Hot vs. Cold Showers

In Ghana there are many different levels of affluence and access to resources/services.  One of these vital everyday necessities is water! Hence EWB volunteers who live in different areas or with different families have different ways of taking a shower, and they each have their merits.


Many indoor showers in Ghana look like this.  Tiled floor. shower head… but never any shower curtain so the water ends up getting everywhere.  (Note: this picture was taken in Uganda where the situation is very similar).

Hot Showers
Hot showers are lovely, especially on cold days. However, In Ghana there are no cold days. Sometimes it’s a bit chilly, but never cold enough that you need a hot shower just to stop shivering! Having hot water is nice because then you always have a choice, but it’s a luxury for many Ghanaians. In many houses you must turn on the hot water with a switch about an hour before taking a shower (depending how hot you want it and how long your shower is going to be). I find that hot showers are the only way to feel 100% clean. I still wear flipflops in the shower though (because in Ghana there are different kinds of bugs all over the place!). Hot showers also use the most water (because I never want to get out) and electricity. This also means that showers are no longer hot if you have a power outage and no generator!


This man is selling “scrubby cloths” – they come in many different colours, and you can either buy a full or half piece (I think a half is totally sufficient).

Cold Showers
Despite the name, cold showers are not always freezing cold… It depends on your water source. At my house the cold showers make u wince when the water hits your head, and you try to avoid it touching the parts of your body that you aren’t currently washing. However, at some houses the water is stored in a black poly-tank in the yard, where it heats up all day. So afternoon showers can actually be quite a pleasant temperature. Taking a cold shower requires a “scrubby cloth” (I’m not sure what they’re actually called but everyone has them and they sell them everywhere. It’s basically a deconstructed loofah!). Using the cloth feels good because you’re clean(ish) but actually kind of hurts. It feels like sandpaper for your skin, but it really helps get all that dirt and soap off! The best part about cold showers is that it incentivizes people to save water. When it’s cold I always take a staggered shower (where you turn off the water while washing, shaving, etc. and only turn it on to rinse). Hence, both electricity and water are saved.  Plus it helps cool you off when you’re hot and sweaty (which is constantly – if you’re a Canadian in Ghana and not used to the weather).


Jerry can of water at the door to your room?  Surprise!  You get to take a bucket shower for the next three days because the hotel is out of water.. (at our hotel in Kasese, Uganda).

Bucket Showers
When there’s no access to running water, a bucket shower is pretty much the only option (other than a river). However, some people choose to take this kind of shower because of bad water pressure, or because they want to use warm water but don’t have a hot water tank (so you can use a kettle or water heated on a gas/charcoal/wood stove to fill the bucket). The first step is to fill up a bucket or basin from a tap or other water collection point. Then most people use a smaller cup to actually splash the water on their body. Then you sudse up like normal and try to rinse it off with the cup. You can use the scrubby cloth to try and scrape the dirt and soap off of your skin but rinsing out conditioner is very difficult.  This method uses the least amount of resources (water and electricity) and can be performed when there is no running water available (which some people experience all the time, and many people experience sporadically, as water sources can sometimes be unpredictable – even in the city!). If you’re planning to live in Africa, I would recommend perfecting this method – It comes in handy!


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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3 Responses to Hot vs. Cold Showers

  1. nespenberg says:

    I normally have hot water at my house. However, I’ve had my share of cold showers as well as a few bucket showers. I definitely prefer the hot bucket shower over the freezing cold water from a shower head!

    Unfortunately, when the power goes out (like it is right now), I have no water at my house because it’s all fed from a pump/tank in the yard. The power is always out in the evening though, never in morning, so I haven’t been stuck not being able to shower for work thankfully!


    • mandyrox2 says:

      Hey Nick, interesting to hear your perspective! That’s too bad about no shower if there’s no power but I’m glad it doesn’t interfere too much. Sounds like it would make cooking and washing dishes in the evening difficult!


  2. Pingback: Don’t flush the toilet paper! – Access to basic services in Bolivia | Amanda Around the World

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