country does, then you wouldn’t need the 2nd sink at all, plus your bathroom would be bigger.

    • Emma

      This has the reason that the bathroom is considered more private. So when guests come, they will see only the toilet and not scoop through your medicine/condoms/make-up in the bathroom. This separation is actually considered something very important in the Netherlands. When your house doesn’t have a separate toilet, this is really a disadvantage when e.g. selling it.

      • Desirée

        I watch a lot of housing programs on the BBC, and it’s becoming more and more of a thing to have a separate loo in England as well. It’s considered a real bonus there (probably because there, most bathrooms are upstairs. But still, when they do install a separate loo, it’s the same size as it is in Holland, and apparently they sell the same tiny sinks there too).

    • iemand

      I like the tinyness of the toilet. that small enclosing space, preferably blocking sounds from outsode so that for the moment I’m dropping the deuce, all there is in the worls is that tiny room. a moment of rest too. wich is what I dislike about stalls, they don’t block your awareness of what’s outside.
      and secondly, if it would be in the same room, you can’t go to the toilet if someone is showering, can’t wash your face in the morning and brush teeth when someone is doing a morningpoop if you live with others, etc. far more convenient to have it in seperate rooms.
      also, in our tiny toilets if you forget to lock the door and you remember(or hear someone coming your way) while already busy, the lockingknob is still within arms reach.

  44. Herman

    You knowhow what’s worse! Those tiny fountains in the toilet make the prices for the rent, buying and even housetaxes higher! Crazy Dutch!

  45. Bart

    Haha, nice post. Never thought about this subject, and never noticed that it is common in other countries to have warm water on the toilet. As far as I can figure I can come up with two possible explanations:
    – Isn’t it very unhygienic to use warm water after using the toilet? I think this will greatly boost the reproducive capacity of the bacteria on your hands. Okay, washing your hands swiftly as most people do isn’t that hygienic at all, especially in public places but if you choose to do so it might be a good idea to limit the damash by not providing those bacteria with the one thing they love: warmth. Then again, I’m not a virologist.
    – In any case using cold water to wash your hands can prevent serious mistakes from being made. At least you always know, even if you’ve had a couple of drinks, you’re holding your hands under the applicate stream of liquid. If it’s warm, you’ve definitely made a mistake.

    • Desirée

      Yes, that’s what I thought (the bacteria thing). As they only die in very high temperatures, the water should be scalding hot when washing your hands…
      I don’t think washing with cold water is unhygienic at all, and when you use liquid soap, you can rinse it just as easily with cold as with warm water. Liquid soap is also more hygienic than bars of soap that everyone holds in their dirty hands…

    • Raymond

      I agree with Bart on the hygienic part. I don’t know for sure about boosting the reproductive capacity, as that also needs some time. More importantly, if you want to actually kill bacteria, it would need a temperature which will actually cause more damage to you health than the bacteria itself (like 65 degrees Celcius). If you really want to bother about hygiene, you should consider using anti-septic soap, although those also kill healthy bacteria. And of course, not being to hygienic gives your body the ability to create some defense mechanisms for situations when you need it (so you won’t get ill that easily). Additionally, cold water is known to be good for the vascular system as it improves the blood flow.
      Too my opinion it is also more refreshing to use cold water to wash your hands (also try your face once, it’s good).

  46. Denis

    I’m so happy I found this blog. The comments are just as much fun as the posts themselves. Hilarious! To add to the fun: I live in a rented appartment. The government has set rules for calculating appropriate rent, like sq. meters but also number of sinks. The owner of the appartment states that my supertiny-cold-water-toilet-sink counts the same as the full fledged one. Inbelievable.

  47. Michelle

    As a taller, larger Dutch woman, I tend to be very warm. All the time. Washing my hands in cold water cools my hands down, reducing the amount of sweatiness on my hands and allowing me to feel more refreshed and clean. I’m a cold-hand-washer all the way.

    • Sharon

      Do your hands even both fit in the typical tiny WC sink? Mine don’t.

  48. Daan

    im used to cold water, washing my hands in warm water would feel like brushing my theeth with warm water, its just wrong.

  49. Amy

    Cold water will NOT get your hands or anything else clean. It can’t dissolve soap properly.

    I wonder what the incidence of Hepatis A and other food-handling caused diseases is in the Netherlands. Not to mention the stomach flu. I live in a house where warm/hot tap water takes too long to reach the bathroom tap, so I already wash my hands in the kitchen. Calvinists also believe that cleanliness is a virtue. I suppose thrift trumps cleanliness? Your curtainless windows are getting better treatment than your hands!

    • Eefje

      what is this bullshit about cold water not dissolving soap properly? Why the heck not? The thing with soap is that is has molecules that are hydrophylic on one side and hydrophobid on the other – this is purely the molecular structure of H2O and has NOTHING to do with the temperature of the water.

      • Eefje

        and then I realised that that may sound kind of aggresive, which is wasn’t meant to be, I’m just confused as multiple people have said this.

  50. Karin

    To all those dutchies who think washing hands in warm water is for wimps (watjes): try to imagine someone with artritis washing their hands in our ice-water.
    When I have to wash my hands in ice-water I don’t even bother soaping, I just rinse it quickly cause otherwise it will start to hurt like hell. How hygienic is that?

  51. Gerard Woutersen

    I didn’t read all the comments so it’s possible someone else wrote the same. I think that the reason we use only cold water in our toilets is the killing off the bacterium on your hands after using toiletpaper. Warm water keeps them alive or worse. A second raeson could be the space in our toilets. It’s not big enough for 2 watertabs. You can’t use only a hot watertab. Than you will burn your hands. Yes it will kill the bacteriums

  52. Patrick Touw

    Simple : why warm water and why a large bathtub for just clean your hand.
    by the way it is better to clean hands in cold water for example if you had to eat Haring or other fish warm water is activating the smelly fish Oder on your hand cold water is eliminating that. in a restaurant they give you also a cup of cold water with some lemon to clean your hands. Ha-ha you ever that of how we Dutch looking to the North America’s you al ex Europeans who lost their culture 
    Other thing great blog you have and to be honest some time even we don’t understand our country.



  53. Bella

    Hey doll,
    I never knew it was common in other countries to wash your hands in warm water, i think i agree with Daan, who said it’s like brushing your teeth with warm water 😉 For me that would feel just odd and wrong, si i’ll stick to using cold water LOL. However i do understand the point about how small the sinks are. I’m not a large girl (1.65m) But i also found them small. I always prefer the big sink upstairs. Let’s stand with large hands to wash.

    I think it doesn’t have anything to do with the money though, however we Dutch people keep an eye on or money. I think we’re just used to it.

    Btw i love your site, it is really lovely.

    • Kees

      And the energy it costs to heat the water! For no other reason than to make the bacteria happy…

  54. Bungi

    In holland the radiator for warm water usually takes a while to get up and running, even in modern houses they cope with this problem (and the dutch are quite impatient, so they do not want to wait for it). What you could do is that you buy a cooker which provides instant warm water but if you do not have one, then its back to basics! =)

  55. Sarah

    To all the people talking about warm water causing BACTERIUMS TO BREED or whatever else, oh god oh god oh god please go back to science class you are embarassing the hell out of your nation. Seriously.

    Warm water is believed NOT to kill germs (nor make them breed…omfg really) but to remove more of the oils from your skin which can harbor bacteria. However, counter to this there are studies that show that it MAKES NO DIFFERENCE whether you use warm or cold water. Friction (how vigorously you wash) is the main contributing factor.

    Finally, with antibacterial soaps, a higher temperature can possibly make them work a little better, but the difference is very marginal.

  56. Polarbear

    Bacteria will not survive the cold, it’s a extra sink in the smallest space of the house..because we like the hall to be larger

  57. Monique

    I’ll tell you what my mother-in-law says: it is nonsense to wash your hands with warm water. Because that means that a lot of energy is necessary to warm the water. Imagine that the kettle has to start up only for that 1 minute that you need to wash your hands. It’s like you warm up the strike iron in order to iron just one shirt. Absolutely non sense. With other words: yes they are cheap. Maybe not literally cheap but they have grown up learning how they can save money. It is a peculiar culture, what do you think about how they learn their children to flush the toilet?:):):)
    greetings from a Romanian girl!

  58. Simon

    @sdpl: the picture you used for this article shows a nice ‘mengkraan’, typically used for mixing cold and hot water 🙂

  59. Tom

    Naah, don’t use these taps and sinks. Besides, the towels don’t fit your hands to top it off.

    The setback of using these toilet furnitures could be opening the tap, find that the water is more pressured then you thought, spraying the water from your hands, directly on your zipper.
    Makes you feel more then embarresed. My advice would be, before you even go? Bring a pen with you, write a friends name on the ever present birthday calender on the date of his actual birthday, make sure they also don’t know the person. Finishing the call of mother nature, wash you hands in the kitchen. You can walk away after the visit to these people, beeing fully aware that the lord of the house doing a big job, flipping the calender to the next month, thinking, who the f*ck is John Doe????

