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When I was 5, I used to spend entire summers with my self-sufficient grandparents, far away from noisy, crowded cities. Even though I didn’t know it back then, I was doing a lot of things that made me a prepper even before the word was actually invented… things that taught me from a young age that life isn’t all sitting on your ass and watching T.V. and letting society take care of you.
One of those things was hygiene.
See… we never paid for water. We had (and still do) a pretty deep well that my great-grandfathers dug with their bare hands. We also had a pipe that was giving us clean water for our daily needs that we shared with our neighbors. Of course, if we misused it, the other villagers would experience a pressure drop and get upset so we had to find alternate ways to fulfil the rest of our daily water needs.
The point of this article is to give you a few solid ideas on personal hygiene in post-SHTF situations, although some of these tips can be applied right now. And I want to start off by talking about water because water is going to be one of the biggest challenges for our daily personal hygiene.
Tip #1: Take Baths Using Rainwater
If you have a backyard, this will give you a nice hot bath for free, provided it’s at least 90 degrees outside that day. The rainwater needs to be collected in advance from rooftops and stored in barrels and doesn’t need to be filtered or purified.
Next, place a huge bath tub in your backyard and fill it with your rainwater. We used to have a big tin bathtub for this that was used as a part-time container for various things during the week. Do this early in the morning (before 10 AM) to catch as much sunlight and heat as possible. At around 2-3 PM, that water is going to be so hot that you’ll wanna jump right in and forget to check and see if any of your neighbors are watching.
Tip #2: Stockpile Those Hygiene Supplies Right Now!
The best way to make sure you’ll have everything you need to satisfy your hygiene needs is to start stockpiling right now. A lot of preppers disregard hygiene as part of their stockpile plans and think having toilet paper and toothpaste is enough. The more you have, the less DIY you’ll have to do post-SHTF… at least for a while.
Sure, you can start with a roll of toilet paper and a comb or a brush in your bug out bag, but then you have to continue with things like paper towels, hand sanitizers, anti-bacterial wipes, tweezers, mirrors, nail clippers, an old-fashioned razor, shaving foam, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo and anything else you’re using right now on a day-to-day basis.
Tip #3: Get a Few Good Respirators
This is of utmost importance if you’re a city dweller and you’re planning to bug out post-SHTF. No one will take care of garbage and this is going to be a huge problem in urban areas. You certainly don’t want to catch a disease and the smell… well, enough said. The cheapest option is the old N95 mask but that’s only good up to a point (which is one of the reason it’s so cheap). A (way) better option is to get a respirator for anywhere between 10 and 30 bucks, making it more expensive than the N95 but worth every penny.
Tip #4: Get Rid of Your Garbage… One Way or Another
I don’t need to tell you that rats thrive in garbage. With no one to take it to the landfill, you’re gonna have to get rid of it yourself. If you have a back yard, you can bury it or burn it but if you don’t, you may have to take it to the landfill and face the risks that await you on your way there. By the way, if your plan is to take your garbage somewhere else, make sure you keep it in thick containers until you do so.
Burning could be a problem because you might attract attention, however, there are ways around that. Provided you don’t burn plastic, you can make the fire under a tree (the branches will dissipate the smoke) and burn a lot of tinder along with it (this is reduce the amount of smoke that’s generated).
Since we all know making fire next to a tree is dangerous, try to keep it small and keep your eyes on it at all times. Make sure the branches of the tree are high enough from the ground so no flames get to them.
Tip #5: Baking Soda Makes the Best Toothpaste
Not only can a little bit of baking soda keep your teeth clean but it does a pretty good job whitening them. It’s really easy to make, you just need baking soda and a little bit of water to make your home-made toothpaste.
You can get fancy with this by adding sea salt, peppermint extract, vegetable glycerin, guar gum, peppermint essential oil, coconut oil or even cinnamon – whichever you prefer. Whether or not you add these, the basic recipe is the same: stir everything until the paste reaches the desired consistency.
Caveat: when using coconut oil, you may notice the paste solidifying. To fix that, simply heat it up a little by holding the recipient in your hand or by adding a few drops of warm water.
Tip #6: Your Hair Can (Almost) Clean Itself
What I mean is, you don’t really need shampoo, hair conditioner and other expensive products in order to keep your hair clean. These actually strip your hair of the essential oils it’s already capable of producing.
To keep your hair naturally healthy, all you need is hot water, a brush, baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Those last two are temporary, until your hair gets used to the new “no-shampoo” regime. Initially, it’s going to react with excess oil, but that’s only a temporary reaction. Use baking soda as shampoo and vinegar as hair conditioner for an all-natural hair-care routine.
OK, this is all nice but what about SHTF situations, when you’ll be doing a lot of physical work and your hair is going to accumulate a lot of dust and debris and sweat as a result? You can still ignore your shampoo but one other thing you can do is keep your hair short. This will also save you copious amounts of water when showering.
Tip #7: You Don’t Need To Flush Every Time
This is important because you’ll need plenty of water to bathe yourself and clean dishes and clothes. You don’t want to flush too much of it down the toilet. If there’s no running water and you’re using cooking or bath water to fill up your toilet’s reservoir, a simple way to flush less is to follow the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” rule.
Since the average U.S. household wastes 400 gallons of water per day, I suggest you start applying this rule right now to teach everyone in your family how important it is. This is a great habit to add to your family survival plans and drills because it’s really easy to do.
Tip #8: Prevent Rather Than Treat Blisters
If you have shiny new hiking boots but you haven’t broken them in yet, you should definitely do so to avoid some serious blisters when bugging out. Foot hygiene is very important as blisters can not only slow you down but the skin underneath can get infected… and then you’ve got bigger problems.
Of course, even if your boots aren’t new, you can still get them. One way to prevent blisters is to wear two pairs of socks, one that’s thinner (such as silk socks worn with suits) and another one that’s thicker (preferably made of wool).
Tip #9: Trash Bags Aren’t Just for Trash
Trash bags can be used, for instance, to store dirty clothes until it’s time to wash them. Post-SHTF you’re gonna have to turn yourself into a bit of a clean-freak and isolating dirty laundry is a must, particularly if you’re not at home so you can use your laundry basket like you normally would.
There are many other uses for trash bags… For example, you could use them as thermal underwear to prevent body heat from escaping, you can put them over your head to protect from rain (and, possibly, an unwanted cold) or even use them as pressure bandages!
Tip #10: Stay Away From People
When it hits the fan, there will be a lot of people with a lot of health problems. The golden rule of SHTF-hygiene is to stay away from them! Avoid giving them mouth-to-mouth CPR because you never know what disease you might catch; stick to chest compressions… and if you notice anything strange, it’s probably best to avoid touching them altogether.
Ok, those were the tips… I could have added a lot more but the truth is, there’re just so many of them! If you want more, be sure to check out the mega-list I’m building on my blog, where I add killer tips from everything related to survival.