Off-Grid Living: Take Care Of Personal Hygiene

Categories: Health & Nutrition

In an off-grid situation, sometimes, specially when you are just starting your homestead, showers or a place to clean or wash yourself might be unavailable. This article tackles some of the ways personal hygiene can be done.

The vast majority of people want to be clean and hygienic. Daily showers or baths (sometimes more than one!), multiple hand washings, and brushing teeth a couple times per day is the norm. If the grid goes down, we will still want to be clean, but it may get a little more difficult to do so. Here are a few things to remember about off-grid personal hygiene.

Proper Hand Washing

Many people wash their hands ineffectively. It is critical in an off-grid situation to do a thorough job to prevent illness and disease in yourself and those around you. This should be the #1 priority in personal hygiene. If you do nothing else, keep your hands clean!

The CDC instructs that this is the proper way to wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Antibacterial Gels

There’s some controversy about the use of antibacterial gels. Water, soap, and friction is just as, or more, effective as the gels in removing germs from hands. But when water is at a premium, or completely unavailable, using an antibacterial gel to clean your hands after using the restroom, before touching food, before eating, and before caring for the sick or injured can be an excellent option. The use of these products is about prevention of illness and disease rather than the removal of dirt and odor but ideally, your hands are free of dirt and debris before using the gel. This is a very simple, off grid personal hygiene option that only requires a supply of hand sanitizer.

  • Your anti-bac should contain at least 60% alcohol. The higher the better, but less than 60% is ineffective.
  • You should use enough of the product to cover all surfaces of the hands.
  • For a germ or virus to be killed it must come in contact with the gel. Be sure to get the backs of the hands, in between the fingers, under the nails, and around jewelry.
  • You should rub the gel on your hands until completely dry. Wiping them on a paper towel (or your pants) counteracts the effectiveness of the gel.

Another reason to keep antibacterial gel on hand? It’s a good fire-starter.


If you have water to spare for showers, consider using an outdoor heatable bag shower. The Coleman 5 Gallon Solar Shower can be filled and hung from a sturdy tree (it weighs 40 pounds when full!) where it will use solar energy to heat the water. The shower hose has an on-off valve so you can control the flow. The water pressure is fairly low, but it gets the job done. Beware however… left out in the sun long enough and the water gets HOT! Carefully check the temperature before using. (This product can also be used to heat water for washing dishes and clothing without using consumable resources to create heat.)

If you do use water for showering, consider standing in a kiddie poolto catch the water for reuse in your garden. Even with soap and shampoos, the level of chemicals is too low to affect plants negatively.  Other ways to reuse bathwater include toilet flushing and, if you weren’t too dirty, to wash your clothes. If you wash your body without shampoos or soap, or when using some “green” products, you can potentially reuse this water for drinking or cooking after boiling to kill germs.

Bathing in lakes and streams is a great option. Even without soap you can often get “clean enough.” Beware of getting the water in your nose or mouth. If it’s water you would normally heat or chemically treat to make it safe to consume, you don’t want to drink any while bathing.

If water becomes a precious commodity during your situation, you will want to have ways of “dry” bathing. My first choice is adult hygiene wipes. These are made specifically to use on bed bound patients or people who cannot get into a shower or tub due to injury or infirmary. In my experience, four wipes are sufficient for basic cleaning: One to hygienically clean the “important parts,”  one for your face and hands, and a couple for your body. Of course if you have layers of dirt, it may require more wipes. You can buy a “club sized” package with 240 wipes, which should be sufficient for 50-60 washings. These wipes are excellent for cleaning the body but will not clean the hair well.

To clean your hair, use a waterless shampoo. Simply work the liquid or foam into the hair for effective cleansing with no need to rinse. Most were formulated for camping or for bed bound patients and would work great in an off-grid emergency situation. Waterless body washes are also available.

  Page Turn