Peace Corps Life: How to Take a Bucket Bath

Without running water on my island (or during training) I have mastered the bathing method known as a "bucket bath."

While bathing in the ocean is super low-key and easy (no shampoo! no soap! full immersion! no need to remove clothes!), getting in the privacy of my swim haos to scrub off every last speck of sand and dirt with warm soapy water is both peaceful and meditative.

So I am here to share with you the ritual of this practice.

When you are accustomed to running water and being indoors in a white tile bathroom in the comfort of your home (ah, the days of a bathroom being attached to your living quarters...), imagining taking a bucket bath is both scary and repulsive. But I promise you, it is really lovely. It's not like camping, and there aren't tons of bugs (some, maybe, but not tons), and you get time to yourself. The only qualm I have with it is the inability to truly clean behind my ears. I just feel I get a better cleanse with running water in that sense.

In your shower, you will need:
  • A hand-held mirror (for washing your face or getting a good look at that spider bite on your back)
  • A long bamboo scrub brush (packed it from home, never have regretted it)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash (I just use baking soda), etc
  • Mosquito coils
  • Matches
  • A large bucket (holds 2-3 gallons of water)
  • A large cup made from cutting a 1-liter water bottle

To bring with you into the shower:
  • A sarong
  • A towel
  • A light (if at night)
  • A waterproof speaker (if you like to dance while naked)
  • Flip flops (so you can slide your clean feet into something before walking across the grass to your house)

How to shower:
  1. Enter the swim house and light a mosquito coil and shut the door. This will allow the smoke to lightly fill the swim house. You want to be inspecting your bug bites in the shower, not getting new ones. 
  2. In a tea kettle, boil water. Once scalding hot, pour it in your water bucket and fill the rest with (unheated/cool) water. The water you add can be well water, ground water or rain water. You aren't drinking it so who cares! Put the bucket of nice, warm water inside the shower.
  3. Inspect the shower for bugs. Is there a cockroach in there? Get your kitty in there and admire the hunt. 
  4. Get dressed for the occasion. In your house, strip down naked and throw on a sarong. Slip on your flip flops. If it's night, bring your solar light. If you're musically-inclined, bring some tunes with you on your waterproof speaker. Carry your towel with you.
  5. Open the door to your shower and step inside. Hook your towel and sarong on the nails on the wall. Hang your solar light on a nail. Set the speaker on the upper edge of the wall.
  6. Take the large cup created from an old water bottle and fill it up. Douse your head with water several times, getting your hair completely wet. Ahhhh warmth. 
  7. Set the cup down and shampoo your hair. Rinse with cups of water. Apply conditioner.
  8. Grab the soap and clean your body. Rinse off with cups of water. 
  9. Got a Diva Cup? Take it out and clean that thing before popping it back in.
  10. Use the mirror to check yourself as you wash your face. Scrub that sunscreen, oil, sweat and grime from your pores. Look at you, all nice and clean!
  11. Use the mirror to check your body. What is making your lower back itch? Is that mole getting bigger? This is probably the only time you ever see your entire body, or even your upper thighs, so make the most of it. 
  12. Dip the bamboo brush in the water bucket and scrub your whole body. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! Scrub those toes and nails and enjoy their cleanliness for the five minutes before they inevitably collect dirt again. 
  13. Dance. Have music, will dance.
  14. Rinse off your conditioner with cups of water. 
  15. Continue rinsing your body and hair with water until you run out. As you reach the end of the bucket, pick that sucker up and pour it over yourself, Flashdance style. 
  16. Grab your towel and dry off. Wrap your sarong around yourself. Extinguish the mosquito coil.
  17. Open the door of the swim house and prop it open. You want it to dry out so you can minimize mold growth. 
  18. Grab your light and shoes and head back inside the house to change. 
  19. Place your wet towel and sarong out on the laundry line to dry off. Don't put it in your laundry pile until it's don't want mildew, "dew" you?
  20. Comb/braid your hair and you are as fresh as you possibly can be...before you now cover yourself in a thick layer of mosquito spray and/or sunscreen. 


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