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Dan Huisjen
Posts: 51
Location: Acadia Region, Maine.
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I'm going to be carrying water this winter, once the hose freezes up, and it's making me think of all the ways to conserve water.

Last night I had a bath. When I lived in the house, I'd shower like an average American, but I'm looking at the alternatives. Here in the treehouse, I have a shower pan that drains to a graywater absorbing leaf pile. I had hot water warmed up on the wood stove in a big stainless pot, and I dumped it into my 70 gallon stock tank (which fits nicely into my shower pan) and tempered it to where I could step in it. I had water about 1 1/2" to 2" deep. I got in and wetted myself down with a washcloth, dipping out of the puddle I was sitting in. Then I soaped up, re-wetting as needed. Then I rinsed off with that same water. Finally, I did a final rinse, dipping from a bucket of fresh hot water, moving from the top down, and standing up once I got to rinsing my lower body. I think I used about five gallons total, and felt pretty clean.

In the winter I don't bathe daily, and I can probably manage with a shallower puddle in my tub. I think I can budget a gallon a day for bathing and be pretty clean.

Anyone else in a similar situation?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Get naked
Get your washrag wet and then add soap.
Soap up your dry body with the wet rag, you might have to rewet the washrag.
Rinse out the soapy rag and then use it to rinse of your body.
Then pour some water over your self.
Rinse out our rag and then use it to dry your body, this will get off the last bit of dirt and dead skin.
 
r ranson
master steward
Posts: 6027
Location: Left Coast Canada
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Living with less water, especially when we've been raised with instant access, is an exciting challenge. At least I think it's exciting. Then again, I'm grateful every time I flush the toilet. I adore hot and cold running water and will gush poetically about how great it is that I can turn a tap and have instant water. Completely weirds out my city friends, but they don't live on a well and have power outages - no power, no water!!! No water - learning to live without. No water also means I rush to the local brewery to fill up my growlers - with beer - girls gotta have something nourishing to drink.

But back to bathing. It's a topic that is surprisingly interesting to me. I'm especially interested in how people cleaned themselves throughout history. Through most of history - and a surprisingly amount today - people had/have to carry their water, sometimes over a mile. There are some pretty impressive water saving ideas out there.

My favourite method is a combination of prevention and conservation. A simple thing like wearing a hat or having your hair covered, can cut your hair washing from a couple times a week to once a month at the most. It takes a bit of 'training' to get your skelp use to not having the hair washed so often, and a few other tricks that help, but once you're there, washing hair once every month or two is quite easy to achieve. There's a bit in Tudor Monastery Farm films about hair care. I found it fascinating.

Another way to last longer between baths is to wear linen next to your skin and breathable clothing. This allows your skin to breath and reduces the build up of stinky stuff that makes BO. Historically, linen seems to be one of the most popular for next to your skin. I find that it works marvelously for me, far better than cotton. You'll have to experiment to see which natural fibre works best for you.

A daily wash down of armpits and smelly bits (like feet), with nothing but hot water, only takes about one liter of water. I heat mine up super-hot and put it in a bowl. Wipe down the pits and stinky bits. Dry with a towel. I find if I use soap it's difficult to rinse it properly and my skin reacts to it and smells worse. I save soap for proper wash days.

For a proper wash with little water (not including hair - I have loads of hair and haven't figured out how to wash with low water yet) I fill a bowl with about 2 ltrs of very hot water, and a jug or pitcher with about the same. The pitcher water is for rinsing and it cools down while I scrub. Sitting somewhere where I can splash water, I scrub with soap and water from the basin. After I'm good and lathered, I rinse with the clean water in the jug and cloth. That's it. About one gallon of water, at most two.

Soap seems to make a huge difference. I use real soap - that's a natural fat mixed with an alkaline to make soap. Not modern day soap like substance which may or may not contain soap and often leave a residue on the skin - sometimes intentionally like lotion soap. If I use real soap than my body doesn't smell between washing. If I use soap-like substance, then my body is more likely to produce BO.

One thing that does help is for a small splash of natural vinegar in the rinse water to help get my body back to it's natural PH state. Soap is a bit alkali for my skin, so I will often use vinegar to keep it happy. Different people have their own PH balance, so vinegar trick may not work for everyone.


