One of the things I like about prepping is that you get to use and play with survival items that have more than one use. There are in fact, many items with multiple uses, such as bleach, duct tape, tarps, Paracord, and even tin cans.
One of these items is the bandana and that’s the topic of today’s article, which is why I’m going to give you dozens of survival-specific uses. In time, I’ll probably add more but feel free to add more yourself if you notice it’s missing by leaving a comment at the end.
Let’s get on with these useful (and sometimes weird) bandana uses:
1. …absorb sweat off your forehead and eyes to keep it from dripping while you are (while working, bugging out, or doing other exhausting survival activities).
2. As a breathing mask in dusty and dirty environments. During certain events such as sandstorms, house fires, wildfires, or riots, you’re gonna need something to filter the air you’re breathing.
When rioters are fighting law enforcement, the latter won’t care if they spray tear gas in your direction. To them, you’re just another bad guy in the crowd who needs to be put in his place.
Of course, the moment you put that bandana on your face, you’ll start looking like a bad guy, but protecting yourself from poisonous gas is more important.
To protect yourself from tear gas,, try soaking the bandana in lemon juice or apple cider vinegar before wearing, it helps.
3. To protect your neck or the top of your head from the sun. Since the bandana is more compact and lightweight than a hat, it’s a much better choice for your EDC kit, your get home bag, or bug out bag. In fact, I suggest you stock up on them because your loved ones may need a few as well.
4. To camouflage your face. You may need more than one on hand, though. Plus, you can take this strategy one step further by choosing colors which will help you better blend in the environment.
5. To tie things together. There’s no shortage of knots out there, is there? You will be surprised at how frequently a bandana will come in handy for tying things together.
Whether it’s tying the hands of an intruder or tying your hatchet to your bug out bag, you’ll be glad to have it on hand.
6. To wipe dirt and sweat from your face and neck. Better you use a bandana than your palm.
For stubborn dirt or grime, you can even dampen a bandana and use it to clean your face or other body parts. If you have kids, a damp bandana can do just about anything a baby wipe would be used for and they are lightweight so you can carry several of them.
If you really want to keep things hygienic, use green for face, yellow for dirty noses, and red for diaper changes.
7. To blow your nose. It sounds funny, I know. But when you’re in a critical situation (such as bugging out), clearing your nose will make you more focused on the situation at hand.
Give each family member their own color bandana. Red for the baby, green for dad, blue for mom, etc.
Of course, you should still stockpile on disposable tissues (which make better tinder for starting a fire, anyway).
8. As a rag. You can use a bandana as is or even cut it into smaller squares. They are easy to wash and hang dry which makes them great in a survival situation where you can’t throw them in the washing machine.
9. To hold small objects. Make a bag by tying opposite corners together to carry all sorts of things such as change, tinder, gravel for a water filter, etc. You can even attach your bandana to a stick to carry your items “hobo” style.
10. Use as a first stage water filter by pouring water through the bandana to filter out large debris. You still need to boil the water before drinking, but the bandana will filter out larger particles.
11. To mark a trail. Sometimes you may need to retrace your way steps, especially if you are moving through an unfamiliar area or if you think you might get turned around easily.
Leaving bandana strips along the trail or tying them to trees as you’re hiking or bugging out could prove to be a lifesaver.
You can use the colored strips to find your way back or leave them so that loved ones or rescue workers have a clue as to which way you went.
12. To clean things you find in the dirt. Well, in a survival situation, even the smallest nail on the side of the road may save your life. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and found items could just save your life in a SHTF situation.
A bandana will help you quickly clean dirt or grime from found objects so you can add them to your “just in case” collection.
13. To remove hot pots from open fire. You need something that can hold heat long enough to effectively move hot plates, pots, and other hot materials with no hassle. You may have packed surgical or work gloves but those are useless against high temperatures.
To use a bandana as a pot holder, fold it over several times and grab the hot item with the thickest part protecting your hand.
