Each installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series elaborates on the wizarding world introduced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, offering new vistas and reiterating the set of very specific rules of magic. If any criticism can be lobbed at the series, it certainly isn’t that Rowling wasn’t thorough enough. She wrote laws, explained the currency, created a political system (albeit a shoddy one), and fleshed out a financial system. She explained why wizards can’t use electronics (we’ll come back to that) and created wizard sports and a set of international wizard travel regulations. She even drew out lineages of ancient wizarding families. Hogwarts itself was scrupulously realized — albeit with one notable and worrying architectural peculiarity.
Rowling clearly knows where the Great Hall is, where the dungeons to the Slytherin and Hufflepuff common rooms diverged, and how far Hagrid lives from the castle walls. The books are meticulous in this regard, which is why it’s so incredibly confusing that no one, not even the most pubescent of characters, ever hits the showers in the Harry Potter universe.
Hogwarts does have bathrooms with toilets. One of these even features the entrance to a hidden chamber where an 80-foot snake resides and a toilet ghost. Another is just for Prefects. It has a 12-foot long sized bathtub that constitutes the only place a kid can get clean at Hogwarts. And it’s basically off limits. Harry bathes once.
So what gives? The first day that Harry is shuttled into the Gryffindor common room, the space is described in detail. The big, plush couches and chairs. The crackling fire. The well-worn tables. The Gryffindor banner. It’s all there. (And if you don’t believe me, seriously, you can just check out Pottermore.) The girls and boys dormitories are up two separate staircases. In his room, Harry notices five four-poster beds, his Hogwarts trunk, the bedding, his uniform, the whole room. And yet. No bathrooms. No showers. No tubs. No boys restrooms. Nothing.
In fact, not once in Harry Potter’s six years at Hogwarts and then single year on the run from genocidal maniacs in masks does he take a shower. Nor does Ron. Nor does Hermione, or Ginny, or anyone. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to the rules of Quidditch in the first book, there are countless words spent on magical properties of Transfiguration, but there is nothing about young, sweaty, hormonal, puberty-ridden wizards washing their stinky stinky bodies.
The reader could just chalk that up to pacing, or J.K. Rowling forgetting about an activity essential to life in a civilized society. But I personally have a hard time believing that. If I can still discuss inter-species bigotry and wandlore in the Harry Potter universe, no character ever said: “I’m very stinky from fighting Death Eaters/Quidditch practice/making potions, I am going to take a shower.” It’s possible that J.K. Rowling purposely left showers out. Was it to hide the horrors of wizarding puberty from the reader? To avoid any semblance of appearing to sexualize kids? Or was it because wizards actually don’t shower?
As with all things in the Potterverse, this could be written off to magic. But there’s a catch. Harry does not shower while at 4 Privet Drive. He doesn’t shower during the ordeals detailed in Order of the Phoenix. He certainly doesn’t shower at the Weasleys or even when he stays at the Leaky Cauldron for a few weeks in Diagon Alley before returning to school in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And it’s not clear in the final book whether or not the tent that Ron, Hermione, and Harry are staying in has a toilet. From what I understand about the magical world, there is not a charm that stops wizards from pooping. But if I’m wrong, J.K. Rowling, now is the time to email me. Let’s talk.
There are a handful of times in the whole series that Harry is submerged in water, and yet, none of them are paired with a loofah and bar of soap. In The Goblet of Fire, Harry does take a brief bath in the prefect’s restroom — he’s tipped off by Cedric Diggory, who says he goes there to clear his head, not, it’s worth noting, to take a fucking bath — but all he does is swim some laps and then drop a golden egg under water to listen to it sing. He swims in Goblet of Fire, in the dirty, muddy Hogwarts lake, but doesn’t clean himself afterwards.
It’s possible that wizards just don’t shower. After all, in the real world, electricity and ancient castles do not exactly go hand in hand. It would stand that trying to equip an old castle with electrical wiring and plumbing would be an issue in the magical world, too. And beyond pipes, and the well-explained magical properties that clearly articulate that electricity does not work near magic, Hogwarts is a really old building. Equipping an old castle that houses a thousand students with hot water systems could certainly be a safety hazard. And since it’s not explicitly explained, it’s very possible that in lieu of a fully integrated plumbing system, there are charms on the toilets in the school to make the poo disappear.
And it is true that necessity is the mother of invention. So of course there are no wizarding iPads or cellphones. And despite the fact that ballpoint pens exist, the young pupils in the wizarding world and the working adults of the Ministry of Magic all use quills. It makes sense that the wizards live in what is essentially the middle ages, with fires that can stay lit no matter if there’s firewood or not and magical spells to cure all medical ailments. Even if electricity and modern tech could exist side by side with magic, there’s no need for it. Wizards have it all set up, more or less. It’s possible that showers, an appliance that didn’t exist before the year 1850, almost 300 years after the invention of the toilet, just never became a part of Hogwarts’ infrastructure.
J.K. Rowling could have, maybe, just forgot to let us know about a magical spell that keeps wizards clean without showering, that each kid does every single day before class. Maybe the showers do exist and she never bothered to write about them because she feared being painted as being untoward towards young kids. It’s even possible that wizards don’t sweat like regular humans do. After all, they live about 80 years longer than the average muggle. Or maybe the wizarding world is so stuck in the dark ages that they believe that frequent showers make you susceptible to disease. But I honestly believe that Hogwarts is full of very stinky wizards. Harry Potter stinks. But the books remain great.