Outdoor solar shower

Limiting Showers Can Save Water, Energy and Our Health

I didn’t shower this morning. And I don’t (think I) smell. You see, while I wrote a post about Navy Showers as a water saving technique a while back, the truth is I am not very good at them. I like showering, and when I am in the shower I find it hard not to linger. Even though I’m fairly water-savvy around the rest of the house (practicing the selective flush and such), and even though our energy use is mitigated by a solar water heater, I still feel a little guilty about all that water going down the drain. And with my hippy friends telling me that showering too often can actually be bad for my health, I thought it was time I found a compromise that allows me my hot showers, but at least cuts back on consumption a little.

Friends of mine who are much less into showering than I am, or much more conscientious about water conservation, tell me that long hot showers strip our bodies of the natural oils we need to protect the skin and the beneficial bacteria that we need for our immune systems. Baths are apparently even worse in that regard. I know people who probably spend a matter of seconds in the shower, and probably not every day at that. But as I said – I like showering.

So I’m experimenting with skipping showers – not for days on end, which just seems a little too austere for me – but rather showering in the morning one day, and then waiting till the evening of the next day before showering again. So far so good – I’m getting my hot shower fix, and my wife still seems to be talking to me. I’m not strict about it – I sometimes shower every morning, and if I’ve been working in the garden or some other dirty or unpleasant job, I may treat myself to an additional splash – but at those times I try to limit my time a little more.

Combining this with the occasional navy shower, and a general principal of water consciousness around the house, and I’m pretty happy about the amount of water I’m consuming. But I’d be interested to know what readers think – is skipping the occasional shower a sensible way towards greener, and perhaps healthier, personal hygiene, or is it the beginning of a slippery slope towards the ranks of the great granola-eating unwashed? I do like granola.

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This article caught my attention because for as long as I can remember we took weekly baths.  Of course if we were really dirty that warranted a trip to the tub but come to think of it we were never a family to take a shower/bath every day.

And to this day we still only take weekly baths/showers. In the summertime, if dirty and sweaty from working in the yard/garden we’ll make take an extra rinse of two in the outdoor solar shower.   When we do shower/bath we are pretty conservative in our water use.  Of course we girls use a tab bit more than the boys thanks to our long locks but I would say we use about 5 gallons of water each (well, the guys less — probably more like 2 gallons).

Actually for the whole year entire water bill is about $600.  I would take a gander that about 80% of that water use goes into the garden.    I don’t really know how that figure compares with the average person – Justin would know more about that because he handles the bills.  If I have time I would like to compare the years and gallons used here on the urban homestead because each year we try do our part by conserving water.  I started doing that a few years back but just got to busy.

Besides the conservation front, showering less is not only good for the environment but also your health.  We Americans are too obsessed with soap.  Honestly.   Even showering with just water is more beneficial for your skin than stripping off your oils with soap.   When people compliment me and my sister on our skin I really think it’s because we don’t use soap. We just wash with water.  As for baths salt or apple cider vinegar does the trick.

Justin has been doing the no poo method now for about two years.  He’s happy to report that his hair and scalp are in good condition.  Me I rarely shampoo instead I use apple cider vinegar unless my hair gets really greasy and I’ll use just a wee dab of natural shampoo.  Of course this method doesn’t work for everyone.

I also think that body odor has a lot to do with health — plenty of water, good food, exercise.

Ok now about granola….

As you know from our weekly meal wrap ups that we like granola so what’s with this thing biased against granola eaters anyhow?

Shower Poll
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  1. thyhandhathprovided says:

    Your mention of your outdoor solar shower brings back fond memories of my growing up years. Our two vacation spots were in the mountains of central PA and in Ontario Canada. Both were relative-owned cabins and both had outdoor showers- one provided heated water from a lake and the other required us to haul water up from the creek and heat it up on the wood stove, then pour it into a five-gallon bucket with holes that we then hefted above our heads with a pulley system. I loved those showers, gazing up at the tree tops and blue sky. I would love an outdoor solar shower one day. You all sure are inspiring.