  60. Yel

    A cold encounter of the third kind is “the hybrid”, or FOP-warmwaterwasbak, which I’ve come across several times.
    Normal sink, normal hot and cold taps, but even the Hot tap only dispenses Cold water.
    Double cold. GRRRRR!

  61. Frank

    i mean come on F*** bacteria, were all getting wimpsy with washing our hands for around a minute, man that is crazy, i just wash my hands for the smell, if we all just wash our hands after everything we do, we would be sick in no tiem because our imunesystem wont work properly anymore, i rarely thoroughly wash my hands, and guess what, i never get really sick. all these people talking about bacteria while they should worry about their own imunesystem. its proven that dettol for example is actually pretty bad for you on a day to day basis, it keeps the bacteria away but once they get you, you will have a harder time fighting back.

    • Desirée

      I so agree with you. These days, we are being made into wimps who aren’t used to anything. Kids can’t play in the zandbak anymore, we have to wash our hands 20 times a day, preferably with Dettol which kills all bacteria, even the ones we need…
      It’s horrible. I mean, we, our parents and grandparents all grew up without a hitch without all these weird new ‘rules’, so why all the hysteria?

      • iemand

        and at the same time they stop sterilizing your skin with alcohol when vaccinating, since it kills the bacteria naturally on your skin and so gives an advantage to the ‘bad’ bacteria, actually increasing the risk of infection

  62. Harm (Harry) Alting

    Untill the early sixties most common rental houses (council flats?) didn’t have a sink in the toilet.
    There were at that time still houses without a inside toilet.
    De “grote boodschap” was dropped in a wooden box, in a wooden shed in the garden!!
    That same houses didn’t have a boiler or a “Geiser” .
    If you want hot water you have to boiled it on a stove or furness.
    And my mother told me often: Cold water is good for your health (specially in wintertime)
    Love your website.

  63. lynn

    Since the pandemic on the H1n2-or-something virus a couple of years ago, I’ve been taught that to wash your hands properly to kill those pesky germs it will take water, sudsy soap and about so many minutes, roughly the time it takes to sing that internationally known bestseller hit song “Happy Birthday” twice. That should give the water form the boiler inthe attic plenty enough time to reach your hands for delisiously warm rinsing.

    • lynn

      I live in the Caribbean 😛
      Except for the ocassional cold spell I could pop in my bathroom @ 2.a.m. or any other time during THE NIGHT and have a nice warm shower. No, I don’t have any boilers or other warm-water-producing hardware.
      At 2 .p.m. it’s a totally diferent story though, then I’d give a lief thing voor some refreshing cold water because what comes out of the pipes is ussually scorching hot. And no, I don’t have any boilers or other scorching-water-producing hardware.

  64. Jacob

    This is due to (filthy) rich Dutch farmers in them olden days.
    There are many tricks they used to ensure that their workers worked as much and as hard as possible, cold water makes for a quick and cheap handwash.
    Same as “organized” competitions amongst famers who could drink the hottest tea, this of course was no macho competition as the workers thought, but a way to reduce their breaktime so they could go back to work quicker.
    I know farmers who still use the saucer to drink from instead of the cup so the tea or coffee cools down faster.
    The staff that worked for the farmer mostly lived on the premises and also paid rent, to their employer, the little money they earned was mostly spent in bars, owned by (guess what) their employer.
    If there was a way for the farmer to keep the money in his pocket, he would exploit it to the fullest.
    Dutch mentality is about spending as little as you can, therefore, when you look around in this beautiful country, do you know anyone who has a creditcard?

    From these filthy rich farmers (who were actually businessmen) we derived a saying: “hij boert goed”
    tranlates to: “he farms well”.

    • iemand

      I don’t see the relation with a creditcard and spending as little as possible… everyone has debit cards, we just aren’t as used to continually living in debt as americans, we like to buy things and then actually OWN these things, and not to constantly dependant on others since we’re in debt to them. in my mind, debt=bad, only a last resort when you can’t make ends meet. and by that definition, credit card=bad, since you always make a debt, then paying that debt from your account. while with a debitcard, you justy spend the money you have directly, wich to me makes much more sense. when you pay with cash you’re also not asking someone else to go to the store with you, pay for you and then pay off your debt to him at the end of the month.
      mortgages are pretty common by now tough, I still don’t like the idea of mortgages but with what a house costs you don’t really have another choice, except renting. but with renting you are even more dependant on someone else, tough not in debt.

  65. Mayka Hurkmans

    Well as a Dutch person i have this to say.
    At my home its normal to wash hands (with soap) at the kitchen sink.
    Or in the bathroom by that sink.
    The can be both cold and warm and hot.
    This is because of practical use.
    Plus after a time people can buy different taps for it.

    The toilet sink a ridiculous smal and cold because it is build that way.
    Complain to the people who design houses.
    And be glad that you can at least drink this water from the sink and taste good.
    (try not france tap water its disguisting and paris smels filty)

    This was my opinion and rant

    (the artical makes me laugh good positive)

  66. Richard

    I’m afraid this IS rooted in our legendary thriftiness… imagine if someone just left the tap running!
    Waste not, want not.
    We also hate it when there’s ONLY warm water in the toilets, because that means we cannot quench our thirst in the cheapest possible way.

  67. Invader_Stu

    My Dutch wife is always so confused why I go into the kitchen to wash my hands when there is a sink next to the toilet. I always answer the same way, “Because there is “bloody warm water there.”

  68. Bonny

    In my house it takes a long time for the water to get warm… maybe that’s the reason.

  69. daniel11

    The UK format is worse if you ask me, the hot tap is just like a tease there .. best they didnt even have it

  70. Emma

    Haha, I never even thought about the possible strangeness of this… 😀 (as a Dutch girl…)

  71. Hanny Heijma

    This is not generally true. Indeed it is small and has only one tab, but MY (Dutch) toilet sink IS providing our guests (and ourselves) with hot as well as cold water 😀

  72. Melanie

    It feels wrong to wash my hands with warm water. In my gym I actually have this option and always turn the tap to cold… habit I guess.

  73. JP

    Nope, it´s the being cheap option, nothing more nothing less! 🙂 And come on Dutch people stop the excuses…… environment friendly….. hmmmm what was that company called again….. SHELL????

  74. Roberta

    LOVE this place!!!
    OK, Maybe it’s more environmentally friendly to have just cold water in the WC, but having lived here for nearly 40 years? I cannnot believe that the idea of having only cold water coming out of the tap in the WC is rooted in helping the environment! When I moved here the word “environment” did not have the same connotation as it does now, and I never heard one single word about the “environment” when I moaned and groaned about washing my hands in that weeny sink with only the ice cold water option. I was told to “man up” and get used to it.

  75. Emma

    Well, I personally think it is because one tap saves space for the washing basin which is indeed small. You have probably noticed how the toilets are very small in dutch homes so they do not allow for massive luxurious washing basins 😉 Also, for example when you wash your hands in the kitchen with warm tap water, I find the feeling horrific on an icy winter day because as soon as you take them out of the water your hands freeze! So by washing them in cold tap water there is less temperature difference when washing them and then taking them out into the cold air.

  76. Jeroen

    Cold water is definitive more hygienic. We eve had some deaths because of less cold water in public places.

  77. swhite44

    Dutch people generally do not wash their hands.
    They are under the belief that you get more germs from touching the taps and doorknob than you do from touching your nether regions when going to the toilet.
    This belief probably came from a TV show and is widespread.

    • Lynn

      But is IS true, really!
      Bc: everyone touches those doorknobs with their UNWASHED hands, of course it’s the mother of all orgies for the germs on those doorknobs!

    • iemand

      actually I’m infected by this belief too, if I’m entering the toilet I use my hands to open the door, but after finishing and washing my hands I use my elbows on the way out. routine so I don’t really think about it anymore, can’t even remember when started it but must’ve been pretty young. I think my mom does it too, always see her closing the door with her foot

  78. lekker

    I ask my Dutch boyfriend this question all the time! New places all have this tiny cold water sink too. Why?! I thought the best way to wash your hands was with warm/hot water and soap but he told me that’s a myth and cold water does the same job… hmm. There really is no explanation for this!

  79. Nikki

    Here is my honest opinion: Dutch people actually do not wash their hands at home. Haven’t you noticed that there often is neither any soap nor a towel to dry your hands with? When you comment on the fact that there was no soap everyone actually looks puzzled and surprised. It is not that they are out of it: it was never there! That is why the sink does not have to be large: it is not used anyway. I am Dutch, but live in the States. Every time I visit family and friends I cannot wash my hands because there is nothing to wash my hands with besides the just cold water. I therefore have wondered if the sink is just there for decor.

    • Heidi

      This is so so so true! It creeps me out even more at Public Pools…. There is no soap in the toilets there either! I’m telling you dutchies wash their hands in the kitchen sink!

