by Lars Peterson on 27 February 2014


Having once been a commercial fisherman on a small boat with little fresh water, and more recently having been a frequent occupant in a rustic Sierra Nevada cabin with unreliable fresh water (much less fresh hot water), I have had the opportunity to develop — and refine — what I believe is the world's most efficient shower technique. You may be familiar with the so-called Navy Shower, which is similar, as the principles are the same. But whether you're interested in saving water or energy at home (as well as money), or if you find yourself on a small vessel or in a rustic abode, this routine will have you in and out of the shower and back in front of the stove in a couple of minutes — and under running water for way less than that. (See also: How to Shower Less)

Ready? Let's go!

1. Arrange Your Tools

Soap, wash cloth, a big plastic cup for extra rinsing power, towel, floor mat. You won't be shaving in the shower, gentlemen, so you won't need that stuff (ladies, see below). If you're at the cabin get your buckets situated; you'll be reusing the gray rinse water in the toilet later. (See also: 50+ Ways to Save Water)

2. Start the Tap

Depending on the rusticity of your place, you may have enough fresh water to wait for the hot water to arrive. In early summer the mountain spring that provides water to our cabin runs deep and clear, which affords us the luxury of waiting for hot water. By mid August? There's no waiting for hot water — turn on the tap and in you go.

3. Get Good and Wet

Hot or cold, get yourself nice and soaking, fill up your cup, and then turn off the tap. You're gonna be cold, but that's just more encouragement to move fast. Hopefully some of the water that rinsed off you wound up in your bucket.

4. Soap Up and Wash Off

Work the shampoo into your greasy locks and soap up everywhere else; scrub with the wash cloth. So clean. So cold! (See also: DIY Shampoo)

5. Tap On and Rinse Off

You'll spend a little more time here than the first go with the water flowing, but not much. No standing around — rinsing is work, same as cleaning. Move fast, rinse off, and then shut off the tap. Your plastic cup may be helpful here if your water pressure is lacking; fill it up and douse yourself once or twice.

Some of us are done at this point (and glad of it, 'cause it's cold), but if you'd like to continue on to apply hair conditioner or whatever, just repeat steps 3 and 4. See you in a second in front of the woodstove.

If you'd like to shave your legs, continue on.

6. Optional: Shave Your Legs

I'm offering this step based on my wife's explanation, and so I apologize if I've missed something. The idea is to get your legs good and wet, lather them up with shaving gel or whatever you use, and then, instead of rinsing your razor in running water, you'll rinse your razor in the cup, just like men do with their razors in the sink. You can even leave that gross stubble behind afterward, just like men do with their razor stubble in the sink. (See also: Razor Tricks to Help You Save)

Legs smooth and hairless? One last rinse of your gams and also your hair if you were conditioning while you shaved. And you're done. Collect your tools and stow them away. Collect your buckets and store them next to the toilet.

The process on the fishing boat was far simpler and used much less fresh water. None, in fact. When the sun was high above at maximum warmth, you stripped down to nothing and plunged over the rail and into the cold Pacific Ocean. You scrambled back aboard and scrubbed down with a piece of old towel and a few squirts from the bottle of Dr Bronner's and then back in the drink to rinse it all away. Never felt cleaner.