Staying Clean in the Wild: The Natural Way

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10 Natural Hacks for Camping Hygiene

So you’ve decided you want to live like our ancestors who used to chase down wild deer, swim deep to catch fish, and sleep in caves or in a tent built out of trees far out in the wilderness.

This type of lifestyle is definitely not for everybody.

We have heard a lot of horror stories where people think that they’re invincible and go out to live in the wilderness, only to come back and have to be taken to the hospital.

Others didn’t even come back alive.

To put everything in perspective, though, it’s not that hard if you know how to take care of yourself properly. If you plan out the right survival strategy, things will work out to your advantage.

One of the main problems that can hinder a person’s chances of surviving in the wilderness, besides finding food, is trying to stay clean.

It might sound simple because practicing good hygiene in the civilized world is routine. You wake up, shower, brush your teeth, apply deodorant and skincare products, put on clothes, and you’re off.

Other things such as watches, smartphones, flashlights, and other gadgets are just a plus. In the wild, though, there is no electricity and no shelter unless you make one.

Food doesn’t come easily and, to top it all off, you have to use your survival instincts to stay alert and protect yourself from wild predators such as bears, wolves, tigers, etc.

It can really be a chaotic and unpredictable place, which can mean big trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Having proper hygiene in the wilderness can help you minimize the risk of failure.

Eating without properly cleaning your hands after carrying wood, defecating, or other activities can lead to a number of serious health issues.

What happens if you get a cut on your body by cutting some bushes or climbing a rock? It can easily get infected by bacteria.

We all know that it’s virtually impossible to be 100% hygienic, but at the very least, keeping your hands clean can be extremely helpful.

What if you run out of hygienic products to use and don’t know of anything to use that will prevent an infection?

Well here are 10 natural alternatives you can use to sustain personal hygiene while you are fighting to survive in the wilderness.

With these alternatives, you can minimize the risk of infection or illness that could be detrimental or even fatal to a person’s health.

Camp Soap

Saponins can be found in a lot of plants and especially in our foods, such as beans. You can also find plants that contain high amounts of saponins in the wild, and they are really good for bathing and washing your hair.

homemade soap
You can also make your own
soap from lye, if you have the
time and ingredients

Saponins are toxic glycosides commonly found in plants, and when crushed with water inside a container, they form a lather which can be used as an effective cleanser.

One of the most popular plants containing saponins is a wildflower called soapwort, which is commonly grown in Europe and can be found in hedgerows or moist areas such as streams.

This is a very important chemical, and people have been using it for centuries before the modern soaps we use today, and many still find a lot of use in it. So when you’re in the forest and you’re wondering what to bathe with, try finding some plants that have saponins in them.

So when you’re in the forest and you’re wondering what to bathe with, try finding some plants that have saponins in them to make your own biodegradable soap.

I would advise you to do some research on the common plants in the area you are going to explore or, shall I say, survive in. This is where having an eReader fully stocked with survival and plant identification books comes in handy.

Homemade Insect Repellent

Insects in the wilderness can get very annoying and even life-threatening at times.

homemade bug repellants
Or check out this book for more
great DIY bug repellent recipes

One of the main insects that tend to bother people anywhere they go is those bloodsucking mosquitoes.

If those insects were as big as humans, they would show no mercy and suck every drop of blood out of us.

Thankfully, there are a lot of natural remedies we can use to keep our fragile bodies safe from mosquitoes and other insects. And they are very easy to implement.

One strategy is to make yourself unattractive to insects by cutting up onions or wild leeks and crushing them in a container before rubbing them over your body. This homemade insect repellent works but it may ruin your chances of finding true love because no one is going to want to be within 10 feet of you, including mosquitoes.

You can also burn bushes near you to keep the mosquitoes away, but be careful where you burn them because you can potentially destroy an animal’s habitat, which was there long before you. Also, smoke inhalation isn’t great for you long term so be careful.

If you get really desperate, you can slather mud all over the exposed parts of your body for a combination homemade bug repellent/sun screen/mud bath.

DIY Toothpaste

Keeping your teeth clean is very important when you are in the wilderness and fighting to survive. You don’t want to come back with cavities and a hole in your mouth, leaving it smelling like a dead horse.

The mouth is one of the most delicate parts of your body, and you’ve got to make sure it is well clean at all times, or most of the time, otherwise it can cause serious health issues that can last for decades.

