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I am looking for plausible alternatives to our traditional water based showers and bathing for maintaining hygiene in a science fiction story that is set far enough into the future to the point where humanity has colonized other planets outside of the solar system.

No aliens or pets will be using it so no special considerations in that regard is needed. It is intended to be used in normal gravity on relatively normal planets. It should be superior to our modern showering/bathing in one or more ways. For example it being faster, cheaper, more convenient, more effective, or being special like being able to wear clothes while using it.

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closed as too broad by Aify, L.Dutch, sphennings, Mindwin, Frostfyre Jun 15 '17 at 12:24

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I'm going to go all sci-fi & fantasy with it:

There's the sonic shower from star trek. Similarly vibe showers from Babylon 5. These work using vibration and sound to take dirt grime and sweat off the body.

The dust shower from Tank Girl. Likely chemicals which kill bacteria in the dust. But this actually has precedent in real-life. Clean sand or dust can be used to cleanse the body when no water is around for ritual purification in tayammum. Seems counter-intuitive but desert cultures have used sand to scrub the body and clean it in the past when water is at a premium.

There's also the oil bath from Wicked, because the Wicked Witch is allergic to water. In real life, oil baths are sometimes used because of medical conditions and on the face. Here's a link to an abstract on a scientific paper on that and the effects on skin. In it, basically they talk about skin staying more hydrated as a result, which might be great in a desert environment. And, while this is ancient rather than not, look into the Etruscan/Greek/Roman strigil. Even though this oil-based cleaning is meant to be used with water in mind for later, it's still an interesting cultural touchstone.

In the series The Girl from Tomorrow (an Australian TV show in the 1990s) I believe there was a light shower, that is a shower using light to kill everything and take away grime. This concept has come up now and again in sci-fi. Now, in real life there's something called Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation but that's mostly used for equipment, water, and air in medical facilities. Because, if you look at the wiki link, it's sort of detrimental to human life, what with the cancer-causing and eye damage.

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    $\begingroup$ First example: ultrasound cleaning is real thing. Just not on the body, yet. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultrasonic_cleaning $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 15 '17 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ Nice mix of high tech and old religion! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 15 '17 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ The protagonist in "The Girl from Tomorrow" took a conventional shower in the present, but didn't take her clothes off first (not sure if it's in the tv series or the book). The target demographic would have been too young to care. $\endgroup$ – Andrew Grimm Jun 15 '17 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ And of course the three seashells... mtv.com/news/1715032/sandra-bullock-demolition-man-seashells $\endgroup$ – Graham Jun 15 '17 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham There's so much discussion on how to use those out there. That could be its own post. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Jun 15 '17 at 15:25
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Specialized microscopic nanobot Roombas that actively hunt out your stinky bits and clean them up. No shower needed, they're just always on you working away like shrimp in a fish tank or painters on a bridge, so you're always fresh :D

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    $\begingroup$ Just don't forget to check the hosts core temp, as those humans cool through evaporation instead of the standaard heatsink+fan. $\endgroup$ – Martijn Jun 15 '17 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Martijn That could actually be the mechanism by which the nanobots draw power: they use the host's body temperature to keep their tiny engines running. Two birds, one nano-stone. $\endgroup$ – Valthek Jun 15 '17 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ this would be more realistic if they feed off of the same fuel line your cells do, glucose and such basic body fuels $\endgroup$ – lahwran Jun 20 '18 at 23:05
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A microorganism that eats stink bacteria. In fact some people have already been doing studies on products like this.

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Another possibility would be the clothing. Equipped with nanobots to strip away loose epidermis (did you know that most dust in a house is human epidural matter?) any dirt, even the bacteria that feed on sweat and cause odor. That solution would come in handy for space journeys where water would be at a premium.

Or, maybe in the future, it will be stylish to be smelly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I know that most dust is not human matter. As this question on our lovely sister site will tell you. $\endgroup$ – AndyT Jun 15 '17 at 13:09
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Genetic engineering to make the skin too smooth for dirt to stick too, and further genetic engineering to allow for conscious control of body odor, from pheromones to perfume.
Alternatively, have the geneticists retarget our mostly useless sense of smell to allow us to detect rising co2, declining o2 and the presence of other, currently odorless, gasses which might be encountered during space flight. Being able to smell an approaching lion was a life saving capability a few thousand years ago, but now it is mostly a wasted sensor. Update it for our modern environments. Make it useful again for a humanity rising into the stars.

...and while you're at it, edit out that part where we can smell body odors... that way we can skip showering altogether and no one will care.

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    $\begingroup$ skin too smooth for dirt to stick sounds like humans will be dropping a lot of things in the future XD $\endgroup$ – Ben Ong Jun 15 '17 at 6:18
  • $\begingroup$ Sense of smell is a good survival trait. Poor hygiene, by ourselves or others, is a cause of disease. If there is a rotting corpse I should be able to smell it from afar to avoid typhoid. $\endgroup$ – Dylan Knoll Jun 15 '17 at 11:11
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Why does this need to be science based? A simple solution would be to blow steam (possibly with cleaning agents mixed in) at a person from multiple angles. This would be done in a simple chamber with multiple valves lining the walls.

Cleaning would be as simple as walking in, getting the steam bath, and then drying off. Drying off could be a bonus feature of the steam shower.

Could be done in less than a minute. It's not particularly futuristic or unrelated to current showers, but it does the job.

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  • $\begingroup$ Here, “science-based” means not involving magic or divine intervention. $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Jun 15 '17 at 8:42
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If you are happy to forego real world science in favour of sci-fi "handwavium" science. What about a kind of microwave shower, that bathes the user in a configured energy field/radiation which destroys bacteria and dirt without penetrating the skin. The perk of this is that it would also clean your cloths and also remove parasites. You step into the booth, the booth scans you, it's computer works out what is dirt, what is clothes, what is you etc, then releases a burst of handwavium to leave you clean and dry.

This also presents a plot opportunity where someone with very high technical skills can circumvent the MANY safeguards and turn your shower into a murder weapon.

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  • $\begingroup$ Such a setup was featured in the old film The Andromeda Strain, as part of the sterilization process, though i believe they used a brief flash of very intense light to fry off a layer of the epidermis and body hair. $\endgroup$ – tj1000 Jun 15 '17 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ From a plot point perspective, the scene in question involving the restroom is going to be a humorous one. As such if I were to go this route odds are it would involve someone recalibrating it to view clothes as dirt and cause the person to lose their clothing. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Jun 15 '17 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Or remove all body hair :D $\endgroup$ – John Palpatine Jun 16 '17 at 15:47

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