The Navy Shower

The Navy Shower by Julie Ross


The biological process of cleaning oneself in order to retain good health and/or attract a mate meets the cultural idea of shower as a place to become more beautiful or relax or think. Cleanliness is not the only objective in the shower. If it was and the comfort of relaxation or regimen of beauty were not a factor, showers would likely be much more efficient. Less water would be used and perhaps less energy to heat the water would be necessary in a shower solely for cleanliness. To investigate this, I will document my process of showering at home of the course of a week in order to capture how it deviates from the essentials of cleanliness and what cleanliness means in the context of American culture. This will be done through reflective writing. Through documenting the length of my shower, what is accomplished in the shower, what am I preoccupied by in the shower, I hope to become more aware of my water usage and compliance with cultural norms.







I showered in my dorm over the course of five days in the Navy Shower manner to explore the intersection of cleanliness and relaxation in the U.S. when taking a shower. The Navy Shower is a shower that includes getting wet, sudsing without water running, and then quickly rinsing off. It takes about 3 gallons minimum, but with my hair length and inexperience, I did about 6 gallon showers. However, according to my normal routine, I showered every other day. In this way, my water usage which would have been 15 gallons over 5 days according to the Navy Shower ended up being 18 gallons for the 5 days through my emulation of that shower type. Throughout the week, I journaled about my experience and its connection to American culture.

In this project, I learned more about my perception of water and cleanliness. Water took on the role as resource when I started to use it only in needed ways. It wasn’t my right to be in ultimate comfort and run the water as usual. I needed to conform to less with no alternatives. As well, I explored what it meant to others to be clean and how that has changed historically. Have companies selling soaps and shampoos sold us the idea that we have the right to waste water in the pursuit of comfort and sexual appeal? Do I actually feel healthier when using short, cold showers?

Ultimately, I ended by projecting what my and other people’s water usage would result in at the end of a year and calculated spaces that could be filled with that amount of water. The difference between one bath shower area with a ten foot ceiling ten versus a whole in ground swimming pool consumed by the average American was a drastic contrast for me. Usually, I fall into the fill a dorm room up to 2 feet below the ceiling (in an average 10 foot high dorm), but that is still ten times more than the bath stall example when showering by the attempted Navy Shower method. Moving forward, I intend to strike a balance.