A walk in tub is designed to eliminate the safety hazard inherent in traditional bathtubs by eliminating the need to step over the side.
Many walk in tubs are ADA compliant, provide comfortable seating and feature water jets that massage muscles and relieve the aches and pains of arthritis.
Walk in tubs are particularly useful for older folks. But their many benefits can also be enjoyed by anyone who needs to soak sore muscles after a workout or wants to pamper themselves a bit at the end of a long day. Below are the best walk in tubs for 2020.
1. Empava 52.5 in. Acrylic Walk-in Tub
We start our list with this outstanding, affordable soaking tub from Empava. It holds nearly 100 gallons of water and has lots of sturdy, smartly-positioned handles. It’s a great choice for those who like to light a few candles and just relax. Designed and made in the USA.
What we like: We like the clean lines and solid feel of this tub. We appreciate the extra large capacity (94 gallons). We appreciate how easy it is to get in and out. And we like that all necessary holes are pre-drilled and ready to go. Which means a reasonably capable DIYer can likely install it.
Flaws: This is a soaker tub which means there are no water jets.
2. American Standard Right Hand Walk in Tub
This walk in from American Standard is a step up feature-wise from the Empava. It’s also a couple of steps up price-wise. But if the idea of a wheelchair-friendly walk in tub with plenty of high-powered water jets that drains fast is what you’ve been looking for, here it is. This is a high-end tub with few discernable weaknesses.
What we like: At 16 gallons per minute we really appreciate how fast this tub fills. We like the big door that exposes the seat so you can slide right from a wheelchair (if necessary) into the tub. And the water jets provide first class hydrotherapy for arthritis sufferers. The 10 year warranty is nice to have as well.
Flaws: It’s not the cheapest walk in tub on the market. And for the price another safety rail would have been nice.
3. Ella Deluxe Acrylic Walk in Bathtub
With its stainless steel and frosted glass door the Ella Deluxe Acrylic Walk in Bathtub has a distinctive, high-end look to it. Fortunately, it lives up feature-wise to the promise that handsome profile makes. Overall, it’s impeccably built, has a scratch-resistant surface and the 10 water jets really pile on the relaxation.
What we like: One of the best hydrotherapy tubs going with a dozen strategically positioned water jets. The textured floor does a great job providing sure footing. And we really like the contoured seat that helps prevent slipping and sliding. The pair of 2 inch drains also ensures it empties fast once you’re ready to go.
Flaws: There are other walk in tubs that fill faster. And that brushed stainless steel door frame looks good but is cold on frosty winter days.
4. Ariel EZWT-3048 Walk in Bathtub
The extremely clean lines and subdued profile of the Ariel EZWT-3048 will dovetail nicely with just about any modernist bathroom. Inside the tub provides a comfy seat and it stacks the water as high as any other tub on our list. A great tub for relieving muscle aches, arthritis pain or just unwinding at the end of the day.
What we like: While the Ariel is a little smaller than some other tubs it’s also higher so you get a more complete soak. We like that the seat is surprisingly comfortable. And that the tub is ADA compliant. It also fills pretty fast and the jets do a good job moving the water around. And there’s a 10 year structural warranty.
Flaws: ADA compliant or not we want to see more safety rails along the top.
5. Aqua Acrylic Walk In Tub
With plenty of independently adjustable water nozzles, a smattering of air nozzles, a large door and 4 solid safety handles the Aqua Acrylic Walk in Tub covers all the bases. It’s remarkably compact so even if your bathroom is small there’s a good chance you can fit it in without having to make any structural changes.
What we like: We like that you can choose to have a heated seat. (And we’d recommend it.) We like the strong, well-positioned grab bars and we appreciate how easy it is to level this thing using the 9 adjustable legs. We were also duly impressed by the fact that it drains in about a minute and a half.
Flaws: The fact that the door opens inward makes it more difficult to use if you’re in a wheelchair.
6. Anzzi Right Drain Walk-In Tub
If you’re into the whirlpool type of experience the Anzzi Walk in Tub is beckoning. This tub will cost you a bit more than some others. No doubt about that. But if you suffer from arthritis or just have a hard time getting to sleep at night you’re going to think it’s money well spent.