14. As a sling (to secure that broken arm, for example).
Unfortunately, injuries are going to happen. Ambulances and other professional medical care might not be immediately accessible if at all.
But you can turn a bandana into a sling for your arm or shoulder to immobilize it. Pack safety pins, too.
15. As a weapon. Just fill with rocks, then tie into a bundle and hit your enemies hard. You can also use it against small game or to distract someone who might do you harm by using it as a makeshift shepherd’s sling.
You’ll need to practice using the bandana in this way before you actually need to rely on it but once you know how to throw with it accurately, any bandana can be used.
16. As a towel. Bandanas are thin and easy to rinse. You never know when you might end up into the water and then have only have a few minutes to dry yourself up and get moving.
17. As temporary wound dressing. Keeping infection out of a wound is going to be critical to preventing infection during a survival or SHTF situation.
Of course, sterile bandages are the ideal option but if you don’t have them with you, a bandana can work.
18. Use it for a better grip on objects. Not only is a bandana perfect for pot holders, it also works extremely well as an extra grip for materials (i.e. wood, dirty tools, wet plastics, and glass, etc.).
19. As kindling to start a fire. Most bandanas are made from cotton, which means it will burn. Cut into strips or pieces. Obviously, your bandana needs to be dry, otherwise you’re gonna have to try other ways to start a fire.
20. To blindfold yourself. An ideal necessity when catching a noontime nap. Additionally, it keeps annoying pieces of debris and those nasty insects out of sensitive areas around the eyes. By the way, you can also use the bandana against snow blindness.
21. As a tourniquet. You’re also gonna need a stick, but this is something a little more advanced and you should probably only do it if you have the proper medical training.
22. As a salad spinner to remove extra water from salad leaves. Make sure your bandana is clean and then put your salad inside and spin it round and round. Fair warning, you might get a little wet.
23. As handcuffs. In fact, with the right knowledge and some practice, bandanas can be tightened around the wrists within one minute flat.
24. As a bib. Easily unfold a bandana to protect your clothing. Simply tuck a portion of the bandana inside your shirt or top if you’re eating on the go or lay it over your lap if you’re sitting down.
25. As a coffee filter. Who won’t enjoy a cup of coffee post-collapse? Along with alcohol and tobacco, it is going to be one of the most sought-after comfort items.
Although it may not be its intended use, you can use a bandana or cut bandana squares as a makeshift coffee filter if you run out of them and stores are shutdown.
26. Small pillow. You can either fold it into a thick square or tie the corners together and fill it with leaves or other soft debris. This will make it more comfortable for you to sleep into the woods.
27. To gag someone. A bandana (or any a rag, for that matter) is an effective tool to keep someone silent. This will come in handy if you capture one member of a gang of looters and need to keep him from alerting the others.
28. As an eye patch. If you haven’t stored eye patch bandages, a simple bandana can help you secure a regular bandage over your eyeball.
If you didn’t bring bandages or gauze, fold or cut the bandana into a small square, place it over your eye, and then secure it with paracord or other cordage that wraps around your head.
29. To signal for help. Since bandanas are available in pretty much any color, the brighter the color, the bigger your chances of being discovered.
In keeping with the universal distress protocol, wave the bandana in waves of three in the U.S., or six in the UK, to indicate distress and signal that immediate help is needed.
30. Toilet paper. Yes, some preppers think of using it post-collapse, when toilet paper will be impossible to manufacture.
You can stockpile of course, but eventually you will run out. If you have to bug out, you won’t be able to take your toilet paper stockpile with you.
There are other alternatives, of course, and a bandana is one of them.
31. To write stuff on. You will need to use a permanent marker. This works best on lighter colored bandanas that are solid colors rather than dark colors or patterned ones.
32. Napkin. A bandana is a simple tool to use when cleaning hands and lips, as well as for quick wiping of surfaces. Even if you have paper towels stockpiled, you won’t be able to take many with you if you have to bug out. A bandana can fit in your pocket or be worn around your neck and double as a napkin when you need it.
