More of your Amish questions answered

I had originally planned to try a separate post for each question, but realized that would take awhile and that some can probably be answered in shorter form.

So here are some more of your questions from the “Submit your Amish questions” page.  We’ll get to more later:

Fr. Andre Leveille, CSC:  Do the Amish have baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, ordination and annointing of the sick like some mainline Christian religions?

communionAmish do have all of these except for confirmation.  Baptism differs from the Catholic sacrament most obviously by the age of those baptized (infant vs. adult baptism, typically the 18-22 age range though can be earlier).  A special communion service happens twice yearly among Amish. In addition to bread and wine it also includes footwashing.  Marriage is for life and Amish remarry only on the death of a spouse.  Amish do perform a ritual of anointing with oil for ill persons.  The Amish Way is a good resource with much more detail on these practices.

Have you ever heard of the practice of “mourning handkerchieves” in the Amish community?  

I have not!  Anyone have input?

Leo: Do Amish people serve on juries?

Amish people do not serve on juries.   They are typically granted exemptions based on religious beliefs. Generally speaking Amish feel God should judge others;  serving as a juror would mean being party to any punishment handed down by a court, and wouldn’t square with their nonresistance beliefs.

Lisa Roszler: If an Amish teen decides to live outside the community during rumspringa, what resources are available to help them in the “English” world?

It’s not too common to do so, but those Amish youth who do leave their communities may find solidarity and assistance among others like them–people raised Amish or others who are also spending some adolescent time away from home.  Certain places have been known to attract Amish youth or those leaving their communities, such as Pinecraft in Florida or the ex-Amish community at Columbia, Missouri.

Juan Carlos: What do Amish read most? In practice, do they really read Pathway Publishers’ publications, or is most of their reading material from other non Amish publishing companies?

Pathway’s publications (Family Life, Blackboard Bulletin, Young Companion) are highly popular.  You won’t see them in all groups but they are quite common in Amish homes in many different communities.

There are a fair number of other publications and books from “Plain” publishers as well, which you’ll see by a visit to an Amish shop carrying reading materials.   You do get a range of books outside of those produced by Plain publishers though.  Some Amish read real-life inspirational stories, often with a Christian backdrop.  Some enjoy history; I’ve discussed World War II with Amish who obviously had done some homework on the topic.   Word is that some Amish even read Amish fiction.  Some reading is obviously frowned upon but there is a range of tastes like with anyone.

amish children cartLisa Kuhn: Do children play together or are the sexes separated from the beginning? What about within a family? I presume if there was an emergency males and females could help each other – but what about cpr?

Amish children play together from an early age like other children.  Brothers and sisters sleep in different rooms.  In emergencies Amish will do what is practical; no public touching/physical displays of affection between the sexes is a custom not an inviolable rule.

Nic: Do the Amish use cloth diapers & cloth trainer unders for their babies & toddlers? & if so, are ‘allowances’ made to the laundry day rule of only washing once a week?

Amish do use both cloth and disposable diapers.  As you’d expect, more progressive and wealthier Amish are generally more likely to use disposables.  I’ve never heard of a community with a hard and fast rule of only washing once a week.  They may have a set laundry day but Amish women generally do the laundry when the need arises, as long as it’s not Sunday.

Karen D: It is easy to find information on the larger Amish communities but I would like to know more about the smaller Amish communities as well as other Anabaptist communities and Plain groups that seem to pop up around these communities.  

Sometimes we have features on smaller communities here; I also suggest checking and leaving comments in the comments section of the individual states in the State Guide.  Smaller communities are simply going to have less written about them, but thanks to people sharing there is sometimes info, for example on where to find area stores and businesses.

Alice Mary: How often do Amish bathe, and does it differ within each community or “parish” or by the “type” of Amish they consider themselves to be, re: Swartzentruber, Beachy, etc.?

The most conservative Amish do not have hot running water in the home.  So obviously baths are going to be less common (weekly) events.  Generally speaking farmers are probably less likely to shower, or let’s just put it this way:  they are going to “feel dirty” less often than I am.  Which I can understand.  If I were a farmer I’d be taking 4 or 5 showers a day.  I guess I wouldn’t make a very great farmer.

white amish outhouseWhich Amish still use outhouses, “share” bath water (as I’ve read in some Amish fiction)?

