The Importance of Personal Hygiene Post SHTF

Cleanliness is even more essential in the urban survival situation than in a normal environment. It’s highly unlikely, to say the least, that you’ll be able to achieve the ideal of a  hot shower with soap once a day, but you must strive for alternatives that come as close as possible. One method is the use of a cloth and soapy water, making sure you carefully wash the parts of the body that are prone to both infestation and infection, including the extremities, armpits, crotch, and hair. In the absence of sufficient water for such a “spit” bath, you can turn to the healing properties of the UV rays from the sun. Take off your clothing – as much as is practical under the circumstances and “sun-bathe” for a minimum of an hour, taking care not to risk getting sunburned.

Survival hygiene

In the absence of soap, you can substitute sand or ashes. If you have time and the access to the ingredients and equipment necessary, you can make soap according to the following instructions:

  1. Put small pieces of animal fat in a pot with some water — enough to keep the fat from sticking to the pot while cooking. Cook slowly, stirring often.
  2. When the fat has turned to grease, pour it into a container and let it solidify.
  3. Prepare potash: You’ll need a container that has a spout at the bottom and an additional ordinary container. Put some ashes into the container with the spout and add water. The liquid that drains from the spout is potash, also known as lye, and you will collect it in the additional ordinary container. Note: If you don’t have a container with a spout, you can pour the ashes-and-water mixture from one container to another through a cloth serving as a strainer, placing it securely over the second container).
  4. Now you actually make the soap by cooking two parts grease to one part potash. Boil until the mixture thickens.
  5. Remove from the fire and let it cool.

The mixture can be used in this partially liquid state right from the pot, or you can make soap bars by pouring the liquid into a pan, letting it solidify, and then cutting it into bars.

Clean Hands

Keep your hands away from your mouth as much as possible, since hands are a prime carrier of germs. Wash hands often, especially before you handle food or food utensils, or water that is intended for drinking. Also remember to wash hands thoroughly after using the latrine, handling anything that might be germ-laden, and after treating or simply assisting a sick person. Remember to keep fingernails clean and trim them frequently.

Clean Hair

Keep parasites such as fleas and lice out of your hair by remembering to keep it clean.  Comb and trim it often.

Clean Clothes

Clothing that is in clean condition helps prevent the scourges of parasites and skin infection, so change your underclothes every day and wash outer garments whenever they get dirty. If there isn’t enough water available to do this kind of frequent washing, the sun is a good substitute for water. Shake out the clothes that need cleaning, and lay them out for a couple of hours in the sun. A note about care of a blanket: keep it clean by turning it inside out after each and every time you use it, and then smack it a bit to fluff it up, and air it thoroughly.

Clean Teeth

Brush your teeth, cleaning your mouth thoroughly, once a day at a minimum, and floss with string or some sort of fiber. Alternate methods are readily available if you don’t have a toothbrush:

  • Using your fingers as a brush, apply sand or salt, soda or even soap.  If there’s not enough water to rinse with, you can use salt water or tea made from willow bark.
  • Tear off a strip of clean cloth and wind it around your fingers and rub your teeth.

If a minor dental problem arises, such as a cavity, you can deal with it temporarily by first cleaning it thoroughly, then rinse and fill it with whichever of the following suggested temporary fillings is available:

  • Candle wax
  • Hot pepper
  • Tobacco
  • Tooth paste
  • Aspirin
  • Ginger root

Foot Hygiene

Daily care of feet is essential; not only should you wash them, but massage them as well Toenails should be kept trimmed – cutting straight across the ends.

Prevention of foot trouble begins with pre-survival attention to your shoes or boots, which should be chosen carefully and broken in well before the need to wear them daily during the survival situation. Inside the shoes there should be a good insole.  When you are in the survival situation, take care not only to wash and massage feet daily, but to powder them.

Blisters can be a problem, so be sure to check for them daily, and should any blisters develop, here’s how to deal with them: if it’s a small blister, leave it alone – one that has not burst is protected from infection. Just get something soft to pad it and protect it from friction. If it bursts, you now need to treat it as you would any open wound. Cleaning and dressing it at least once a day and protecting it with some kind of padding.

If you develop a big blister, don’t intentionally puncture it. There’s a method you can use to prevent the threat of a big blister bursting from pressure:

  • Find a needle (the kind used for sewing) and clean thread.
  • Clean up the blister
  • Then thread the needle and push it through the blister but don’t draw the thread all the way through.
  • With two ends of the thread hanging out in different directions, break off the needle.
  • Place padding around the blister.

You now have a mechanism that will absorb the liquid from inside the blister, which makes the size of the hole smaller, and it will not seal over.


One way to ensure you get the rest that is vital for your physical and mental well-being is to incorporate into your daily schedule a rest period of a minimum of 10 minutes every waking hour. When the situation prevents you from keeping to this schedule, try to changing your activities:  for example, switching from a physically challenging job to an activity involving cognitive activity is refreshing.

Cleanliness in Your Surroundings

Sanitation rules should be strictly followed: all water intended for human use should be purified. Allow no one to contaminate the area with human excrement or urine.  Instead, latrines should be used, and if they are not available, cat holes should be dug and the waste covered over.

Waste Management

If you can defecate far from your site, that’s ideal. If you are in a cramped location, you’ll have to manage and dispose of defecation properly or risk disease. If the water system is down; use plastic bags to defecate in. Toilets are sold which attach plastic bags to the seat. Seal them loosely because the gasses will make them expand. Place them in a metal can with a tight lid. This is only a temporary measure. Dig a pit that is a few feet wide and deep. Leave the dirt around the hole so water doesn’t flood the hole. Daily, discard all plastic bags of defecation into the hole and push some of the dirt over it. If you can plan ahead and have a pole to push the dirt down, that will keep you away from the pit as much as possible, which is ideal.