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Which way do you turn the handles?

Bad design I have trouble with this faucet. I repeatedly find myself turning these cross-shaped handles the wrong way. So instead of turning the water off, I end up turning it on full blast. I thought I'd try to analyze this faucet and figure out the problem.

The main problem is that the cold water handle opens clockwise, whereas the hot water handle opens counter-clockwise. Traditionally, faucets with these cross-shaped handles, both hot and cold, always open counter-clockwise. As the saying goes, "lefty loosey, righty tighty". Like a screw, you turn left to loosen and right to tighten. Think of the number of things you use every day, such as jars, bottles and caps of toothpaste tubes, that follow this same principle! Thus, the way the cold-water handle opens is unexpected and causes mistakes.

Why is the faucet designed like this? During a trip to the local hardware store I found that manufacturers have designed one basic faucet that is sold with two different handles: cross-shaped handles and lever handles, like the faucets pictured here. They probably do this to save money. Apparently, some people prefer the way the cross-shaped handles look and some prefer the lever handles.

Good design The lever handles, shown in this picture work well with the way the faucet opens. You expect the right lever handle to open clockwise and the left handle to open counter-clockwise (as shown).

Design Suggestion

People expect familiar controls like cross-shaped faucet handles to work in a certain way (to open counter-clockwise). When they don't work in the expected way, people have problems. Manufacturers must consider people's expectations. Therefore, when the cross-handles are used, the faucet should be equipped with a cold water valve that opens counter-clockwise. When the lever handles are used, the cold water valve should open clockwise.

Reader's comment

I think I own the same brand faucet you do, with the lever handles. Ours came configured much as you would expect the cross-handled faucet to work (lefty loosey, righty tighty.) Convinced they had mispackaged the valves I called the manufacturer. Turns out that you can fix the problem by removing the handle and rotating the valve body 180 degrees. That should be in big bold letters in the installation manual. -BS

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