Why cheap shower and bath chairs aren't worth it – Showerbuddy

Why cheap shower and bath chairs aren't worth it

Why cheap shower and bath chairs aren't worth it

Showerbuddy |

We appreciate that for most of us, cost is certainly a factor. Having the luxury to buy top of the line in anything just isn’t most of our realities. With assistive technology, however, the buying process is a bit more complex. After all, this equipment isn’t a want - it’s a need. And while some may purchase some equipment directly themselves, in many regions there are grants and funding available to help with or even cover the cost of this equipment. 

So what about shower chairs? For many, this can bring to mind the basic plastic still with rubber feet and tubular legs that sits in the shower unit or bathtub. In the same area are ‘transfer benches’ which are sometimes combined with these basic stools to give the appearance of a transfer chair. For those wanting to buy cheap, there’s no shortage of options either, and many are available through large chain homewares stores. 

Buying cheap shower chairs in our view is not a great idea for anyone with significant mobility challenges. The price may be tempting, but there’s many downsides. And the cost itself might not tell the full story anyway. If you’re only just starting to look into a shower chair and expecting to have to front the cost yourself, it might not actually be the case.  

Cheap often doesn’t last - and can be more expensive in the long run

Buying cheap in this space often means cheap quality. Components such as legs, framing and seat are made from materials like aluminium and plastic. But these materials are certainly not all made equal. Cheap plastic will often lack qualities like long term water resistance, flexibility and strength against impact. Over time, it can crack and chip which creates issues for the user’s safety. The metal framing can be very low grade on these chairs also, made from different grades or alloys that impact its properties in real world use. 

For really cheap shower chairs, often manufacturers will cut costs in the materials (as well as production processes, equipment and quality control). While it’s true that in many countries there is a minimum standard to meet for products like shower chairs, over the long term these compromises will start to build up.

All of these aspects in quality lead to an issue related to cost - they wear faster, become less reliable and even unsafe in some cases needing replacement. If we consider that the bathroom is a fairly dynamic environment as far as temperature and humidity, it’s easy to see how a household might go through many shower chairs in the course of needing them. 

If that’s the case, then the perceived savings of buying a cheap option start to look far less compelling. There’s an old adage of ‘buy once, cry once’ (or similar variations of this theme), which can really ring true with an important piece of equipment like a shower chair.

The cost of a cheap shower chair doesn’t end with the cost of the product itself. If it’s simply less capable then it can demand more from a carer’s time to properly support bathroom usage. There might also be limitations of cheap shower chairs that require other items to be purchased to accommodate an evolving level of mobility impairment - that could mean a toilet riser, grab bars, slip mats and so on.

For these reasons we think that families and users of mobility equipment ought to investigate better options than the low cost mass-produced products at the local shopping mall. 

Poor quality shower chairs often don’t provide good support

Cost is important, but when we’re talking about assistive technology the most important aspect is actually how well it does its job. While it’s not necessarily true that all cheap products are bad at this, nor all pricier options automatically great, it can be a good indicator of how much design and care went into the chair. 

In order to offer a very cheap shower chair, manufacturers will often look for the simplest way to produce it. This often means features are minimal (perhaps just leg height extension pins if anything). It can also mean moulding a seat with as little material as possible leading to an inadequate seated position for some users. 

Many cheap shower chairs don’t offer back support of any kind, quickly making them inadequate for many mobility impaired users.

The frame and legs of the chair itself can also fail to easily support the shifting and seated weight of an adult user. It may pass the test in store, but over time in the bathroom this can create issues like slipping which is a major problem. Rubber feet on these chairs to create stability is often fairly simple and lacks suction or surface area to give users reassurance. 

Reduced functionality can make it harder for both user and carer

In our experience of making great mobility products, we know that the success of assistive technology is not just in the design and features of the product but how easy it is to use. After all, accessibility is the name of our game! Consider all the elements like adjustability, fittings, set up and modification and how easy it is to clean. 

Then there’s the ability to use the product with the help of a carer or family member. The design of our products includes a huge amount of feedback from families, users, carers and OTs in order to offer the most practical solution - on top of all the great features and quality our range offers.

A cheap, low quality shower chair however often lacks these features. Again, there is absolutely a market for simple shower chairs for users who only need  minimal support in the bathtub or shower. For anyone who requires more intensive support to safely and comfortably shower, these cheap options can be really awkward to transfer onto and get assistance from another person with. This could be due to lack of adjustment or simply dimensions that make it hard for carers.  

Failure of the frame or components present hazards

We’ve talked a bit about the frame of low cost chairs earlier, but it’s worth making the point about safety here. Without a sturdy, durable frame that easily supports years of hard wear, a shower chair presents some real risks to personal safety. This could be the bending of legs that ultimately buckle or snap under a users’ weight, or being designed in such a way that they don’t keep the chair stable during transfers and movement around in a seated position.  Over longer periods of time, water can start to rust and corrode low quality metals which again will lead to ultimate failure of the product.

The frame is so central to the success and safety of a shower chair that Showerbuddy guarantees our frames for life. That means if there is any problem with their durability we replace them. But we put so much time and effort into the quality of all our materials and manufacturing tolerances that this is rarely an issue for us.

The user needs to work around the chair

Our philosophy is that a shower chair should be adjustable around the user’s needs, with the user not having to sacrifice their comfort or preferences to enable a shower chair to work. For us that means  including many adjustments around the standard units we offer, along with dozens of accessories that further modify the Showerbuddy to suit. 

What you’ll find with cheap options on the market is that this thinking simply hasn’t been done. The chairs are pretty well ‘what you see is what you get’ and  they rely on the user and/or their carer to support them to use the chair during a shower. When the mobility impaired user has to compensate or change the way they would ideally use a shower chair, this can lead to discomfort or even risk of accident. 

We think that everyone should have access to comfortable, enjoyable showers. And that means offering lots of support so the user or carer doesn’t need to worry.

Discover the benefits of the Showerbuddy range

If you’d like to learn more about what a high quality shower chair looks like, we encourage you to browse our range of chairs. We offer solutions that don’t just assist with showering, but are full-featured commode/toilet risers and rolling transfer chairs (allowing the user to already be seated and secure before they enter the bathroom).

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The information in this article is intended as general information only and is not a replacement for official health guidance by your local medical providers. Please always consult an occupational therapist and/or local healthcare for more specific guidance.