You can find outhouses in these communities, among others:  Cashton, Wisconsin; Big Valley, PA; Swartzentruber Amish communities; some Swiss Amish; Buchanan County, Iowa; Orange County, Indiana; and others.  Sometimes more mainstream Amish may have an outhouse on the property, for example for workers or for use when outside.  I don’t know who shares bath water, but if that’s done it would naturally be more likely in homes where you have to go to the trouble of heating it up.  Now that’s recycling.

Along the same lines, do they use deodorant? Commercially available shampoos or other toiletries?

Some Amish make soap; I haven’t stayed in a lot of very conservative Amish homes so I don’t know to what degree those folks use the homemade vs. store-bought.

But generally speaking, commercial shampoos and soaps, toothpaste, etc. are quite common like in English homes.  In fact I use those products whenever I wash up while staying with Amish friends.   I’ve never used their deodorant though.  Or their toothbrushes.  Well, there was that one time…;)

Photo credit: bread-spiz/

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    1. SharonR

      Amish questions answered

      Well done, ERIK — looks like you’ve made some progress weeding through all of those questions, we bombarded you with!!

      You’ve answered a lot of questions, I’ve also wondered, and now I know the answers! THANKS. Looking forward to reading more!!

    2. Lee Ann

      Thanks Erik for answering so many questions. Wouldn’t be surprised if you get alot more questions coming in.

    3. Those of us who don’t go out in public much don’t worry so much about the morning shower, I guess. Having lived off-grid, well, you wash as you can, especially when there is extra hot water on the stove. I should write a blog post on that. As for sharing bath water – I would say it was fairly common in families without central plumbing to run the kids through the tub sequentially. I don’t know anyone who does that now.

      1. Who goes first

        I would like to read that post!

        As for the order of sequential bathing, I wonder if that’s determined by drawing straws or perhaps an executive decision from Mom ranking kids from dirtiest to cleanest.

        1. Alice Mary


          Thanks for your replies, Erik. I asked about the “bathwater sharing” because in one particular Amish fiction story I read, the “English guest” was given first dibs on the “clean” bathwater, with the host’s family following. Eeeuu! I’m sorry, but the thought of it (especially after raising kids who were sometimes QUITE dirty) gives me the heebie-jeebies!

          I must say that showering regularly is, at least for me, one of life’s greatest “little pleasures.” Of course, I also enjoy the luxury of various bath soaps and gels, etc. Maybe if I used lye soap like Busia used, I’d have other opinions (and probably drier skin).

          Alice Mary

          1. When we were small, I’m sure I had to team with my brother on baths, but I think we were only “medium-dirty” kids.

      2. Mary Ann Chase

        sharing bath water

        Heck….I used to bathe my little ones together and that was in the ’60’s early 70’s….up to a point, and it had nothing to do with not having hot water.It was just more convenient. I’m sure people still do. In early American history it WAS due to lack of hot water. I believe dad got the first of it, then mom and the kids….hence “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. I imagine they refreshed it with water kept hot on the wood stove tho. There was a T.V. program on living like they did in the 1800’s or earlier, and it looked pretty miserable to me….especially lack of modern shampoo. I’m glad that the Amish have that convenience. This is such an interesting web site. I’m glad I was directed to it. MA

    4. Margaret

      Great information, Erik! Thanks for all you do! You are helping me fill in the gaps of my knowledge on the Amish every day.

    5. Karen

      Thank You

      That was a lot of information and I enjoyed reading it all. Thank you for taking the time to anwser so many questions at once.

    6. Jane Reeves

      Thank You!!!

      Thank you for answering so many questions. I love reading your post.
      Jane Reeves

    7. My pleasure to take a crack at these. Certainly some of them could be elaborated on and anyone who can fill in gaps or add is welcome to. It had been a little while and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do a full post on each so I wanted to get a first “batch” out.

    8. Greg

      Local tragedy


      I didn’t know where to forward this to you, but I just saw this and wanted to make you aware. Another tragedy from the same area the girl died last year.

    9. Theresa


      Thanks for answering the questions Erik, you’re doing a GREAT job. As for the bathing thing…I know for a fact that my cousins & I teamed up in the tub when we were younger, both sexes at that. Don’t even try to do that in today’s times!! Totally different world today.


      1. Mary Ann Chase

        I too remember bathing with a girl cousin in an old fashioned tub and loving it…sliding down the slanted end…and then years later tossing my little kids in with their cousins, both sexes, into the bath after a wild and woolly day outside.