There are lots of other ways to have a low-water clean. I think the Romans use to use olive oil and a scrappy stick. Other cultures enjoy a sauna style. Some scrub with rough towel and others sand.

I'm looking forward to reading about other solutions to the low-water-bath.
 
Trevor Walker
Posts: 52
Location: Southern Ohio, in the Hocking Hills
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Some years ago I had some hard times and did not have access to the gas used for our water heater.
My roommate went to his sisters place just up the road.

I heated water on the stove and tempered it with the cold stuff from the tap.
Only the largest pot we had was a 3-quart soup pot.

So I learned to use some as-hot-as-you-can-stand water to soap/scrub, and top it up with cold to make a full-again pot of lukewarm water.
Rinse and scrub just a bit more, and shampoo the now-wet hair.
If enough lukewarm is left, dumped it over for top-down allover rinse, or added just a bit more water for a just-warm rinse.

Can't imagine it took more than a gallon and a half at the most extravagant.
The worst part was knealing in the tub, or trying not to fall on the soapy plastic before I got a good rinse.

With a little ingenuity, I can see making a hanging pot with pullchain, so it'd be a standup shower much like those camp showers with water savers.
Really limits the luxuriating, but no wasting hot water.
 
Steve Smyth
Posts: 52
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I am not certain if my definition of "low water" and yours are exactly the same but here is what works for me:

We rely on collected rain water. If there is not enough rain then we haul water. We have learned to be quite conservative. In my humble opinion, I can shower with less water than a sit down bath.

I have a low flow RV and held shower head with an on/off valve. I point it at my head and turn it on. I quickly wet down and then turn it off. I lather, scrub and shave. Then I turn the water back on and quickly rinse from the head down.

I have timed my showers with a stopwatch (yes, I am a freak) and then later run the shower head into a bucket for the same amount of time to measure how much water I am using for my shower. I found that my "it hasn't rained in a week" shower use about 1.75 gallons of water and my "it's raining like crazy and my tanks are full" showers use 2-2.5 gallons.

The hair washing may be a game changer though. My hair is VERY short.

We do also recycle/reuse some of our grey water.
 
John Skaggs
Posts: 15
Location: Boondock, KY
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Have used the sponge/washcloth soap and rinse from a pot when water was tight.

Also have found a pump-up garden sprayer loaded with comfortable water works pretty well.
 
Roberto pokachinni
pollinator
Posts: 1220
Location: Fraser Headwaters, B.C., Zone3, Latitude 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Get naked
Get your washrag wet and then add soap.
Soap up your dry body with the wet rag, you might have to rewet the washrag.
Rinse out the soapy rag and then use it to rinse of your body.
Then pour some water over your self.
Rinse out our rag and then use it to dry your body, this will get off the last bit of dirt and dead skin.
This was my basic method when I was bicycle touring in the desert, except that I would sometimes not have the water for the pour water over myself stage. I would sometimes do this while standing on a toilet in a gas station washroom.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I've spent years where my only shower is a typical Indian bucket shower. you can heat a smaller pot of water very hot on the stove and mix colder water in the bucket, if you want. You use the jug to pour water over selected parts of your body, keeping the water in the bucket clean. If water is limited, you can wash your whole body with half a bucket, especially if you use the washcloth method mentioned above.
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Judith Browning
Posts: 5859
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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My husband and I have mostly used the five gallon bucket method for years (we are both 65), except when the weather is warm enough to take a cold water shower. We heat water on the stove (wood stove winter time). Five gallons feels luxurious......We use a one quart yogurt container to pour.
I don't use shampoo, just water with a bit of baking soda dissolved. See this thread about going without shampoo http://www.permies.com/t/22876/toxin-ectomy/making-jump-poo this makes a huge difference in water use. I usually don't use soap either...but I'm a long time fan of dr bronners so sometimes use a little peppermint soap.
Weekly bath during the cold weather and during the heat at least once a day rinse, sometimes just to cool off. I also do the daily washcloth but without soap.
Feet are what we notice get neglected, especially if you're rushing to get done in a cold cold room, so sometimes a separate hot water soak in a tub just for them, also with a bit of baking soda and some tea tree oil.......standing in a foot tub with warm water during the bath helps a lot, both for your feet and to stay warmer.

