From the archives: South African develops ‘waterless bath’


Considering Cape Town is going through their worst drought in history, we revisit an old story that may provide a solution. In 2011, a young South African entrepreneur developed a product that allowed people to have a bath without using water. His reason? To get millions to hygienically skip a bath once a week to save the precious resource of water.

Ludwick Marishane waterless bath
Ludwick Marishane is the winner of the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award. (Image: Ludwick Marishane, Facebook)

Brand South African reporter

Imagine taking a bath anywhere, at any time, without using the traditional method of water.

Now it is possible, thanks to a young South African entrepreneur who developed a product that allows people who have limited access to water to maintain their standards of hygiene.

Ludwick Marishane hails originally from Motetema on the border of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, a town located not too far from the small Kwaggavoetpad Nature Reserve. He completed his fourth year as a commerce student at the University of Cape Town.

His product, called DryBath, is a clear germicidal and moisturising gel that’s applied to skin in the manner of waterless hand cleaners, although it has a sweet aroma rather than the distinctive alcohol smell of the latter.

‘Doing the work of soap and water’

DryBath does the work of water and soap and it earned Marishane the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award, with a US$10 000 (about R86 000 then) prize to boot.

The product has positive implications for millions of people in Africa and other parts of the developing world where lack of regular access to clean water leads to reduced basic hygiene and a lower quality of life.

Children, for example, often have to walk for hours to fetch clean water, which detracts from the time they can spend at school, doing homework or just playing.

To show solidarity for and raise awareness of the millions of affected people, Marishane organised a no-bath weekend from 5 to 7 July 2013, which coincided with the fourth anniversary of the invention of DryBath.

His main goal was to get 10-million people to hygienically skip a bath once a week during 2013, even if they don’t use DryBath, and save the precious resource of water.

DryBath is manufactured by Western Cape-based gel cosmetic specialists BioEarth Labs for HeadBoy Industries, the company started by Marishane to develop and market the product.


Laziness leads to inspiration

Marishane grew up in rural Limpopo, where as a 17-year-old he was chatting one day with a close friend, discussing typical teenage topics and sunbathing in the winter sun.

Full of imagination, the friend asked: “Why can’t they invent something that you can just apply to your skin so that you don’t have to take a bath nor shower?”

Marishane felt the same way, and that planted the seed that would germinate into DryBath.

“I came up with this idea all because I didn’t feel like taking a bath,” he joked. Although he only had high school science knowledge, Marishane got onto the internet via his mobile phone and researched statistics on water access, as well as the composition and manufacture of lotions and creams.

He finally came up with a formula. Some months later and after much experimentation, he held a bottle of DryBath in his hand and went on to obtain a patent through his company.

One 20ml DryBath sachet can do the work of one bath, and Marishane claims it saves about 80 litres of water on average with every use.

Access to water is crucial

During his research he found out that over 2.5-billion people in the world live without access to clean water – 450-millon of which are in Africa and five-million in South Africa.

Continued research revealed that sanitation-related diseases are often found within these poor areas and the lack of water is one of the main causes of the infections.

Saving water is a job that everyone needs to focus on. But there are many areas around the world that have no access to safe water, or any water at all, and people often have to walk long distances to get fresh water.

Living without water can also lead to death, as waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and schistosomiasis are found in areas that lack clean water.

Trachoma, a disease caused by dirt getting into the eye through agents such as flies or towels, affects 350-million people and leaves eight-million of them permanently blind through recurring infection.

According to, nearly 10% of the global disease burden could be reduced through improved water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resource management.

Getting the product out there

Marishane first approached charity organisations for support, but says he was turned back because of his age and because of doubt that his concept would ever work. Back at the drawing board, he put together a lengthy and detailed proposal – all done on his trusty Nokia.

With paper in hand, he approached the corporate world in search of sponsors, endorsements and investors;since then, he has struck up partnerships with WaterAid and Oxfam.

DryBath is now also manufactured commercially for clients such as hotels, music festival organisers, major global airlines – one of which is British Airways – and governments for soldiers in the field.

Source: Headboy Industries Inc

This article was originally published in January 2013.

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