Well, folks, we did it – we survived one dirty month! I’m so grateful to all of you who participated (and I know there were more of you out there who joined in without commenting here, so thank you, too!).
I’ll leave you hanging in suspense for just a few paragraphs before announcing the winner. (I know, I’m terrible!)
Here are a few observations from the emails and comments I received during this challenge:
::”Dirty” hair is not so dirty.
I have found that the knee-jerk reaction to skipping a day when washing one’s hair is often a tendency to feel grossed out or worried that one’s hair will be dirty, smelly and/or greasy. However, I’m happy to say that several people reported to me that skipping a day when washing their hair was actually easy and not as worrisome as it first seemed! Here are some comments from readers:
Chris C said, “First I tried skipping hair washing for a single day, and it wasn’t bad at all, especially since I didn’t do anything vigorous. I went one step further and didn’t use a hair blower to dry my hair, and my hair was actually extra shiny! …I think I’m going to skip days more often.”
Brandy commented, “My hair is still clean and doesn’t feel even slightly greasy so I will be skipping shampoos much more often in the future.”
Celia added, “I have always washed my hair every day….and I use hair products in my hair every day…..so I have to wash it every day…..vicious cycle. So for this challenge I washed my hair…..didn’t use any products……and then skipped washing it for several days. I chose this challenge because I am trying to grow my hair out and I have bought a few Gypsy Wraps from an etsy shop for this very reason……trying to live simply…..with a smaller footprint…..and this is one small step to many more.”
This is actually a subject that I’m really passionate about, though to be honest, it’s more about vanity and health than water conservation. It is just plain good for your hair to wash it less! You will likely find it prettier and shinier if you cut back on washings. And perhaps you will find, like these ladies, that skipping a shampoo is not so bad.
::Social pressure plays a role.
This is a tough one. I have had comments from people who mentioned their worries about others knowing that they don’t shower every day. Kay (who is a water-conserving hero!) said, “…I’ve been following your blog for quite some time regarding ‘getting dirty’ and it sure made me feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one who skipped showering for days at a time. …This is something I don’t advertise. …The norm for me is 3 to 4 days between showers. I’m really gonna hate this being known by one and all but I suppose it is for a good cause so I may as well spill.”
I hear this a lot, and it continues to reinforce my feelings that our culture is way too obsessed with cleanliness. I know people who shower twice a day, every day, who are disgusted by the idea of not regularly washing. I hear people say that sweat is disgusting, that walking in wind makes them feel that their skin is “dirty,” and that not washing hair at least once a day is unthinkable. I have heard many say that a person should smell like soap all the time, except when at the gym. But to me, this is backwards, and is a desire to wash away all our naturalness, all our wildness.
I think the belief is that if you don’t shower every day, you will smell like dirty hair, like body odor, like really old sneakers. I used to be embarrassed to tell people I didn’t shower every day until years ago, when I heard two stylish beauticians at a salon talking about their dirty hair. These were stunningly beautiful 20-something girls (seriously, they could have been models) and one was asking the other if she would help her wash her hair. “I haven’t washed it in over a week and it’s really dirty!” I looked at the other (who was cutting my hair at the time) and said, “You two don’t wash your hair every day?” She replied, “God, no! That is so bad for your hair! You should never wash it every day.” After that, I started to have a different perspective on the cultural obsession with cleanliness. Now, I absolutely LOVE telling people (if the subject comes up) that I haven’t showered in two or three days and hearing them say, in shock, “But you look/smell so good!” That’s because one can still maintain good hygiene without assaulting the body with soap, shampoo and deodorizers at every opportunity. (A damp washcloth is just as effective as a shower for staying fresh!) And it’s so awesome to be able to demonstrate that to others.
::Creative showering is easy.
Many of you found ways to cut back on water usage in creative ways. Some of you, like Brandy and Tiffany, shower with your kids, which is a great way to save water! Martina completely amazed with her story of bush camping – now this woman knows how to make water go the distance! She said, “…when I read your blog I smiled as a 7 minute shower is unthinkable for me…what would I do such a long time there? So yesterday I got into the shower and thought I have a really quick one and see how long that takes. It was 1.5 minutes and I thought it wasn’t really a rush. We travel Outback Australia 3 month of the year and bush camp as much as we can – the only reason why we have to get back into civilization is water – so we are good with using very very little. It is often for days a ‘bucket wash’ as we call it – we both wash us out of the same bucket and the same 1.5 liter of water. You get used to it and you feel and you are pretty clean. I think if it is there it just gets used and nobody things about it.” Pretty amazing, huh?!
::A short shower can be an eye-opener.
Some of you tried the “Jennifer Aniston shower” (3 minutes), and bravo! I did that once – just once, because I really hate short showers. It’s been my experience that some people are just really good at taking a short shower, and others (like me) have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of that magnificent stream of piping hot water. LOL. But I think everyone should try (at least once a year) to accomplish the 3 minute shower. It really puts your shower time and water usage into perspective. Hearing the timer go off while you are just rinsing the shampoo out of your hair gives you something to ponder.
And how much time and water did you save this month? Kelli, my faithful participant who has been getting dirty since the beginning of the month, submitted this amazing report:
Since I started on May 6, I have taken 5 Navy showers [out of 7 showers total] with water running for 5 minutes total out of 15-17 minutes in the shower. Each Navy shower used 19.5-39.5 gallons of water, so I used a total of 97.5-197.5 gallons of water for those 5 showers. If I had left the water on for the whole shower, I would have used a total of 331.5-671.5 gallons of water. That’s a difference of 234-474 gallons of water for the entire challenge! At the rate I’m going, I could have taken an additional 5 Navy showers and used the same amount of water as a regular shower [for me]. For a normal 17 minute shower I would have used 66.3-134.3 gallons. Instead, I used 19.5-39.5! I can’t believe how much water I saved!
Pretty amazing, huh?
As for me, I’ve taken just 7 showers this month (like Kelli). Kelli totally kicked my butt, though, because most of my showers were 15 minutes long. (I’m too obsessed with the hot water to turn it off between rinses.) I spent a total of 96 minutes in the shower this month. Compare that to my old shower routine from two years ago (showering for 15 minutes every other day): 225 minutes. So I saved 129 minutes of shower time! At 2.5 gallons of water per minute, I used 240 gallons of water. Compared to my old routine, I saved 322.5 gallons of water!
So what will you do, now? You may find that even if you did just one of the challenges here for one day, your routine might start to change all on its own. I did not expect to change my showering routine after the 50% Dirtier Challenge I did last fall. But when I started preparing to present it again this spring, I was surprised to find that I had been showering every third day (which was my goal back then) very consistently, without realizing it! It literally just became a habit and I forgot that it had started when I set my goals for the last challenge. Perhaps in six months, you will realize that you have started to wash your hair every other day and forget why or when you started doing that…
I’ll post a bit more on some tips about this in June, but this post is getting long, and I’m sure you want to hear who won the lip balm! So onward!
The random number generator picked…….
Congratulations to Tiffany!! And be sure to check out her awesome post, Keeping Clean on Less Than a Gallon a Day.
Lastly, I want to thank you all so very much for participating in this challenge. I know it isn’t an easy one – showers are a beloved luxury. Believe me, I understand! And I understand what a challenge it can be to step out of the comfort zone of cleanliness. But I sincerely hope that it was both fun and educational, and that perhaps you found it wasn’t as gross as you thought it would be to get a little dirty. Thank you all!!
(Please forgive me if I didn’t use your comments in this post. I ended up with more submissions than I expected, and didn’t have room for them all. But I am very grateful for your comments and feedback!!)