Shower water and soap

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Oct 31, 2007
Vessel Name
Vessel Make
Willard Nomad 30'
How many gallons does it take to shower? It seems to me that some soaps wash off easily and others take forever. Any favorites that wash off quickly?

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
We use Dove, Dial, Ivory, or Irish Spring*depending on what's in Costco on the day my wife shops for bar soap. All of these wash off pretty quickly. However, I wonder if it has more to do with the water you're using than the soap. I've noticed when traveling for work that some places take forever to rinse off the soap while others are like home--- and I'm using the same bar of soap in all these places.

I think the "harder" the water, the more it takes to rinse off soap, but I could have this backwards. Maybe it's real soft water that's the problem.

As to how much water we use to shower on the boat, we have a handheld shower head with an on-off button, so we get ourselves wet, then shut off the water with the button, soap down, shampoo, and then hit the button again to rinse off. I would guess, judging by the amount of water in the shower pan before we pump it out that one shower typically uses between 1 and 2 gallons, but that's just an estimate based on what I see underneath the grate.

I like your new avatar photo, Eric. It shows off your boat better.

-- Edited by Marin at 23:00, 2008-02-01
You guys use soap?

Ken Buck
For a great sea water wash JOY does well as soap or shampoo.

We do Navy showers - run water only when you're actually wetting yourself or rinsing. A good shower can be had in 1-2 gallons, depending on how much hair you're washing.

We use a very nice product called "Body Care" - a body wash by Sasco. Really nice on the skin, and washes off great.

Use a quality gentle shampoo and it will rinse well.

Ditto on the on/off button. We added one about a year ago and are using a lot less water since.
When I used to take trips solo, I could easily make 55 gallons last a week. Put mama on board and it goes down to about 2 days....complete with washing dishes while the water is running...the whole time. AND YOU NEVER COMPLAIN when SOMEONE ELSE IS DOING THE DISHES. In her defense, she would do this when she knew we would be within easy reach of more water and, generally, we always are.
Thanks guys for all the sudsy advise. I'll look for Body Care .... wonder if it's a bar or bottle product. Marin thanks so much for the comment on my avatar. Nobody seemed to notice my pic efforts. Since my old laptop won't post pictures I had to get help and all best pics are down south on the boat. Walt... I'm working on it. I'm amazed how little you guys use for showers. You must all be dirty old men. Wow with my 100 gallon water capacity we should have enough to really stay clean. Marin, I noticed the difference in rinseability of various water sources too but on the boat thats a given ... ya get whats in the hose on the dock. The soap is a variable we can change. My shower water goes into the bilge and I don't like the idea of soap scum in my bilge. It may even be a good thing and I am going to ask the Willard site about this but if someone has experience or opnion .. let it all hang out.

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
What about installing a water maker then you can use as much water as you like without worrying about having to find a hose on the dock?
That way you could have really nice showers, not the splash and dash variety and the dishes could have running water for rinsing.

Carey's lobsterboat also drains the shower water into the bilge where the bilge pump eventually pumps it overboard. So far as I know, he's not had a problem with this.* I'm assuming (I've never looked) that he has some sort of a screen over the shower drain to catch hair and stuff so it won't end up in the bilge.

If your shower has a sump pan under the grate (if there is a grate) or some other container you could rig up a direct pumpout using something like a Whale Gulper pump. This is a true "trash" pump (whatever that means), and is apparently the standard pump used on GBs for the shower pan. You could perhaps plumb it with a hose to the through-hull for the galley sink so you wouldn't have to drill another hole in the hull.

But if all that sounds like more work than it's worth, I really don't think the shower-water-into-the-bilge setup is a problem. I can't imagine it would hurt anything in the bilge of a fiberglass boat, so if you're not getting odors this setup, like Carey's, sounds like a nice, simple, foolproof system.

I wanted to add that if someone is interested in the notion of installing a shower head with an on-off button, they can be purchased at any good RV store. Our boat came with one, but the first time I experienced using one was a filming assignment on board the USS Constellation. I thought it was a pretty clever idea.