What we like: We appreciate that Anzzi pulls out all the stops. This is one of the few commercially available walk in tubs that features water jets for hydrotherapy, air jets for aromatherapy and internal lighting for chromatherapy. It also boasts plenty of safety rails and a head rest of all things so you can really kick back and relax.
Flaws: It’s heavy, so make sure you have someone there to help when it arrives.
7. Spa World Venzi Vz3060 Soaking Walk-In Bathtub
The Spa World Venzi is aimed more at younger users who like a good soak but don’t necessarily like the idea of climbing over the side of the tub. It looks simple because it is. But it’s also practical, affordable, compact and stylish. So if you are tired of taking your life in your hands getting in and out of your standard tub you now have a viable option.
What we like: First off we appreciate the affordable nature of this tub. It’s also well-built and will likely stand the test of time. It fills fast, drains fast and doesn’t take up lots of space.
Flaws: Don’t look for water or air jets. Or a seat for that matter. This is a minimalist walk in tub for those not suffering any particular limitation on their movement. People like runners, weight lifters and such.
8. Mecor Walk-in Whirlpool Bathtub
This is a slightly stripped-down version of the Anzzi we profiled above. Basically what it’s missing are the water jets. But if you’re the kind who just likes to sink into a warm bath and soak you’ll love this tub. It’s handsome, durable, the lack of jets makes it easy to install and it’s relatively affordable. As walk in tubs go.
What we like: Strong, well-positioned safety rails. A 20 inch wide seat with padded headrest. Tall sides that let you enjoy a full body soak. And the slip-resistant floor is very effective at grabbing the bottom of your feet. It also looks good and is relatively easy to install.
Flaws: There are no water or air jets so don’t bother looking. Also, the door opens inward so if you’re confined to a wheelchair this is not the tub for you.
9. Mecor Low Walk-in Bathtub
This is the second of our low-rise walk in tubs. Again, you won’t want to install this in your grandmother’s house. The door here, for instance, is more a convenience than something intended to aid those with mobility issues. And that’s alright. Younger folks have a right to enjoy a good, safe soak too.
What we like: A great tub for the athletically inclined who appreciate a good soak. For what it is it’s a good value. And with the affordable price point and 10 year warranty on workmanship you don’t have much to lose.
Flaws: There’s no seat. The sides are about the height of a standard tub. And there are no water or air jets. Strictly a soaker tub.
10. CleanCut Step Bathtub Accessibility Kit
Replacing a tub with a shower has historically been an expensive, time consuming affair. But if you have a fiberglass tub you’re in luck. The CleanCut will enable you to transform your current tub setup into a walk in shower in just a few hours and for very short money.
What we like: We like that the CleanCut makes it easy to convert your fiberglass tub into a walk in shower. We appreciate that the instructions are clear and easy to follow. We like that it can be installed in a single Saturday afternoon. And we like how low the step is, making it attractive to young and old.
Flaws: If you’re not a talented DIYer you’re going to need help. Plus, you’re on your own when it comes to installing handrails.
Who Needs a Walk in Tub?
The bathroom presents an array of hazards. And not just for older folks (1). The CDC estimates that more than 600 people each and every day are injured in bathroom accidents in the US alone. Of course, for older folks the looming hazards are even more dangerous. First, because they are often dealing with arthritis or other conditions that can interfere with free movement. And second, because if they injure themselves the recovery time is so much longer.
One of the most troublesome bathroom hazards is stepping in and out of the bathtub. But simply replacing the tub with a shower stall doesn’t really alleviate the problem. It just alters the details. Instead of slipping on the floor as you try and step over the side of the tub, you may slip on the wet floor as you move around under the shower. Walk in tubs eliminate – many of which are ADA compliant (2) – this risk altogether. All you do is open the door, step into the tub area, sit down, close the door and turn on the water. No awkward stances. Very little risk of slipping.
How We Ranked
There are a surprising number of different brands and styles of walk in tubs on the market. But, as with everything else, some are worth the investment and some are not. And it is an investment. Walk in tubs are not cheap. Still, if they prevent you from having a life-changing injury then they are worth every penny in the long run.
