Survival Hygiene

There are some topics that people maybe sometimes do not want to read or hear about, or other folks just thinking that is not too important when SHTF. Hygiene is something that we all agree is important, but how dirty is gonna be is other thing.

If you look for example to definition of Cholera you can see this:
„Cholera is an acute enteric infection caused by the ingestion of bacterium Vibrio cholerae present in faecally contaminated water or food. Primarily linked to insufficient access to safe water and proper sanitation, its impact can be even more dramatic in areas where basic environmental infrastructures are disrupted or have been destroyed.„

I already mentioned that I suffered (together with lot of folks from that time) few serious cases of diarrhea, I mean cases when you can not lift your head up for days, i was so exhausted.

Did I have Cholera? I do not have clue, no hospitals, no labs, no doctors. Probably yes. All what I could do is to take fluids, menthol tea, chamomile tea and „Rosa Canina“ tea.

In normal grown up healthy people, it can be solved with oral re-hydration, and cases of death are not so common. In very young and very old it is harder. When you have some underlying medical condition it is complicated again.

It is hard anyway if SHTF and you get heavy case of diarrhea, and you are not prepared for it, and you do not know too much about it.

When SHTF small problems lead to bigger problems, later you have lot of small problems pieced together, and actually you have one big problem.

If you have access to medical facility when you dehydrated and exhausted because diarrhea then in most of the cases all can be solved with IV re-hydration, Ringers Lactate etc.

If you have knowledge and equipment you can try to solve it by yourself.
Worst case scenario would be to not have neither available medical help, no knowledge and no equipment.

Of course having no disease is better than treating one.

Try to not get yourself in situation where you need medical help, because medical help can be not available. Also, you can learn some basics about treatment, and store some stuff for it. I am not saying that you need to go to nursing school right now. But knowledge is key, learn how dehydration work, and how you can re-hydrate man.

Having knowledge how to re-hydrate patient who is suffering from diarrhea not going to do you too much good if you did not solve question of proper waste disposal.

Because at the end you gonna find yourself „running in circles“ and getting sick again and again.

So again pay extra attention to proper waste management, your water and your food.
Consider the fact that you can control maybe conditions in your home if you plan and prepare everything, but you gonna need to go out for many reasons, and outside world is going to be probably very bad and dirty place.

Protect yourself when you are out, and be sure what you are bringing home with you.

Today when it comes to urban survival I think simple surgical masks and gloves should be part of your preparation.

They are not only meant to be used in operation rooms. I would use it whenever I am out on some „suspicious dirty“ place and these places are all around after normal services do not work anymore. Shoe covers are good idea too…

You can not achieve sterile environment in your home, and that is not point here. But whenever coming home from your trip out (when SHTF) consider yourself dirty, and clean yourself, cloth and equipment on best way that is available for you.

Just use common sense, but much more common sense then in normal time. What makes you sick in such survival situations is usually not visible.

Your first line of defense gonna be your personal hygiene, way how to manage your waste, and way how you keep your self clean. So simple procedures like washing your hands carefully after you done with dirty job get some new meaning. It can be life saving.

Boil your clothing, add some bleach and let it dry in direct sunlight. These little things are all things that increase your chance for survival. You can not shoot these little bacteria and they killed as many people as bullets (or even more) during my time in war.

Store disposable trash bags, as many as you can, for many different reasons, including for human waste disposal. Also many ways to clean yourself, and again use common sense, store it in „small“ containers, so you can carry it with you anywhere and always.

To have pair of disposable medical gloves and small hand sanitizer with you in your pocket make much more sense when SHTF then in normal situation today.

Do you already have masks, surgical gowns (or other throw away clothing for dirty work), shoe covers, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, gloves, disposable cups and plates? What are your most important preparations when it comes to hygiene?

