We’ve all heard plenty during this long California drought about taking shorter showers to save water. But you can save even more by showering less often.
Americans seem to have a unique obsession with showering. Plenty of other people around the world stretch their showering intervals a lot longer. A recent survey found that four out of five women in Great Britain don’t shower daily. In fact, one-third shower only every three days.
There’s even medical evidence that daily showering might be bad for you:
Your skin receives its hydration from two main sources: moisture is in the air and beneficial oils and water found within your body. Showering can wash away those oils. This is especially prone to happen in dry climates and when hot water is used while showering (which most people do). Excessive showering not only dries out the skin, but it also causes those “split ends” that cause your hair to seem frizzy.
“Good” bacteria in skin cells produce their own antibiotics that can help protect us from “bad” bacteria. Body lotion and most soaps don’t provide this benefit; only showering less frequently does.
Having oils and dead skin cells on your skin provides a kind of protection from harmful chemicals. This is crucial as these chemicals can damage the skin and in some cases other parts of the body as well. When you shower, you remove these oils and dead skin cells from your skin and in the process make it easier for chemicals to get in.
Hot showers can worsen skin irritations such as psoriasis, eczema and rashes. Showering less often can help skin heal from these conditions.
Messing up the skin’s natural ecosystem can even boost risks of other problems, such as asthma and vitamin D deficiencies.
There’s also the simple fact that most people don’t get stinky and dirty enough to require a shower every single day. Unless you spend a lot of time working in the hot sun, in a very dusty environment, or in crowded or germy places, you probably don’t need a shower every day.
“We don’t need to wash the way we did when we were farmers,” Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, told the New York Times – way back in 2010. Since the advent of cars and labor-saving machines, she continued, “we have never needed to wash less, and we have never done it more.”
If you skip showering, it’s still important to maintain basic personal hygiene. This can be accomplished by a judicious daily rubdown with a wet washcloth in critical areas – such as the armpits, groin and feet. Just get the cloth wet and wipe away. Use two if you must.
Even if you’re already using a water-saving showerhead (and you better be), a five-minute shower can consume 12 gallons of water or more. That may not sound like a lot. But collectively, Americans are burning through lots of water just wetting down every day.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification estimates that 2.7 billion gallons of water rushes down drains all across America every single day when the citizenry showers. That’s enough to meet all the water needs of a city of 16,000 people – for a year. Showering less has so much potential to save water that the U.N. made it the focus of World Drought Day on June 17 this year.
Drought Pro is an occasional feature exploring advanced or unconventional ways to save water. To submit a suggestion, contact Water Deeply editor Matt Weiser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Top image courtesy United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.