  80. Sophie

    As a Dutchie living in the UK, I’ve actually always wondered why sinks by toilets have hot and cold water taps? What on earth is the point? Who washes their hands with warm water? What a waste! So this post of yours made me laugh as you’re wondering the exact opposite. I think it all has something to do with the majority of Brits being used to hot-water-tanks with hot water on supply. Most Dutch are used to combination boilers where it would have to kick in to get some hot water.
    Also, the absence of a hot water tap leaves very useful space for a soap dispenser….;-)

  81. eva

    Use of cold water when washing hands – It lets us grow taller 😉

  82. Naninja

    As a dutch woman myself I have to agree with my fellow dutchies, I want my water to be COLD. At work, there’s a mixtap and I’m always abhorred when I turn on the tap and first gush of water is warm. It’s as unnatural as brushing your teeth with (luke)warm water.

    Btw I love your site, it’s “een feest van herkenning”.

  83. Erin

    Perhaps to distract a person from the hideous toilets with the “observation deck”? lol When we first moved here, I tried to hold it all day so I wouldn’t have to use that monstrosity any more often than medically necessary 🙂

  84. Christine Jones

    I think this is part of the Dutch ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ objection to health and safety. According to the health and safety advice regarding hand washing, you should use warm water. The Dutch are very ‘eigen wiijze’ (don’t know if I’ve spelt that right, I speak/read Dutch but I don’t write it – it means ‘own wisdom’ I’m sure you’ve heard it) when it comes to health and safety. This is much more sensible alot of the time; kids playgrounds are better in Holland especially in the cities – all sand and water etc. I find England over the top for safety after 10 years in Holland.
    One for your Blog; common Dutch childhood injuries – getting their 3 year old’s feet caught in the spokes of the back wheel. I love that the Dutch cycle everywhere – I have a Dutch bike where I live in England for the school run but I do have a proper kiddie seat and dress guard so my kid’s feet don’t go in the wheel! Oh and bike helmets! they’ll never take on in NL!!!

    • iemand

      I only remember one kid in my elementaryclass ever having that, opposed to numerous kids breaking an arm or leg, mostly from sports or falling off playgroundclimbthings, and one kid that was swung around by another kid in a fight, think he broke his arm too but maybe just out of the joint. so breaking an arm or leg is much, much more common

      • iemand

        oh and bike helmets are ridiculous, in my 12 years or so of riding a bicycle(actually I have no idea at what age I learned it), I’ve never ever fallen on my head. I have fallen plenty of times, especially when driving to school on ice or snowy roads that aren’t salted yet, and never ever any injury to my head. I would promoty bellyprotectors more, once as a kid I fell and got the bikesteer in my stomach… not a nice feeling.
        they did organise something at my elementary that all parents could buy their children bikehelmets(probabky at reduced price), mine did, but it didn’t fit. the sizes were dependant on the circumference of your head, with wich I fell in the smallest size. but the helmet was more round while my head apparently is more oval, so from front to back the helmet was too small and from side to side there was space left.
        probably just a weird head tough, when getting my ID-card the computer didn’t accept my picture since my face was too narrow, they send us back to the photograhper to digitally stretch the photo up a bit so the computer would accept it.

        and on top of that, research has recently found out that when wearing a bike helmet, cars pass you more closely since you seem to need less caution. and so you are actually safer not wearing one.

    • Sabrina

      Yes–after my father-in-law’s heart attack last year, do you think he reduced the amount of meat, cheese, milk and butter that he was eating? Not a chance. It’s kind of a “if it worked for my grandparents, it must be a good idea” sort of thing. Don’t think that’s peculiar to Dutch people, but they certainly have it in spades.

  85. Jasper

    After you washed your hands in cold water, the towl feels soft and warm. That’s why we just use cold water in those sinks.

  86. Phia

    Actually, it is more hygienic, bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, so unless you want to wash your hands in boiling water….cold water actually eradicates more bacteria. ( if you use soap that’s beside the point though 😉 , but maybe using cold water instead is cheaper? 🙂

  87. Sarah

    I’m loving reading through this blog! My grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated from the Netherlands and this blog explains so many of the things that I thought were weird, family quirks–they’re Dutch quirks! My mother taught my sisters and I to always wash our hands and brush our teeth in cold water, and I found it extremely weird when I found out that most Americans prefer it warm. It still bugs me when I use bathrooms with motion-sensor faucets that spit out hot water D:

    • Liz

      I also remember my dad telling us to only wash our faces/hands and brush our teeth with cold water, because it was “healthier” (to avoid bleeding gums, was the argument for the teeth). And I stuck to that, even though, on some cold days, I grant myself the luxury of using hot water…

  88. Tess

    People! It’s not just the cold water….it’s also the ridiculously small size of the sink. The water goes everywhere! On the floor, on the toilet itself, on your clothes….and normally there is also this hole in the back of the porcelain, and I cannot tell you how many nails I have broken on that stupid hole!!! I am a small person and in the toilet I feel like a complete giant. I can’t imagine how an average sized man must feel in there.

    • Stella

      Ha! Do you know the toilets in old houses under the stairway with the sitter facing to the door? A big man can’t close that door because of his knees.

      I wonder if you complain on the sluice-gate. For the sink in the toilet it is useless. You don’t fill the sink with water, so there is no risk over overflowing the sink.

      Maybe your toilet sink is as small as at my sister’s. I do spill some water there, but there is no need to make a water ballet of washing your hand. Just look at your movements. Wet your hands, soap your hand a minute and rince your hands carefully with the fingertips downwards. your pulse near to the tap.

  89. jaap

    SDPL….I likely is due to the fact that we could consider the hallway bathroom in a dutch house the guest bathroom, in many cases it only has a small sink with only cold water…due to it being a very small space usually in the entry hall of the house. The “main” badkamer usually has a hot/cold water wasbak.

    • iemand

      I’ve always considered the hall one to be the maintoilet, since it’s the only one in my case. (the bathroom also doesn’t have a bath, not enough room, just a shower and sink)
      and I think most older and not retrofitted houses don’t have a toilet in the bathroom(badkamer)

  90. Hieronymus

    So there you have it: sinks are small because there is no room for them. They are low so you can place your newspaper or phone in them. And they are cold because if the Almighty wanted the Dutch to wash their hands with warm water, then He would not have kicked them out of Indonesia.
    As any surgeon will concur, the most essential part of washing your hands is actually drying them firmly with a towel, often abundantly present in Dutch homes. These are very small so that you can throw them in a dedicated bin, which is not to be used for litter! And when you pick a fresh wrapped towel from a pile that is ominously close to the bowl, be careful not to drop them. If you are too challenged, intimidated or prefer to look for warm water without touching any doorknobs, then you will at least train your elbowing.

  91. Erik

    I have never washed my hands with warm water.


    • Peter

      Poor you!

      You should try it sometime! Its nice and warm!

  92. Bakkie

    Being Dutch myself, I often wondered what was going on with these sinks. I installed a regular size sink in my toilet with a bigger tap so my hands would fit under it normally (man, those little taps are annoying) Still, I have to admit it only has cold water, but that was because I was too lazy to lay down new plumbing for hot water.

  93. iemand

    as a dutchman, my question would be the opposite, why warm water in the toilet? you’re not using it anyway. at least, I can’t even imagine washing my hands in warm water, why would you do that?
    when I was younger and sleeping over at my grandma’s I was surprised she used warm water for washing herself (and me when I was too young to do it myself), and I mean washing as in washing yourself with a wascloth at nights when you’re not taking a shower and in the morning.
    and even showering I don’t always do warm, at the end of a warm summerday an icecold shower can feel so great

    I could also live without warm water in the bathroom sink, the only places I need warm water is the shower and the kitchen. warm water in the bathroomsink can be convenient when cleaning the bathroom or wheb you need warm water in one of the other rooms, but in that case you could also just get that warm water from the shower.

  94. Yoka

    How funny!,

    This made my day, I had a discussion this weekend with my band mates about washing your hands with warm water, I cannot stand it! I need to wash my hands and my face with ice cold water and living in the UK that is often impossible. I had no idea this has to do with the fact that I am Dutch I thought I was just a freak!!

  95. Jodie en Annemiek

    We really enjoyed your article, but we think you’re wrong on this one. We both have cold and hot water in our sinks 🙂 Still, it wouldn’t surprise us if a lot of people here don’t have that.

  96. Erwin

    Personally, I think that washing in cold water will actually make your hands feel warmer. After washing your hands, the air will be relatively warm and when you wash your hands with warm water, it will be the other way around 😉

    So, wash your hands in cold water and afterwards, it will feel better. (and it’s cheaper)

  97. Sabrina

    I don’t have time to read all of the comments. However: studies have shown that the best way to remove germs from your hands (aside from dousing them in isopropyl alcohol and letting it evaporate while rubbing vigorously) is with HOT WATER and soap. And if you’re going into the kitchen to wash your hands, you’re potentially putting the escheria coli bacteria that you just got on your hands/fingers/whatever into the kitchen sink and onto the kitchen dishtowel. Disgusting. Couple that with the fact that my mother-in-law’s habit is to lightly moisten her fingertips after using the toilet and you get the idea. Maybe I’m germ-phobic, but e. coli is not something I want to mess with. Yech.

