7 things you need for a sponge bath at Burning Man

sponge bath, baby

While the playa dust is glorious, holy and beloved, you’ll still probably want to clean up once or twice a day and be at least less dusty for a few brief moments of your life. Sponge baths are the way to go!

While you may hear burner after burner go on and on about baby wipes, I just don’t get the appeal. I mean, I do bring a pack or two and use them for my nether regions, in the portos and to clean my feet. Sometimes I do a first-round of dust removal with them before doing a sponge bath. But baby wipes alone? No thanks!

The feeling of a warm water and a gentle cotton washcloth on my skin is infinitely more luxurious in my experience, and I recommend that you be fully prepared to give yourself sponge baths, even if your camp has a shower.

7 things you need for a sponge bath set up in your tent–

  1. A bowl dedicated to being your wash bowl
  2. A JetBoil for warming water
  3. An in-tent water supply
  4. A clean, fresh washcloth for each time you sponge bath
  5. Diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap
  6. A spritz of vinegar
  7. Baby wipes as a first-round of cleansing for your nether regions

Bring 20 cheap, thin, white washcloths – PRO TIP!

I bring two or three washcloths for each day I’ll be on playa, and I usually use them all up by the end of the event.

Think about it? Would you rather wash yourself with a box or two of baby wipes over the course of a week, or with a nice fresh, cotton washcloth soaked in warm water and a bit of soap? I’ll take the latter. Now, I typically start by doing a wipe down with baby wipes, though mostly on my feet and nether regions. I just prefer the feel of a wash cloth.

I find the thinner washcloths are better than thicker ones for this purpose. Infinitely better. You’re not looking for something that looks fancy in your bathroom; you’re looking for a nubby terrycloth fabric that will help cleanse your skin. Trust me on this one! Stock up on these washcloths. It’s a small investment that produces a great (and luxurious) result.

Bring a dedicated bowl for sponge bathing

Bring a bowl dedicated exclusively to sponge baths and washing your face. The bowl needs to be big enough to accommodate about a pint of water, a washcloth and both of your hands. A good flat bottom on the bowl helps stabilize it.

Make sure to dilute your Dr. Bronner’s (or other) soap

Bring a small amount of full-strength Dr. Bronner’s soap and dilute it when you get on playa. Full-strength soap requires less space to pack. I don’t recommend using Dr. Bronner’s full strength on your body. It’s too much soap and requires too much water to wash off.

Bring an empty shampoo or body wash bottle

Bring an empty shampoo or body wash bottle to use for dilute the Dr. Bronner’s soap. Add a squirt of this diluted soap to the bowl of warm water you’ll use for your sponge bath. A small amount added to my warm sponge bath water works really well for me.

You really don’t need (or want) much soap to get clean. The playa dust will keep you remarkably clean as it absorbs sweat and oil. That might be hard to believe, but you’ll come to understand it experientially. That said, getting clean with a daily (or twice-daily) sponge bath and then moisturizing your clean skin is quite a luxury.

Have at the ready an in-tent water container

The camps I have been with have provided water for the whole group, and they seriously discourage people from bringing their own water in disposable 1-gallon plastic jugs. Still, I need to have my own water supply in my tent, and you will too.

My solution? I bring a ½-gallon water container that I fill up from the camp water source. This way I always have my own in-tent water supply for sponge baths, tooth brushing and making a quick cup of tea or some soup.

Baby wipes are good for the first round of cleaning

While I think baby wipes are sub-optimal for feeling truly clean and refreshed, I still use them every day. For sponge-bathing, I recommend you use baby wipes as a first-round of cleaning for your overall body and your nether regions. Then do another round of cleaning with warm water, a small amount of soap and a fresh wash cloth. #Heaven

Pack a towel because being wet in the wind means you’re cold

You may be lucky enough to have in your camp—or have a generous neighbor who has—a shower. Showers are great. Being wet and cold with the wind whipping about you (yes, it’s windy there) is not great. Bring a towel.

Camping towels (microfiber) take up less space in your bins, though they tend to be smaller and not as luxurious as regular bath towels.

How I do my sponge baths

Where necessary I’ll do a first round of cleansing and dust removal with the baby wipes.

Then, with warm water and a bit of soap in the water, I take my washcloth and start on the top, washing my face and all the little inlets (my eyes, ears, nose) really well. I wash my upper body and arms. My torso. I skip my nether region and wash my legs. It’s your choice whether you would wash your feet next or your nether regions next. I’d recommend genitals, then feet, then anus. But you do you.

Then rinse the cloth one more time in the gray water and that’s it. That wash cloth is done. It gets hung on the dirty clothes hamper to dry in the hot dry air, and that’s it. That wash cloth will not be used for anything else until I’m back home and all my laundry has been thoroughly cleaned.

Solar showers

Consider bringing a solar shower bag. (This tip is offered with a significant caveat.) I hesitate to add this item, and I personally have yet to bring a solar shower bag to the playa because 1) my camp has usually provided showers or 2) I didn’t shower while on playa, choosing instead to sponge bathe once or twice a day.

The most important thing you need to know before packing a solar shower for Burning Man is this: What is your camp’s policy regarding showers, water use and grey water disposal? You might have visions of taking a refreshing shower every day, but the camp might be allotting you and everyone else one gallon of personal water use per day.

So your desire to shower could impact your camp’s total water supply and your camp’s ability to handle the grey water produced. If you’re with a group, you have to ask about this issue. And you have to get permission about your water consumption and grey-water creation.

Do not make any assumptions about how much water you can use, nor about how much grey water you can personally generate with a solar shower. (Same goes for electricity and any appliances you are bringing.) You must ask about your intended uses and loads on the system and your camp or group’s ability to handle them.

Baby photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

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