here's another thread that might be helpful http://www.permies.com/t/6347/frugality/Shampoo-Soap


 
Christina Fletcher
pollinator
Posts: 60
Location: Franklin, Indiana
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We are going to be living off grid within the next year, so I'm trying to "study up" on the low water usage tips. Thanks for all of the great ideas! Do any of you use the camp showers that use solar to heat the water? I'm thinking this would be a nice option during the warmer months.
 
Jan White
Posts: 92
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Christina Fletcher wrote:We are going to be living off grid within the next year, so I'm trying to "study up" on the low water usage tips. Thanks for all of the great ideas! Do any of you use the camp showers that use solar to heat the water? I'm thinking this would be a nice option during the warmer months.


I tried a black bag camp shower for three seasons, before moving back into a house for the winter. It wasn't great. If the air wasn't still most of the heat would be lost from the bag. We were up a mountain and it was a cooler than usual summer, but even on 30º+ days with no wind it didn't work all that well, unless we showered in the afternoon. Usually by the time we'd got back from work and wanted to shower, the water had cooled off enough that we ended up either showering in ambient temp water or heating water on the stove. My husband wanted to shower, but I usually just used a bucket. Seemed easier to me.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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When water is scarce, mostly at job sites, I may wash only my hands, face and privates. This can be accomplished with a few cups of water. Water is abundant here. At the end of the dry season, last year, the city's reservoir was over 70% full.

Solar shower bags have a nozzle that facilitates small volume showers. Many regular showers, waste lots of water during temperature adjustment or while heating a mile of cold pipes.
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 313
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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We're on collected rainwater and during the winter, that "rain" gets rather scarce and is usually collected/melted snow (a much more tedious process). Because the water we collect is of the utmost importance to daily routines (coffee, dish washing, coffee, cooking, coffee and drinking water...and coffee), bathing is not given much importance over the frozen months. It's not like you're sweating much or getting dirty/muddy digging in the gardens, etc. Mother nature even goes that extra step, providing a sparkling clean white blanket to cover up the organic stuffs, soils and other "dirty" things, helping keep you clean for longer. Well, most of the time anyway. Body odor tends to build up slower when you're not out working in the hot sun or dealing with those muggy, sleepless nights of middle July. Therefore, why waste the water, right?

On average, over the winter months, there's a two to three week period between my baths - they're mostly reserved for sunnier days and for when I need to make a run to town anyway (I prefer to be clean before going out "in public"). Over the summer, when actual rain is available for collecting and regular bathing takes on more importance, it's usually more of a daily to every few days thing, depending on how much water we have and how dirty/sweaty the work has been.

Anyway, we call it a bird bath here - same sort of bucket-bath routine as many already describe. Since you're primarily asking about winter, will address that specifically. My routine is to fill a 5 gallon bucket with the ice-cold, partially melted snow still floating in it "dish" water (drinking water is a separate classification of "clean" and is too precious to be used for bathing). I take out apx 2 gallons of that to heat on the stove in a large soup pot just the edge of a simmer. I'll crank the indoor heat a bit (75* is easier to handle than 64*) and bring in the kiddy pool ($10 from walmart) as a catch basin. The rest is as you've seen, right up until the end of bath-time. Again, the importance of real, natural soap should be stressed. Learn to make your own if you have to - it's actually very easy and minimally dangerous Using store-bought gack is going to cost you more water...use real soap. We're still using a batch of Castille soap we made ourselves around 10 years ago now.

Usually, I'll be left with about a gallon and a half of clean, warm rinse water, with the rest being soapy and somewhat dirty but not terrible. So here's the key - use what you've got and reduce your "waste". Throw a couple pairs of dirty socks, glove liners, scarves, winter hats and facemasks in that soapy bath water - wash what you can and ensure that water is truly used up before you call it "waste water". Stack functions, so to speak - use that soap and that water until you can't use it anymore. Don't let a drop of that precious resource, the heat you put into it, or the energy expended to bring everything in to make a "bath" happen, go to waste.

