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Our Showers Are Different

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Nothin' rinses off the trail dust like some nice refreshin'... dust?!

A trope of science fiction, if aliens (or humans in the future) bathe at all, you can bet that they will use something completely different from soap and water. This is usually not because of any Bizarre Alien Biology, but rather just something to show more advanced technology and/or how different the aliens or future humans are. It can also, depending on how sensitive the Moral Guardians are being, have the secondary advantage of letting characters have a shower without showing skin.

Note that this can be Fridge Logic when you realize that since water is recycled on spaceships and stations, there is no reason they can't spend the additional energy and equipment to have as much pure water as they want. If they don't clean the dirty water (and urine, etc.), they still have to store it (or throw it into space). It makes more sense to clean it and reuse it. Humans actually "make" water (oxygen plus glucose equals carbon dioxide and water). Although if you do allow water showers you probably have to provide more water storage space. Of course, depending on the level of technology (or how grimy your setting is), you can justify this by having the recycling process be time-consuming compared to how quickly you would use the water by washing everything with it.

Compare with the Blood Baths common among vampires and other dark and demonic creatures.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKB0048: The Katyusha has what looks like futuristic pod showers for the girls to refresh themselves after a hard day of practice, but then it turns out they A) dispense water just like regular showers and B) are all broken and spew out rust until you screw around with the handles a bit. Apparently plumbing maintenance isn't high on Tsubasa's budget list.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman: One diagram of Superman's Fortress of Solitude shows a "shower" that consists of a giant plasma torch intended to burn off his invulnerable body and suit of any dirt accumulated from his adventures.
  • In Transmetropolitan, it takes less than a second for a "Voice-Keyed Physical Cleaning Unit" to strip Spider Jerusalem of all of his plentiful body hair. Given that he Screams Like a Little Girl while it emits a blinding flash of light, it apparently does so with lasers. It also appears to have been permanent, as he is never again shown with a single strand of hair anywhere on his body. Not as crazy as it sounds — Laser hair removal was developed in The '90s.

    Fan Works 
  • In Course Corrections, Kara installs a "Kryptonian Refresher" in the Kent Farm's basement. Compared with it, Earth showers are a primitive mechanism.
    The Kryptonian style refresher was one thing she was glad she'd had installed. To compare it to a shower was akin to comparing a wheelbarrow to a sports car. It was the pinnacle of Kryptonian science and engineering in the ablutionary arts. The Kents often came down to use the advanced Kryptonian bathroom. They didn't begrudge her a little touch of her old home.
    She stepped out of the refresher in the wake of a gentle blast of warm air that dried her off perfectly.
  • Rocketship Voyager: Captain Janeway is late for a dinner appointment with Space Commander Chakotay, so she steps into a refresher that lathers, rinses, massages and dries her body, zaps her with bacteria-killing radiation, then lowers a dome over her head that applies makeup, and shampoos and restyles her hair from the Bun of Steel in only a few minutes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Forbidden World: Two women share a shower that appears to consist of flashes of orange light, but perhaps they just didn't want to distract the audience from the T&A. Earlier one of the women is shown taking a steam bath, naked except for a pair of sunglasses.
  • Oblivion (2013): The bottom level of the Sky Tower includes a swimming pool with a transparent bottom underneath it, thousands of feet above the ground. Clearly fear of heights was not a concern.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Enterprise has sonic showers (Lieutenant Ilia's robot form appears in one).
  • Tank Girl: The title character takes a shower with what appears to be dust falling on her.