42 responses to “Survival Hygiene”

  1. victoria orchard says:

    Im a 61 yr old female, with outdoors experience and a strong will.
    Im currently living with my daughter and two grand children in southern Florida USA.
    My daily thoughts take me into the future when I will have to defend my family here. I am the one who has weapons, I am the one who knows some survival skills. I am the one who will stand in front while my family stands behind me.
    As I read your articles, my mind fills with fear of what could be and so I prepare as much as I can, both mentally and physically, gathering supplies and equipment.
    If things get really bad here, I don’t think there will be much going from town to town or house to house as there will be roving mobs of murders and looters. Traveling about with my family is out of the question as well as me leaving them here to travel about in search of supplies is also out of the question. I think we will all soon find out what our inner strengths are.
    I thank you for the time you take to tell us about your experiences in dire survival situations.
    Your the man in my life, giving me advice. vicki

    • SonOfSam says:

      Vicki, let’s hope it never comes to it, but if it does, and you gotta aim, aim towards their gonads or just above. That way, if recoil lifts the barrel, you will be hitting stomach, then chest then neck.

      And above all, don’t shed a tear for any of these POS… no real man would ever try to harm a woman or children, and they will deserve what they get if they ever try to harm you and yours

      • OldTCS says:

        SonOfSam – Actually that doesn’t work. The recoil happens after the bullet is already gone. My mother brought home a target with all groin shots, she had the same idea. Posting a target with all groin shots might be a good deterrent, though. 😉

        • nunya says:

          Maybe the point was that the first shot will be somewhat low with the intention that follow up shots 2 and 3 will be higher and increasingly effective.

    • Chuck says:

      Fear is dispelled by knowledge. If you doubt your firearms skills, and you can afford it, take a class. If not, try to find a gun club or shooting range where you can practice and meet people. Gun folks are a friendly lot and happy to share skills.

      You sound like you have the heart of a warrior.

      Ditto to what SonOfSam says. Any ‘thing’ that would harm women and children deserve a swift end.

  2. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I stocked up on Lomotil for just this reason, but nothing else like the strong meds for ‘Black Rain’ will stop it from occuring. Most advice I hear for this is allow 24 hours for body to evacuate whatever is generating the distress, then treat. I really haven’t done much research on this topic though. I understand dysentery is one of the world’s biggest killers.

  3. Mariowen says:

    I think what you have said here is a good reminder that what works today won’t necessarily work when SHTF. You have created a good check list to be sure about. One thing that I never thought of was the shoe covers. I presume they can be obtained from a drug store or online.

    Do you think water that you have stored can be contaminated just through spores in the air? If I have a glass of water that isn’t sealed up, will it contaminate while sitting open – even if I or my immediate family is not sick? I don’t know how much this sickness can travel. Do you wear masks even at home? If so, I need to get a lot more of them.

    Also, I liked your comment about lots of trash bags. It is a good place to store dirty clothing until wash time, anyway.

    Keep water that has boiled on hand always, even if you think it is safe. I have a sun oven and I can keep boiling water all day if I am not cooking dinner in it. It is better to do too much than not do enough and get sick.

    I will give my pets only boiled water, too. It is important that they are protected just the same as we are.

    Wash everything – hands, face, hair, clothing, soles of your shoes, pets – everything you touch!

    • ghostsniper says:

      Rather than trash bags, which must be handled a lot, for storing dirty clothes use a large trash can where the only part you touch is the handle, and keep it outside, maybe on a porch or something and some what close to the laundry cleaning area. The less you handle the nasty stuff the better you’ll be.

    • SonOfSam says:

      Besides trash bags and barrels, I also save every plastic bag from the supermarket, drug store, etc etc. Heck, they’re just handing them out anyway so why not? I used to keep them for A) diapers when my kids were little and B) walking the dog

      Right now, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a thousand of them stored up… no bullshit, its at LEAST a thousand

    • john says:

      Disentery does not spread by spores in the air. It doesn’t need to. To explain why it will require me to describe disgusting things.

      When the epidemic hit Haiti, and people were dying, lots of my friends were saying things like “how can they be so dumb and so helpless and so ignorant?”. These people in Haiti are not dumb and not helpless. There is just only so much you can do with limited water and no toilet facilities.