The first thing we want to see in any walk in tub is as low a step as possible. Because the only way to make the bottom of the tub level with the floor would be to recess the tub a bit. And that would be quite the construction project. So we have to accept some degree of step up. Most experts consider a 2.5 – 5 inch step acceptable. Any more is too much for some older folks. And you’re simply not going to find less.
We also want to see plenty of nice, sturdy handrails to hold onto. The more the better. Not everyone will need them. But really, even if you’re 25 and using this type of tub to alleviate your sore muscles after a long run you don’t want to injure yourself. So handrails/safety handles are alright with us. We also insist the door seals up nice and tight. Believe it or not there are some out there that don’t. Those tubs did not make our list.
The exact size isn’t as important as whether it provides a nice comfortable seat and enough room to stretch out your legs and relax. It’s also a plus if the tub sits neatly into the space where your old tub used to be. The depth of the water is also important. Whereas water in a standard tub usually tops out at about a foot deep, we want to see a walk in tub double that. More than double it if possible.
Finally, we also look for therapeutic jets like you get in a hot tub. They can be of immense benefit for folks with arthritis. So the more jets, and the more different kinds, the better. In most cases. But because we also understand that not everyone is a fan of the water jet, we included a couple of tubs that don’t have them.
Walk in tubs help prevent slips and falls. This is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why people buy this type of bathtub. Hip fractures from slipping and falling are a huge problem for older Americans. And of the hundreds of thousands of hip fractures that occur in the US every year it’s estimated that about a quarter wind up ultimately being fatal (3). That’s simply unacceptable. Walk in tubs can drastically reduce the odds of a slipping incident in the bathroom. That alone makes them worth the investment.
Walk in tubs let you stay in your own home. There are many reasons why older folks ultimately wind up in assisted living facilities. One of them is that they no longer feel they can safely navigate the bathroom without some degree of help. By greatly reducing the risk of slipping and falling walk in tubs make the bathroom much less foreboding a place and allow some older folks to maintain their independence longer. That’s a win-win not just for the elderly person but for their family as well. Since assisted living facilities are not cheap (4).
Walk in tubs help offset limited mobility. Many people, and not just seniors (5), have to deal with limited mobility on a daily basis. As a result, they have a hard time stepping in and out of tubs and they are none too comfortable in a shower stall either. A walk in tub can help balance the scales and provide someone with limited mobility a simple and effective way to transcend their limitation.
Walk in tubs help alleviate skin conditions. Older folks often suffer from skin conditions related to their more sedentary lifestyle (6). Psoriasis and eczema are the most common. The severity of these conditions more often than not is related to whether the person addresses them or simply lets them fester. Soaking in a tub is an effective way to reduce the symptoms of eczema (7). If you suffer from eczema and can find a walk in tub that offers microbubble jets you should spend a few extra bucks and pick it up. This type of therapeutic jet will help remove deep-seated dirt and oil. In addition, it will remove dead skin cells and leave your skin smoother and more supple.
Walk in tubs help alleviate the pain of arthritis. One of the things that makes getting older particularly difficult is that when problems like arthritis arise they tend to to intensify rather than subside as time passes. This can have an enervating effect on a person both physically and emotionally. Taking a warm bath, however, can help alleviate arthritis symptoms (8). While it’s not a cure for arthritis people often emerge from such sessions feeling better than they have in years.
Walk in tubs may help stabilize blood sugar levels. Seems far fetched but it’s likely true. Research indicates that soaking in a hot bath may actually help stabilize blood glucose levels in people with type II diabetes (9). The exact mechanism by which the hot bath works its blood sugar magic is not fully understood. But it’s thought it may have something to do with the ability of hot water to generate certain proteins that play a role in regulating insulin. It may also be that the hot water increases the rate at which we burn calories. And this helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Walk in tubs improve personal hygiene. As people age the very act of bathing slowly transforms into a scary thing. One slip, after all, could mean a broken leg or hip. As such seniors often let personal hygiene slide simply out of a sense of self-preservation. Having a walk in tub can get a person back to taking regular baths and this will pay all sorts of dividends for their overall health and hygiene.