  2. says:

    Interesting question. I realized I stay relatively clean, unless Im outside working all day or something. If I just go to my day job, which is, for the most part a desk job, Im not going to get filthy. So, I take showers accordingly. Im not saying I got months or weeks without showering, I just go when its appropriate, not two times a day like many people I know.

    Im also concerned with fluoride in our water system. Being right at the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains, I was shocked to find out my city started adding fluoride last year to the water. Taking less showers, reduces my risk of fluoride inhalation. If Ive worked hard and deserve a bath, I take a hot bath and two teaspoons of natural baking soda mixed with a glass of water which helps keep away sore muscle and joints the following day! It really does work 🙂

    Breathing the hot mist in a shower you will absorb more fluoride (and other chemicals) much quicker than if you drank a glass of water. I have a filter on my shower (from Berkey Water) as well as fluoride filter to filter my water… also from Berkey.

  3. says:

    I was just reading the “no poo method” link in your post. I must say, it sounds interesting and I will definitely try it out. I already brush my teeth with straight baking soda and my teeth are whiter and brighter without all the chemicals.

    Also, one of the main ingredients in soaps, detergents, shampoos today is Isopropyl alcohol which has been linked to cancer for over one hundred years.

  4. Ogg says:

    Let’s all stop showering, shaving, bathing and using shampoo and soap all together… We will save water, $ and help the planet. This whole showering w/body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, shaving everything with Edge gel using five razor blades has gotten out of hand! Go shower for free outside when it rains!

  5. Ecologystudent says:

    I can’t remember the last time I used soap while showering, and I grew up on a farm. A good rinse and a wash cloth works just fine in my opinion. I also don’t shave, use “products” or whatever else is considered normal now. I use two non water things: chapstick for my lips, and occasionally conditioner for my hair (although I’m looking to stop that hopefully).

    I’ve also convinced my boyfriend to stop taking half hour long showers, steaming hot showers- he’s down to about 9 minutes.

  6. TV says:

    I tried only showering every other day, but I just did’t feel good. For me, showering gets my day off right and makes me feel refreshed and ready for the day. I work in an office setting, I don’t get dirty, but when everyone else comes into work looking just showered, it’s difficult to come in feeling frumpy. I try to take short showers and minimize water usage in other ways.

  7. CitySteader says:

    Your water consumption bills look pretty good, I think! Here are some of our numbers (to satisfy Justin’s curiosity.) Through the winter months (October through April here at the foot of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado) We spend about $15 a month for water. But we also have to pay a waste water fee (appearantly, it’s far more expensive to return water than to buy it in the first place.) Our average monthly waste water bill is $25 a month regardless of season. In the summer our purchase water bill skyrockets to about $75 a month to water the garden and yard (which I am slowly turning into more garden). So our yearly water bill was just over $800. If we had more than 145 days between killing frosts, our bill would be much higher for the garden’s sake. Cudos!

  8. Jill says:

    Inspiring! I’ve been doing the “no poo” method myself for the last eight months or so, and even with my long hair, as long as I comb it pretty thoroughly and regularly (100 strokes a day), it looks pretty normal. Up to twenty-four hours after I wash it, it looks and feels like regularly shampooed hair. But my hair always looked clean for 24 hours or so back when I was using shampoo anyway. I’m working on extending the time needed between washings — right now, it’s fine — not pristine looking, but fine for putting up in a pony tail — for about three days between washings.

  9. Alice says:

    We had a cistern growing up so water was a precious commodity. Dad had to haul the water so he kept track of all we used. We bathed once a week, usually younger ones first then older ones. More than one of us used the same water, it just had hot water added for the next one. We used sponge baths between the tub baths. I find that that method still works for me. I use baking soda for tooth paste which works just fine. I have not tried the no poo yet but I just may. Others with long hair seem to be making out fine with it.
    On the saving water vain. We used dish pans to wash and rinse dishes. The wash water was used to mop floors then used to flush. The rinse water was reheated for the next dish washing time, where it became the wash water this time. Water from sponge baths can also flush or water plants.

  10. Maureen Garver says:

    “We Americans are too obsessed with soap. Honestly. ”

    Hear hear!!! We’ve been saying this for years….my kids shower much more often than their ‘hippie’ parents but we’re working on that. I’m also in the process of switching to the baking soda and vinegar hair routine. It just feels right.

    thanks for the encouragement!