      Imagine this…you only have bottled water and you are living in a tent. There are hundreds of thousands of tents all around with people just like you. There are barely functional toilet facilities around. Maybe some porta-potties or maybe some trenches dug in the ground. Then someone gets real bad diarrhea. I mean so bad he loses control while running to the porta-pottie. He makes a mess all over the ground and on himself. There is no way to get really cleaned up real good. People all around are walking through his diarrhea and tracking it all over. You can wash your hands every 20 minutes and it won’t do any good because its on your shoes, on the ground, tracked inside your tent, and within 24 hours people all around are coming down with real bad diarrhea. The mess is everywhere. People track it around on their shoes The ground is coated with a thin film of it in a 100 foot radius around every toilet facility just from all the people walking around with it on their shoes. In a few days every tent in the area has a thin film of it coating the entire inside of every tent.

      How do you sterilize the inside of a tent? How do you sterilize your clothing and your bedding and all your possessions? The answer is you CAN’T. You especially can’t if the only water around is bottled water. Ponds and streams will be contaminated very quickly when there is large group of people suffering from disentery near by. It gets in all surface water and people who come in contact with that water become contaminated.

      • Selco says:

        Thank you John.
        Very good explanation and example how it works when SHTF. We all need to think about things that we usually do not like too much to think.Small problems can lead to big problems, and that big problems kill you. So again having things like simple shoe covers for specific situation when SHTF make sense, or disposable gloves, or lot of things for disinfection.
        Being quiet about things that are disgusting does not make the disappeared, so it is always good to talk about it.

      • Tim says:

        This is why my father always told me, ” When SHTF, you get away from people, get away from them as far as you can.”

        Community can and will kill you in a SHTF situation.

  4. Tommy says:

    Thanks again for another great article Selco. Most people don’t realize that the #1 killer in the USA in the year 1900 was Dysentary (diarrhea). It’s only because of the discovery of bacteria and advancements in hygiene that it’s no longer a huge problem.

    A couple suggestions for everyone, would be to stock up on medicines like Immodium or Kaopectate to stop diarrhea.

    Buy and use hand sanitizers and colloidal silver solutions to kill germs.

    If your neighborhood is safe (non-violent) you might want to do like the Japanese do and remove your shoes before entering your house. If times are bad, leave them on so you can beat feet (get away) if necessary.

    Here’s a recipe for a rehydration solution (homemade Gatorade) if you do get dehydrated.

    2 quarts (liters) Water
    5-10 Tsp. Sugar (to taste)
    1 Tsp. Salt
    1 Tsp. Baking Soda
    1/2 Tsp. Salt Substitute (Potassium Chloride)
    1 Pack unsweetened drink mix (Kool Aid) optional for flavoring

    • SonOfSam says:

      cool beans, thanks for the recipe 🙂

    • Aphek says:

      This is an essential recipe. Glad to see it posted.

      I have also read (can’t find link so don’t take it as gospel) that 1/8 teaspoon of salt (about the amount in packets from fast food restaurants) dissolved on the tongue for every 16 oz. water consumed will help keep you hydrated, especially when very active.

      When we go backpacking a few of us always bring a pocketful of salt packets and take them about every half Nalgene bottle or so. Don’t put the salt in the water! Pour the salt packet into your mouth, swish it around with water if you don’t like the taste, and then drink. Seems to work.

    • Aphek says:

      BTW I will add a bit of info about the origin of this recipe and why these ingredients are necessary.

      Some British humanitarian workers discovered the sugar thing while treating dehydration (in India I think, maybe Africa) with salt water solution. At first they used the sugar to help patients deal with the taste but what they found is that the sugar helps the body absorb the electrolytes. So here is the breakdown of the recipe (also known as the homemade Pedialyte recipe):

      2 quarts (liters) Water – replace lost water
      5-10 Tsp. Sugar (to taste) – Helps body absorb electrolytes (sodium and potassium) – should be about 6-1 ratio with the salt
      1 Tsp. Salt – Sodium (an electrolyte)
      1 Tsp. Baking Soda – Another type of sodium
      1/2 Tsp. Salt Substitute (Potassium Chloride) – Another electrolyte
      1 Pack unsweetened drink mix (Kool Aid) optional for flavoring – Just for flavor here

      I’ll add this link to a World Health Organization document on the treatment of diarrhea. It’s pretty long but you might want it on your “survival kindle” or printed out and kept with your other SHTF documents. The countries this document is designed to help are the kind of countries we’ll be living in if SHTF.