  98. Heidi

    Thank you! i’m glad I’m not the only one!
    I asked my boyfried (a dutchie) if “wealthier” people have warm water? I have also been studying them and what I have found is dutchies like to wash their hands only in the kitchen sink! Often there is no soap or only a sliver of what was once soap in the bathroom. I once even saw soap in a plastic wrapping in the bathroom.
    And if my observations are true….WHOULDN’T IT BE CHEAPER TO SKIP THE SINK IN THE FIRST PLACE? There is a thought for you dutchies!
    Every night I get my American revenge on my boyfriend: just before I go to bed I use the bathroom and wash my hands with the nice ice cold water and the place my hands on him! He screams Koude Handen! Then I drift happily to sleep!

  99. smaug

    don’t know if it has been said already, but for me personally, I just don’t give a shit. I wash my hands in the kitchen, where there is warm water as well, but I just get cold water. Usually I don’t even feel it being cold, and when I do, I forget about the option to turn it warm and do it as quick as possible. my sister and mother do use the warm water, though, and they made a remark on it when they saw that I used cold water. my response: “meh”. what I thought: “why the fuck should I use warm water, I’m not a wuss.” another reason for me to use cold water: warm water might feel nice, but I;am not gonna waste my time setting it to the right temperature, fuck that, I only want to wash my hands. showers however, that’s a whooole different story. I do it as hot as possible without hurting me, and I keep under it before I literally feel sick (about half an hour) and my parents hate it XD

  100. Zoë

    The bit about agenda’s made me smile!! I am a Dutch girl who has lived in Scotland for a good few years now, and when I took my Scottish partner to Holland for the first time, his mouth fell wide open when he saw my Dutch friends take out their agenda’s and negotiate for nearly 20 minutes about a suitable date for dinner. After a LOT of mentioning of the word ‘busy’ (one of them was unemployed at the time!) they finally decided on a date in a couple of months’ time. None of them had kids, and all lived in the Randstad. Whereas my partner just sends a txt to his Scottish pals at 4pm on a Friday: ‘Beer?’. Date sorted!!

    With respect to the tap issue, I should note that here in Glasgow, where I live, I don’t get to wash my hands with warm water on the toilet either. I either freeze them, or burn them, as the discovery of combination taps does not seem to have reached most of the UK yet! ; )

    • Desirée

      I was at London Heathrow a couple of weeks ago, and what they do there, is they have stickers at every sink, saying: ‘Warning! Very hot water!’. Which is true, it was very hot water, it actually hurt to wash my hands. Wouldn’t it be easier to just turn the temperature down a bit, than to stick warnings everywhere? I’d take our Dutch cold water over that water anytime…

  101. Anahid

    I enjoyed reading your post. I live in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, here tap water is hot [heated naturally] I miss refreshing cold tap water. It is ok if the dutch are saving energy if there’s soap then you have nothing to worry about.

  102. drArf

    I have an idea what the reason might be (and many other reasons in house planning, porject planning and urban development): lack of space!

    It was a Colombian friend who notified me that our toilet and sink were so small (‘in Colombia this would not be a problem as we do not have space problems)..

    So thinking of that, you notice that Dutch houses (and cities) are developed and designed very space efficient. I am not sure, but in our tiny toilet there is not much space for more than a tiny sink and one tap…

    • Stella

      A mixed tap with two knobs takes very much place?

      It is the lack of space because the Dutch house scheme was setted before they knew about washing your hands at each visit. When the centrale verwarming and the toilet sink got common (set by Law), most toilets kept their usual size. The became etwas bigger when the rincing container changed from the pulling rincing container near the ceiling to the pushing rincing container behind your back.

  103. Inge Kersten ╪

    When I visited London last year I was actually annoyed by all the hot water in the sinks, as it was warm outside and I wanted to freshen up 🙂

  104. Daphne

    As a Dutchie who’s living in England at the moment, I always have to think about this cultural fact when washing my hands. I for one do not like having to wash my hands in hot water. A lot of the taps that use motion sensors and do not have the option to adjust the temperature run water that’s simply too hot. It usually feels like I’m burning my hands. I’ve also found that my hands stay warmer longer after having washed them in cold water. Another thing is that during the Summer I just want cold water to freshen up. I don’t know why we only have cold water taps in the Netherlands, but personally I can only see the benefits of it.

  105. Hygiene in New York City | Dutch whisper

    […] here. And with warm water. Now I wonder why some restroom faucets in the Netherlands sometimes have cold water only. Also we take our shoes off more often, many Dutch households keep their shoes on in the […]

  106. Jorn

    I’ll explain you why:

    In the winter try this: whenever you get back in the house from the cold weather outside and your hands are freezing cold: use cold water to wash your hands. This way your hands will be trained to handle the cold better.

    If you use hot water to wash your hands, your hands will never get used to the cold water, and you’ll keep feeling cold. Using warm water to wash your hands will give you the so called “winter hands”, which means: Hands that are not used to cold.

    Source: living in netherlands my whole life. As far as I know this is common knowledge in netherlands.

  107. Jorn

    And by the way: My toilet and shower are combined in the same bathroom. Its pretty small and it doesnt even have a sink… How about that. If I wash my hands I have to use the shower head.

  108. Marie

    The answer to why Dutch only have cold taps is pretty simple. Many toilets in old dutch buildings didn’t have space for taps, but since hygienic regulation in bars dictate that there needs to be a toilet for both sexes and they need to have a tap, so they build in a real tiny one. It gives only cold water, because it’s only supposed to give water. Warm water costs more, not just in money but in energy too. And, if you get really cold hands, you’re probably more likely to go for that extra coffee, hot cocoa.

  109. Mick

    Brilliant. I’ve been harping on about this for years. Plus the tiny towels, one handwash and they’re soaked & unusable for a few hours. Also, with the husband of my wife’s niece being 6 foot 10 inches tall, it has to be asked, why do the largest race of people in Europe have the tiniest “bathrooms”? There is a not much difference between “Harry Potter, In the cupboard under the stairs.” to most Dutch toilets.

  110. Tim

    I washed my hand (after using the toilet) with cold water from when I was a kid! never needed nor missed hot water there. In my opinion only elderly people en softies use hot water. Besides, warm water in toilet sinks doesn’t feel fresh!

    • Larry Day

      If you stop offending people and manage to live long enough someday you too will be an elderly person. I learned to like washing more than my hands in ice water in Nederland in the 1960s where the only hot water in the house was at the kitchen sink. Hot water was something only enjoyed once-a-week with a shower at the bath house in Gouda.
      I still wash my hands and face with cold water because it feels good, is quick and cheap.

      • Tim

        I’m sorry, but my comment wasn’t ment to be insulting. those 2 really are the only 2 I ever heard about this case. hot water just give me the shivers.

  111. Thany

    Why do you need hot water to wash your hands? Dutch cold water is not that cold, it’s usually between 12 and 15 degrees (celsius of course, we use the metric system, just like most of the world). So washing your hands in that is perfectly fine. You also don’t need hot water to be hygienic, noone can bare water that’s hot enough to be disinfective by itself. Then comes the practical application: it’s simply more expensive to have warm water everywhere, and it’s more complicated to build.

    At least our public toilets (which to my disgust are almost always paid!) have dryers.

    Why is the sink so tiny? Well, why would it be any bigger? You’re not gonna brush your teeth or have a shave. One’s hands are not big enough to allow for a big sink. Also, houses here are a lot smaller, because we don’t have as much space as in the US, Canada, or Australia. We have to make-do, and naturally the toilets gets the last remaining piece of floor, sometimes no more than 1 (one) square meter. Which is more than enough to do your business. And be quick about it, too 😉

  112. Mariska

    Absolutely hilarious. I do not know many sinks that provide only cold water, but I guess we’re accustomed to use cold water only when we wash our hands. When we’re abroad, my mum always complains if the tank stops only have luke-warm water to wash your hands with! (‘I’d like to have some fresh, cold water. It’s so annoying to have to wash your hands with this gorish stuff’ :P)
    btw love your blog

  113. Adrian Madlener

    don’t forget the pop-shelve toilet, flushes to the front of the toilet rather then to the back, apparently this way you can check if you sick before flushing, what color was your pop today?

