A few germs normally won’t kill you, but in a post-SHTF scenario, it’s a whole different world.
A compromised water supply.
Clogged sewage systems.
Waste dumped anywhere.
Vermin spreading diseases like wildfire and taking thousands of lives.
When SHTF, staying clean will keep you alive.
How can you stay away from poor hygiene during survival situations? Here’s what you need to know, including the most important personal hygiene products to stash:
Why Does Good Hygiene Matter?
Good hygiene equals good health. It’s not rocket science: when you keep your body clean, you protect yourself from viruses and bacteria that cause serious harm.
The problem is maintaining your hygiene in a survival context. It’s too bad that this is often left out when the topic of SHTF comes up, as it should be one of the first things discussed. After all, poor hygiene can be a matter of life and death.
When you’re in survival mode, you can’t expect the same level of cleanliness you usually enjoy. But, by making some adjustments and knowing what to focus on, you and your family can avoid contracting a nasty disease.
The key is to prep your personal hygiene products ahead and expect to compromise.
How Can You Take Care of Your Hygiene Post-SHTF?
Keep Your Hands Clean
On average, you touch your face over 20,000 times a day—so it’s either you keep your hands clean or risk contracting a bug.
Washing with soap and water is the best way to go, although hygiene items like rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes can sanitize your hands pretty well. But when you’re in a pinch, vinegar or a diluted bleach solution will do. Just be very careful if you decide to use bleach.
According to the CDC, these are the key times to wash your hands:
- Before touching your nose, mouth, or eyes
- Before and after caring for someone who has diarrhea or is vomiting
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before and after treating a wound
- After using the toilet
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- After replacing diapers
- After touching garbage
- After touching an animal, animal waste, or animal feed
- After touching pet food
Bathe at Least Once a Week
Your body gets grimy over time from sweat, dust, and other nasty stuff in the environment. That’s why you should bathe at least once a week if you have enough time and water available. It’s the best way to kill viruses and bacteria.
Plus, it has loads of other benefits, like:
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering muscle tension
- Increasing blood circulation
- Reducing stress
- Calming the nervous system
While bathing daily would be ideal, it’s a luxury when SHTF. Don’t go overboard on the amount of water you use for bathing. Remember, you still need that precious H2O for drinking, cooking, and cleaning your utensils.
Find a Way to Wash Your Clothes
You can only stand your sweaty clothes for so long. What can you do then?
Some preppers like the one in the video above get creative and use their resourcefulness to develop laundry systems that work. You can adapt those to fit your preferences or take a leaf out of our ancestors’ books and do laundry the old-fashioned way:
- Beat over stone or rocks (if you live near a stream or river)
- Using a washboard and bucket
- Handwash in a bathtub or sink
Clean Your Teeth
Clean your mouth thoroughly at least once a day—twice would be better if you have enough hygiene items.
Brush your teeth with toothpaste, but if you run out, baking soda makes a good alternative. If worse comes to worst, use your toothbrush alone to get rid of the build-up in your teeth.
After brushing, rinse your mouth with clean water.
Wash Your Hair
How can you keep your hair clean during SHTF situations? You don’t need to shampoo it every day, for starters. But when your scalp and locks need serious cleaning, you can use things you already have at home, like:
- Baking soda
- Apple cider vinegar
- A brush
Want an even better solution? Keep your hair trimmed. It’ll save you a lot of time, water, and shampoo.
Groom Various Areas in Your Body
Believe it or not, grooming can help you stay clean. Here are some tips to remember:
- Keep head and body hair short (less hair equals fewer parasites)
- Comb your hair daily
- Trim fingernails and toenails to keep germs from hiding underneath
- Stop biting your nails
Does your bug out bag have scissors, razors, and nail clippers? If not, consider adding these personal hygiene products.
Treat All Wounds Like They’re Life-Threatening
Every bump, scrape, cut, and burn should be given quick attention. Use water and soap or other disinfectants to sanitize the affected area. After that, apply ointment, then cover the wound with a bandage.
Avoid activities that will unnecessarily expose the wound to pests or dirt. It should also have room to breathe so that it can heal faster.
Don’t Forget Your Feet
You’ll never be able to outrun the zombies if you don’t take good care of your feet.
Keep them dry and clean. Avoid wet socks like the plague. If you don’t, you may just develop something you can’t easily get rid of. Think fungus, sores and blisters, and trench foot.
If you do have a fungal infection, baking soda is your pal. Apply a water and baking soda paste to the affected areas, let it dry, and then rinse it after.
Prepare a Hygiene Kit
Think you’re good to go on the hygiene front because you have enough toilet paper to last a year? Hate to break it you, bud, but you’re sorely mistaken.
A lot of preppers focus so much on stocking other things that they put their hygiene kit on the back burner. Don’t be one of them. Personal hygiene products are just as important as the rest of the stuff inside your bug out bag.
What Personal Hygiene Products Should You Stash?
Here are some of the most important items you’ll need for your hygiene kit:
No hygiene kit would be complete without soap. While you can make your own, it’s way easier to just stockpile a couple of bars.