When done, our bath water is typically brought out to the cattail ponds. Sure, they're solid frozen at that time of year, but that warm, soapy water sure isn't good for the apples, asparagus or blueberries in the dead of winter. The cattails are tough and can take it Come the spring thaw, when those cattails are putting on new growth as fast as they can muster, they do seem to appreciate all the oils and organic matter from the winter's bathwaters. I'd imagine a willow bog would behave similar but nothing beats the netted root system of a cattail bog IMO
 
Tristan Vitali
Posts: 313
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Christina Fletcher wrote:We are going to be living off grid within the next year, so I'm trying to "study up" on the low water usage tips. Thanks for all of the great ideas! Do any of you use the camp showers that use solar to heat the water? I'm thinking this would be a nice option during the warmer months.


To be honest, most are generally junk. You'd do better making a DIY solar shower. Our 5 gallon solar shower bag not only had leaks in the collector bag, didn't heat up all that well unless the wind was completely calm and sky was perfectly clear (and water was already luke warm at the start), but the nozzle gave basically a faucet style trickle. They clog very easily and a 5 gallon bag of water is a total pain in the butt to move around (think 40 floppy, sloshy pounds)

When it comes to warmer months, use a black hose coiled in the sun as your heat collector, one of those hand-held sprinkler wands for your shower head, and gravity feed from your roof - that will go A LOT farther and give you more flexibility. The most important thing to keep in mind about the warmer months is that a breeze can be quite chilling when you're wet, but bathing/showering indoors is just going to make your home humid. Best to have a completely draft-proof "outdoor" structure that collects at least some sunlight so it's warm inside, perhaps an existing greenhouse or something small set up specific to the purpose (small log frame wrapped with plastic?). We generally use our existing sunroom/greenhouse for this purpose.
 
Dan Huisjen
Posts: 51
Location: Acadia Region, Maine.
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Tristan, I'll second that motion. A hose in the sun is a wonderful thing.

Two days ago I reinstated my summer bath tub. I have about 700' of 1 1/4" black poly water line (scavenged from the local plumber's refuse pile in ~70' lengths) coiled up in the sun, under a bit of (scavenged) used greenhouse plastic. I didn't want to pull the tub out of my treehouse bathroom, so I built a new one. It's outside so I don't care if it leaks a little. I used strips of 3/8" plywood to make a ring 12' in circumference, or just under 4' diameter. I made this from one old sheet of plywood, cut into three 32"x48" pieces, with battens to screw to. I set that on the ground and draped another piece of greenhouse plastic in it as a liner. In this set up, I've paid for hose splice barb fittings and hose clamps. That sheet of plastic has a few pinholes I might tape up, but the leakage is too slow to be an issue, really.

It's not as deep as using the 70 gallon rubbermaid stock tank, but it works. By the time the hose water runs cold and brings the tub back down to 107°, the tub water is about 8" deep. (This depends on weather and solar gain, of course. Last summer I had 150° water coming out of the hose at one point.) I displace about 3 cubic feet, and Dirt Girl displaces about 2 cubic feet, so that can raise the water level a bit more. I think I should cut the side down to 24" on one side to make it easier to step into, but the high sides are good for wind protection. It was only about 48° out yesterday when I had my bath, but it was a very nice soak.

Being non-rigid, dumping the water is awkward, so I siphon it mostly empty with a scrap of garden hose.

Now if I can get an insulated tank and fill it from the coil once a day when it's sunny, then pressurize it with cold coming in at the bottom, I can have some level of hot running water in the treehouse too.
 
Patricia Sanders
Posts: 17
Location: St. Johns, AZ
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My variation on the bucket bath uses about 3 pints of water, and I sit on the floor.