Examples by author: Examples by title:
  • Boojumverse: In "Boojum", the female captain of the Lavinia Whateley is bathing nude amidst her reveling Space Pirates. Black Alice is envious, as she hasn't even seen a bathtub in seven years.
  • Gideon the Ninth: The Ninth House is a bleak, ascetic Necromancer cult outpost on an otherwise barren planet, so Gideon grew up with sonic showers and absolutely no amenities. Her first water bath upon traveling to Canaan House feels like an impossible luxury.
  • Gor: In Priest-Kings of Gor, Cabot is in the realm of the Priest-Kings (the gods of the planet) and like all humans is required to shower several times a day because the Priest-Kings are Terrified of (Human) Germs. One time he fills his water bowl from the shower and discovers that that ain't water!
    I had naturally supposed the fluid to be simply water which it closely resembled in appearance, and once had tried to fill my bowl for the morning meal there, rather than ladling the water out of the water pan. Choking, my mouth burning, I spat it out in the booth.
    "It is fortunate," said Misk, "that you did not swallow it for the washing fluid contains a cleansing additive that is highly toxic to human physiology."
  • In Gunner Cade by Cyril M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril, the entire barracks is a shower, and one soldier who is Not a Morning Person barely gets his bedding shoved in his locker before the water vents open up.
  • The protagonist of The Stars, Like Dust at one point uses a "detergent mist", described as "fine, suspended droplets that shot past him forcefully in a warm air stream". A "momentary passage" through this mist leaves him not only clean, but dry as well, without any "separate drying chamber".
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In the Before the Awakening, sonic showers are a form of personal hygiene device notable for not using water. Given its name, it is implied to use sonic waves.
    • Han Solo and the Lost Legacy features a spa with such amenities as an "omniron" which at "maximum treatment" includes fifteen-second cycles of icy water, "sonics" that vibrate the skin, waves of heat, streams of detergent, foam, air nozzles, and emollients applied by "autoapplicators". Chewbacca uses another room dedicated to "more hirsute clientele"; while he floats in a zero-gee field, an electrostatic charge separates each of his individual hairs so that old oils and other dirt can be removed, before new oils and conditioners are applied. Other areas in the spa provide a wide variety of other services for many other species (such as "gill-flushes" for "piscine or amphibian life forms").
    • In Shatterpoint, Mace Windu gets a water shower upon arrival at the local space port, but also goes through a pro-biotic spray. On that specific planet, ships take off and land in a weak energy field that kills microscopic life-forms to counter-act a ubiquitous airborne metal-eating fungus. The spray (as well as a couple of orally taken tablets) replace the beneficial bacteria most living creatures have on their skins and in their digestive systems.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, sonic showers, toothbrushes, and other cleaning devices are frequently mentioned. Though they're not as good as "real" showers — in Komarr, Ekaterin comments that you can't clean a baby's bottom in one!
  • In Wicked, Elphaba sidesteps her water allergy by cleaning herself with mineral oil, poured over herself from a jug and then carefully scraped off.
  • In a story in the science fiction anthology The Year After Tomorrow, a stranded spaceman tries out a Martian shower, which dispenses a caustic chemical.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Water conservation is important on the station so only the executive suites and command quarters get showers with running water; everybody else has to make do with "vibe showers". When this first comes up, it's explicitly mentioned that the station does recycle water, but showers for everybody would be more than the system could cope with.
    • Earth's space ships don't have water showers even in the command quarters; when Captain Sheridan is transferred to Babylon 5, he is seriously happy when he learns his quarters include "a real live honest-to-god shower with running water".
    • The Minbari use a chemical that removes the outermost layer of skin; it symbolizes rebirth, at least to the Religious Caste. As you'd imagine, it does absolutely horrific things to hair, as Delenn discovers when she becomes a Half-Human Hybrid (as an ordinary Minbari, of course, she had no problem with this, since the Minbari have little or no hair). She ends up calling on Ivanova to teach her about hair curlers — and later, "odd cramps".
  • The Girl from Tomorrow has a "shower" in the year 3000 that consists of a band of light running up the body. It even removes 20th-century permanent hair dye because it is recognized as dirt.
  • Pandora: Jax has a Shower Scene in her room in the first episode, with the shower spraying mist against her body. It also has a door made of Hard Light that shows her Sexy Silhouette as she showers. She still appears wet after and uses a regular Modesty Towel when getting out.
  • Most showers aboard the SeaQuest DSV are of the ionic kind (whatever that means). When a woman from the past appears and tries to take a shower aboard the sub, she turns it on. When no water comes out, she cranks up the dial, only for the woman in the next stall to come in and crank it back down, telling her to leave some ions for the rest of them. Apparently, officers can use water showers, but they're rationed. The woman lets the newcomer use one of her shower rations. The strange thing is, they're underwater, which means they should be able to get fresh water through desalination. Then again, with hundreds of crewmembers, it would probably be too much for any system, hence the rations.
  • Stargate Universe has a sort of mist shower onboard the Destiny.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation and the series that follow it chronologically usually have the Federation using sonic showers.
    • While generally playing this trope straight, bathtubs do crop up from time to time aboard the Enterprise-D+, usually when Deanna Troi is involved.
    • Star Trek: Voyager averts this in the pilot episode, with Neelix taking a soap and water bath (though there is a plot reason — to shown the abundance of water Voyager has). Janeway also has a bath in her quarters as a Captain's privilege. Later, it is subverted with an alien race whose strict rules call for purified water to be used. Fridge Logic ensues once you realize just how bad water is at cleaning if the contaminants don't happen to be water-soluble or are dangerous microorganisms. The rest of the time, it is played straight with sonic showers. One is eventually shown on-screen being used by B'Elanna Torres (though for some reason, it has a Video Phone inside; maybe Starfleet was hoping more hot robot babes would turn up in them?).
    • Star Trek: Enterprise shows that 22nd century Earth ships still have conventional showers. This is actually serving the Rule of Cool in one scene, in which the artificial gravity fails just while Captain Archer is taking a shower, and all the water drops start hovering in the air.