Soap also has other uses besides cleaning your hands, like:
- Insect repellent
- Removing fabric stains
- Cleaning wounds
Baking soda is a holy grail for survivalists. It’s valuable in SHTF situations because of how versatile it is. You can use it to make a lot of cleaning or personal hygiene products.
By mixing a small amount of baking soda with water, you can make the following:
You should definitely include baking soda in your hygiene kit.
As we mentioned earlier, you can make toothpaste with baking soda. But what good is toothpaste if you don’t have a toothbrush?
You can use your finger, but a toothbrush does a much better job of cleaning your teeth. Buy a toothbrush for your hygiene kit and cover it in a Ziploc bag or hard plastic case to prevent contamination.
Don’t even think about the toothbrush you have in your bathroom. When you have to evacuate, there’s no way you’re going to remember it at all.
Many tend to forget about sunscreen when stockpiling personal hygiene products. But this shouldn’t be the case, as sunburns hurt a lot and will slow you down when you have to be on the go.
Because of this, make room in your hygiene kit for sunscreen. Apply it to the bare areas of your skin whenever you go under the sun. Act immediately—don’t wait till your face and skin start itching.
Do we really need to explain this one?
Toilet paper is a no-brainer—unless you’re comfortable using plants to wipe your butt. Ever tried wiping your tushie with some poison ivy by mistake? Take it from us: it ain’t pleasant. That’s why the first thing people hoard when disaster’s about to strike is some good old TP.
Other Hygiene Items
Besides the hygiene kit essentials we mentioned above, get your hands on these personal hygiene products as well:
- Hand sanitizer
- Dental floss
- Laundry detergent
- Razors, scissors, and nail clippers
- Apple cider vinegar
- Baby wipes
- Disposable gloves
- Diapers, if applicable
- Feminine hygiene items, if applicable
- Trash bags, to dispose of garbage and waste
So…What About Waste Management?
Sanitation and hygiene are two different things, but they are related. This is why waste management can’t be ignored.
And if you need it spelled out: no, you can’t just throw your (literal) crap anywhere.
You have to dispose of your waste properly or face an army of bugs, animals, rats, and bacteria—which can and will spread disease.
With that, here are some waste disposal tips:
Sort It Through
Different types of waste need different types of treatment. This means you have to sort through all your waste and collect them in separate bins. You can avoid cross-contamination this way and make the rest of the disposal process much easier.
When SHTF, you’ll have less food waste than normal. Still, whatever you produce will attract the attention of animals and bugs, so you have to deal with it ASAP. The good thing is that you can incorporate most food waste into a compost pile.
Not everything can be used as compost, though. Here are some examples:
- Milk and cheese
- Any oil, lard, or grease
- Meat and bones
- Diseased plants
- Plants treated with chemicals
- Treated wood
- Human and animal feces, including diapers
Leftover milk, meat, and greases can attract animals to the pile, including the ones that spread disease. Feed these scraps to your pet instead, or burn the meat and greases.
Environmental groups and government agencies often lecture that burning garbage is dangerous. Well, they’re right. It’s even illegal in Minnesota.
Having said that, burn your trash only when you have no other options left. You also don’t want to get yourself poisoned when you attempt to destroy it—so there isn’t a lot you can burn to begin with.
You can’t burn:
- Metals, including pop cans
- Paper items with ink
- Treated wood
- Animal and human feces
- Rubber and plastics
- Things that contained chemicals (examples are fertilizer containers and bleach bottles)
It’s also not the time to forget fire safety. When burning stuff, do it away from buildings and plants and have water ready just in case. Again, this is dangerous. Do it only as a last resort.
One more thing. Never leave a fire unattended. Ever.
If this ends up being a long-term thing, either clean or keep a lot of the items you’d usually throw out—just in case you’ll need them.
Cardboard can be flattened and stacked to be used as tinder later, while paper can be reused as toilet paper. Have spare leather and fabrics? These can be useful as wound dressings and patches.
At the end of the day, though, the majority of the garbage you have will be stuff that can’t be burned. To avoid this problem in the future, use reusable plastic containers instead of plastic bags.
For items that can’t be reused, burned, or composted, your best option would be to bury them. Things like treated wood, plastics, metals, and rubbers are included here.
Remember not to bury stuff in a place where you’d probably grow food later on. Just mark the spot so you’ll know for sure. Bury the stuff as deep as you can so that animals won’t be able to dig them back up. Generally, this would involve digging a foot and a half of dirt over the trash.
You can’t flush, but you can keep using the bathroom for comfort and privacy.
All you have to do is line your toilet with one or two heavy-duty garbage bags. After you’ve done your business, add some sawdust or even cardboard or shredded paper. These items will soak up the urine and suppress the stench.
Another option is to create a temporary toilet out of a five-gallon bucket. Other plastic containers would do, too. Just like with the toilet, it should be lined with a garbage bag.
Talking about all this waste disposal isn’t the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s important to have a plan in place to keep you and your family as comfortable as possible once SHTF.
If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to assemble your hygiene kit, this is it. Avoiding poor hygiene, especially in SHTF situations, should always be a priority. It matters just as much as food, first aid supplies, and self-defense weapons.
Are there any personal hygiene products we didn’t mention? Have tips you want to add? Let us know in the comments.