How to Take a Bath in Half a Bucket of Water

When I went on a nine day trek in Ladakh , India a few years back there were adolecent girls on the trip. Somehow, no matter how remote a location we were in when we camped for the night, they managed to wash their hair. All I know is, they would head off somewhere into the distance and come back with towels wrapped around their heads. It was amazing.

When I was in the Peace Corps, though, I could take two or three decent baths with one regular size bucket of water. One of the assistant Peace Corps directors did show us some tips while we were in training by doning a bathing suit, filling a bucket and grabbing a large plastic cup with a handle. Since I lived in a village for two years with no running water–I hauled water from a well with a vegetable oil can bucket and a long rope, I became pretty savvy with water use.

Here are some bucket bath tips:

You will need.

  • One regular size bucket (not so big that you can’t carry it) filled with water
  • One large plastic cup or a small plastic pitcher that has a handle

The technique:

1. Stand close to the bucket, and dip your cup in the water. Stretch out your other arm (the one not holding the cup) so that your hand and fingertips are over the bucket of water. Pour the water over your head so that the water runs off the opposite side of your head over your shoulder, down your arm and back into the bucket. Keep repeating this proceedure lowering your arm little by little each time until one side of your body totally wet. To wet your back, stand with your rear almost over the bucket and pour the water carefully onto your upper back allowing it to roll over the rest of you. Some of the water will find its way back into the bucket.

2. Once one side of your body is wet, repeat the process but switch arms. When your body is totally wet, wet the soap by pouring water over it. Do not put the soap in the bucket. The idea is to keep the water soap-free.

3. Soap up. For the body rinse cycle, repeat the process in step 1, but don’t put your hand over the bucket. Let the water fall to the ground. Again, keep the soap out of the bucket. For best results and low water use, start rinsing at the shoulders and angle your arms and hands so that the water will roll off to another part of your body. Keep repeating the process until all the soap is gone.

4. To wash your hair–lean you head over the bucket and wet your hair by pouring water over it, but making sure the extra water goes back in the bucket. Shampoo and then rinse with your hair over the ground instead of the bucket.

If you follow this method you may have a half a bucket of water left–more than enough to wash the dishes or take another bath. The photo is thanks to Zac Shepherd on Flickr. If you click on his photostream you’ll see some shots of The Gambia and Senegal with captions. The bed in the photo is the kind I had as well which drew me to this picture. The caption mentions how bucket baths helped Shepherd survive the Gambian dry season. Yes, those were the days.

For an overview of people’s experience bathing in Ghana, check out World Wise Schools Water in Africa page. World Wise Schools is a Peace Corps program designed for use by educators.