33. Hatband. Bandanas are great for fastening to a hat to catch sweat, before it ruins the fabric or to cover already stained fabric. The thin, breathable fabric lets air circulate on your head or neck but absorbs sweat to keep you comfortable.
34. Tie together for a belt. Fancy and effective. Take several bandanas in stimulating colors and tied them together to enjoy certain factors and unique support for your trousers and shorts.
You may decide you like this colorful belt better than the plain leather ones! Plus if your belt is made of bandanas, you will have enough to accomplish whatever task you need, air filtration, an arm sling, water filter, etc. and it’s all right there on your belt!
35. To check wind direction–simply, hold out a bandana and watch it blow to determine wind direction. This type of exercise is fantastic, when dealing with campfires and setting up camping, during both summer and winter months.
36. Key chain. Loop keys onto a bandana strip. Then, tie the end of the bandana together to form a loop. This technique is ideal for attaching to most anything so you don’t misplace valuable keys.
37. To wrap a sprained ankle or wrist. If you don’t have an ace wrap bandage, a bandana can work temporarily to immobilize your wrist or ankle and provide some support until you can splint it properly.
38. Replacement gas cap. Contrary to belief, a bandana is useful as a temporary gas cap on a vehicle; although not recommended for gas cans. Simply super stuff the outermost outlet of the vehicle’s gas tank until you can purchase a replacement. This temporary fix helps to prevent detrimental levels of flammable vapor to get out into the atmosphere.
39. Disguise your voice on the phone. This particular technique works more effectively than a noisy napkin or piece of paper to disguise your voice for fun. Simply place the bandana over the phone’s receiver. The cloth will muffle and distort your normal speaking voice.
40. Dog collar. As a simple and unique method of fashion, wrapping a bandana around your doggie’s neck is a sure sign of ownership.
It’s always a good idea to have your dog wear a regular collar as well but a bandana can be a great backup collar if the main collar snaps. And it looks great too!
41. To wipe off fruit/vegetables. This is valuable to remember. Fruits and veggies have a natural coating that must be removed before consumption. Make sure to locate a clean source of water to sanitize food especially before eating raw or cooking.
42. To open a stuck jar lid. During a SHTF or survival situation, your hands can become slippery, especially if wet or if you have to change the oil in your car or handle some other slippery substance.
This can make it nearly impossible to open a jar lid when it’s time to eat. Simply place the bandana over the lid and then place your hand on top and screw the lid off. The bandana grips the lid better than your wet or slippery hand.
43. Clean glasses. Easily wipe your glasses. Although a bandana is not a soft tissue, in emergencies bandanas can do wonders on a dirty lens or two. For stubborn dirt or grime on your lenses, dampen one corner of the bandana and use it to loosen the substance and then dry with another corner.
44. As an ice pack. As a quick fix, pack a couple of handful of ice for easy transferring from one container to another. A larger bandana can hold over three cups of ice at a time.
You can also fashion an ice pack from a bandana. Don’t leave the ice in the bandana outside of a freezer or cooler for too long because it will melt.
45. An attention getting flag. Tie a bandana to a tree branch, a pole, or any tall object to attract attention of rescuers when you’re lost. The brighter the color of your bandana, the more likely it is to be seen from a distance or in dim light.
46. To keep hair out of your face or tie up a ponytail. Those of you with long hair know how much of a pain it can be when it’s constantly in your face. In a survival or SHTF situation, you need all your attention focused on the tasks at hand, so tie it back and keep moving.
47. To cover food. Plastic bags may be one of the things very hard to procure post-collapse so why not use a bandana to keep your leftovers?
Believe it or not, our ancestors used to pack their lunches wrapped in cloth or paper and it worked fairly well.
Be sure to either color code your bandanas, such as red to wrap meat and green to wrap vegetables or wash them out thoroughly before reusing to prevent contamination.