    10. Wm Justice


      After many years of annoying skin rashes and other dermatological problems, I just happened to buy some lye soap from an Amish lady on one of my first trips to Randolph, MS. That was all it took to get me hooked on their soap. I have used no other soap for at least the last 10 years and have never had any more skin rash problem. I buy a four pound sack of bars for $10 which last me a very long time. (And yes, I do shower daily. Didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.)

      The lady I buy it from makes all sorts of scented soaps but I prefer the plain stuff. I did purchase a bar of honey scented oatmeal soap a while back but used it only once. My wife told me after I showered with it that I smelled like a big sugar cookie. Talk about an assault on one’s masculinity. I told that to my soap maker and she still laughs about my wife’s olfactory observation.

      Dirty lard is not used in any of the soaps I have seen sold in Randolph. They may make it but they don’t offer it for sale. My wife did purchase a dirty lard bar from the soap maker at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas. She decided it smelled too much like bacon. Not that bacon is a bad thing; she just didn’t want to smell like it so she gave it to me. Maybe I can get my friend in Randolph to make a maple syrup scented soap and use it along with the dirty lard soap. That way everyone will think I just enjoyed a big breakfast at a Waffle House. I’ll keep you posted.

      1. Brilliant soap post, you had me cracking up. Maybe you need the “clean lard” variety.

    11. Eli

      Speaking of bathing, I don’t think I have come across much on the topic of plumbing. I can see lesser technology groups operating very much like “the old days” but what about other groups. No city water I would imagine. Wells? Diesel generator run well pumps and pressure tanks with plumbing? Propane hot water heaters? Etc…

      Just wondering.

      1. SharonR


        I have read just what you mentioned — generators for hot water heater, and to run the pump for their well, and to run their washing machines, if they have an updated washer. I have read that some church districts allow propane for some conveniences, also. Of course, I could be wrong, so anyone is free to correct me on this….All depends on their district’s rules.

        While we are discussing bathing — I, too used to let my 2 sons bath together, to save water and time. But, not sure how I would have liked the idea, if I was using the same bath water, for 7-10 kids, mom and then dad!! ha…and yes, that LONG HAIR of the women would be a challenge to wash! No wonder some only bath once a week!It’s all in what one gets used to, in their case. Nothing wrong with that! 🙂

      2. Yes, well water (though you may find city water with Amish living near built-up areas), air pressure plumbing–you will periodically hear the pressure escaping in a whoosh of air from a release usually located somewhere on the lawn near the home. Propane is often used to heat water.

    12. Rita

      When I visited my cousins on their farm overnight as a shy young teen, I was allowed to be the first one in the fresh bath water before the other 4 or 5 kids. I was an only child, only took showers at home, and had NEVER heard of sharing bath water. I remember being mortified to think my older boy cousins would be in there after me. Couldn’t look any of them in the face at breakfast the next morning! Hadn’t thought about that in a long time – your post gave me quite a chuckle this evening!

      1. Great “tub stories” from all of you 🙂

      2. Mary Ann Chase

        primitive plumbing

        Oh yes, I remember being totally embarrassed when visiting cousins in Kentucky when I was somewhere between 10-12….they had no inside facilities. I had fun at the farm tho but was teased mercilessly by them about snakes. M.A.

    13. Mona (Kentucky Lady).

      Some of these were rather funny 🙂 I finished “ANNIE’S PEOPLE’ a few wks. ago and in that story, they shared the bath water and one of Annie’s pen pals came to visit and she too shared the bath water…just don’t remember which number she was LOL….I just wondered if this was just fiction or does this really happen ?

      1. SharonR

        Amish questions -- plumbing and bath water

        Mona (Kentucky Lady), I too, read that book, plus more of Beverly Lewis’ books — they are very good — and I believe Annie let her pen pal, be the “first” in the tub. 🙂

    14. The Amish in my home community were not allowed to have propane, so the propane hot water tanks were altered so they could use kerosene. They used gasoline motors to pump well water. In a few cases, a spring was tapped, which means it was gravity-fed. Because there was no air pressure, a pitcher didn’t fill up very fast.

      Some families had only cold running water, and then would heat the water on the stove for bathing, washing dishes, etc.