    • Dutchdaughter

      There are many things I miss living in England as a Dutch expat. Here are three of them:
      1. The ‘observation platform’ in the WC-pot. Both my ‘small and big’ deliveries remain invisible, disappearing into an unfathomable hole, which is frustrating. I know many people will now turn away in disgust, but it is unnatural to be so frightened by your own stuff that even only a glimpse of it will put you off. It is natural for any mammal, including human beings, to turn around after done duty, and have a look or even a sniff. Just to check you are still OK:the colour, the consistency, the smell. It is in our constitution to do so. If we have lost this natural instinct because of neurotic fears imposed on us by health and safety paranoids in other words: if we have become afraid of our own ‘shit’ in both physical and psychological form, it doesn’t bode well for our human species. Both medical doctors and psychologists advise you to check on our debris, because at an early stage you can become aware whether you are (becoming) ill. To go back to the physical: This now is impossible with the toilet in which everything immediately disappears discretely beneath the water-mirror (or into the subconsciousness) If you flush away the debris of your life without acknowledging them you miss out on ‘wholeness’ Of course this is a joke, but I’m also serious!
      2. The second unpleasant thing about English toilets is the ‘drop and splash’ problem. I am not disgusted having a quick look or sniff backwards after a toilet visit, but I am disgusted when again I have not been able to escape some of what I have just produced to backfire or back splash on my secret parts. I need to wash the affected parts completely every time this happens, which, sadly, is impossible in public toilets.
      3. The third unpleasant thing is that the toilet is always in the bathroom. I mean the combination of the bathtub/shower basin and the toilet pot. First. you cannot go to the toilet if somebody is taking an hour long shower or bath. Secondly, isn’t it completely insane to combine the facilities to wash and clean yourself with the facilities to relieve you? I really don’t like to come into a bathroom for taking a shower and it reeks of poo. Taking a shower in poo air. No thank you. I’m all for the Dutch cubicle with the little hand basin, with cold water. Enough for hygiene, not enough for squandering of resources.

  114. Yan

    At least your place have sink to wash the hand while in the washroom. The place that we are staying now doesnt have a sink so we have to go to the kitchen to wash my hands after.

  115. Frusty

    Can’t stand the hysteria about germs… It’s scientifically proven that living in a overly clean environment (using lots of disinfectant products, like the hand gel etc) causes you to become ill more easily (since you don’t become resistant to the germs). Washing your hands with warm water instead of cold has no influence at all on how many germs you kill….unless the water is over 60 degrees Celsius.

    In my opinion: After peeing rinsing your hands with water is enough, after taking a big dump you might want to use some soap though!

    Same for showers/baths, you don’t NEED to shower every day. I do love my shower in the morning to wake up but it’s not going to make you any healthier.

    Maybe you Americans should worry less about germs and start living healthier in other ways…. some exercise can’t hurt, or maybe a home cooked meal (with FRESH ingredients and fresh vegetables) once a while ?

    Just get frustrated by all the whinging about this stuff that really doesn’t matter in life 😀

    I rest my case, Cheers!

  116. Lewt

    I’m to lazy to wait for the water to get warm, so even if there is a choice I’ll still pick the cold water, also, in the winter the cold water is still warmer then my cold hands, ghehe.

  117. Fred Schiphorst

    I do not think there’s a special reason for not having hot water in a toilet sink. It simply was never there and most people have never missed it. If there is a hot water tap as well, I still use the one with cold water, because that feels a whole lot better than having your hands burned on hot water. So I think the answer to the question why there are no hot watertaps in toilet sinks should be: because there is no need for it.

  118. ZxBiohazardZx

    The simple reason is history and cheapness, in order to have warm water in your toilet you dont only need the heating/expenses to heat the water, but you also have to add more plumming to your toilet room. since there is already a cold-water supply for your toilet to fill up, most plummers just lenghten that waterpipe into a sink. giving you (yes you guessed it) with cold water.
    most new buildings have a warm water option though, only the older buildings have only cold water because adding the warm-water pipe would include a full-sized renovation of the toilet, and that is expensive

    • Rood

      Indeed the only logical explanation.Toilet water cold, washing water cold. Simple! One pipe for all

  119. Gary

    What an extraordinarily interesting thread. I learned more here about Dutch views on this subject than in 15 years of living in the Netherlands. Hygiene is apparently cultural, although both “sides” see it as a matter of science. Who would have thought that Dutch people see cold water as cleaner than warm water? Or that it feels “wrong” to them to wash their hands in warm water? Or even that it feels “dirty” to them to do their business in the same room as the shower? I have to admit that I see the Dutch as unhygienic, if not disgustingly filthy. Of course, most of them don’t wash their hands at all. Nor do they cover their mouths when they sneeze. They don’t seem to understand that disease comes from germs. But at least now I see their point of view a little more sympathetically.

  120. Catherine

    As a Dutch girl, I never though about this… But now you mention it, when I was in America, I did think it all that warm water only to wash your hands with was a a bit over the top, why waste it?

  121. Damiaan

    ‘Decadent’ is certainly a word going through my Dutch mind whenever I come across a lukewarm-water-only tap abroad. Perhaps it also has to do with the fact that central heating is a fairly recent phenomenon in the Netherlands. My mother (1951) grew up in a social housing estate with a single cold water tap in the house. During my lifetime (1982) I’ve been to numerous houses where warm water was provided by ‘geisers’ (gas tankless water heaters). You’d connect the shower to it, not the toilet tap. Also, district heating (stadsverwarming) has always been marginal.

  122. draske

    I agree with Damiaan. To get the water warm with old geisers you need to wait one or two minutes. At that time you are done cleaning your hands. On top of that, warm water is considered not needed or a waste. On top of that, the old Dutch saying “Echte Hollandse jongens wassen met koud water”. Or “Real Dutch boys wash with cold water”. Its is something to do with toughness.

  123. Suzan

    To me it just feels somehow less hygienic if the water is lukewarm.. as if some fungus could be thriving in it, or something.
    I’m Dutch and living in the UK now, and here the water in the bathroom taps is even TOO hot! I can’t wash my hands for fear of scalding them.
    And tbh, I don’t see the need for hot water to just wash your hands for 10-15 seconds. The only reason I use hot tap water is to do the dishes…

  124. nigramors

    I’m dutch and I honsetly don’t get why it’s such a big deal =\ Why does it matter if the water is cold or warm, personally I think cold water is better because it saves energy and it’s really not necessary to wash your hands with warm water.

  125. crystalclog

    I wasn’t even aware that our water was that cold. It never bites or leaves an icy glow or anything…

  126. blade711

    Why use warm water?, it’s wastefull and just feels awkward and unsanitary.
    And yes, we are cheap (although we are the one of the most co2 emmitting nations in the world).
    We are tough?, no, do we care about the planet?, no, just cheap!
    I am Dutch.(proud)

  127. Stef

    I’m Dutch myself and I really don’t think it’s necessairy to wash my hands in warm water. Like washing your hands in warm water is cleaner -_-. It’s not cleaner and it costs more mony to wash your hands in warm water. I think that’s the explination ;).

    I really love your blog by the way! It’s so funny to read these stuff about my compatriots and me!

  128. d.vd.hof

    i am dutch and i am truly amazeed by this article.
    i never in my life heard of toilet sinks having hot water.
    why would you need hot water just for washing your hands?

  129. Geraldine

    This blog entry is super funny, and yes, it did make me think about why there’s only cold water in Dutch toilets/bathrooms. But then I thought, like these last posters here, why do you even need hot or warm water? Cold water does the trick, why bother… So maybe it’s not so much cheapness, maybe it’s more “doe maar gewoon dan doe je al raar genoeg” 🙂
    If live in the US now, and I have warm and cold water in the sink in the bathroom (i.e. my toilet, not the bathroom with the actual bath), and I never use the warm water…

  130. Iris

    Funny…but I just washed my hands in warm water in WTC Amsterdam 🙂

  131. inchoative

    Wow. What a delightfully funny blog.
    First of all…to the Dutch people who fear that warm water will “encourage the growth of bacteria” on your hands: congratulations! You’ve won the award for “Most Pseudoscientific National Belief, Europe Edition”. (Korea’s Fan Death myth will always hold the worldwide crown, though.) I have a degree in microbiology and the thought that 10 seconds of warm water versus 10 seconds of cold water will make any difference on bacterial growth is completely laughable. A few seconds after drying, your hands will go back to body temperature. The reason US health authorities _used_ to recommend warm water – from a hygiene versus comfort standpoint, obviously – is that most surfactants are known to be more effective in warm water than in cold water. This is an indisputable scientific fact. So the thought was this would loosen dirt, oils, and bacteria more effectively than cold water. However the more recent research shows that the amount of time is more important than water temperature. Still, I have no doubt that if only cold water were available here in the States, more people would skip washing their hands after using the toilet. I guess we are just wimps that way LOL. When body temperature is 37C, water that’s barely above freezing is going to feel uncomfortable. No way around that, and water that cold is not at all unusual since our winters are generally colder than Western Europe’s. When it goes below -15C, I have to leave one of my taps in the laundry room dripping, or it will freeze. And besides, detergents still rinse more quickly in warm water. After handling ground meat to make meatballs, I can’t imagine how long it would take to get the grease off if I only used cold water. BTW my house is old by US standards (built in 1930s) and one of my bathrooms still has the british style hot tap left, cold tap right sink. I think those were common until the 1960s.

  132. Martijn

    “Is it that Dutch hands are simply more resistant to the cold? If you grow up dousing your hands in ice water multiple times a day, do you then longer feel the cold?”

    You might be on to something here: I was in the US last december (iowa), and had -30c for the first time in my life, I could easely go out with a thin jacket and a sweater, no gloves or anything. Even though all of the local population was wrapped in multiple layers of winter clothing…..

