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Occasionally, years of education come in handy

Our last shower was in Khugir a month ago! During our last stay in civilization we had only access to a banya as a place to wash. Whilst initially the idea of a banya was like torture (group sweating in an overheated, humid room, where you get beaten with birch branches) now it seems like a mirage and we are missing it. Our hands completely black, we can't decide if the strong smell of smoke which follows us is from our clothes or has now seeped deep into our bones. But what bothers me the most is my hair: an untamed haystack. It cannot decide whether it is dry or greasy but a great net for midges and bits of forest which we collect from our foraging expeditions. The long sailing hours would be perfect for trying to brush the mop sitting on my head but Russian sailing tradition prohibits it. If you comb you are calling the strong winds from the North to come and blow through your hair. So instead we use the sailing time to take care of other personal hygiene.

Wood ash

But this still leaves me with the problem of my hair. I have a massive cold and if I want to have a vague chance of clearing my ears for diving showering in 6°C water, like I did last time, is out of the question.

But for once my university education comes in handy! I have a vague recollection from my advanced inorganic chemistry course that in the past they used ashes to wash clothes. I don't remember the exact chemistry but it had something to do with potassium in wood ash. So I decide to try to use ash as a dry shampoo. Pour some over my hair, rub and brush it out.

Aside from putting too much ash and thus spending ages dancing to imaginary hard rock to shake it off and then even longer brushing it out it seemed to have vaguely worked*. But maybe it was just a placebo effect.

After our next dive, still in our drysuits we decided to wash our hair with shampoo in the lake. Never been so happy to have washed my hair!

*Now, post-expedition google tells me that to extract the potassium from the ash one should boil the ashes or at least soak them in water and then use the liquid part as the potassium is released in the water.


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