-- Edited by Marin at 15:52, 2008-02-02
If the water is soft then it will suds more and require more rinse water.
I think any boat requires a shower/wash sump with a filter on the pump suction. These are easily fitted and easy to maintain.
You don't require the shower drain in your bilge with what else is probably in it.
Fess up you all do it in the shower.
I know I carry a lot of water 500 gals and dont have a water maker. If I did I would at least halve my water capacity.
500 gals can last myself and 4 other divers/fishermen about 3 weeks and that is without any severe restrictions. A sal****er tap on the galley sink for rinsing is a must.
I also collect rainwater from the wheelhouse top and in a tropical downpour after a rinse and clean period with a broom can collect up tqo 100 gals in 1/2 an hour.
Mind you can't allways depend on the rain, but a chance to collect should never be missed.


Are you dhure soft water requires more rinse? I would have thought the opposite.

"My shower water goes into the bilge and I don't like the idea of soap scum in my bilge"

I personally don't like shower water with hair, and soap and whatever other "stuff" might be there floating around in my bilge either. My previous boat had the shower sump hose fitted directly to a small pump which pumped overboard. The shower user needed to manually pull the switch and turn it on to keep his/her feet from standing in water. Not hard to remember, and worked fairly well with the inline screen.

My current boat has open top catch basins into which the sink and tub aft and sink and shower forward drain into. Inside the catch basin, which is about 10" by 16", is a small bilge pump and float switch. These are wired to a switch in each head just like any Auto/on/off bilge pump might be wired. These are always left in auto. They automatically empty whenever the float switch raises. If the boat is left for some longer period of time I pump them down with the on switch to only a 1/2 inch of water. I haven't noticed any odors from this amount, but we are pretty good at running copious amounts of water down and flushing the system before leaving.

An added benefit if one were to look for one, is that if the basins are secured to the bilge (so it won't slide in normal usage) they will also act as additional bilge pumps if something goes wrong and water gets to that level.

Ken Buck
A "trash pump" like the Whale Gulper uses pistons or diaphrams to create suction and pressure (alternating). The flow of water is controlled by flapper doors (like one way valves). This allows the pump to pass solids (trash) as well as liquids. I think the Whale Gulper is rated to 1.5inch solids, or something like that.

For a shower or sink sump, a trash pump is best because it will pump the "weird stuff" and hair.

Most people use a rotary impeller bilge type pump and many times hair can get wrapped all around the impeller and stop them up. Or a chunk of "weird stuff" can jam it so it won't start. Or the "weird stuff" just remains in the sump forever because it won't go through the strainer on the pump.
On our boat the engine still has (change coming) the lube oil filter in a canister.

Being as careful as possible there is always some dripping as the canister is lifted , even after a 60 min wait for it to drain.

I'm a HELL of a lot more careful than a bunch of Navy kids were from 1968 till now.

So any soapy water in the bilge from a shower is welcome!

The bilge has been power washed with Simple Green , but 30 years of slime is a lot to remove, a film returns no matter what.

Sasco Body Care body wash is a green liquid, comes in a bottle.
Gene Wrote: A "trash pump" like the Whale Gulper uses pistons or diaphrams to create suction and pressure (alternating).

Yup! I installed two in our boat about two years ago. I hated the "sump box" and float switch setup. It always seemed to smell after a while and I try hard to keep the bilge(s) dry. I installed a mechanical timer in each head as to turn the pump on. Shuts off when the timer runs out cause you will forget. The admiral and I both have long hair and they work great. I have not had to pull them apart to clean yet. The best way I can describe them is that they "oscillate the water directly overboard.*** Oh yea.I wash with Irish spring at least every other day!! Ken
I made a shower sump out of a Tuberware square container about 6 deep by 8 X 8, 10 bucks with a West Maine 500 gallon bulge pump with built in switch 50 bucks.*There is less than a 1/2 cup of water left in the container.*Once a month I clean out the sump and the pumps screen, takes*one minut, just lift the*grade.*

I use what ever body bath lotions my wife buys with one of the plastic fluffy body scrub things.** We are presently using a rose scent but my favorite is vanilla.
The water pump is 45 psi which is enough water but not so much water that it has to be turned off.