    The concern about bacteria though is unfounded, unless you’re used to rinsing your hands with cooked water that is.

  133. cloggy

    When I wake up I visit the toilet wash my hands with cold water and soap even though there is hot water. Then I brush my teeth and take a shower. I get dressed and have breakfast after wich i wash my hands with hot water and soap. Then it’s off to work Where I use alcohol to desinfect my hands about 4 or 5 times till lunch. after lunch i go to the toilet and wash my hands with cold water and soap and it’s back to work where again i desinfect my hands 4 or 5 times depending on the number of handshakes. At the end of my workday I tidy my workspace visit the toilet and wash my hands again with cold water and soap.
    I go home wash my hands with hot water and soap and start prepairing dinner during which I rinse my hands after each stage. when dinner is ready I wash my hands with hot water and soap before having dinner after which I wash my hands with hot water and soap. If later in the evening I have to visit the toilet again I wash my hands with cold water and soap. Before going to bed I brush my teeth and take a shower. Next day, same ritual. I am Dutch and consider this to be quite normal hygienic behaviour. And i’m pretty confident that I wash my hands often enough. Do you consider me being unhygienic ?

  134. Emilie

    After reading this today and sharing it with my friend we have both decided that we too think this is one of the most annoying things you can come across on a day out in ‘the town’ (you know what I mean, lekker stappen^^). Because some bars/restaurants/cafe’s install faucets with 2 knobs! So you might think ‘hey, nice! A WARM option!’ So you attempt to open it, only to find that IT’S A FRAUD!! BECAUSE THE WATER IS STILL FREEZING!! These things are just the bane of my Dutch existence..

  135. Kirsten

    Haha, I didn’t know this is only in Holland, I swear at our little sink in the toilet every day!
    But, it makes it very special when you wash your hands with warm water 🙂

  136. Inkeri

    I wholeheartedly agree…in fact we will be renovating our downstairs loo and believe you me, I told my hubby I want HOT water!!!!

  137. Gerda Haveman

    98% of homes in the Netherlands now have running hot water, either by boiler or instant hot water. But when I read many of the comments, people nowadays don’t know how spoiled we all are.

    My grandparents had ONE tap, cold water, in the kitchen, for the whole house. One toilet. No bathroom. We bathed in big zinc tubs after boiling water in large zinc kettles on a 2 pit gas burner. My grandmother lugged those huge kettles up the stairs to her big wooden washing machine that she churned by hand with a handle. Clothes were dried either on the roof, or on lines throughout the hallways and stairs. Then came ironing day where my grandmother spent the whole day ironing everything. She didn’t have a vacuum cleaner. She polished the floors on her hands and knees with wax, beat the living daylights out of the rugs on the verandah, polished all the furniture with wax etc.

    When I experienced my first real bath, it was the most luxurious thing I’d ever done. I was 9 at the time.

    You also learn to appreciate any and all food if you’re a war baby or post war baby, like me. For quite a few years, I was taught to be very thrifty, to ‘hamster’ in case of another war. An ice-cream was the most delicious treat for me. Tons of things are taken too much for granted nowadays. I still have my grandmother’s teachings with me when I go shopping and I tend to stock up so that my pantry is always filled and I always have tons of soap, shampoo, vitamins, and a lot of other stuff that was scarce during the war.

  138. Christine

    It’s a history thing. Stems from the time that we had boilers and ‘geisers’ in the kitchen to provide hot water.(and some older houses still do!) Being in the small bathroom downstairs it would take ages before the water would turn hot. I’m really talking minutes here. Upstairs it would even take longer, all the while those gas ‘geisers’ (sorry do not know the EN translation) would be burning to heat the water and as most of us Dutchies know gas is expensive. Very expensive just like electricity. It has nothing to do with hygiene but all with economics. Washing your hands quickly with cold water is much cheaper that having a geiser burn and heat the water for 5 minutes every time you need to wash your hands.

    And yes, soap just as well rinses off with cold water as with warm. And so do bacteria. If what I have read here was all true than the Dutch would be a nation where most of the people would be ill, because of all the hand washing with cold water that does not kill bacteria according to some people. In fact the opposite is true. The Dutch are a healthy nation.

  139. Tim

    Ah, response number several hundred, more than halve a year late. But still:
    This is a funny one. As a Dutch person currently living abroad I hadn’t really noticed it yet, but there are indeed warm water sinks in all the toilets. I never use the warm water feature. Why would you want warm water to wash your hands? And you’re right, it doesn’t feel cold. At least not in a way I really notice… But this story of yours may go a long way in explaining why I always have to adjust the water temperature to get it nice and cold (or if I had really noticed before, I could probably have worked it out as well, but I didn’t).

  140. Jillian Rosen

    what about shelf toilets? those neat little shelf for your poo to land on so that there is no back splash and your contribution is displayed for your viewing pleasure!

  141. silvana

    When i am in another country i wash my hands with cold water also, Even when there is a warm water tap available. It will be quicker, and it’s normaal.

  142. HW

    I read a lott about how nice it is to have both hot and cold water and if that is you’re preference than fine but every dutchs person knows that when your hannds are freezing, nothing helps like sticking them under cold water. itwill get them warm in a few seconds .

  143. chris bloem

    Well in public places there is only cold water in toilets to save money. And in most dutch homes there is not that much space in the toilets for both hot and cold water. And yeah cold water is better for getting your hands warm during the cold days then hot water so never seen the use of having hot water in bathroom sinks anyways

  144. nop

    Soz, but we all have big sinks with warm water? Only twatty stinky cafe’s have little crappy ones:)

  145. elja

    Maybe somthing with salmonella, in the schower and kitchen your warm water tab runs longer and more then in the toilet , so a good feeding ground for salmonella bacteria in your water pipe from your tiolet….oeps sorry restroom tap.

  146. zoridezi11

    I know you’re talking about Dutch but, I have a question on the sinks that have two separate taps for warm/hot and cold water. What’s the catch with this? I saw them in UK if I remember correct.

    Btw, great blog.:)

    • Stella

      It’s the old way. New houses have mixed taps. At first people were glad with the cold water tap in the house. No more twee emmertjes water halen, twee emmertjes pompen.

  147. Vessy

    This is something that U have been pondering over very often in the past 7 years, living in the Netherlands! I still have no answer, although I have asked so often. The usual response is: OH, ja, I have no idea! 😀 Love your blog:D

  148. Anna

    Why would you need warm water to wash your hands? Okay, it can be really nice in the winter, but it’s not really necessary is it?

  149. Anke

    The toilet (not the bathroom) needs to be separated from the kitchen by at least two doors. Usually, the boiler for hot water is in the kitchen, or on the attic. When there would be hot water possible, a new / separate hot water line needs to be constructed.
    Since (cold) water is needed to flush the toilet, the cold line is already there.
    Not having the hot water line is cheaper and more efficient.

  150. Sarah

    In South Africa we say; “Koue hande, warm liefde” (cold hands, warm loving)

  151. Maarten

    its indeed just because we are cheap bastards. Not so much to waste hot water and gas, but more that we need not to install additional piping running from the boiler all the way to the toilet 😉

  152. Pete

    Yes, cold water just does the same trick as warm water would do. I don’t know what your purpose is to “wash your hands”. On the other hand, I take a shower every day (sometimes twice) and would therefore expect my “private parts” to be cleaner than my dirty hands. So I’d have to wash those rather than my hands. What are your thoughts about that?

  153. EMI

    I think it is because it is more hygenic. In lukewarm water bacteria reproduce much faster than in boiling hot or icecold water. Since not many people would opt to burn their hands.. not sure though

    • Stella

      We didn’t know about the veteranenziekte when the first sinks came into the little wc-rooms. The simple fact of flushing water was a wealth then. All sinks at restaurants, schools, railway stations, etc., wether old or new had only cold water. You always washed your hands in cold water. And everywhere the badroom introduction of sinks started with separated warm water at the left and cold water at the right, mixing in the basin.
      Only the douches had mixed water: running up to the shower and pooring down into the bucket, with a switch for up or down between the knobs.

  154. Jeroen Heijmans

    When you have dirty hands you wash them in the kitchen sink or in the sink in the bathroom (not the fontain in the toiletroom as this sink is often called).
    In larger areas, like the airport, people use the restroom’hall’ also for freshing up so there will be warm water.

  155. alsofjedatnietwist

    Hi! There is actually a very good reason why Dutch people wash their hands with cold water. 🙂 Most of us work or study at a desk in a warm room, hours on end. When you lose your concentration after 45 minutes or so, you go get some coffee or go to the bathroom. When you wash your hands with cold water, the thermal shock renews your concentration!

    Have a nice day!

    • Stella

      That’s a collateral benefit, which surely was no reason when the law described that new houses must have a sink in the wc-room.

      Hm, I guess soon some new houses will purposely have no longer a sink in the wc-room. I read about building less luxural social rent houses for the poor. Then I wondered which luxury they had in mind, for the cheep houses aren’t big or luxural, have already a cheep kitchen, the cv is a save kind of warming the house (less houses burned down and no more children fallen on the stove) and lowering the ceiling can’t because of the length of many Dutch men.