    • June says:

      How about stocking up on charcoal capsules. It’s an inert substance and soaks up a lot of bad stuff in your GI track. I’ve used it many times for diarrhea. Of course if there is no charcoal capsules, you could scrape some off burned wood, pick some that has no paint or chemicals. Just mix with water and drink. 30 years ago my sister saved her baby’s life that way after weeks of Doctors not being able to get the baby’s diarrhea stopped.

  5. TexasJedi says:

    Tried the home made gatorade and it was pretty good. Keep ideas like that coming.

  6. skidmark says:

    Oral rehydration is all well and good when you are mildly to moderately dehydrated. Dysentry and cholera will take you well past moderately dehydrated. You need to know how to get fluids into your system without needing to stick a needle in a vein. Sitting here while all is well it is usually described as :”icky” but when you have no more S to hit the fan with you will be glad you either looked it up or (best) talked with your doctor about how to do it and how to mix things properly. Water is OK, but Gatorade is not going to be your friend there. It’s not intuitive so go learn while you have the time.

    stay safe.

  7. David says:

    I live in a dairy farming area, and the Veterinary places sell rehydration salts for treating sick calves. I’m sure it would be similar to what is used for humans. It is called Electrolyte Replacement, and I’m sure would be cheaper and available in bulk.
    While it is good to be prepared.. it is also expensive to be prepared..

  8. Cle says:

    Two things- Most important route into your body is your eyes. Its easy to get something on your gloved hands and wipe some sweat out of your eyes and get infected. Wear Goggles! Also, when dealing with human waste, a great book on the subject is Humanure Handbook, by Joesph Jenkins. I think using this technique will greatly reduce all bacteria, virus, and worm infections down to near zero, at least at home.

    • Gravlore says:

      Goggles? Ever wear goggles when it is 90 degrees outside? I would not work at all before wearing a sauna/greenhouse over my eyes. I agree with the humanure.

  9. debwitter says:

    I cured very bad diarrhea in a friend of mine by using Stabilized oxygen drops in water. This worked very well and we keep a supply on hand for emergencies. Another great solution is activated charcoal.

    There are many first aid/sickness solutions through plants. For instance Peach tree leaves are an answer for bladder infections.

    The best emergency mask is made by Yes, it is a funny name but the mask is the best one out there. My daughter used this during her cancer treatment. It was invented by a father in Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic. Go to the site and check it out. We have enough of these masks for all family members.

    Since there were such good tips here I thought I would contribute as well.


  10. Erik says:

    A friend recommended this site to me. We are both discussing the forum. It is thought provoking. If you are just starting to review these ideas, this is an excellent place. My strategy has been to begin to accumulate resources slowly. Start with water. Look at your available space and maximize water resources. For me I have set aside about thirty gallons of water. This is not outstanding by any stretch, but it is a start. At survival Rates I could stretch it to about thirty days, but it would be extremely tough going. I stress SURVIVAL. Second go for dry goods. Rice, Beans, Etc. They are the best bang for a dollar. AND I have seen prices jump recently so start now. Then supplement with cans. When it comes to food I figure I’m close to capacity with my available space. Suprisingly the money required was not terrible when spaced out. I recommend small packages in numerous small containers. This will provide the insertion of variety. A fifty pound bag of Pintos and rice may do the trick, but numerous small bags of pintos, black beans, white beans, red beans and rice are a little more rounded. It makes the idea of canned corn and peas 50 days in a row less disgusting. Third explore a real medical kit. Go online on you tube. Follow the advice. Medical supplies are slightly expensive so just tick things off your list steadily. Dollar stores might help. If you are methodical you will find yourself in an reasonable place within one or two months. Your budget is less of a limit than your commitment… FOR SURE. These three factors, quality water, adequate nutrition, and basic medicine should see you through the worst times. Good luck.

  11. Richard Stone says:

    As a former “operator” I got sick more times than I care to remember.

    Here is what I learned the hard way.

