The year before last I had managed to save approximately 1m³ of water over the course of 6 months by flushing my toilet with recycled water, such as collected rainwater from outside, or should I have a bath, using that water too. To be honest it was all quite a faff and I pretty much gave up on the efforts of going outside to fill a bucket with rainwater to later pour into my toilet’s cistern. I thought nothing more of it.
Then my next 6-montly water bill arrived and somehow I had managed to save a further 1m³. How had I done this?
The reason is that showering with cold water requires a certain technique. You see, as I explain to people when I mention I usually have cold showers (due to them looking at me with utter horror, and me having to explain), cold showers are, well, cold. So just diving in under a torrent of cold water, especially during the winter, isn’t the way I do it, and especially not staying there for half an hour. I’m sure some people do, but it has taken me a while to become accustomed to taking cold showers; at first I would flinch and suffer almost heart-stopping shock, and also be at risk of getting foot cramp.
So I shall elaborate on my learnings for those that are curious.
#1 Run first
Honestly, this is the easiest way, or the routine I use to have a cold shower and the way it really works for me; even in winter I get home with a sweat on. Cycling doesn’t have the same effect on me and generally when I get home from a cold ride, I usually feel chilly, even if sweaty also, so a cold shower would be at odds with this. More on this later.
As soon as I get in from a run I have the urge to shower, and de-sweat. Normally this would involve turning on my water heater to heat up the water in order to have a nice hot shower; this either takes time or I have to put the heating on before I leave the house on my run. I simply don’t do this any more, therefore the overriding urge to shower takes over the preference to wait for the water to heat up. Also, my boiler isn’t all that reliable so it either lets me down completely, or does this thing where it likes to turn temporarily cold mid-shower… that and having to adjust the taps just right to get things at the right temperature. With a cold shower you just turn on the one tap and you get what you’re given.
Don’t think of taking a cold shower just like you would a hot one; I tend to wet myself down and get gradually accustomed to the coldness (especially when it’s winter) soap up away from the torrent (hell, I could save more water if I could be bothered to turn the tap off at this point), then dip back under to rinse off. You may well appreciate by this point that showering under cold water it a quick affair, which is why it saves so much water compared to luxuriating under hot soapy bubbles. When “they” say “take showers instead of baths to save water/the environment” I say “that only gets you halfway there”.
I prefer to wash my hair in the sink and I’m also used to doing this with cold water.
After getting so used to cold showers, and hardly thinking anything of them any more it came as quite a surprise that they had been saving me water (and money) also. The financial saving (for the water alone) is somewhat negligible to be honest, somewhere in the region of £1 per month. If I was used to having hot showers and someone said “I’ll give you £1 if you take only cold showers for a whole month” I doubt I’d take them up on their offer. There is of course the energy cost of heating water. A major saving though could perhaps be said to be through the time saved; I’m pretty sure a cold shower takes less than half the time that a normal hot shower does, and depending on how you heat your water, if you take a quick hot shower you may well have wasted a lot of energy in that process. Of course for showers which heat on demand, there is a saving to be had there – I don’t have this luxury. Am I denying myself a luxury? Some might say so but if you shower on a daily basis then how can each one be luxury? More on this in that moment.
#4 Health benefits
Cold showers are said to have health benefits – I’m not going to dispute or deny this, but after running they certainly cool you down quick. That initial shock I used to feel has subsided, perhaps through learning the technique, but also through a way of learning to stay calm and not having that flinching, heart-lurching panic; I think that was a good lesson for me.
#5 Bath time cop-out
After taking mostly cold showers for months on end I found myself craving (the luxury I suppose of) a hot bath last month, after a particularly long and chilly ride. On this occasion this felt like the best thing for recovery, especially when using epsom salt; I warmed up quick and relaxed with a book (not something I would do every day, which perhaps made it seem more like a treat). Just like my previous experiments I still saved the bath water and used it throughout the week to flush the toilet with, decanting it into the cistern with a bucket after I pulled the lever. It still amazes me that a bath of water is what’s required to flush my toilet each day for a week.
So there we are: Save water, energy, the environment, time, and money (and maybe improve your health and well-being) by taking cold showers. Don’t fear them, just be prepared and master the technique! They become the norm after a while. I should add that I neither run nor shower every day, but perhaps the latter encourages the former when cold showers are the only option.