  156. Nel james

    I have been living on the other side of the world for 35 years now, and I still like to was my hands in cold water. Because it feels nice and fresh. I can’t stand those horrible hot-spouting taps and enormous basins. Groetjes!

  157. Caoimhe

    its the same in Belgium – in the beginning i thought it was beyond the ark. Now i’m totally for it – if a fella or a one can’t wash their hands in cold water for 10 seconds – well I don’t know what to say……

  158. M T Schmidt

    I recall my Dutch Mother in Law saying that MOST Homes did not facilitate supply Hot Water. Only the very wealthy had access to such a luxury. After WWII – especially in the 1960’s was hot water available. The process was expensive & therefore (as per my mother in law) sinks in bedrooms & toilets were left as they were.

    If you would spend time in an old fashion Dutch home, you will also notice that the heating is placed on very low at nights for sleeping & the windows are slightly opened for fresh air. I had to get accustomed to the temperature – most times I was FREEZING!

    In their Defense, the Dutch live a Healthy life and do not over medicate themselves as do the Americans. Add to that their reputation of being the Tallest People in the World! …. Maybe its because of the Cold Water Sinks! 🙂

  159. betsylindsey

    Pardon my in ability to read every single post above, but my Dutch husband seems to say that not only is about space in the WC, frugality, but he has some belief about bacteria varried on hot water….I wish the Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel could dispute this silly claim for me….

  160. Vera

    In the Netherlands we are realistic enough to acknowledge that 99% of the people don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, so we realize that it would be a waste to build big, luxurious sinks with warm water. The few weirdos who do will just have to make do with the tiny ones.

  161. Herjan

    Ik denk dat het ook iets te maken heb met onze zuinigheid. Voordat het water warm is heb je je handen al 3 keer gewassen. Gemakzucht. En misschien ook omdat er al een koudwaterleiding loopt voor het toilet. Eigenlijk is het dus heel simpel.

  162. vers11

    Haha. I lived in the Netherlands (1947-1994). The old houses (except the big houses of rich people) did not have a bathroom. The only tabs, cold, were one in the toilet, one in the kitchen.
    (I even lived for a short while in a windmill; the only water source was a handpump outside. One had to bring the water to the kitchen. It was common to wash oneself at the kitchen sink. When the pump was pkaced in the kitchen, next to the sink, everybody was feeling happy and modern).
    Later, every bedroom had a small sink and a cold tab. After WW2, bathrooms became common for all houses. And with them came the hotwater. New pipes, new tabs. Finely the bedroom sinks and the one bathroom had hot water! But never the little sink in the toilet.
    In most houses, the toilet was not in the bathroom, but had a seperate (tiny) space, het kleinste kamertje. In Indonesia, the wc or toilet is still called kamar kecil, the smallest room.
    The outdoor toilet was called Doos (box), gat (hole), gemakshuisje (comfort house), or kakhuis (shitroom). In many countries over the world the word kakus or kakhoesie is still in use. The tab, if there at all, is somewhere else.

  163. Wytzia Raspe

    Re you brushing your teeth with hot water too. In The Netherlands we do not need warm water to wash our hands in a toiletroom as we use soap! And as the temperature is hardly ever below zero we do not have to pollute the environment by using hot water to wash our hands for 3 second. Who is the idiot who thinks they can pee in the sink? Why would you even when there is a toilet bowl standing next to you?

  164. lars

    Yea I never got it either and I’m Dutch xD

    It’s anoying to be honest because after washing my hands they are all cold and stuff and I hate it

    • Stella

      To the rheumatics warm water is good and too a special shaped tap.

  165. NOT a germaphobe

    Unless you like 1st degree burns, using cold water is no less hygienic than warm water.

    Here’s how washing your hands works: Water loosens the dirt and bacteria from your skin. Soap helps a lot, because it dissolves the natural oils of your skin, dislodging all the ick even better. Some of it flows away with the water (especially visible things like dirt and grease), but most of the bacteria come off when you wipe your hands dry. So it doesn’t really matter that you touch the tap after you wash. But you should change your bathroom towel often.

    This is also why those blowdryers in public bathrooms are just a big waste. You’re actually better off wiping your hands on your jeans.

    • Gerard

      Reason is simple……it saves energy…
      In the Netherlands we usually dont have warm water resevoirs, so if you need warm water the heater (ketel) needs to startup and then serve the warm water wich takes about 30 seconds to 1 minute to reach the toilet.
      During that minute you let perfectly good drinking water go down the drain en you use a lot of gas.
      In the Netherlands we use natural gas to heat our homes and warm water.
      In the Netherlands every home has a connection to good drinking water, we drink it from the tap.
      Its just a waste of natural gas and drinking water for a simple task as washing your hands.
      In short we save drinking water and natural gas.

  166. Anonymous

    Actually, it’s more hygienic to wash your hands with cold water instead of hot water! Hot water opens the pores, especially when used with soap, which will cause bacteria and other dirty stuff to enter your pores 😉

  167. Jaz

    Peeing sinks! I know them and some dutchie explained to me that it is more “handy” for men to pee on a sink rather than flushing the toilet everytime for peeing. 😀

  168. fief

    Thank you – I wondered about this too. And I’m Dutch. But then I got a nice stack of towels in my bathroom – one for each guest to use. And noticed that the small bucket to dispose of them stayed empty – even after a big party. That’s when I realized why the cold water was never an issue. It’s not used!! People don’t seem to be washing their hands afterwards…

  169. Rosie Rose

    I’m from U.K & have been living in the Netherlands for a couple of years now with my Dutch Partner & I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a hot water tap in the downstairs toilet. My Partner said it was because it’s a waste of water waiting for the hot water to come down from the attic where the boiler is the only thing is he applies this rule to the hot water tap at the kitchen sink thank god we have a dishwasher ! My argument to the lack of hot water in the toilet was that cold water wouldn’t kill any germs but when I researched it I found that it’s the soap that does the germ killing not the temp of the water so everyone make sure you use the bar of soap !

  170. Lotte

    I, as a Dutchie, absolutely HATE washing my hands with hot water. When I visit friends in London, there’s no cold water anywhere (in toilets of course) and it bothers me so, so much! It feels nice, fresh and clean to wash your hands with cold water.

  171. Durk

    I had some people comment on the lack of a thermal mixing faucet in the bathroom when they wanted to wash their hands after a toilet visit. I of course replied with “Are you a complete wuss? Do you have some medical condition that renders your hands vulnerable to cold water? Are you some sort of royalty that you require WARM water for merely washing your hands?!?!?!”. 😀

    In a nutshell, washing your hands with cold water seems to be the norm here, and I actually prefer it very much to washing with warm water. It gives your hands a fresh feel. When I encounter a faucet that just gives out warm water to wash my hands with my response is not a heart filling with joy, it is a heart filling with dread and disdain.

    I don’t get the tiny sinks either, I hate them, can’t wash your hands properly in them without splattering water everywhere. A lot of ppl hate them and a lot simply don’t use them. You can tell by the often untouched little soaps accompanying them (no, we don’t change them everyday so that guests will always have a fresh new piece of soap, how could you think that?!?! 😉 ) or the bottles of hand washing lotion that seem to have gathered enough dust to have been standing around for at least a year or two. A lot of ppl only use the tiny sinks if there is no alternative (like a decent kitchen sink, now that’s washing your hands! With cold water of course…).

  172. Marleen

    You wrote: “Perhaps when they travel abroad and wash their hands in warm water for the first time, their hearts are suddenly filled with joy and find themselves start humming for no reason! ”

    I can tell you that this wasn’t at all what I was thinking when I was in London. I was amazed that the water was warm when I washed my hands at the National Gallery, I nearly burnt them. I associate warm water with legionalla salmonella whatever, scary diseases I don’t want to have, it just feels more hygienic to wash my hands with fresh cold water I guess.

  173. Max

    The reason for that is the same reason why we Dutch wat our fries with mayonnaise; we are different. You Americans really think we don’t go abroad? You really think you are the connaiseurs of the world? Please don’t make me laugh. Please, don’t ever visit our country again. We have enough people over here who are narrow minded.

    • Stella

      Too late, she is living here and makes us laugh heartily.

  174. Naomi

    At many places there only comes hot water out of the tab. Mostly at restaurants so people can’t drink from the tab but have to order a drink.

  175. Tilata

    So I did not read all the comments – but most boiled down to something like “because of our calvinistic origins” or “because we don’t know any better”. But my mum, for instance, really detests washing her hands with warm water – even in dead winter she much prefers cold water. Same goes for restroom temperature – she’d never put a heater in there (she only conceded on the bathroom because my dad and my siblings & I much preferred some warmth there in the morning, so I guess she is a bit of an extreme in that). Oh how often she complained when abroad all the restrooms provided lukewarm water only.

    • Stella

      With lukewarm water (please, no, either cold or rather hot), you have to flush the tap and the pipe thoroughly before you can use it savely.