I dont get people that complain about moisture/water/condensation but think nothing about having grey water in the bilge. *Dah!
If you're used to hard water, soft water feels like it never rinses off soap - because you don't have the sticky residue on your skin that makes it feel like it's "soap-free." In reality, soft water cleans everything off quickly, but your skin still feels slippery as if it had soap on it.

My biggest water saver is a shaved head. My hair looked like c__p anyway, and when half of it fell out, I shaved off the rest. I can do a whole shower in a minute - and with a two GPM shower head, my 150 gallon tank can last quite a while.

Of course, we won't talk about what happens when the wife's along....

I like your present boat's system best. I think I'll try and find space to do that on the Willard. That would mean most all the time the shower water goes ... well I think I'll take that other example and route the discharge hose to my gally sink discharge and through hull. Thanks guys!

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
nomadwilly wrote:

How many gallons does it take to shower? It seems to me that some soaps wash off easily and others take forever. Any favorites that wash off quickly?

Eric Henning
30 Willard
Thorne Bay AK
One thing I did is purchase a new shower head from Home Depot that is rated for no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. This at least limits how much water the girlfriend uses when showering.

I would look into a shower sump, draining the shower in thie bilge is nasty. Rule has some nice small sumps if space is an issue. I*had to clean my bilge out from the previous owner doing this.
My wife can take a shower as quick/quicker than I can. Now that her hair is as short as mine, and lets it go natural.* Also using body bath soap also helps as it cleans and moisturizes at the same time, and we use a 2 in 1, shampoo and conditioner, which helps cut down the amount of water used and time.*

Before a shower we check the shower pump to make sure it*turn on and off so no shower water goes into the bilge.* Usually by the time the water warms up enough the pump should come on and off. **Cleaning and drying out the bilge takes about a week. The sump pump is *connected*the bathroom sink drain.*****
After each shower we rinse down and sprat Clorox the shower to cut down the mold/mildew and keeps the shower sump clean/fresh.* The shower sump has easy access so it can be cleaned easily. *If the pan/container is deep and small it does not take very much water to turn the pump on and there is less than a ½ of water left in the container.* ***
When we first purchased Ancora, the shower pump was located under the house batteries, not a place for easy access. I dumped the pump and piped the shower right into the bilge sump. That was eight years ago and we have never had a problem. As an aside, my wife keeps the fiberglass shower easy to clean by using Turtle wax on the walls. Any car wax will do the trick.
We no longer use bar soap as it produced a thck film on everything in the shower, plugged the drain and made the sump pump stick occasionally. The best we have found is a body wash gel. It lathers great and wahes off easily and no more cleaning the shower with a putty knife.

Any favorites that wash off quickly?

JOY , does the dishes , your body and hair in fresh or sea water.

Also good for breaking the sheen should you overfill a diesel tank , or pump an oily bilge.

Only wish it was cheaper by the gallon!
Our shower, laundry i.e. all our greywater empties into the bilge and pumps over the side. We have been using the Amway range of products, they seem to be good on a boat, concentrated and biodegradable. The other plus is that they last forever and take up little room. The buildup in the bilge is low, no more than a quick hose out every 6 months and all is clear.
We live on a ferro boat which is happy with a wet bilge. I guess the reduced build up would apply to other shower/laundry systems.
Just one little thing if you do the shower-drain-into-the-bilge:

Make darn sure guests and kids know that it is NOT cool to pee in the shower.
Make darn sure guests and kids know that it is NOT cool to pee in the shower.

OR the sink,

depending on how the gray water is routed.

In general, bar soap will tend to have a tendency to leave deposits in a sump system sooner than liquid soap.

When boarding a boat, I can tell from the foul smell of rancid soap whether the grey water drains into the bilge.

A friend's boat always had this smell because he ran the sump without a cover on it. Added cover, removed smell.
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