What you can do to keep your mouth clean is to use a willow bush. These bushes are very common, so no need to panic.

You can make a brush out of one end of a branch, and then you can start brushing your teeth with it. The willow sap will clean your teeth by eliminating soft tartar and preventing it from building up along your gum line, which usually causes cavities.

Wilderness Cotton Swabs (Q-tips®)

We are all going to want to clean our ears at some point. Cleaning your ears in the wild is especially important in order to hear clearly and know whether a predator is approaching or not.

As I have stated before, the wilderness can be a very unpredictable place. Sometimes when you’re out there wandering around, you hear some bushes rustle and you react quickly by running or taking a step back, and that quick reaction might have saved you.

You can even hear grizzly bears from far out, which is sign that you must turn back and go somewhere else to avoid the dangerous animals.

If you don’t have any cotton swabs (or Q-tips®), you can simply take a piece of cloth and put it over a thin piece of wood that’s about the size of a pencil tip. Gently put it in your ears and this will remove excess wax. Make sure it is thoroughly cleaned.

Use a light-colored cloth so you can see the wax properly and track your progress. You can even use a wet cloth; just wipe until you get a good amount of wax out. Your ears don’t have to be squeaky clean.

And this should go without saying but please don’t jam the stick in your ear. Be careful. Like extra careful. A punctured ear drum is not fun.

DIY Bandages from Leaves

Getting cut in the woods can be a big problem. Bacteria can get into the cut, potentially causing infection and a lot of other problems.

wilderness medicine
Don’t forget to add this
to your eReader!

This can lead to quite a bit of pain, especially with itchy, untreated, or improperly treated cuts.

If you don’t have any bandages or a first aid kit, tackling this problem can be easy.

There are a lot of natural methods for bandaging a wound, but one of the simplest hacks is the plantain leaf, which you can find almost anywhere.

The leaf has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it great for minor cuts and stings.

What you do is chew it up and place it on the cut area gently, then put an intact plantain leaf over it to keep it in place. Tie a string or cloth over it, and this will help the cut heal. It’s that simple.

Here are some more plants to use as natural bandages.

DIY Deodorant

Keeping your body fresh in the wilderness is a very difficult task. It can be the least of our problems at times because we need to worry about food, shelter and clothing first.

Nevertheless, keeping your body smelling good is still important. The good thing is that over thousands of years of existence, our ancestors have done it, and we can do it too.

One of the most natural substances that can be used to keep our body smelling fresh is betel leaves.

To get it to work you have to boil at least five of them with two glasses of water and then drink it daily until your odor disappears. You can then put the mixture under your arms daily to banish that funky scent.

Fresh Almond and Coconut Lotion

Applying lotion to your skin to diminish those dry cracks and wrinkles can be extremely important. Your skin is your largest organ and you’ve got to take care of it by replenishing the natural oils and moisture we wash or sweat off.

diy almond oil lotion
This is what an almond tree looks like

To keep your skin feeling smooth and delicate naturally, you can use almond oil. Almond trees are relatively common in the wilderness.

Get to a decent one, preferably with the necessary tools. You should strike the tree in particular locations to access the liquid. Make sure you have a container to catch it.

When you have collected enough, add a little water until it gets soft and looks like butter. Gently rub all over your skin.

The properties in the oils protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Overexposure to sunlight can cause sunburns, which are no walk in the park; they can be really painful and cause great discomfort.

Prevention is always better that cure, so protect your skin at all times. Another alternative you can use for your skin is coconut oil.

Although coconut trees are more common in Caribbean areas (as they are more conducive to the growth and nourishing of a healthy and strong coconut tree), any area that has tropical weather patterns likely has coconut trees (including Hawaii).

Coconut oil is actually better at protecting you from UV radiation and also contains some healing properties. Overall, it’s quite beneficial to your skin.

Wilderness Toilet Paper

When in the wilderness, going to the bathroom isn’t always the most exciting thought.

identify plants for toilet paper
It’s VERY important to know what poison
ivy, oak, and sumac look like!

The process of cleaning up, and cleaning up properly, at that, after we finish defecating should be a priority. Many people have caught infections in their anal region because they used the wrong plant or they didn’t properly inspect the plant they chose to use for visible bacteria.

Others caught infections in their mouth and in open sores due to them not properly washing their hands, if they even washed their hands at all!

