Hygiene and Sanitation in Disasters and Emergencies

Contamination will be as deadly as looters and robbers. Does that statement sound outrageous? Well, in a post collapse world, it will be a harsh truth. The only way to fight disease is proper hygiene.

Although it can be fun to get dirty sometimes, there can be negative effects from staying dirty. That is no fun at all. Now society has cheap soaps, disinfectants, toiletries, washing machines, automatic pet and dish washers and the like.

hygiene products

But in a post-collapse word, these things will be removed or severely limited for use. Little habits that we let slide today can be downright gross in a few days without the proper care.

There is one truth about cleanliness I see every time, once it is gone your health can be severely compromised by even the smallest things. With no garbage trucks, vermin and pest populations will multiply quickly.

Although it may not be pleasant to discuss in polite company, personal hygiene is going to come to the forefront in a post collapse situation after the basics of food and shelter.

Keep your fingernails and hands clean. Nurses can’t have fingernails past the tip of their finger for a reason. The finger nail beds harbor bacteria and get wedged in there so soap and water may not be able to get to it.

When you think of all the things the hands will touch, including nether regions when you are taking care of business or composting piles when gardening or harvesting, there can be some deadly microbes there.

Keeping infection and bacteria at bay will be of utmost importance. Water has a pH that kills many bacteria strains, so just rinsing if you have no soap is good too. Be sure to also clip you toenails.

Oral care one of the biggest practices you can start now is taking care of your teeth. If you consume acidy or sugary drinks, be sure to brush or at least rinse afterwards.

Anything you can do now if you have a small cavity or loose tooth, it would be smart to have it fixed. Dental work that is needed of any kind does not get better or heal. It only gets worse.

Any hole, pit, crack or chip and harbor food and bacteria and within days you can get a serious infection that can go septic and your organs fail. In the bush or post collapse, you may not have the luxury of a dentist.

So, taking care of your teeth by flossing and brushing after every meal will help avoid any dental problems (in my opinion).

Things like onions, cloves, lime, garlic and peppermint are natural antiviral and antiseptics. Use them in your meals and it can help provide care from the inside.

The Truth About Post SHTF Dental Health

Remove extra hair this one may sound silly. As microbiologist studies show almost all neckbeards and beards of any length have some degree of fecal matter in them, it may be a good idea to trim them.

The reason pits are smelly, and people manscape and wax is that hair retains bacteria. If you smell anything like BO. It’s bacteria entering your nose from the source.

Smell is activated by inhaling particles, so think of that when you smell anything. You are inhaling essence of that person. Yuck. But seriously, microbes and bacteria are protected by the hair when you wash it so it’s better to get rid of it.

Another not so nice thing to think on is toilet paper. Many people go green and decide to use different methods to wipe now, so besides healthier living and saving cash, it can be an option for hygiene post SHTF.

Due to paper having to decompose and the dangers of using human waste around food bearing plants and livestock as we discussed in our SHTF sanitation article, there may be some weight to choosing cloth over paper.

  • Cloth removes more waste per wipe than paper, paper leaves particles behind
  • Cloth is cost effective, as you can use scraps of cloth
  • Cloth is ecofriendly

Alternative to cloth can be:

  • Pine needles and leaves
  • Crumbly moss
  • Islamic cultures used river stones
  • Newspaper
  • Plants, watch out for sumac, poison ivy and poison oak

Hair care I am not talking shampoos, but you will need to take care of your hair and scalp. Combing will remove dust, dander and loose hair. It will also massage and stimulate the scalp, getting blood flow going and promoting healthy hair.

You can use baking soda sprinkled in it to soak up the oils and then brush it out. Cornstarch would work well for this too. A vinegar rinse will level out the ph. balance and then rinsing with water will help restore shine.

Shampoo is not a necessity, but regular rinses and combing is. Many people just stop shampooing, and initially your body will react with an overabundance of oil. But it will level out and then maintenance will be a breeze.

Proper foot care with your feet being a much needed tool, as long hikes to hunt, working in your garden, or just working in the yard needs healthy feet.

