Survival hygiene is not necessarily something that we immediately consider. However in a survival situation, infection and illness can spell the end or at best make the situation a whole lot worse. Not only that, but being able to maintain some level of cleanliness will make us feel more comfortable and help us get through every tough day that we need to. It is highly unlikely that we will have access to working showers, baths, sinks, toilets and all the other everyday hygiene products and gear we take for granted. Here is some information to help maintain good survival hygiene standards.
The common sense stuff
- Wash your hands – use hand sanitizer, use a clean stream, use any suitable method you have but after any messy jobs make sure you wash your hands to help keep bacteria at bay.
- Keep as clean as you can – if you can help it, do not let yourself get overly sweaty, dirty or in a poor state of hygiene. Maintain your current hygiene levels for as long as possible – prevention is better than cure
- Wear gloves – when completing any task where cross contamination or infection may be likely. Even when gardening, gloves are a good idea to prevent the build-up of dirt and bacteria under your nails
The simple stuff
- Air yourself out – take off your clothes and get as naked as you reasonably and safely can as much as possible. Wearing sweaty, dirty clothes that cling to your skin give bacteria a place to live and breed. This is also a great opportunity to check yourself for bites, stings, cuts, grazes etc.
- Clean your teeth – thoroughly clean your whole mouth at least once a day. If you do not have a toothbrush, then your CLEAN finger is a perfect substitute. For toothpaste simply put some sand or salt onto your finger and apply to your teeth. Once the sand/salt is on, wrap some cloth around your fingers and rub your teeth. A good rinse will be required afterwards!
- Maintain good foot hygiene – wash and massage your feet daily. You are likely to be up and on your feet most of the time when working for survival so the last thing you need is an infected foot. If you have some available, putting some powder on your feet during your daily hygiene routine would be beneficial.
The more creative stuff
- Natures toothbrush – liquorice root can be used as a toothbrush. Soak the tip in water until it becomes soft and then “fluff” it into a brush shape.
- Natural deodorant – sage can be rubbed into your armpits to help neutralize odour. Sage will not keep your underarms dry (it is a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant) so you will need to use it fairly frequently. Simply soak it in water overnight, mash it up and rub into smelly areas! You can also use sage to freshen your breath by rubbing it into teeth and gums.
- Washing your hair – water alone can keep your hair pretty clean. However if you want the luxury of shampoo then natural soapwort plants are what you need. You just need to dip the soapwort in warm water and then rub it into your hair. Be careful using this – it will burn your eyes if it get nears them!
- Use your fire – the smoke from your fire can be used to kill germs on your body and also to keep you smelling fresh. If you make your fire by burning juniper wood then you can let the smoke float over your body and clothes. Juniper smoke is purifying and cleansing. As an added bonus, Juniper berries can also be used to clean your body as these also have anti-bacterial properties.
Things to consider
- Never sacrifice drinking water for washing. You will die without drinking water, if you do not wash for a day or two you will be a bit smelly but still alive!
- There are products you can have as part of your survival kit which can improve your survival hygiene. Solar showers, bars of soap, hand sanitizer etc. Razors and scissors will be useful for keeping hair and nails trim.
- For longer term survival hygiene, have one big wash once a week but maintain smaller hygiene routines every day. Do not waste supplies by going overboard on the amount you use for washing.