Survival Hygiene Without Modern Conveniences
Growing up in the Rockies I heard many Mountain Man stories. I have patterned most of my prepper and survival philosophy after them, and think that they are a good example for many things a prepper should emulate.
Staying clean without running water is not one of them. The mountain man version of a shower is to take off all his clothes and put them on an ant hill, to allow the ants to eat all the lice. Somehow I think we can do better than that, even with limited resources.
Most of staying clean is killing the bacteria that want to colonize the nooks and crannies of our bodies. The most important part of staying clean is focusing on the areas where these little beasties want to grow. Moist and warm areas like your armpits and crotch will need special attention.
Everyone wants a shower now and then. Without running water it can be a challenge, but one that can be overcome.
Your best bet will be a solar shower of some sort. A solar shower is simply a container that holds the water while the sun heats it to a comfortable temperature. You can buy pre-made shower bags designed for camping, or you can design and build your own larger version.
I have seen two designs that seem to work well. The first is a simple iron pipe that holds a few gallons of water, and is fitted with a pull chain shower head. The other is the same principle but used a metal drum instead of a pipe. In both cases they are filled with water and allowed to heat up in the sun until they are warm enough for your shower.
In times past baths were shared by everyone in the household, one person after another. This saves a lot of water. You can use a simple pot or tea kettle to heat your water.
Your bath can be taken in a bathtub like most people have in there homes, or you can stand in a galvanized tub and us a pan or pitcher to pour water over you to wet and rinse yourself.
Many people who lived (or still do) without indoor plumbing, simply washed up morning and evening with a basin of water, soap, and a washcloth. You can keep yourself clean like this if you are diligent in washing up.
Wet Naps and Baby Wipes
In the absence of water you can fall back on wet naps (like you get at the BBQ joint) or even baby wipes.
These will do a good job of cleaning you up and keeping you hygienic.
When we had babies we made our own wet wipes from scratch and saved a lot of money. A few supplies put away and you will have a large supply of them for yourself if you need them.
To make them you need a roll of paper towels, a small amount (1/2 tsp or so) of dishwashing soap, 2-3 cups of water and some tea tree oil.
Cut the roll of paper towels in half and place one half in a Tupperware or similar container. To two cups of water add the soap and 5-10 drops of tea tree oil. Pour this mixture in the container of paper towels, and let sit over night. The next day you should be able to pull the soggy cardboard tube out of the center of the roll. If it is still too dry add a little more water. If you leave the roll sitting up the wipes will feed from the center of the roll like a box of tissues.
These can be used to wash your body and with the tea tree oil they are anti-bacterial.
Hand sanitizers can be used to “wash” yourself in conjunction with a washcloth or paper towel. This is not something I would want to do on a continuing basis, but will do in a pinch if you are feeling cruddy.
There are also waterless “soaps” on the market that do a pretty good job of allowing you to clean up.
Sometimes washing is just not possible. In these cases if you get to feeling cruddy and stinky you can smoke yourself and you clothing by the fire. The smoke has anti bacterial properties and should leave you feeling fresher than without it.
Dealing with Dirty Water
As long as you water is not contaminated by harsh chemicals or human excrement, it will be better than nothing for washing up. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether the water will leave you cleaner or dirtier when you are finished.
Dust baths aren’t just for the birds. If you can find some fine, dry dirt you can use it to absorb and clean off the rank oils your body will be producing. Cover yourself in the dust and allow it to sit for a while, and then scrape yourself “clean”.
You can use mud in much the same way. Oily hair can be “cleaned” by working mud thoroughly into it, and allowing it to dry. Then the caked mud is broken up and brushed out.
As you can see there many ways to keep yourself relatively clean, even without modern conveniences. Survival Hygiene is important and it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Even though there are quite a few ways to stay clean without clean water, your best bet is to have some way of providing clean water. Our favorite tool for getting clean water is the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter!