What is a Combat Shower?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A combat shower is a shower which is taken with a minimal amount of water, conserving water resources for ecological, economic, or practical reasons. You may also hear combat showers referred to as “navy showers” or “sea showers.” While the combat shower originated in the military, many civilians also take water saving showers as well.

A combat shower is taken with a minimal amount of water being used.
A combat shower is taken with a minimal amount of water being used.

The origins of the combat shower lie on Navy ships, which often had a limited supply of water and the energy to heat it. Sailors would jump into the shower, turn the water on, and then turn the water off again as soon as they were wet to soap themselves. Once thoroughly soaped, the sailors would turn the water back on to rinse the soap off, and then turn the water off and towel dry. Because the water was turned off in the middle of the shower, the sailor used dramatically less water than would be consumed otherwise.

The concept of the combat shower also spread to land, where soldiers often have limited showering opportunities and facilities. Especially when soldiers are part of an advancing front, supplies of water are often severely restricted, and every drop must be made to count. Therefore, luxuriating in the shower isn't an option, so soldiers resort to the combat shower.

Some showerheads which are designed to be water efficient have a valve or knob which can be moved to turn the water off easily in the middle of the shower while preserving the temperature adjustments made to the hot and cold water. These showerheads make it much easier to take a combat shower, encouraging people to be conscious about how they use their water supplies.

Taking a combat shower allows someone to take a water efficient shower without having to make it quick. This can be a big advantage for people with a lot of hair, who often use a great deal of water as they wash their hair in the shower. By turning the water off and on, long-haired bathers can use it efficiently while ensuring that their hair still ends up clean and thoroughly rinsed.

As a general rule, one emerges just as clean from a combat shower as a regular shower, assuming that the bather has access to soap and relatively clean water. In the battlefield, niceties such as soap are not always available, and water may be dirty thanks to suspended particulates, but a quick sluice can still make a big difference in personal cleanliness and morale.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@qwertyq - Combat showers are a brilliant idea. I've never given this a thought. And to think that they started on Navy ships some time ago.

And in addition to all the misery the military guys and ladies have to put up with, they often have to take combat showers too, sometimes without soap and maybe with cold water.

Hats off to you!

I think I'll get one of those special shower heads that you can turn off at the shower head and retain the temperature setting.

Just think if everyone took combat showers. We would save a lot of water and lower energy use!


What a great idea! Why didn’t I ever think of turning my shower off while I lather up? I have a huge leak in my bathtub’s cold water tap and I can’t afford to get it fixed. If I turn off the hot water while I lather up, that should save me some money (at least during the summer).

Taking “combat showers” would probably cut my water bill in half if I didn’t have that leak to contend with.

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