the Mighty Bucket Bath

The bucket bath is an ancient and revered Indian tradition. Many a bath time in my family centred around the all-important Bucket. From toddlers to adults, when times were tough you used the bucket. Showers and ‘soaks’ were unheard of in my family. Too little people and not enough geyser capacity guaranteed that a bucket bath was all you had. Let me explain how it works.

First and foremost you need a bucket, preferably a 20 litre as that will most likely to fit into your tub. Then you need a little ‘stool’ or chair to fit in the tub. This one is tricky though. It needs to be small enough so that you don’t feel like you’re gona spill out of the bath when you sit on it but it shouldn’t be so small that it’s likely to break with the weight of an adult. My mum had the perfect little one that balanced you perfectly. I’ve had to get a pink one, slightly larger because the small ones are no longer available.

The next step is to get some sort of container to transfer water out of the bucket and onto your body. Because you are rationed to one bucket only (to save on the hot water) you’ve got to try and use it sparingly so a small container is better. Now the trick is this- you use one container of water to try and wet your entire body. This saves enough water for later, when you need to rinse of all the soap.

If you’re washing your hair it’s even worse! I try and dip my entire head into the bucket to save on water. So there I am, trying to perch on this chair, my legs bent in front of me and my knees practically out of the tub! I’m trying to scoot as close to the bucket as possible but the damn thing is so slippery. I don’t want to topple the bucket and I have this fear of the chair going flying out from under me and my bum ends up on the cold porcelain of the bath tub. Eventually I manage to get my hair wet and rush to get the shampoo in. In the meanwhile my butt and back is frozen because it’s already dried up! There’s no way I can condition my hair so I’ll have to go with dry hair for the day.

You then proceed to wash the rest of your body but you do it lightning fast because this certainly isn’t leisure activity, we’re all business baby! By this time the bucket is half full and you’re beginning to get panicky. The solution to this is to fill the container only half way and pour it incredibly slowly on the specific area being given attention to just then. All the while you’re doing this you have to be careful not to be splashing water all over the floor. For one thing it’s a dreadful waste, for another your mother will probably kill you if she sees a wet floor. Or you’ll kill yourself slipping on it while getting out of the tub.

So now you’ve completed a top to toe wash. You peer into the bucket and realise that you have a quarter bucket of water left, what a luxury! This is my favourite part. Every single part of my body is ice cold and I’m sure that I’ve still got soap in places my container can’t catch. So I pick the entire bucket up (singing the He-Man song in my head) and dump the entire contents tight onto my head. A warm (and very temporary) flow of water washes down my body and it almost feels like a shower. Water flies everywhere so my life is limited and my butt is about to meet ‘tub’ but everything was worth it, all for that warm, clear flow of water.

All this has happened in the space of about 15 minutes. The next 15 minutes are spent trying to get out of the tub…


10 thoughts on “the Mighty Bucket Bath

  1. In the older houses in Taiwan (like my grandparent’s one), it’s almost the same. Except there’s an area in the bathroom that’s been “cornered” off and it had a drain so that you don’t sit in the tub, you stand and have your “shower”

  2. Just a month ago, in Cameroon, I was standing under a shower (that would only give cold water) with a bucket full of warm water and a little plastic cup. I did not use the shower, just the bucket. It is not such a bad method after all. And yes, when you pour the rest of the water over yourself… 🙂

  3. This really made me laugh. When I was a kid, we had a bath, standing up in a laundry tub in the kitchen, and this was in England. My dad had a zinc bath in front of the fire. Those were the days, and thank goodness no more. 🙂

    1. lol My cousin and I used to have a ‘splashing’ competition, the challenge was getting water onto the window!
      Thank goodness those days are over and I now have my trusty shower 🙂

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