By The Maj
Staying clean by today’s standards in a post SHTF world will be a task that is close to impossible. The daily, sometimes twice daily, bath or shower will become a thing of the past and the old joke of “bath night Saturday” will no longer be a joke for most people. The world will be vastly different but the same “bugs” we are so careful to cleanse ourselves of today will be even more relentless. The only advantage you will have then, that most do not have today, is the fact that contact with other people will be limited to you and the people trying to survive along side of you. Everyone within that group taking some basic steps in personal hygiene will be a huge benefit to everyone in the group and even the most basic steps by today’s standards will go a long way to making you feel better.
The no brainer here is washing your hands and I am certain that most reading this have an ample supply of hand sanitizer in their stockpile right now. Since the average person touches their face 2,000 plus times per day and the face (and head) is the most common place where someone will contract a “bug”, it only makes sense that keeping the hands clean will help. This is especially important to consider when preparing food for yourself and other people. Hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, disinfectant wipes and bleach will all work to clean or sanitize your hands. Soap and water is probably the easiest and most common mechanism for keeping the hands clean. Even washing with clean water is better than not washing your hands at all, so do not let being out of a manufactured product keep you from washing your hands.
Let your body air out. Whether it is the socks on your feet, your underwear, or the t-shirt you have not had a chance to wash in five days, your undergarments are going to be packing a pretty powerful punch even if you have been sedentary the entire time. Wearing dirty, sweat soaked clothes constantly next to your skin gives bacteria a place to cling to and given enough time they will create a problem for you. At every available opportunity, get as naked as possible and give your body a chance to air. This may not be practical in many instances where mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects will have an open door to your body, but letting your body (especially “the dirty” parts) get some air will help to keep you healthy. I keep a pair of loose fitting shorts and a loose fitting t-shirt in my bugout bag for this very purpose. Also, while you are airing out, it is a good time for a “buddy check”. Have someone else look at the areas that you can not readily see, especially your backside. They will need to be looking for bites, boils, and insects which might have attached themselves to your nether region. The time for modesty has long since past by this point, so put aside any apprehension you may have concerning having your buddy take a look at you.
When you are airing yourself out, take the time to take a splash bath. Clean your feet, crotch, underarms, and face with soap and water or disinfectant/baby wipes. Taking the time to do this will remove a lot of the bacteria that has built up in the area(s), it will help prevent chaffing, and it will make you feel better than you did. In a perfect world, I would try to do this before I went to bed but since the post SHTF world will be far from perfect just make the time for it. If you have packed body powder or foot powder, dust the clean areas with powder to help keep them fresh longer. Try to stay away from the scented powders for obvious reasons.
While we are on the subject of rank clothes, you will need to develop a plan to wash your clothes and more than likely this task will have to be done by hand. If possible, you will want to have a “fresh” set of clothes on hand when you do finally find the chance to get a real bath or shower because I do not know of much worse than finally getting clean and then having to put back on some clothes that could stand up and walk by themselves. You can easily go a week or longer without washing your outer garments but the undergarments and socks typically will not last as long. Pack extra socks, underwear (or opt out of underwear), and t-shirts if possible.
As weird as it may sound, grooming will help with cleanliness as well. Keeping finger nails and toe nails neat, clean and trimmed to proper lengths will keep germs from hiding under them. If you happen to be a nail biter, you might want to consider breaking that habit now. You will want to keep head and facial hair trimmed as short as possible and run a comb through it daily. Believe it or not, your hair will get so dirty that it will actually hurt. Avoid scratching your scalp and let the comb do the work when possible. If you have not considered nail clippers/files, scissors, and a razor for your bugout bag, now would be the time to consider it.
Treat every scrape, bump, bite, boil, cut, burn, and hangnail as a life threatening condition. Sanitize the area as soon as time allows with soap and water or other disinfectant, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the area with a bandage. If possible, avoid tasks which will unnecessarily introduce germs into the affected area, avoid food preparation for the group if the troublesome spot is on your hands, and allow the area to get air when you are resting. If the affected area begins to swell, change color, or worsens, you will need to take additional first-aid or medical measures.
Brush and floss your teeth at least once daily, twice if your supplies allow it. Use a good quality toothpaste or baking soda to brush your teeth and make certain to rinse your mouth thoroughly with clean water. If you have an alcohol based mouthwash in your bugout bag or stockpile use it at least once daily. Alcohol based breath strips help to “freshen” your mouth, but other than that they do not cleanse very well. Sans mouth wash, you can rinse your mouth with clean water or a saltwater mix to help keep your mouth clean. If you find yourself without toothpaste, you can still use your toothbrush to break the build up loose and rinse your mouth. Some brushing is better than not brushing at all.
Shoot for taking a bath or shower once per week, if time and your water stockpiles allow it. Over the course of a week you will build up a lot of grime all over your body, especially during the warmer months. A bath will become a real treat and something that you will look forward to. Wash with unscented soap from head to toe and make certain to scrub the dirty areas very well. Of course, if it comes down to a choice between having clean drinking water and taking a bath, opt for the clean drinking water.
An example of what I have in my bugout personal hygiene kit:
Unscented Soap (2bars)
Travel Bottle of Listerine
Hand Sanitizer (small bottle)
Toothpaste (1 full size tube)
Dental Floss (2 packages)
Toothbrush (2 each)
Q-tips (2 travel packages)
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (2 tubes)
Baby Wipes (travel package)
Band-Aids (travel pack)
Safety Razor (with spare blades)
Nail Clippers with File
Large MicroNet Pack Towel (2 each)
MicroNet Pack Wash Cloth (2 each)
Needles (one package)
Unscented Body/Foot Powder (small container)
Powder Laundry Detergent (small container)
Toilet Paper (1 roll)
Absorbine Jr. (1 bottle)
Rubbing Alcohol (small bottle)
As with anything else, you can configure your personal hygiene supplies a thousand different ways and there is no absolute “right way” to do it. I am not female, so I left the feminine hygiene products off of my list and they would have to be incorporated into the supplies for a female. In a bug-in situation, you can expand this list to include more of the necessary supplies and add many nice to have items that are not very portable for personal hygiene uses. The important thing is to have personal hygiene supplies on your list and at a minimum have a means of keeping yourself clean post SHTF.