A Survivalist’s Guide to Escaping Poor Hygiene When SHTF

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:

Why Does Good Hygiene Matter?

Good hygiene equals good health. It’s no rocket science: when you keep your body clean, you’re protecting yourself from viruses and bacteria that cause serious harm.

Now, 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 ahead—and expect to compromise.

How Can You Take Care of Your Hygiene Post-SHTF?

Keep Your Hands Clean

This is stating the obvious, but you should clean your hands often. 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 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, here 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

Over the span of seven days, your body will get grimy. This is why we recommend bathing 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 a lot of other benefits, like:

  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lowers muscle tension
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Reduces stress
  • Calms the nervous system

While bathing daily would seem nice, 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

While we’re on the subject of staying clean, there’s a need to mention laundry. Unless you’ve got a generator or solar-powered system, your washer won’t work when there’s a power outage.

You can only stand your sweaty clothes for so long. So, what can you do?

Well, some preppers like the one in the video above get creative and use their resourcefulness to come up with 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 good 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. If you have enough supplies, then twice would be better.

Brush your teeth with toothpaste, but if you run out, then baking soda would make a good alternative. If worse comes to worst, then just use your toothbrush 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 hair needs serious cleaning, you can use things that you already have in your home, like:

  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • A brush

Want an even better solution? Keep your hair short. It’ll save you a lot of time and water.

Groom Various Areas in Your Body

Believe it or not, but grooming can help you stay clean. Here are some grooming tips to remember:

  • Keep head and facial hair short (less hair equals fewer parasites)
  • Comb your hair daily
  • Trim fingernails and toenails, to prevent germs from hiding underneath
  • Stop biting your nails

Does your bug out bag contain scissors, razors, and nail clippers? If not, you should consider adding these items.

Treat All Wounds Like They Are 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.

When you have an injury, you should avoid activities that will unnecessarily expose it 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.

You need to keep your feet dry and clean. This means you have to 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 paste of water and baking soda to the affected areas, leave it to dry, 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 ya, bud, but you’re sorely mistaken.

A lot of preppers focus so much on stocking other things that they put their hygiene kits on the back burner. Don’t be one of them! Personal hygiene supplies are just as important as the rest of the stuff inside your bug out bag.

What Hygiene Products Should You Stockpile?

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

Baking soda is the 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 just mixing a small amount of baking soda with water, you can make the following:

  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

You should definitely include baking soda in your list of products to stockpile.


As we mentioned earlier, you can make toothpaste with baking soda. But, what good is toothpaste if you don’t have a toothbrush?

Sure, you can use your finger, but a toothbrush does a much better job of cleaning your teeth. You should buy a toothbrush for your survival 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 building their hygiene kits. 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, you should make room in your kit for sunscreen. Apply it to the bare areas of your skin whenever you go under the sun. Act immediately—don’t wait until your face and skin start itching.

Toilet Paper

Do we really need to explain this one?

Toilet paper is a no-brainer—unless you’re comfortable with using plants to wipe your ass. 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 Items

Besides these essentials, you should also get your hands on these:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dental floss
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Comb
  • Deodorant
  • Laundry detergent
  • Razors, scissors, and nail clippers
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Baby wipes
  • Disposable gloves
  • Diapers, if applicable
  • Feminine hygiene supplies, 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.

Food Waste

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.

But, not everything can be used as compost. Just look at these 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.

Burning Waste

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, you should only burn your trash 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 you do burn 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.

Recycling Waste

If this ends up being a long-term thing, you should 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.

Burying Waste

For items that can’t be reused, burned, or composted, your best option would be to bury them. Items like treated wood, plastics, metals, and rubbers are included here.

You have to 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.

Human Waste

You can’t flush, but you can still keep using the bathroom for comfort and privacy’s sake.

All you have to do is line your toilet with one or two heavy-duty garbage bags. After you’re done with 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.

Check this video out for a clearer explanation:

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.

Are You All Set to Face the Enemy?


It’s the enemy you didn’t see coming. Or it’s one that you’ve severely underestimated.

Once disease makes its way to you, you’re pretty much screwed. Your gear won’t help. Neither will your tools.

So, when you prep for SHTF, put more thought into how you’ll stay clean. Like we said at the beginning, this is what will help you stay alive. It’s your greatest protection against illness and infections.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to assemble your hygiene kits, 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 weapons.

Is there anything we didn’t mention? Or are there any tips you want to add? Let us know. Just share your comments down below.

Posted in  Survival   on  May 31, 2020 by  Mel C0


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About the author

Mel is a seasoned prepper with a passion for food, health, and bushcraft. When she's not busy enjoying the outdoors, she's prepping for the zombie takeover.


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