Antique Folding Bathtub Ready For For Primetime

Let it be known that Lloyd Alter is a huge friend and advocate of the tiny house world. He has written a number of articles about tiny houses, tiny house projects, and innovations made through smaller living. He is also the managing editor of TreeHugger. In an older article he brings to light an innovation that perhaps was well ahead of its time: the folding bathtub!

Advertisement for an antique bathtub

Not to be confused with the fold up bathtub (or closet bathtub) which saw popularity in the mid-1880s and worked like a ‘murphy-style’ piece of furniture, the folding bathtub requires no plumbing, no dedicated room, and is completely portable. Tiny houses are small. That much is for sure and a number of tiny house builders have struggled with how much room to dedicate to such facilities. But with a Robinson Folding Bathtub that need would be addressed and turmoil averted.

The ad above (placed, no doubt, by Robinson Cabinet Mfg. Co. itself) promises a “An absolutely new invention that has taken the entire country by storm. Nothing else like it. Gives every home a modern up to date bathroom in any part of the house. No plumbing, no waterworks needed. Folds in small roll, handy as an umbrella. Self-emptying and positively unleakable.” How feasible then would it be if a tiny house or small house were able to have just a small shower stall and then have available a folding bathtub for those aching muscle moments or general (yet few in western culture) soaking times? It is the ultimate space saver for luxury.

There is no real record as to the selling performance of the unit but few seem to be lingering and those that are are well-preserved in museums across America. Historically The Robinson company had more success with the fold up bathtub and marketed the folding tub to those with little space or those who traveled in some capacity. It’s time for the spotlight though and with the scientific advances in military-grade rubber a model could be made quite effectively and economically.

Economic Bathtub

This is not to say that some clever alternative don’t currently exist including the Sylwia Ulicka Rivera designed bathboard shown above (image: or the portable folding tub popular abroad where very few flats have little more than a spigot.

It seems in today’s market folding tubs and inflatable tubs and the like exist almost exclusively for children. However, if it is good enough for them, should it not also be good enough for us?

Your Turn!

  • Would you give a fold up bathtub a chance?
  • Are you planning only a shower or also a tub in your tiny house?



  1. Once full, how do you empty it? Water weighs almost 7 pounds a gallon and we are talking about a lot of water to remove here. This looks like something that could only be used outdoors. Otherwise I like the concept.

    • Yeah, I’d want a sensible way to empty the tub, but given that I’d love a foldable or otherwise portable tub. Soaking in a tub is my main form of relaxation, and can’t see being without one.

      • most come with a drain easy enough to run a rubber hose from it to the tub or shower drain to empty it

        • I absolutely love this and I need one badly where do I sign up lol

          • Don’t think it ever caught on. I’d certainly get if I could locate. But no luck.

    • If you look at the picture of the collapsed tub, you see an accordion pleated tube centered under the unit. I would expect that to be a drain pipe. (I would certainly hope that in the design of this thing they would not expect you to bail it out to empty it.) The bigger issue with a tub would be for tiny home owners that are not plumbed to a cesspool or sewerage, but are using a holding tank – full tub soon equals full holding tank.

    • HOw can I buy this tub

    • You collapse it back down and water comes out lol

    • in the picture on the left you see the valve to release water. It is on the bottom touching the floor. Can see a diagram how to empty on if you search for it. I just have been looking for how to purchase one and have not been able to find it for sale. The website listed on pinterest is no longer being used.

  2. Shower only in my tiny house but I’m also building a sauna that may or may not have a soaking tub. Water for bathing will be coming strictly from rainwater collection so unless tub water gets a secondary use for garden watering it’s not likely to be used often. Ideally it would be set up as a gravity feed system from tank to tub to garden. In the meantime a person could use an inflatable boat or kid’s pool for bathing. You can get a manual bilge pump to quickly drain a tub if it doesn’t have it’s own outlet and direct the water wherever you want via a hose.