48. Hang flashlight from tent ceiling. This handy little trick will spread the light uniformly over the entire tent and will keep your flashlight from getting stepped on in the night.
49. As a dog muzzle. Yep, it works if you don’t have a real one. It’s not the safest solution but it will work in a pinch. Just keep an eye out for on your dog to make sure it doesn’t get irritated or even out of breath.
50. As a bookmark. Simply fold the bandana in half or fourths lengthwise and put between the pages to mark your place. I hope you stocked up on printed survival books.
51. As a lampshade. Drape a bandana over your lamp to reduce the brightness. This was a pretty popular trick several decades ago to add a romantic feel or colored light to the atmosphere but you can use it to hide your light from potential looters.
You need to be cautious about doing this because of the risk of fire if the bandana touches the light bulb for more than a few seconds.
52. To keep your (sun)glasses safe. Easily cover your glasses or contact lens without fear of scratching the lens.
53. To wear as a disguise. This is tricky since it will make you look like a bandit and attract a lot of attention, especially when things are operating normally.
Nevertheless, you should practice wearing it this way, it does take a bit to get used to breathing differently, one day you might have to.
54. Like a sponge. Bandanas are absorbent which means you can use it to soak up water or other liquids similar to a sponge.
55. As a toothbrush. Press the finger into it and begin scrubbing and rubbing the teeth and gums. You can also add a teeth cleaning solution, such as toothpaste or baking soda.
Wash the bandana frequently to ensure you aren’t putting yesterday’s germs back into your mouth the next time you brush.
56. Footwear insole. Fold and position two bandanas inside each shoe to avoid blisters as you’re hiking or bugging out.
A moleskin bandage would probably work better but a bandana can work temporarily if folded and positioned properly.
57. Shoelaces. You’re gonna have to cut it into long strips first, of course. However, if you’ve run out of shoelaces in a survival situation, I suggest you use Paracord instead.
But in a pinch, wrap the bandana around the top of your hiking boots and tie it to keep it closed until you can get a replacement shoelace.
58. As a tea bag. Place your favorite tea leaves inside a bandana, give it a twist, then drop it inside a cup of hot water. Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, and Chamomile are great choices.
The bandana will keep the leaves from getting into your tea. Once it has sufficiently steeped, pull the bandana out and particle free tea.
59. As bikini (women only!). Although I doubt you’ll be worrying about having a bikini to wear in a survival situation, the bandana can work. You’d likely need one for the top and another for the bottom.
60. As a knife sheath. Place a piece of cardboard or a bunch of leaves into a bandana and watch as it simply molds around the dangerous blade for easy carrying and storage.
61. As ear muffs. For when it is cold and windy, wrap a bandana around your sensitive ears. Surprisingly, this method works nicely to protect the outer and inner ear from damaging winds and extreme temperatures.
If you are in a situation where you are at risk if someone sees you, make sure your bandana is dark colored or otherwise camouflaged.
62. To wear it on your head wet to keep cool. Regulating body temperature is extremely important whenever you are exposed to the weather for any lengthy period of time. Dampen the bandana and place it on your head to lower your body’s temperature.
63. As an insect repellant. It only works manually and you have to be quick and firm. 🙂
64. To make smoke signals. First, wet the bandana, then, use it to effectively move pockets of air from the ‘smoke stack’. Cover the source of smoke and then remove the bandana from the direct path of smoke stack.
It’s important to practice this technique before you need to rely on it to attract the attention of a rescuer. This can be a lot of fun, too.
65. As an “occupied” signal outside a toilet. No one likes to be interrupted when doing their business. And it’s not so fun for the interruper either, trust me! Simply, tie a quick-knot on the outside door knob and hope people will get the message.
66. To polish shoes. Just dip the bandana in your shoe polish and polish as you would normally. Be sure to keep the used bandana with your shoe polish so it doesn’t accidentally get used for something else, like to clean glasses or you’ll have a big mess.