  176. Boy

    “This flat, peculiar little country spends a lot of its time being grey and cold and wet and the simple act of washing your hands without gasping from the arctic temperature goes a long way on a Dutch winter’s day!”

    when freezing, the best way is to warm up by washing with cold water 😉 trust me, getting straight in the warm after a long cold snowy bike ride (or football game) leads to a sort of pins and needles.

    and as long as you scrub your hands vigorously, from a hygienic point of view it doesn’t matter if you use clean running water, soap, ash or even sand and dirt.

  177. Henk

    Haha – this blog is just great! Thanks a lot, also all contributors.

    This is one of those odd ones again, just like those impossibly steep stairs! You just don’t think about it growing up in NL; it’s normal because it’s the same everywhere you go over there.

    Clearly it doesn’t bother many people, because also in new developments you find toilets with only cold water and no heating. People who can very well afford a mixer tap and an additional small radiator simply don’t even think about asking their plumber to fit them.

    Personally I can’t imagine not having warm water and a (towel) radiator in the loo at home. Oh, and a mixer tap mind you! Not two separate taps – one too cold and one too hot – as is very common here in the UK…

  178. Chris

    We as dutchies are a stubborn people. We don’t like changes. If it works why change it?

    I guess that is the most common reason that stuff is like it is nowadays.

    But in this case there is another reason I never really grasped. So i’m speaking about the normall toilets in your home, not the restaurants or office buildings.

    There is some kind of unwritten law that you basically don’t use that sink. Just use the one in the kitchen or badroom. I never got the reason why this is the way it is, but in general most dutch people I know never us the sink in the toilet. Even mosts guests won’t use it.

    So it can be small and cold that it won’t take to much space and effort.

    • Stella

      Hygienic reasons? Separation of wc- and other activities (exept for reading the Readers Digest)?

    • Nelly

      I don’t agree with a lot of this. Why wont you use the basin in the toilet? I always did in the Netherlands, And the comment somewhere that basins in the toilet only came in the ninety’s is also not true, I married in “72 and hand a downstairs toilet with basin, and yes only cold water but with heating. But if the water is warm or cold doesn’t really matter. It is only used after your visit to the toilet. So it is not that you have really dirt on your hands that need scrubbing.
      Most Dutch people have their bathrooms upstairs, so they can’t be used by visitors, not that you wanted that anyway! Your bathroom is your private space with your things in there so no strangers there. A toilet in the bathroom is normal to and very convenient because if you open the tap, most of the time you feel you have to go to the toilet! So that is very easy, also if you have to go to the toilet at night. We wash our hands, I don’t really recognize myself or my family in above article and comments.

  179. Stella

    Big news for the hot water lovers. Some Swiss university students in the town of Sankt Gallen complaind about the new building with only cold water. Some reactions were laughing: it is common, isn’t it? The news is: from 2016 on the advice is cold water for all the WCs in new buildings and in renovatings.

  180. Hannah

    Why wonder about the cold or hot water, if you have GAPS in the toilet doors so people can see you do your business, what’s up with that?

  181. dutchgirlinUK

    I always wash my hands, but I genuinely prefer to do so with cold water! Believe it or not, when I come across a mixing tap abroad, I set it to cold.

  182. zmooooc

    In dutch houses, especially the old ones, the toilet quite often is rather far away from the water heater. We don’t have the patience to wait until the hot water has finally reached the toilet faucet so even if there were hot water, we’d never see it. I believe it is for this reason that hot water faucets have disappeared from toilet sinks over the years. I think we used to have them.

    Also note that studies have shown that washing your hands with cold water is at least as effective as using hot water. In fact, hot water removes more of the skins’ protective layer, thus creating a breeding ground for bacteria that shouldn’t be there. Using anti-bacterial soap outside of a medical setting also causes problems with the composition of the microcultures on your hands.

    So washing your hands with cold water and using regular soap yields the best results.

    • Stella

      I can’t remember hot water taps in toilets.
      I wonder if these studies mention that washing your hands means soaping in the air, not under the running water.

  183. Henk

    I think it is not nessesery to wash my hands after using the toilet, for men it is more important to wash their hands BEFORE yousing the toilet.

    • Stella

      Men always have to wash hands afterwards. And depending on your activities before, it may be important to wash your hands before too, both men and women.

  184. Alma van der Wolf

    quote from National Geographic:
    ‘Warmer water can irritate the skin and affect the protective layer on the outside, which can cause it to be less resistant to bacteria,” said Carrico.

    Using hot water to wash hands is therefore unnecessary, as well as wasteful, Carrico said, particularly when it comes to the environment. According to her research, people use warm or hot water 64 percent of the time when they wash their hands. Using that number, Carrico’s team calculated a significant impact on the planet. (See related “Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Climate Change Science.”)

    “Although the choice of water temperature during a single hand wash may appear trivial, when multiplied by the nearly 800 billion hand washes performed by Americans each year, this practice results in more than 6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions annually,” she said.’

    I am Dutch living abroad and personally hate the hot water taps for washing after the toilet, especially that insipid lukewarm stuff here in the UK where the toilet sinks only seem to have a hot push down tap, so annoying and unhygienic, having to push it down to keep the lukewarm water running, yuk.

    • Stella

      Hahaha, the luxuraty of warm water but the curse of keeping the water running by hand? Lukewarm water and keeping contact with the watertap? Very unhygienic both.

  185. Josh van Gogh

    From what I understand it’s purely because you need a cold water pipe in the toilet for refilling it anyway so you just extend it to use for a sink. Why go through the extra trouble of adding a second pipe for warm water when you only use it for washing your hands anyway. And besides, are you really so spoiled as to need the water to be warm for those few seconds you take to wash up? Especially for public areas we don’t want the toilets to be too comfortable. You should be in and out asap and not spend half an hour playing on your phone.

  186. Flink Poyd

    It might have been mentioned before (I’m not really going to read 400 posts) but I think the answer is fairly simple. It takes too long for the cold water to get warm.

  187. Ahmed

    Hehe this one is original and made me laugh.

    Here is my reaction:

    Dutchies are used to using cold water to wash their hands. Furthermore, cold water is less likely to contain bacteria, it is cheaper, and it is better for the environment. Plus, Dutch people not whining pussies when it comes to cold temperatures.

    However, it gives our sophisticated guests from overseas cold hands (awww, don’t cry), so let’s change all public toilet taps in the Netherlands! WASTE WASTE WASTE, and we might become just as ‘civilized’ as the USA (lol).

    Although (in my personal view) the point you are trying to make is ignorant and some phrases are even a bit disrespectful towards your host country, my compliments for your original and easy-to-read article. I hope you will overcome the tremendous problems that you are facing here and write a book about our third-world country.

    Have fun in the Netherlands! Greetings from Rotterdam!

  188. Wout Beekhuizen

    The answer is simple: The small basin is only symbolic and is seldom used. One indication is the small dried-out piece of soap on the soap tray. On the same theme, I miss the discussion about Dutch toilet bowls with “platform”, or are they slowly disappearing?

  189. Charliene

    Hi, I’ve read through the top 50 comments so maybe you already have your answer but I think it is to prevent any Legionella infection. This is the reason that in the UK all bathroom sinks have 2 taps, one for cold (safe to drink) and one for hot.

  190. blokemandan

    This was one of the first things I noticed when I moved here and commented the same. Particularly when you are trainhopping for work the length of the nation, waiting for a train in Groningen in the dead of winter, having a quick slash and having to wash your hands, you pay 50c for the pleasure and are then thrust into the subzero temperatures with cold wet hands!

  191. Judith

    I didn’t read all the comments (there are too many, and my internet connection costs money ;-P) and I cannot tell you if it’s the same in other homes or public places, but in my house, it takes pretty long for warm water to reach the toilet tap. By that time I’m already done washing my hands, so it’s no use installing it.
    And don’t bacteria thrive on warm water? So I’m not sure how using warm or lukewarm water would be more hygienic. Either way: use soap!!!

  192. Paula

    Ah, wish I could read all the comments, but there are far too many. What surprises me is the number of Dutch people who don’t know washing your hands in cold water is not nearly as effective as washing in hot. The recommendation in the U.S. is to wash your hands with soap after using the toilet in as hot of water as you can stand (so there goes the “softie” theory—hot water is far harder to take than cold) for at least 20 seconds, preferably 30. It’s for hygiene, not for “freshening”. Go freshen in cold water if you wish, but clean your hands in hot, or at least warm. But considering the prevalence of cold-only sinks in the toilets, and the defensiveness of the attitudes when questioned about this, it’s no wonder the Dutch rank lowest in hand washing frequency (only 50% according to the map provided.) Obviously, the cold water is not preferred, even there.

  193. silly

    A few weeks ago i was somewhere where there was only warm or lukewarm water to wash my hands. My reaction: eww how do i get the tap cold, why is there no way to make the water cold. this warm water is so yucky. I couldnt stand it. It didnt feel clean or refreshing because it was warm. I guess i am too dutch lol


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