    1. Brush your teeth – One time I ignored the need to see a dentist, ended up in the jungle, deathly sick with an abcessed tooth and no possibility of getting out before the mission extraction date. Ended up pulling the tooth myself with small vice grips.

    2. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands…………………….did I say, wash your hands – Bottom line, everything is contaminated with something even in the best of times but our immune systems can deal with it, however, in a SHTF world, our immune systems will be stressed and therefore unable to protect us from even simple illnesses.

    3. Take care of your feet – During Viet Nam when I was young, dumb and invinceable, I didn’t take care of my feet like I was told, result, ended up being medivac ‘d out with dead bodies to have my feet operated on for severe in-grown toe nails and infection.

    4. Do not get an STD

    5. If you can’t wash all of your clothes, make sure to wash your socks and underware. Those items alone will make a huge difference and by the way, same goes for your body. Keep your teeth, hands, feet, and booty clean.

    6. Wash your pots, pans, and eating utensils. I can’t stress this enough. It is as important as washing your hands. I personally believe that more dissentary is caused by this than people think.

    7. Keep your hair cut short and if lice are present cut it ALL off.

    Hope this helps.

    GOD Bless!


    • Selco says:

      good point about care for your feet. People often do not think how some small things can lead to much bigger problems, and cripple you. Clean socks, checking of your feet is normal thing. But when SHTF that become sometimes matter of life and death. If you cannot walk or run it makes big problem.

  12. JSmith says:

    As a healthcare provider, I recommend the book “Where there is no Doctor”. It’s written as a reference for village heathcare workers (many of whom have little medical knowledge) to treat a wide variety of medical ailments when modern medical facilites are not available. It’s a very good, practical reference that has been proven effective in saving lives in the third world. Parts of the book are free to download from the website (you can also purchase the book there).

  13. Lefty Prepper says:

    What if the shit LITERALLY hit the fan?…

    Plan to dispose of your waste.
    -Choose a place to dig your latrine NOW. Ground you can dig in with a tool you have and are capable of using. have a tool.
    -Urbanites may have to dump waste directly into a manhole or storm drain. Do you know if that manhole on your cul de sac goes to sewage pipes or an electric vault? Does your storm drain system empty directly into your closest source of water? (By the same token do either give access to a stream or other water source that was paved over and enclosed?)
    -rolls of diaper or doggie poo disposal bags are cheap preps, seal waste as it occurs, and are often scented. A great choice for apartments, short term power downs, and when security keeps you inside away from your normal waste disposal.
    -If you have a garage you have room for a bulk bag of quick lime. Doesn’t go bad, use on waste anywhere, good for disposing of carcasses as well.

    Plan to wash yourself.
    -PTA baths, Pits, Tits, and Ass. Wash places that rub against other places. Wash places that have mucous membranes or openings to the inside of your body. Get proficient with a sponge bath now. You won’t just be freshening up, you’ve be washing yourself. Try going a week without your conventional washing technique, just sponge baths, and see how you feel.
    -practice using low water washing techniques now. Girl Scouts are taught to lash a plastic gallon jug to a tree, poke a small hole near the bottom, and plug it with a shaved twig on a stick for a camp sink. Tie the stick to the jug and you’ve got yourself decent water pressure (because the hole is tiny,) but very little water. Practiced scouts can throughly wash hands and face with about a cup of water using this, but I’ve seen newbies use the entire gallon and still be soapy. Whatever you plan on using, learn to use efficiently now.

    And Ladies…..
    I keep seeing tampons in people’s prepping list. If you are in less than sanitary conditions please do not go sticking something up your delicate mucous membrane lined selves. And please please please please familiarize yourself with the symptoms of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

    Another recipe for oral hydration solution. i seem to recall this is a mix used by some aid group for kids in 3rd world countries, but don;t honestly remember where I got the info from.
    * 30 ml (6 level tsp) of sugar
    * 2.5 ml (1/2 level tsp) of salt, dissolved into
    * 1 litre (4.25 Cups) of clean water

  14. armedandsafe says:

    If you live in a warm and dry climate, or in a desert, you will be partially dehydrated in normal times. People don’t realize this after becoming aclimated, but it is a known condition for those climes. What this means is that diarrhea dehydration comes on much more quickly that if you start out fully hydrated. It also means that it is harder to regain hydration, as the body is “set” for some dehydration to be normal.