Any kind of blisters or sores need immediate treating or they can develop into major problems post collapse. Blisters affect many layers of skin, so it’s important to treat them quickly so you do not get an infection subdermally.

Wearing properly fitting boots that you keep in good repair, with a few pairs of socks is what I suggest. Even when you are out for the day, take a few pairs of socks and then switch them out to keep things fresh and dry in there.

Freshening the boots and feet for that matter at the days end with baking soda mixed with some essential oils can kill any bacteria and keep things smelling good.

A great video on SHTF footcare:

Preppers! Don't Get Hamburger Feet! Foot Care Tips for Post Apocalyptic SHTF Trekking 🙂

Stay away from germ factories I hate to say it, but it is part of my life now. I try to stay away from crowds, especially in cold and flu season. I sanitize and then wash after any contact with money or people. When you use a store door, or even get change back, you are getting handfuls of germs.

You will need to be extra cautious in the future, as when there are limited medicines and medical care, contagions will grow into super bugs and a simple cold or infections can become deadly. Allergies, mold, compost heaps, and even washing clothes will subject you to bacteria. Being in the garden will.

Any loose pets will not have had recent shots or vet care. You will need to limit your exposure to others. Avoid touching, and do not lean in close and breathe in their breath.

Stay away from children, as they will not have had as many checkups and vaccinations to get their immunities up. For your children, this very reason is why I would be super careful and avoid strangers. Use cloth or paper masks when dealing with other people.

Proper disposal of waste disposing of your waste will be the best thing you can do post collapse. This means any food, cooking, trash, or personal waste. Dig catholes, and bury your feces away from any water sources and away from any food bearing plants.

Sprinkle with lime to help it get broken down. This is very important. We can talk all day about small things, but put proper sanitary practices into effect as much as you can. Only use one area for waste.

There quite a few uses urine has, but do not use your personal feces for anything. I know many sites say throw that and pet feces into the compost pile. Do not.

Yes, in many countries, they show generators running on the pee and poop. While this may be true, it’s not cost effective for the normal person.

It takes too much fuel and energy to turn the urea and feces into hydrogen, and it’s a complex chemical reaction, thinking you can use it as fuel is not something to hold out for.

Use rainwater or only fresh moving sources of water. Hand basins and shared tubs or even swimming holes can be dangerous in the future. Always use moving water to avoid parasites and water borne illness as much as possible.

Wrapping Up

It will be more difficult to stay clean and have our surroundings be clean, but with a few good practices put into place we can fight of disease and a decline in health due to contamination of bacteria.

The best way to fight back now is stockpiling supplies for cleaning and to start these simple practices with the mindset of getting into habits for the future.

hygiene best practices pinterest

4 thoughts on “Hygiene and Sanitation in Disasters and Emergencies”

  1. Good article. My focus is on hygiene and cleanliness. I figure most people will die from a plague caused by this. Just another SHTF scenario I’ve prepped for.

  2. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. There’s so much to learn and study that sometimes we just delay taking the time to get prepared.

    What should a basic family of four stock up on? Do expiration dates on things like medicine matter?

    1. DavetteB, LPN (retired)

      I found research that showed most prescription and OTC meds were good up to 25 years and antibiotics up to 10 years, so I wouldn’t immediately throw old medicine and supplements away. (this was for pills/capsules, not liquid meds; I don’t remember what was said about them) Doctors take expired meds they can’t use here to developing countries to be used. Just store in a cool, dark, and dry place and rotate fresh ones out when you can. Throw a pill cutter and crusher in with the supplies; children can take a half or fourth of an adult medicine if you don’t have enough childrens’ meds. If they can’t swallow a tablet, mix the crushed pill in applesauce or yogurt.
      Besides any prescription meds you take and OTCs that you may need, I’d add a multivitamin, extra C and D, and a probiotic if possible, for immune support. HTH

  3. Moving water only to avoid bacteria? ALL water should be assumed to have bad stuff in it and
    be treated. Moving, stagnant or otherwise. How much more important after SHTF. Think about
    it. Ever wonder what’s happening upstream?

    Don’t risk serious illness or death. Purify everything. There are many ways to do so. Google
    How to Purify water or some such.

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