Walk in tubs help you sleep better. There’s nothing like a nice relaxing bath to help you get a good night’s sleep. That’s more than an old wive’s tale. It’s a fact. Mental health professionals often prescribe a hot bath before bedtime (10) to help people relax physically, mentally and emotionally. This in turn helps them drift off to slumberland easier than if they just climbed into be without taking the bath. You may also want to get a walk in tub that has air jets as these can be used in conjunction with essential oils to produce aromatherapy (11).
Walk in tubs with water jets provide hydrotherapy. And hydrotherapy is known to provide a variety of benefits. As we mentioned a bit earlier hydrotherapy can help alleviate the pain and stiffness of arthritis and reduce the symptoms of skin conditions like eczema. And as we’ve just seen it can help you get to sleep faster and sleep better. It does this at least in part by releasing endorphins (12) that work as natural painkillers. The deeper the tub, the more comprehensive the effect. And since walk in tubs are typically twice as deep as standard tubs (or deeper) they’re the perfect platform for hydrotherapy.
Walk in tubs have safety features normal tubs don’t. That includes textured surfaces that help prevent slips and security handles (sometimes called ‘grab bars’) that make sure you get in and out safely. In addition, the seat ensures you never find yourself in a position where standing up is too difficult.
Walk in tubs are not just for seniors. While most senior citizens will find lots of reasons to enjoy a walk in tub they’re not the only ones. Anyone who wishes to sleep better, recover from strenuous workouts faster or get relief from a chronic skin condition will find a walk in tub will help. Some walk in tubs produce an effect that is virtually identical to a hot tub. And who doesn’t enjoy a spell in the hot tub?
Walk in tubs are good for your heart. There is compelling evidence that suggests a hot bath can be better for your heart than running (13). And this is apparently true regardless of your age. It seems the hot water raises the level of nitric oxide in the blood and this helps dilate blood vessels, relieving high blood pressure. At least for a while. Not only that but the effect seems cumulative as well. That is, the more time you spend soaking in a hot bath the better your blood pressure over the long term.
Q: What is a walk in tub?
A: A walk in tub is a bathtub with unusually tall sides and a door in the side. Most also have an integrated seat inside, which is the reason the sides are higher than normal (so that the water can come up high enough to cover most of the person as they sit). The design is intended to enable a person to enter and exit the tub without having to engage in the potentially risky business of stepping over the side. Many also have water jet features that provide beneficial massage-style effects that help alleviate joint stiffness and muscle aches.
Are there different kinds of walk in tubs?
A: There are a number of different walk in tubs on the market today. The simplest designs are intended just for soaking, like a standard tub. Tubs that use air jets are designed for aromatherapy. Those that use water jets are intended for hydrotherapy and some use various lighting features to create a more relaxing mood. Those tubs are said to offer ‘chromatherapy’.
Q: Are walk in tubs good for arthritis?
A: Yes. With their high sides and deeper basins walk in tubs are an outstanding way to enjoy relief from the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Researchers have long been aware of the therapeutic value of applying heat to relieve the symptoms of arthritis (14). And a nice warm bath is among the most effective ways to engage in this type of therapy.
Q: How much do walk in tubs cost?
A: We’re not going to sugarcoat it; walk in tubs can be expensive. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, because they’re bigger than standard tubs it takes more material to make them. Second, they often have built-in features like safety railings that cost extra to produce. And of course, engineering and building the waterproof door costs money as well. Add all these things up and you have a tub that costs more than most standard tubs. Still, if they can prevent you from incurring a serious injury they are more than worth the investment.
Q: Is a walk in tub easy to install?
A: A senior citizen living alone or an elderly couple are going to need help installing their walk in tub. If you are a reasonably capable do-it-yourselfer, however, it’s likely you’ll be able to install the tub yourself. However, if there is more than the most rudimentary plumbing and electrical work involved you should hire professional help regardless. Simply because it doesn’t take much of a plumbing or electrical mistake to generate serious consequences.
Q: Will Medicaid cover the cost of my walk in tub?
