In the early 19th century, sailors embarked on long voyages across the seas, and personal hygiene was not a priority at sea. However, as time passed, sailors began to realize the importance of maintaining personal hygiene to avoid contracting diseases and infection.
Sailors were known to bathe at sea by using seawater, which was readily available. They would pour seawater over their bodies, rubbing themselves down with soap and then rinsing themselves with more seawater. This practice was known as “bucket bathing,” as sailors would often use buckets to collect seawater for their baths.
However, seawater is not ideal for bathing as it contains salt which can cause dryness and irritation on the skin. Sailors knew this and would use the water sparingly, not bathing very frequently.
In addition to bucket bathing, some vessels carried barrels of freshwater for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Sailors would sometimes sneak some freshwater for bathing purposes, especially during long voyages. However, freshwater was scarce and often rationed, so the practice was discouraged by ship captains.
Another way sailors bathed at sea was by taking a dip in the ocean. Some sailors would swim or jump off the ship into the water, washing their bodies and clothing. However, this was not always allowed as some captains forbid their crew from swimming in the ocean as it was considered dangerous.
Despite the challenges, sailors in the 19th century still found ways to maintain hygiene while at sea. While their bathing practices may seem primitive by modern standards, it was considered a significant improvement over the earlier periods in maritime history, where hygiene was entirely ignored, and diseases spread like wildfire.
Sailors in the 19th century bathed at sea by using seawater or freshwater, depending on the availability. Some took a dip in the ocean, while others used buckets to pour water over their bodies. It was not an ideal situation, but it was a significant improvement compared to earlier times.