      Still other families, like my own, had no running water, and so we had to carry it, heat it, and bail it. Sharing a bath had it’s advantages… you could have a deeper bath if you weren’t first, cause you have to keep adding hot water as it cools. You can always sponge down with the water in the tub, and have a pot of nice, warm, clean water to rinse down your body.

      In the summer we had “homemade showers” in the corner of the basement. We’d have a basin of warm water to sponge down our bodies. Before we started, we’d hang a sprinkling can of warm water on a nail in the ceiling. After sponging down, we’d hold the “arm” of the sprinkling can and direct the flow of the water over our bodies. I always hated when the bottom came up!

      Shampooing hair was a whole different process… we would do that in the sink with a basin of water. First we’d wet it, then shampoo it, then rinse it with a warm pitcher of water by pouring it over the shampooed hair.

      Every morning I give thanks for my wonderfully comfortable shower. I often find myself chanting, “Life is sweet… life is bliss… when you have a shower like this!” I would not appreciate it so much, had I not had to struggle so to have a bath or shower when I was growing up.

      Wm Justice, you cracked me up with your soap stories! We used lye soap for doing laundry when we had rain water (as you know, homemade soap does NOT work in hard water). We did not use lye soap for bathing or dishes or anything like that.

      Erik, another enjoyable post… thanks.


      1. The "ideal" Amish shower?

        Saloma thank you for the shower account…I shuddered while reading it 🙂 I think if more people read things like this it would be harder to idealize Amish life. I absolutely love going to stay with my Amish friends but I do know it means giving up some creature comforts I’m used to for a little while. Though in the places I stay showering isn’t quite as challenging as you describe it.

      2. Mary Ann Chase

        That seems strange to not allow propane but allow kerosene…also seems dangerous somehow. Gasoline to pump water would be very convenient but I imagine you’d have just certain times to get the pump going….and wouldn’t the gas run out.
        Nonetheless I do a happy dance for my shower that comes on when I want it to after reading some of the Amish stories. M.A.

    15. Melissa H

      Thanks for the posts Erik! I really enjoy reading thru them.

      As for the bath thing…my children always shared bath water when they were little (they are 9, 7, 6, and 4 now). It made bath time much quicker and less water waste. About 3 years ago, we stopped letting our son bathe with his sisters (he’s 6) for modesty reasons. Now, they’re all taking showers. Sometimes with the last in line getting a much cooler shower than hoped for!

    16. tiffany rangier


      is their anything wrong with wanting to join this faith?

    17. Everett

      New Order Amish

      Erik, I’m looking for more information on the lifestyle of the New Order Amish. In my search I’ve only found it mentioned as one of a number of various branches/orders. I would really like to read something more in depth with regard to their similarities/differences from other Amish groups. Thank you, Everett.

      1. New Order vs. other Amish groups

        Everett, here’s some general info on New Order/Old Order Amish differences:

        For a more in-depth answer these sources are good:

        “Plotting Social Change Across Four Affiliations”, Donald B. Kraybill, The Amish Struggle with Modernity, eds. Donald B. Kraybill, Marc Alan Olshan

        An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community, Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell

    18. Tiffany

      Shaving/ sex

      Can amish women shave ( ive heard they do not shave any part of their body because they beliece hair is a gift from god, so the more hair the better) but do they shave (legs, armpits, privates)?
      Also, can amish have sex for pleasure or do they only do it specifically for reproduction?

    19. Sister Rose


      The Bible says to judge with righteous Judgement. It also says to Get the Beam out of your own Eyes, before removing the Mote from someone else’s eye. It doesn’t say not to judge, it says to judge rightly.

    20. Kathleen

      Face cloths and Halloween

      Hello Erik,
      Thank you for taking the trouble to answer questions!
      I was trying to find out if something a friend told me is accurate rather than sharing it without checking. She said the Amish (or Quakers, but she was pretty sure it was Amish) use a separate cloth to wash their face than the rest of the body and was asking me to make her some Amish circle face cloths. I hadn’t heard of them and found your website when trying to google them. Is this a thing? She sent me a crochet pattern, but it just says “circle face cloths,” nothing about the Amish.
      Also, I know the Amish do not celebrate Halloween. However, last year I saw someone dressed as an Amish person for his costume. (Of all the things you could’ve been, you went with that?) I knew he wasn’t actually Amish since he was with a zombie and a princess and I’ve never seen an Amish man wearing embroidered cowboy boots. But I wondered if the Amish would find that amusing, bemusing, or offensive. I thought it was weird.