67. As a chew toy or for playing “tug-of-war” with your dog. The kids are going to need to decompress at some point during a bug out or survival situation. Roll the bandana so it’s long and let the kids tug on one end while the dog tugs the other. Depending on the dog, it may tear but hopefully you carry more than just one.
68. As a dog leash. In a survival or SHTF situation, your dog can be more easily excitable than normal and may snap his leash.
You can roll a bandana and use it as a replacement leash in a pinch. If you need to use for any length of time, you’re gonna need to tie several of them together, of course.
69. To check wind direction. This is a neat little trick to teach your kids while camping.
70. Wrap leftover pancakes, biscuits, etc.
Moisten a bandana and simply wrap leftover bread in it. The dampness in the bandana will gradually transfer to the bread which prevents it from going stale or drying out so quickly.
71. To remove oil and grease from bacon, burgers, or fried food after cooking in oil or grease.
If you’ve ever layered paper towels on a plate before you put freshly cooked bacon onto it to soak up the grease, a bandana works the same way
This may not necessarily be useful in a survival situation because you’ll need to consume every ounce of food. Saturated fats may not be considered healthy today (compared with other types of fat) but they’re jam-packed with calories and you’re gonna need a lot of them post-collapse.
72. As a knee pad. Fold a larger bandana to fit around each knee area. Ensure to comfortably tighten them, by utilizing an effective knot. You will be surprised by the comfort along with the exotic look of bandana knee pads.
This would be helpful in a SHTF situation if you are crawling through a field or if you have to get down on your knees to hide for a period of time.
73. As an apron. Since bandannas don’t have a very large surface, you can just use small stones as an anchor point in two corners and then tie them around with Paracord or simply tuck them inside the waistband of your pants.
74. To mark your territory. Simply cut it into pieces, urinate on each of them and place them around your campsite in all directions. Although certainly not guaranteed, this will keep some wild animals away, especially those that have a fear of humans.
75. Temporarily repair a leaky hose on your vehicle. Simply wrap the bandana as tightly as possible around the leaky hose and tie it off. It won’t hold forever, but it could last long enough to get you to a place where you can make more permanent repairs.
76. Small gun patches. Cut a bandana into squares to suit the caliber of gun you are carrying and use the pieces to clean your gun or attach to your shirt or jacket to prevent your gun slipping when you take aim.
77. Makeshift picnic cloth. In a survival or SHTF situation or during a bug out, you’re going to have to eat in areas other than at your kitchen table. You can use a bandana laid on the ground or on a tree stump as a picnic cloth or barrier between your food and the dirt or bugs.
78. Collect morning dew. If you find yourself in need of water for drinking, you can lay a bandana out overnight or very early in the morning, before daylight.
When the dew falls it will land on the bandana. You can then pick it up and squeeze the water out into a cup for drinking. The water will be clean and you won’t get much at once but it will work.
79. Tick and insect protection. If you’re walking or hiking through tall grass in a field or the woods, ticks and other insects can be a real threat. Before you get moving, wrap a bandana tightly around each ankle so it overlaps with the hem of each pant leg.
Tie each one securely. This will help keep ticks and other insects from going up your pant leg. If you use light colored bandanas, you’ll also immediately see a tick stuck to it and can remove it.
80. For specialty purposes. Believe it or not, they now make bandanas that have maps, first aid instructions, proper rescue signal techniques, and even instructions and examples for knot tying printed right on the cloth of the bandana.
These specialty bandanas are great to have on hand because they provide you with reference materials but can also serve multiple purposes.
Ok, those are it. Go ahead and give some of these a try now. It will be fun and practicing some of these now will help you remember them later when you really need to use them for something.
Head on over to Amazon’s website and get an assortment of 100% cotton bandanas (cotton is great as a fabric because it allows your skin to breathe).
One more thing, can you remember a time when you used you bandanna in an unconventional way? Let me know in a comment below.
updated 08/29/2019 by Megan Stewart
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t like taking orders. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to a friggin’ war to provide you the best of the best survival and preparedness content out there.