A: Unfortunately, Medicaid does not cover the cost of a walk in tub because it’s not considered to be an absolute necessity. And that’s the case even if your doctor recommended a walk in tub to help you deal with arthritis or any other condition. It’s possible you may be able to deduct some of the cost of the tub from your taxes. If you have that all-important doctor’s note supporting the notion that it’s medically necessary. But don’t hold your breath. Your chances are about 50-50.
Q: Are walk in tubs wheelchair accessible?
A: Some are and some aren’t. Certainly if you need a wheelchair accessible walk in tub there are plenty on the market. If you are unsure whether a tub is wheelchair accessible look for things like the height of the seat and the direction the door opens. On a wheelchair accessible tub the seat should be a little lower than normal to facilitate a smooth transfer from chair to seat. And the door should open outward so that it doesn’t interfere with that chair to seat and seat to wheelchair transfer.
Q: Do all walk in tubs have jets?
A: Most do but jets are not a prerequisite for a walk in tub. Still, if you are going to invest in one it doesn’t really make sense not to avail yourself of some water or air jets. Simply because there is bound to come a time when you will want them. There may also come a time when you need them to help you recover from an illness or injury. Just remember, there are two types of jets. Air jets are used to enable aromatherapy and water jets to produce a soothing massage-like effect.
Q: How much space does a walk in tub require?
A: Most walk in tubs are designed to fit into the footprint of a standard tub. And while you can certainly get them bigger than that if you want you may have to make alterations to your bathroom to enable the larger tub to fit. Remember too that walk in tubs typically hold more water than a standard tub does. So the floor needs to be structurally sound and fully capable of supporting any extra weight. In most homes that won’t be a problem. But if your house has been around a while you may want to have a structural engineer take a quick look at it and make sure it’s up to the task.
Q: Are there any disadvantages to walk in tubs?
A: Everything has a potential downside, including walk in tubs. But you buy a tub like this because the upside so far outweighs the downside. That said, the thing more people mention than anything else is usually how long it takes the tub to fill. Why is that an issue? Because, unlike with a standard tub, you have to get into the walk in tub before you turn on the water. That’s because of the door. You’d make quite a mess if you filled the tub and then opened the door to get in. Still, all the tubs we chose for our list fill pretty fast. And once you experience the tub in all its glory you’re likely to forget all about how long it took to fill. If you’re worried about getting cold while you wait for the tub to fill there are some available with heated seats.
Q: Do they make walk in tubs for larger individuals?
A: They do. They’re called ‘bariatric’ tubs and they can accommodate just about anyone. A regular walk in tub usually has a weight limit of around 300 pounds. A bariatric tub by comparison may accommodate twice that much or more.
Q: How much water do walk in tubs use?
A: Whereas a standard tub will hold 30 to 40 gallons (give or take) a walk in tub may hold as much as 75 or 80 gallons. As a gallon of water weighs a little over 9 pounds, that 40 extra gallons is going to add 360+ pounds to the tub when it’s full. This is why we mentioned that if your home is on the old side it might be worth having an engineer look at the bathroom to make sure it can accommodate the extra weight.
Q: What does it mean if a walk in tub is ‘ADA’ compliant?
A: ADA stands for the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act’. The ADA sets design standards for a plethora of products needed by the disabled in order to facilitate their life and maintain their health. As far as a walk in tub is concerned the ADA specifies the location of the controls, the height of the seat, the placement of the safety rails and more (15). Any tub that signifies it is ADA compliant must adhere to the standards established by the ADA. No exceptions.
A walk in tub can make a world of difference in a senior citizen’s quality of life. It can help them deal with maladies like arthritis, enable them to maintain their independence, prevent them from sustaining a life changing injury and just provide them a way to relax and get to sleep.
While older folks are the most common customers for these types of tubs a walk in tub will also provide a range of benefits for adults of any age. They can help you recover faster from a tough workout, help you recover from soft tissue injuries and provide a way to decompress at the end of a long tough day at work.
The walk in tubs on our list are the best on the market and will enable you to enhance your quality of life whether you’re 27 or 77.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended walk in tub, click here.