The recent news story, about a major cruise ship that lost power and had to be towed back to port, brought to my mind one prepping topic that receives too little attention: hygiene during a power outage. The ship had every amenity you could want on a cruise; and plenty of food, water, entertainment, etc. But without power, the situation becomes very different. Food spoils and water cannot be obtain by the usual means (which for a cruise ship is desalinization). But apparently the worst problem was that there was no way to deal with sewage. Toilets could not be flushed, and water was not available to flush the toilets manually. This unusual situation highlights an often overlooked and under-discussed prepping concern: personal hygiene.
Butch wrote a post, not too long ago, on this topic: Good Hygiene During An Emergency. In it, he suggests using a garden sprayer in lieu of a shower. Of course, another approach is the ‘sponge bath’ — using a small amount of water to wash up with a face cloth and soap. But without power, you are probably not showering or bathing every day. Therefore, you might want some anti-bacterial lotion and some rubbing alcohol to use for personal hygiene also. The rubbing alcohol, on a small cloth, can be used to clean hands, underarms, feet, etc. — but not any of the more sensitive areas of the body.
Underarm deodorant is of course useful, especially if you cannot bathe or shower regularly. But a little rubbing alcohol on a face cloth cleans the underarms and kills the bacteria that produce odor. You can only pile so much deodorant on your skin between washings.
As for toileting, you will be much better off than the aforementioned ill-fated cruise ship. A toilet can be flushed by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet. A few gallons per day per person is perhaps the minimum. This water certainly does not need to be potable (drinkable), but it should be relatively clear and clean. The main problem, then, is obtaining enough water. Without power, as the days pass on, water will become a scarce commodity. If you live in a rural area, near bodies of water, you just need to transport and store the water. But if you live in the city, well, I take it back, you might not be much better off than the cruise ship passengers. So in terms of prepping and survival, rural living has strong advantages.
Mouthwash is a good addition to any stored set of hygiene supplies. But you can also make a mouthwash from table salt and water. However, some dentists don’t recommend regular or long-term use of either mouthwash or salt water.
In any case, for brushing your teeth, be sure to use only clean safe drinking water. Any bacteria in the water used to brush your teeth could make you sick. The same is true for washing your face and hands. If the water is not drinkably-safe, the bacteria might get into your system from your hand or face. Therefore, having some means of water purification is a must for preppers. The purified water is essential, not only for drinking, but for cooking, washing hands and face, and perhaps even cleaning tableware and cookware. It is simply much safer to use drinkable water for these tasks, than to use water that might be contaminated with bacteria.
See also my previous post: A Sensitive Survival Topic: hygiene