  11. green jeans says:

    You might want to do a little reading about the connection between irregular bathing and MRSA. From what I understand, MRSA (which already is present on a majority of people’s skin in 2009) can colonize and get out of control when you don’t bathe regularly with a little soap. However, there is a big difference between using those way-too-strong anti-bacterial soaps (which can kill healthy bacteria colonies on your skin and possibly cause other environmental problems) and a simple old-fashioned soap wash.

  12. Susan says:

    I have to agree with green jeans above; I work at an emergency room and the incidence of community acquired MRSA is very great. I work in a lower income neighborhood, and a great many of the people who have MRSA are those who are low income and/or do not bathe daily.

    It is called community acquired because you can get it from touching a door handle in public for instance. Those alcohol based gels and antibacterial soaps are partly to blame for making this a public health issue. Fortunately, good old fashioned soap takes care of it.

  13. Susan says:

    Now, having said that I don’t shower daily either, at least not in winter. My skin just can’t handle it, the humidity is too low and my skin is too dry. I do sponge bathe daily, and shower more frequently if I have any suspicion I’ve had some sort of exposure at work. In the summer I shower daily, but I have a water saver shower head and I take cool showers (it gets so hot the hot water heater becomes the repository of the cool water), in the evening so I can sleep better.

  14. Lorne says:

    I live in Michigan where water and rain are much less scarce than in other parts of the country. With no effort at conservation of any kind and fairly shameful profligacy with lawn watering and showers (AND baths in my wife’s case — she’ll fill the tub to warm her feet) — we (2 of us) ran an annual household water bill of “only” $600.

    It’s a terrible flaw of human nature that we readily waste whatever’s abundant. Our water usage has bothered me for a long time, so I began experimenting with different ways of bathing. I don’t think I would want to give up some form of (at least limited) daily washing — face, pits, crotch, and feet — to maintain good human relations. But I agree that most soaps are too harsh and the chlorinated/fluoridated city water is terrible on my skin.

    Here’s a method I tried for reducing my water consumption:

    (1) If you “poo,” apply it to your hair with a little water and work it in before you get in the shower. This prevents fiddling with the bottle while the water runs.
    (2) Get in the tub and stop the drain. Turn the faucet on full hot for a few seconds until all the cold water has run out and the hot water has mixed with it to create a small pool of very warm water in the end of the tub. Turn off the water.
    (3) Wash yourself from the top down in a squatting position using this water. The crouching position makes it easy to wash and rinse everything thoroughly and keeps you warmer because you’re “huddled” over the warm water. (This is more of an issue in cold climates like Michigan where bathrooms commonly have windows right over the tub whose convection of cold air in winter can make a cast iron tub feel like a frozen skating pond.)
    (4) Pull the stopper and (if necessary) rinse hair and body quickly by turning on the shower for a minute or so. (This also rinses the tub.) No need to run the water first because all the hot water is in the pipe ready to go.

    To easily gauge how much water you’re using per bath, don’t pull the stopper until the bath is completely finished. I figure a bath like this uses about 5 gallons, assuming a 1 minute rinse afterward with a 3 gpm showerhead.

    It occurs to me that baths like this would make a very simple gray water system practicable: just drain the tub into a 5-gallon bucket and use it to flush or water the garden.

    • Eldred says:

      If you do baths, even short ones, doesn’t the tub get dirty quicker because the dirt is just SITTING there while you bathe? How much water does it take to then clean the tub, and how often do you do it?

  15. Lily says:

    Unless I am really grimy I only shower every other day at most and I only wash my hair about twice a week. If I need to style it in between shampoos I just rinse it and condition the ends; it is actually curlier when I do that. I use Dr. Bronner’s magic soaps and am going to try the no-poo method.

    As to the granola question (assuming it was not rhetorical…) – I think the bias is leftover from the association granola picked up with the hippy movement in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Although I think the meaning of hippy has evolved since then, it still is considered a “fringe movement”. Frankly I think the bias is from all those who haven’t experienced the deliciousness that is homemade granola!

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