Ever heard of a bucket bath? If you’re coming to India as a budget traveler you’ll want to get used to them because it’s 1000% what kind of washing up you’ll be doing. Most bathrooms in Indian homes and hotels do not have a shower head up top but only a tap at the bottom. You are meant to fill up a large bucket and use a smaller bucket to wash with, by dipping it into the big bucket.
Don’t worry – it’s literally something you’ll get used to after one bath. I get asked about bathing and bathroom situations in India quite often so am finally taking the time to walk you through how to take a bath here (how weird is that!?)
Things you need to know & tips for taking a bucket bath in India (or anywhere)
Use both buckets
There are two buckets in Indian bathrooms. The first is your typical big bucket that fits maybe 5 gallons of water. Then there is a little bucket with a handle which is usually hooked onto the side of the big bucket. The big one is what you fill with water. The little one is the scoop that you use to pour the water on yourself.
Get hot water
Most bathrooms in India has a geyser (small water heater) that you turn on 10 minutes before your shower to have a warm shower. Luxury places will have the hot water always going so you don’t need to do this. Many budget guesthouses will not have hot water at all – even when it was -5 degrees in Arunachal Pradesh. In the case that there is no hot water, you can use the kettle in your room to boil water to put in the bucket and add tap water to get a not boiling temperature. If you don’t have a kettle, you can ask the reception to let you borrow one or to boil you a little bit of water.
It’s key to use warm water because it’ll get you cleaner and it’s just miserable to take a cold bucket bath! Because you don’t continuously have warm water running over you like in a shower, you’ll feel the chill during a bucket bath.
Keep the bucket of water soap free
Basically, when you are washing the big bucket of water should stay soap-free because you’ll use it to rinse at the end.
The process of the bucket bath
It’s really easy, guys! You should squat down so that the water covers more surface area when you pour. Just take the little pourer and dump water over your head a few times until you’re fully wet then scrubba dub dub with soap, not getting any of that soapy run-off water in the big bucket. Once you’re clean, you dump more water over your head until you are soap-free. It’s (I think) pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be like and easy to clean with just one bucket even if you are washing your hair.
Don’t wash your hair like you usually do…
Bucket baths are the most annoying for people with long hair. If you usually wash your hair by aggressively messing it up then putting in conditioner and combing it through while in the shower, this isn’t really possible now. I know for me, I can’t brush my hair unless it has conditioner in it and I’m actually under the shower head. I brush through as I rinse my conditioner. So, you can’t do that with pouring water over your head. You have to get the conditioner out then comb your hair later when the bath is over. It causes more tangles for me and I need to use a leave-in conditioner. If you are the same, I recommend you gently wash your hair carefully trying not to tangle it too much.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that without the pressure of a shower head helping you rinse off, you might not get all the conditioner out of your hair. If it builds up, you will get greasy not-so-nice hair. It’s the same if you use cold water instead of hot, it might not all come up and can build up. I wash my hair less often when traveling in India to avoid dealing with it.
Bucket baths are WAY faster and use WAY less water
You can take a bucket bath so quickly and help the environment. You’ll get used to it after a bath or two and might end up preferring it. Actually many Indians will use the leftover clean water to wash their laundry.
Most Indian bathrooms are “wet rooms” so the water goes everywhere. There isn’t always a designated shower area. To avoid getting water everywhere, you can squeegee after. Many bathrooms have small ones in there already.
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