    Video Games 
  • Opoona has the Air Shower, which seem to be sprays of energy bubbles. In addition to appearing the world's many bathrooms, they're also a battle item that can be used to heal allies or damage enemies.
  • The Tardisian Well Sonic Shower in The Sims 3: Into the Future.

  • In Alien Dice, Lexx is used to sonic showers and synthetic foods, having lived in space most of his life. He allows himself to indulge in a real shower at Chel's house.
  • Big Head Press regularly has "Clean-branes" appear in its sci-fi comics such as Timepeeper and Quantum Vibe — membranes of memory plastic that one simply steps through to strip all detritus from one's body, leaving the user not only clean as a whistle but bone-dry. In some cases, it's implied to even work through and on clothes.

    Real Life 
  • Current spaceships and stations either offer no bathing (for ships) or limited bathing (stations).
    • The International Space Station (ISS) does not feature a shower, although it was planned as part of the now cancelled Habitation Module. Instead, crewmembers wash using a water jet and wet wipes, with soap dispensed from a toothpaste tube-like container. Water is recycled on the ISS, the system collects, processes, and stores waste and water produced and used by the crew — a process that recycles fluid from the sink, toilet, and condensation from the air.
    • However, ISS's predecessor Skylab did feature a shower. It consisted of tube-shaped container where water sprayed from the top and was pulled towards the bottom for collection by exhaust fans. Showers were strictly limited due to limited storage and processing capacity.
  • By Islamic tradition, clean sand or dust may be used as a cleanser for ritual ablutions (tayammum) if pure water is unavailable, or if there's a valid medical reason why the person cannot wash with water.
  • Dust bathing is a typical self-grooming behavior for many birds and some mammals. Other mammals, particularly those with little hair such as elephants, prefer mud baths to dust — the mud both cools the animal in hot weather, it also protects their skin from the sun.
  • Cetaceans and some rays invert the usual "cleanse with water" approach, as they "air bathe" to dislodge parasites and dead skin by leaping out of the water and crashing down into it. Some dolphins and small whales will also "bathe" by traveling to shallow bays with pebble bottoms. Rubbing against the pebbles helps clean their skin like a giant loofah.