Thursday, November 01, 2007

bucket bathing

Oh, hi there. You just caught me finishing a bucket bath... "what's that!?" you ask? Bucket baths are how you bathe when your lodgings lack bath tubs or shower heads. Basically you fill a big bucket with water then use a smaller bucket to pour the water over yourself while trying to lather/rinse/rub at the same time. I've been working on my technique these last few days but I still have a number of problems with the process.

  • It's hard to get the temperature of the bucket water just right -- at any given time you can only add hot water or cold water to the bucket, so it's a delayed feedback system with a fixed deadline (the bucket edge). After a few days practice I'm now able to get a satisfactory temperature, but doing so requires diligence and sustained monitoring of bucket temperature.

  • Perhaps the greatest mystery in my mind about bucket bathing is how I'm supposed to wash my arms. I generally pour with one hand and rub with the other, but on the arms I can either pour with no rubbing or try to awkwardly pour onto the arm holding the bucket while rubbing the arm down gently so I don't splash water everywhere. It's very inefficient; I think I use 1/4 of the bucket water on just my arm & shoulder regions.

  • Finally, bucket bathing requires me to stand naked in the middle of a bathroom and pour water on myself. Standing in a running shower is mentally acceptable, but standing around naked without water constantly running over me is strangely unsettling. It's clearly a silly cultural thing, but I'm having trouble adjusting.

While we're on the matter of washroom cleansing, let me just answer the one question I know you've all been asking yourselves: No, they don't use toilet paper in India. They instead use, you guessed it, buckets of water. No, no, you don't sit in the bucket; you pour the water down your backside.
I'm fine with about 3/4ths of this method -- feel free to read an extended critique of toilet bucket system in my new book entitled OK, My Butt is Clean and Dripping Wet... Now What?.


  1. Dude, I still bucket bathe when I go home! It's so peaceful compared to a shower. Do you at least have flush toilets?

    Also akshay-- for the mental image of him naked in a shower. Just for that I'm not buying your book.

  2. the toilet flushes, at least when there's running water (which has become a problem in my grandfather's flat)

  3. Well here's another question--if there's only running water for a few hours each day, what if you have to go at a different part of the day?

    The other thing about standing in the middle of a large bathroom instead of a shower is the draft--luckily Mumbai is generally pretty warm and toasty for standing around wet and naked...

  4. ajit: we store extra water in big buckets and then mimic flushing by pouring the water into the bowl from the same height as the tank.

    now you know.

  5. Thank you for your post. We have been in India for a week and have had similar questions and thoughts. Would you ever use a public bathroom's bucket? We have not tried that yet and only practiced in our host family's homes and at hotels.

    -- Group Study Exchange Team from New York Rotary District 7150


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