All You Ever Wanted To Know About Bathroom Scales

Can digital bathroom scales be stored vertically?

It seems like you are trying to save space. Generally it depends – its internals are quite resilient, though there are a few other things to consider. Obviously if the instructions tell you not to do so you shouldn’t. If it’s thick and you try to squeeze it into a tight space (like between your tub, cabinet or sink), the internal parts may get damaged from the pressure placed on them. To prevent this, find out beforehand the dimensions of the scale and whether it would fit in wherever you plan to store it.

Some scales have detachable parts which may have to be removed first, while others have irregular or rounded edges that make them unstable on its side. Still others are made of tempered glass (which can shatter with point pressure) or otherwise have fragile edges so that they are less able to withstand pressure on its sides. Whatever the design is like however, if you really want to make sure that storing it vertically doesn’t damage it you should compare the readings of a fixed object (obviously not your bodyweight) before and after storage – although even you do find a discrepancy using this method it could have been caused by other things like a dying battery.

Scales that have been stored upright may also need to be calibrated again before weighing, though this is often involves nothing more than a slight tap and waiting a couple of seconds. Also despite its name, bathrooms scales should not actually be stored in bathrooms as humidity is bad for them (unless the manufacturer claims otherwise), so a better option would be in a closet, in a drawer or under the bed.

I am a senior and/or have a medical condition (e.g. Parkinson’s, stroke, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, amputee) that makes me move slowly, causes tremors/shakes or prevents me from standing still. Any advice?

Most digital bathroom scales require you to stand still for up to 5 seconds otherwise it gives an error. You can find bariatric and assistive scales that come with handrails, wide bases, seats and wheelchair platforms (the latter costing thousands of dollars). Also, while the vast majority of models simply require you to step on without pressing anything you should make sure of this before purchasing – some require you to tap them to turn it on which may not be easy for people with reduced mobility. If you only need a rough measurement, make sure the scale shows numbers immediately when you step on even while it’s fluctuating so that you can at least get a general idea of your weight range. Another thing you should consider is the height of the scale – thinner ones are going to be easier to climb onto.

What is the benefit of a scale that has both digital and analog displays?

You’ll be able to use it even if the batteries run out. Also some digital-only scales only display the final weight after a few seconds of stabilizing, making them less useful for comparing your weight with different clothes, weighing a box thats being filled with items, etc.

Are there models with audio/sound? What about extra large displays?

Some give you a “beep” noise when it turns on and when it’s finished weighing, and then there are “talking scales” that voice you your weight through speakers (a must for blind people). You should check if you can control the volume and whether the feature can be turned off at will. As for displays, most on the market should be large and clear enough for those with mild cataracts, macular degeneration or other eye-sight problems – just make sure it has backlights for extra contrast. Another, more costly, option for the vision-impaired are scales with waist or eye-level displays.

I’ve heard that bodyfat-measuring scales need your feet to be moist for an accurate reading – is this true?

A safety reminder first: remember that some scales may be slippery if your feet are wet. Scales that measure bodyfat, muscle/bone mass or water percent use bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), which indeed is affected by moisture on your skin. Skin that’s too wet can underestimate your bodyfat and vice versa for dry skin. Some scales also show 2 different bodyfat readings: visceral fat (fat around your organs) and subcutaneous fat (the fat under your skin).

Since BIA is never 100% accurate no matter how good or expensive the scale is (it’s affected by things like dehydration, recent meals and exercise) it’s best to use it to track changes in bodyfat over time rather than as an absolute measure, and the best way to do this is to ensure that you keep things consistent every time you measure (e.g. at the same time everyday immediately after waking and before washing, eating, drinking or exercising).

A common setting on digital scales is “athlete mode”. Bodybuilder and athletes (which generally means people who exercise more than 10 hours a week) have a greater amount of muscle than sedentary people, and are usually less hydrated from sweating more. The athlete mode changes the calculation used for coming up with your body composition to account for these factors. This is far from an exact science but may improve accuracy for the aforementioned categories of people.

Can I use them on carpet? What about uneven surfaces?

Most bathroom scales have problems with vinyl, linoleum, carpet or rugs and require hard surfaces like tiles (stone, porcelain, marble, ceramic, etc.; keep away from seams and grout lines though) or cement, but there are models that are able to be used on soft surfaces (usually with the help of special feet). Some people report that placing a wooden board under the scale enables it to be used on carpet. For hard-but-uneven sufaces (such as textured or bumpy tiles, laminate or wood) as long as the unit is level overall there should be no difference – if the ground slopes that’s a different story.

I have arched/flat/large feet – is there anything I need to know?

Flat feet wouldn’t have any problems and in fact would provide more contact surface-area for bodyfat-measuring scales. Arched feet would be the opposite, and depending on the design of the scale (if the electrode contact area is too small or located in the middle of your feet) it may not give you bodyfat readings. For large feet, obviously the scale should be large enough that you can stand on it and that the display doesn’t get hidden by your feet (or your belly). For bodyfat scales the electrical contact area should be spread out far enough that you don’t have to stand like a constipated soldier when weighing yourself.

Who should avoid digital bathroom scales?

People with pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators and pregnant women should avoid them as they send electrical currents through your body which may interfere with implanted electronic devices and harm fetuses.

Can you use digital bathroom scales while wearing shoes?

You can, but a) the weight of the shoes would be added to your bodyweight and b) you won’t be able to use any bodyfat-measuring and related features of the scale if it has any since your skin won’t be in contact with the device.

What else should I be aware of when buying a digital bathroom scale?

Warranty, battery life, the type of batteries they use (lithium, AA, AAA, rechargeable, etc.) and if they are included, range of minimum weight (in case you want to weigh your cat/dog/parcel/suitcase/luggage/baby, though for this I recommend standing while holding the item you want to weight and comparing it to your bare weight) and maximum weight (many cut off at 350-400lbs which may be unsuitable for obese people), weight precision/increments, ability to use both metric (cm/kg) and imperial (feet/inches/lb/stone) systems of unit, whether it can interface and is compatible with your computer/smartphone/smartwatch (usually through an app over bluetooth or wifi), if it’s easy to setup/use, how long the the weight is displayed after you step off (in case you want to manually record it somewhere, or you are farsighted and need to step back a bit), whether it switches off automatically if you leave something on it for a long time, whether it can keep a log/record measurements for tracking (including date and time), whether it can keep different settings and records for multiple people or family members, whether it has an on/off switch, how much the scale itself weighs (if you need to carry it around) and country of origin. Some scales have a “feature” (often referred to as a “memory effect”) that remembers your last weight and if your weight hasn’t changed by more than a pound or so, it just displays the last weight (probably because such small fluctuations happen multiple times in the course of a day due to water or food entering or leaving our bodies and the scale wants to “play smart” and ignore that). A large majority of people are understandably not happy with such a feature (especially those who are monitoring their weight for medical conditions and medications, for whom it can be life-threatening), so you should check that at the very least the feature can be turned off if a scale does have it.


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