  3. How about a disappearing super modern and slick shower?;jsessionid=FB61752F1ED4B3336DDB40E7DACE219D#/welcome

  4. That is so cool, Zack! I’d definitely like to do something like this for a small house. Thanks for the link.

  5. I love the idea that you showed Zack. I seen an RV that had a setup where you moved a panel out of the floor and there was a sunken shower pan under that. You open the closet which was only a few inches thick, the doors made the walls and the faucet was on the back wall. that was a really slick setup and didn’t take any room at all. I have a full shower in the Van but a hell of a lot of good that does in Canada during the winter. I have actually moved indoors for the next couple of months because of some water and maintenance problems. I have seen that cot bath system and with a hose attached to a drain, screw drain, it would be easy to empty just by lifting the one end by the handles but I could see problems keeping it clean enough to feel comfortable using it. Bacteria bothers me as would soap scum pose a problem with keeping it clean. I am a shower person so probably shouldn’t comment but can’t see spending half an hour cleaning something after I’ve had a bath.

    • I’m looking for ideas for my RV, do you have pics of the one you described above? Or any other references?

      • Can you just get it as a folding tub and have a plug that can be filled in a shower? I am interested if it is stable enough to not tip over.

  6. I like the idea but you would have to dry it out after every use which would take time and space anyway. If you take a bath every night it would never be dry enough to put away. I also expect the water would cool down quickly. For a permanent bath I would go more for a deep Japanese style tub. They take up half the space of a Western bathtub and can handle daily use.

  7. This would be awesome in general. I want to rid my house of the tub for a big walk-in shower. But ti have something like this sort of built into the tile for the 1 time a year I do take a bath or for resale. Genius!

  8. Who manufactures this red folding tub ? I’d really like to go look at that online and see what the drain-out options are. Link please ?

  9. Best idea I ever saw was putting the Murphy bed over the bathtub. So the bathtub supported the bed. When the bed was up, a table top was put over the tub making it a low table.

  10. I prefer a bathtub/shower combination with a size that allows me to stretch out and be submerged up to my neck,a place to set candles and a glass of water and a few good reads and a nice view.

    I have seen many tiny house on wheels bathrooms that use wood and caulking or other materials that are not customary used for applications where water is involved and the mildew and mold ruin it, not to mention how unhygenic. Stainless steel, Acrylic, Corian are better in the long run.

    I don’t like the aesthetics of a folding bathtub as shown above in this thread because it appears cheap and flimsy.

  11. This is an awesome idea. Where can we buy this?

  12. Where can I buy this I want one please

  13. I have a folding tub that looks like the one in the ad at the top of the page. Anyone have any idea on what they are worth?

    • It is like a waterproop tarp like material. I have no idea what the tub is worth though

  14. How much they worth? I’ve seen a few pictures of them, but never the price. Are they very rare?

  15. Is there some one who knows where you can buy the red design? I’ve been looking for days now and I can’t seem to find a shop who sells it :(.

    Eternal gratitude for the person who can help me!

  16. Red tub for me too please

  17. If anyone finds where you can buy the red one please let me know. Thanks

  18. I also want to know how to buy one please..or any other temp/small bathtubs

  19. Interested in purchasing one, also need Deminsions on this tub.

  20. I just bought a travel trailer and when I just took what’s likely to be my last bath in my parent’s house, I started thinking. WAIT there’s no tub in the camper I’m going to be calling home!

    THEN, I remembered in a Japanese apartment tour on Youtube, they had a very small, more vertical tub. Figuring I’ll take the occasional soak at my boyfriend’s house for the next few years until I can justify replacing a perfectly good shower with a “fancy” imported tub I decided to price them out.
    THERE’S ADULT SIZED FOLD UP TUBS! They’re made of heavy plastic and are apparently a thing in Japan, although I’m not sure how popular(since there are hot springs all over Japan; I imagine they more often go to those to soak, but here in Maryland, I’m not so lucky, haha). After more research, it’s looking more like I just need to pull out my tape measure and pick what will fit best. It’s so much cheaper and from the unboxings and whatnot that I’ve seen, they also come with extra material in case you spring a leak(which is comforting to know that I can patch up a $60+ investment(invest in self-care) like an inner tube, thus reducing my waste by reducing my need to replace it as quickly(hopefully I won’t catch it on something sharp, however).

  21. I want to order the red portable tub. Any info?

  22. has the red on website

  23. Where can I purchase these and what do they cost?

  24. Has anyone found a way to buy this

  25. No. Can’t find the URL to purchase – only articles about the tub.

    Any updates On where to purchase?

    Thank you.

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