It is highly recommended that you prepare for such a scenario and make sure you know the proper methods for thorough sanitation during cleanup.

Don’t worry too much, though, as you can use a hand full of grass (that should firstly be properly washed off with CLEAN water), or some good-sized leaves.

All in all, ensure any leaf you’ve chosen isn’t poison ivy or a leaf with natural predatory repelling irritants, then make sure it’s thoroughly and properly washed off.

If you happen to be near a river, you can simply wash off for cleanup or find some smooth stones (rinse them off if mossy) to use. They normally do a pretty good job.

It is highly recommended that you locate your sources of “toilet paper” before the moment arrives. Sometimes the act is performed hastily, in order to avoid having anything lunge at you while in such a vulnerable position, and this is when mistakes are made and people get injured/sick.

Organic Plates

As much as it is befitting of the whole wilderness feel, we are most certainly not going to eat food out of our hands when we are out in the wild.

We’ve got to have something to eat out of. We have to make sure that what we are eating out of is properly cleaned because we don’t want those nasty bacteria to mix with the food and then travel down inside out stomachs, causing illness.

Being sick can most definitely ruin your entire experience, so apply wisdom in all things while out there. Remember, everything that goes inside of us will have an effect on our body and we need to be very careful as to how we approach eating stuff in the wild.

There are a lot of horror stories where people were seriously poisoned by what they ate. If you don’t have any plates to use, you can use something as simple as roasted orange peels to put food into.

Although it’s a bit small, it’s a really creative and sensible thing to use, rather than picking something up off the ground and wishing for the best.

To create your orange peel bowl, cut an orange in half and clean out the insides properly. Do so until you’ve reached the skin, then roast the skin to give it enough firmness to hold food.

You can even use basswood or burdock leaves as a sort of plate, which is another nice little wilderness hack.

Easy Distilled Water

Getting clean water with no river or lake in sight can become a very scary situation, especially when you’re fighting to survive out in the woods.

purifying water in the wilderness
Another good source to
add to your eReader

Water is a key factor to survival; most of our bodies are made of water (70% to be exact) and we need water to survive. Not just any old kind of water, but fresh water.

One simple trick you can use to get clean, fresh water is to get a huge clear bag and tie it over some live leaves. Plants transpire all the time; they lose already-purified water which you can take advantage of.

If you are in a critical situation where you need water within a couple of hours, this can be a lifesaver. It will not come quickly or in large amounts, but you will get good, clean water.

If you have a lot of bags, you will get a good amount that can quench your thirst. It would be recommended that you set up your bags as soon as you enter the wilderness and find a good tree.

This will ensure that as you go about the process of setting up, you will have fresh, purified water awaiting you. If it’s something you can get ahead of time, I recommend being equipped with a tactical backpack with hydration to help you on your mission.

Organic Flu Medicine

The flu is the most common virus caught while wandering off in the wilderness as it’s so easily spread. If you don’t have any medicine to help and cure it, you can find natural remedies all around you.

One of the most common plants used is the elderberry, which has been used for centuries as remedy for colds, flu, and sinus infections. It also helps with cleansing the body and blood cells of pathogens.

You can use the stems, leaves, berries, and flowers. Boil it and drink it in a cup or even an orange skin, which I’ve described above, and it can help to reduce sweating.

Other good herbal remedies you can find are ginger and boneset. Good health is crucial for survival in the wilderness, and eliminating a nasty flu can lead you one step closer to success.


I hope you find these tips useful and so you can utilize them on your next journey to battle it out with Mother Nature.

wilderness hygiene guide
It’s a lost art…

Having good hygiene, whether you like it or not, is a must. Some people may look at the concept of having good hygiene in the wilderness as a sign of weakness.

Putting ego aside, it’s important to have proper hygiene that can save you from health issues later on.

Could you imagine not washing your hands after a long day of hunting and then eating something or touching a wound? The infections you can get from doing that are dangerous.

Survival in the wild is all about the fittest, but how long will you survive without taking care of your body?

The positives far outweigh the negatives and having proper hygiene while in the wilderness is imperative.

I hope you found this guide to be helpful. Additionally, we put together a list of emergency essentials for survival to support this article.

I have shared with you some of my favorite survival hacks. It would be great to hear some of yours below in the comments section!

Guest post by Alex Park from Authorized Boots

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