Details: Heat apx 1 pint of water (in winter to near boiling, in summer skip this step). While it's heating, lay a bath towel on the floor and set my bath basin on it - a bowl that is apx 10-12 inches wide, 4 inches deep. Jug of cold water, soap, 3 washcloths handy. Remove clothes and sit on towel. Pour apx a pint of cold water into the basin, add about half of of the hot water. Use soap and washcloth 1 to wash entire body. Pour the dirty water into a bucket. Use a small amount of cold water to rinse the bowl and the dirty washcloth. Pour that dirtyish water into the bucket, too. Again put apx 1 pint of cold water in bowl, add the rest of the hot water. Use washcloth 2 to rinse entire body. Dry off with the third cloth. Hang up all cloths to dry for tomorrow's bath. This gets me clean enough with under a half gallon of water.

I prefer this way to taking a shower because it feels meditative and helps me connect with my body and wind down at the end of the day. Now that I'm used to it, other options seem overcomplicated. However I do still love a good hot bath once in a while.
 
Rue Barbie
Posts: 70
Location: Coastal Southern California
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We are in a drought, and I prefer to use what water we have outside in the garden. So I often take what I call a sponge bath. I heat about a quart of water in a bowl in the microwave (gasp!). I use a fast drying washcloth, and standing in the bathroom, wipe down essential parts. I use soap if I am feeling less clean, and no soap when I don't. If soaped, I'll rinse the cloth and wipe down a second time, and a final rinse of the cloth. I do not pour water over myself.

All used water goes into buckets. Saved water with soap is used for flushing. Without soap goes into the larger grey water container, which will go outside for the garden.

Using so much less water is making me realize how little 'product' is needed to feel clean. I feel just as clean taking frequent sponge baths as I did using lots of hot water in the shower and letting it run down the drain. For cleaning hair, I take a regular shower, but very fast. I'm also experimenting with 'no-poo' but the jury is still out. With or without shampoo, the used water is still reused either in the garden or for flushing or laundry.

Almost all water is used 2 or sometimes 3 times.
 
Nancy Troutman
Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
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I use a 2-washcloth system. I use one soapy and the other I use to rinse off with. I have a small basin that has about 1qt of water in it that the rinse washcloth is returned to. I do not do this in a shower or bathtub. I have a stool next to a sink that I do this on.

I wash my face, neck & behind the ears. Then wipe off the soap with the rinse wash cloth, I then do my body, legs, back, etc.. I do my nether-regions second to last. Do your feet last. You do not want to expose your privates to foot germs. I do this once daily when I wake up.

I have long hair. To wash it I use about 1 gallon of water. In 2 cups warm water I dissolve a spoon full of borax. I wet my hair around the scalp with clean water, then lean over a tub and thoroughly wet my scalp with the borax water. Shampoo takes an enormous amount of water to rinse out.

I use vinegar in my bath & hair rinse water during tick season.
 
kyle saunders
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Location: Sackville/Graywood, Nova Scotia
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Nancy Troutman wrote:
I use vinegar in my bath & hair rinse water during tick season.


side note, is the vinegar to prevent new ticks or help get rid of ones already cozy?

and to keep this reply on topic, i will note something that someone said "i shower with less water than a sit down bath". i have started showering with the stopper in, one because it keeps the warmth in the room, and two because i use the depth of water as my guide when to get out of the shower. i almost never see the water level get at high as a sit down shower. but it got me thinking, is my showerhead lowflow, or are my pipes leaking the difference in water behind the walls and i can't see them? solid pipe connections are a must for water conservation, and any of us living in an old house would do well to inspect the plumbing.
 
Nancy Troutman
Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
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If I could make money by selling the ticks in my woods, I would be a billionaire.   Used to be a problem near my house, but since getting Guineas - not so much.  The type of tick I have problems with is a wood tick, though I don't see why it wouldn't work on all ticks.

Anyway, after I walk in the woods - I always take a bath.   And I use the vinegar to get rid of any critters that I brought home with me - and they seem to like my hair in particular.   Since I re-use the bath water, I can see the ticks floating in the grey water.  I put vinegar in my laundry rinse water as well.   This means its also in my wash water since that is my second use.

I don't believe vinegar works as a repellent as I am still bringing home ticks.   It does seem to work to get them off of you though.

I make my own vinegar from a food grade Acetic Acid that I buy off Amazon.   Common vinegar found in the grocery store is about 5%.   I make a 10% solution that I use in the bath, and a 15% solution that I rinse my clothes with.   This might be some of the reason for my success.

