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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where there is no shower

Funny thing, I often almost feel like not giving away the secret that many North Americans haven't discovered about getting clean where there is no shower. I mostly resist it 'cos nobody likes a smartipants. However, I have been asked by some younger sailing women so here goes.

When water is restricted, whether you're sailing, camping, or just in the office after a lunchtime run and there is no shower available it's a simple matter to have a refreshing washdown of the body with the old-fashioned simple tools:
  • a towel,
  • washcloth (I like the gant de toilette mitt-type),
  • soap,
  • bottle or jug of cleanish* cold or hot water (about 1 litre - 2 pints - will do) or water tap,
  • small container, empty bucket, jug or bowl (or washbasin),
  • if the floor is dirty, a plastic sheet (or bin bag) about the same size as your bath towel
Most washrooms in North America have a disabled cubicle, which is ideal for this performance because it has most elbow room, but any private space will do. The average aircraft or train loo is perfect.

In addition, you can do this in a more public place, like a campsite or a beach without removing all your clothes at the same time, although people might look at you funny.

Lay down the towel on top of the plastic sheet. Take off your clothes and step on the towel. Put half the water in the bucket. Wetting the washcloth and wringing it out in the bucket, wipe yourself all over rubbing vigorously. This gets most of the dirt off (although not the grease nor all the smell). You might have to get fancy to reach the middle of your back by holding your washcloth at both ends, or asking for the assistance of a friend.

Wet the washcloth again from the "dirty water" and lather the cloth up with a little soap. Rub the cloth over the smelly parts first, then over the rest of your body. Wring it out and wet it again with fresh water. Wipe the soap off yourself.

You are done! You are clean, almost dry, feel refreshed and once you have practiced a bit, you can do this with very little water, so that the 2 litres daily allowance that the BFH** captain has allotted will be enough to have a wash every day or so.

And because your bath towel is not that wet it just needs airing out. The washcloth is a lot easier to hang up to dry.

When you're sailing in the tropics, this technique is infinitely preferable to being in the hot humid bowels of the boat trying to juggle the shower and slowly melting in the steamy heat and humidity of the head compartment. You can do your first washdown and soaping with salt water (or take a swim).

Hair washing is a different exercise. If you have really short hair the above technique will be enough. Long hair needs about 2 pints (a litre) more water and a larger bowl or bucket to lean over. It is best done seated (or kneeling on your towel) leaning forward over the bowl. Pour about a pint (500 ml) of water over the back of your head so that it runs into the bowl. Scoop the water up and do it several times so that your hair is moist. Then rub some shampoo into your hair. Use only a very little shampoo - about a teaspoon or 5 ml - less than half of the recommended amount of normal stuff. (Some people swear by using shampoo*** for both body and hair washing as it saves backpack space - there are concentrated types in tube form).

You do not need to get a lather in your hair - if you do, you are using too much shampoo - the lather represents "unused" detergent that is foaming up and you will need to use extra water to wash it out. Just rub shampoo all over the hair and leave it on for a minute or so. Then start by wringing out your hair and pouring water from the bowl over your head repeatedly until the shampoo feels gone. Wring out your hair the best you can, then run a dry washcloth over it to get it as dry as possible. Comb it through and let it air dry.

Some women (and increasingly men) have a routine of using hair conditioner after shampoo. This is fine, but once again use less than half of what you normally use and rinse repeatedly using only a half litre of water. Or try using a tiny amount on a comb and combing it through your hair without washing it off. Or try going without once in a while.

* you can use river or lake water if you are camping, or non-potable water like that from plane or train washroom taps.
**Bastard from Hell: you know who you are, Bligh-woman!
*** Stolen joke alert! Best to use shampoo, the real stuff stinks.

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