    In SHTF situations, you are going to be partially dehydrated just because water is not as easily available as before. Here we go again.

  15. Mark says:

    I recall reading a recipe for re-hydration that included potassium in addition to the sugar/salt/water mix. You can buy potassium tablets in the vitamin sections of stores and crush one to add to 1-2 qts of water.

  16. grower says:

    I have had a few thoughts as I read through the comments here. Regarding “feminine hygiene,” I remember my mother always using old towels ripped into manageable size strips, folded over 2 or 3 times and pinned in place with safety pins. Wash thoroughly, sun dry, use again. ANYTHING you wash — clothes, dishes, baby bottles — make sure it air dries for SEVERAL HOURS before you use it again. Don’t try to wash something right before use, as there will be germs on it. And sunshine kills bacteria, so anything you really want to be sure is clean needs to hang in a sunny window for a day.
    I’ve used out houses before. They are not that hard to build, and are excellent for keeping the poop as far away from the people as possible. Even if you live in the city, if you have any kind of garden or yard behind your building, you can build an out house. Here is a link to the U.S. government specifications for construction of an “earth pit privy” (scroll down just a bit):
    If you can print this out, or even just read it and make some mental notes, it will help in a SHTF situation. Our out house was sanitary and safe to use, and the invertebrate living organisms that developed down in the “pit” kept recycling the waste, resulting in practically no odor.

  17. Tim says:

    There’s one thing I realized a few years ago. I can’t store or carry everything I might need. And if SHTF there won’t be any hospitals or doctors to run to. But there’s one thing I can take with me no matter what…..KNOWLEDGE! Since then I’ve been studying botany (Plants) and herbal medicine of today and the past civilizations as hard as I can cram it in my brain. Today I do not fear disease like I used to. It’s not that I don’t have respect for the micro world or the stupidity of mankind. It’s that I know I carry the knowledge to treat just about anything that may come my way.

    During the first America colonies few people realize just how close to complete failure they really were. The colonies had been infected with a bad case dysentery and were on the verge of being wiped out when the Native Americans gave them the cure. What was this mysterious super drug? Blackberry root.

    I’m going to list several known cures and if you only remember one, it could be the one that saves your life or the life of another. These plants are widely distributed around the world and you should be able to find at least 3 locally.

    Blackberry root, Kudzu root, Japanese Honeysuckle flowers and leaves, Oak bark, Stinging Nettles, Comfrey root or leaf, Blue Vervain, Thistle root, St. John’s wort flower and leaf, St. Andrew’s cross flower and leaf, and lastly Garlic.

    The roots and bark should be boiled in water for at least 30 minutes but preferably 2 hours. Then let the tea steep for another 4 hours. You can use the tea immediately if needed but the longer it steeps the stronger it will get.

    Flower and leaf tea should be made by boiling the water and then adding the herbs and removing from the heat. Or simply pour the boiling water over the herbs and allow them to steep 5-15 minutes.


    You may not realize how much the Mint and Chamomile tea were actually helping. It could have been the difference in your very survival! Both are antibacterial and some mints, like Lemon Balm, are antiviral. But when you’re dealing with a bad case of dysentery you need an astringent to help stop the loss of fluids. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I’m glad someone in your inner circle had some knowledge of herbal medicine.

  18. Stevenr.f. says:

    I have a large storm drain with a heavy cover on it in my back yard. I think at least for a while this will make a very good outdoor toilet. Any thoughts on that??

  19. pamela jones says:

    Stock a supply of coconut water. Its high in potassium and helps with hydration. I also plan to burn most of my trash such as toilet paper and used articles.

  20. Tin Pot Soldier says:

    Using burnt wood fire ash is a good idea! Seeing that it is antiseptic and alkaline, burnt wood ash can be used to disinfect the ground and to wash ones hands. For washing oneself, you will need to dilute the ash generously because it is caustic to the skin, so be careful when using it!

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