Also, I let my grey water that has vinegar in it sit for about a week before I use it on plants.   Otherwise it acts like a herbicide.
 
marco poggioli
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what about the after poo cleaning? It looks hard without a bidet...any suggestions? I look ridicolous asking this I know...sorry for my english.
 
Nancy Troutman
Posts: 186
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I use Dr. Bonner's tea tree oil soap for bum cleaning, not vinegar.   I put it in a lab bottle that squirts when upside down and spray myself like a bidet. 

My pee bucket is redneck-plumbed to the plants.   I have a small screen in it to prevent any washed off poop from getting into the piping.  In an ideal world, I would have a separate bucket to do bum cleaning.   However, I have 5 buckets in my bathroom already, just not adding a 6th.

I am a lazy bum.   The pee bucket never requires dumping my way - even in the winter.   The poop bucket needs dumping about once every 2 weeks or less, but because I use potting soil or peat moss instead of sawdust.   A 3 cubic foot bag lasts me an entire year.



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My Lazy Person Pee Bucket
 
Nancy Troutman
Posts: 186
Location: Swanton, MD
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I should mention, that for almost 10 years I used a coke bottle as a bidet.   Poke a hole in its side at the top of the neck.   Aim and squeeze.   Very cheap and I still use it on the road.   I suppose that someday there will be a shortage of coke bottles, but it probably won't happen in my lifetime.   I have a small stool with a towel on it.   I just sit on it afterwards to dry off, or I suppose you could use a washcloth for that.  

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Desiree Fleck
Posts: 11
Location: Ozarks, Missouri
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Here at our community we have a well that either runs by windpower with our windmill, or when it's not windy (most of the Summer) we pump by hand. We use rainwater for most things including our bathing needs. Thankfully we have a beautiful creek that runs through the property so many of us use that to bathe in the warm months. We also have a 5 gallon shower bag setup in a makeshift tipi near our main communal building. Generally at least two people get showers out of 5 gallons of water, sometimes three. Once it gets cold out, we'll probably be using the wetting a rag and using a washtub indoors method because most people will not want to stand outside naked no matter how warm the water is. We have discussed adding a shower room onto our communal house, not sure if we will get to it this year.
 
Jeremy Franklin
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Location: Binghamton, NY
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I just want to share a tip for all the bucket bathers out there. My family of six have been bucket bathing for over a year now, including my wife and I who both have very white collar and image-conscious jobs where showing every day is a must.

The problem I ran into was trying to get the temperature right when heating it on the stove.  I either had to watch it like a hawk, which meant I couldn't think about or enjoy anything else, or more often, I got distracted and overheated it, then either had to wait for it to cool down (often as much as 30-45 minutes ) or had to add more cold water, which I didn't need volume wise.

What I've been doing recently, though is taking a two quart pot and filling it twice with ambient temperature water and pouring it in the bucket, and then taking a third fill and heating that up to a full boil, and then pouring the boiling water into the bucket as well. Since water doesn't rise in temperature once it's boiling, this gives me a much longer window to remember I've left the water on, and since the average temperature of the bucket is now (65+65+212)/3= 114 degree water, I've got a gallon and a half of water that is the perfect temperature for me.  You can adjust the measurements of each of the buckets slightly to dial in on your perfect temperature, but once you have it, it's a lot easier to get your water just right.
 
Hope Willis
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Once we move out to our property where we will be using rainwater collection I intend to use a "dry brush" method to keep clean with only a little water. It worked great for me when I used to have to camp without facilities when I was doing blacksmithing shows (and blacksmiths get really dirty.) Obviously I use soap for really dirty hands and feet (I go barefoot a lot) but otherwise I take a dry brush all over for about two minutes and rinse with cool water. I have long hair, so I get it wet, scrub my scalp vigorously and rinse with cool water and once a week I use baking soda to scrub my scalp. Eventually we will have a solar water heating set up with a shower that only runs when you are pulling on the handle, but as of now we'll just use a dipper and a barrel. Uses less than a gallon.
 
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