Saw a video on making your own laundry soap by Hoss USMC. He does it essentially the same way we do except Wifey just grates the bar soap and does not blend it. In any case here is the video:
Awhile back Wifey did a post on making laundry soap. Showing an excellent video someone else did that shows step by step how to do it was an easy decision. I will re post the recipe we use for those too uninitiated to follow the link.
1 bar soap, finely grated (I use whatever is cheapest but make sure it's white or it could color your clothes)
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup baking soda
Mix all ingredients together. Use 1-2 tablespoons for each load.
I have an idea for a blog article-or several- that I think you may be uniquely qualified to expound on. There are a vast majority of us that have never, or are unable to, serve in the military.
You're active duty military; what I and many others would like to know, is how you do your day to day maintenance while out in the field, away from all the comforts of home.
I think it would make a good read if you could tell us the necessities of our life if TSHTF and we are suddenly without water, electricity or heat. We know much about sponge bathing, washing in tubs with a wash board and making our own soap, but how do you do it while trying to stay out of the field of fire/ being discovered?
How do you wash your personal clothing(skivvies, socks, BDU's, etc.) when out in the field?
If you do these things, what do you use to wash them in and what do you use for detergent? How do you clean yourself, and with what?
So please give this some thought and see if it is an idea you would be willing to tackle.
Iron Tom Flint
TOR here, I wrote a couple posts that give us a place to start. This post on field hygiene covers part of the topic pretty decently. Also this post on Dysentery, while a bit light hearted is worth checking out. Also here is one on primative laundry. Now onto the specific questions.
Q: We know much about sponge bathing, washing in tubs with a wash board and making our own soap,but how do you do it while trying to stay out of the field of fire/ being discovered?
A: Staying out of the field of fire is easy, if people are shooting at you or immenently going to shoot at you it is not the time to do laundry. Sorry if that was a bit short, from here forth I will try to answer the questions as I believe they are intended, not word for word.
For short term stuff I would use my field hygiene advice from above. Typically military operations are short enough in duration that laundry isn't a huge issue; though that is a relative term as I have worn a single uniform for a month without washing it. Another option is that things are so crazy that you have bigger stuff to worry about. Delaying washing is easier when weather is relatively cold. You would be pretty nasty after wearing the same clothes in the South or Middle East in the summer.
As to avoiding being discovered. If I was really worried about someone discovering me I wouldn't be doing laundry. I definitely wouldn't do laundry in some sort of escape and evasion situation, a hide or a patrol base. That being said a really small fire made of dry wood (especially in the woods or down in some micro terrain) is pretty hard to see from beyond 50-100 meters. All you would really need is enough to heat up some water which doesn't take a bonfire.
However to make it easier lets say you are in a fairly quiet but non permissive enviornment. Maybe you and the spouse are trying to get somewhere on foot or using forest service roads and obviously don't want any attention. Maybe you are some sort of G and folks are sort of passively patroling your area, doing recon patrols to check out movement, signs of people like fires, etc. Whatever, it really doesn't matter. The point is that you aren't imminently worried about people trying to kill you but do want to keep a low profile.
One simple and old school option is to take a bar of soap and your clothes into a body of water and wash them. This has the benefit of washing your body. Obviously your situation would have to be reasonably secure and this is a lot more fun in 80 degree sunshine than 30 degree snow. I have seen socks washed in canteen cups, I suppose the same could be done with underoos. Also the good old bucket or a dedicated water jug (the military ones have pretty big mouths) works.
Q:How do you wash your personal clothing(skivvies, socks, BDU's, etc.) when out in the field?
A: Often the answer is to stash the dirty stuff and wash in after the operation is over. Other times we scrounge up some big tubs or whatnot. I have seen organizations where leaders bought some old school type laundry stuff to fill urgent needs.
Q: If you do these things, what do you use to wash them in and what do you use for detergent?
A: I have seen and used normal commercial detergent and plain old bar soap.
Q:How do you clean yourself, and with what?
A: Baby wipes are a great way to go. If heating up water is practical a washcloth and a bar of soap is nice and makes you feel a bit more human. As to how it is pretty much laid out here.
Anyway I hope that is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions. If you remember one thing take care of your feet.
This week we added more cash to our on hand emergency fund. A few weeks back we were trying to figure out what to do with some money, a rather decent problem to have I guess. Anyway we decided that where it would do the most good is at home with us.
Also I got some tuna pouches and granola bars for the get home bag I am working on. It is pretty much functional now though I do need to order a few things. Kinda holding off on buying anything until the Glock 19 mag deal is completed.
We organized and inventoried our medical and hygiene supplies. I am pretty happy with what we have got, especially considering most of it can't be shipped when we move back to the US. My one big take away is that we need to be more organized. I think there were 2 half empty bottle of cough syrup and 3 things of Ibuprophen that were being used. We shifted to one area for stuff we are using and another to store replacement's.
Also I tweeked my workout routine some. More on that once it is solidly underway.
Though not exactly traditional preparedness tasks we did get some good stuff done this week. What did you do to prepare this week?
Edited to include: This was supposed to post yesterday, I am not sure why it didn't.
Somebody asked about this in the comments section of a recent post. Let me start by saying that I am not a doctor or a gynecologist or a medic. Do not take what I say as legitimate medical advice and is just my observations and experiences of what has and has not worked well. As always consult your personal panel consisting of the family doctor, your lawyer, accountant, life coach, therapist and any applicable specialists (in this case a doc with a background in wilderness medicine seems appropriate) before doing anything. If you think that the cost of such a panel would be ruinous than act like an adult, do your own research and take some personal responsibility before acting.
Let me define the scope of this post. I am going to talk about keeping healthy, clean and functional with limited access to modern facilities or hygiene supplies for periods of time between 24 hours and a month. Again don’t take this as the gospel; remember it is just one guys opinion.
To start I must say Americans have a fairly OCD approach to personal hygiene based heavily around almost limitless supplies of hot water and clean clothes. Also half the need for a shower is to wash off all the junk we cover ourselves with. Believe it or not people survived just fine for centuries without a hot shower (or 2) and clean clothes every day. In many parts of the world they still manage to survive without these luxuries which show that people have not biologically changed in recent years so it is in fact possible.
Let us go from head to toe and short periods to long periods.
Hair-For relatively short periods the easiest solution is to do nothing. Don’t put gel, hairspray or any other junk in it. Worst case it gets a bit greasy or something. Over longer periods (say beyond a week) I recommend men cut their hair very short and women cut it relatively short. Washing weekly is sufficient if you are short on water. Get it wet, shampoo, rinse.
Teeth-This one is the easiest as there is no change. Brush and floss your teeth regularly. If you are going to be out for a long time bring an extra roll of floss.
Shaving- I recommend not doing it unless you have good amounts of hot water. Men embrace your inner mountain man. Ladies, why you would try to shave anything in primitive conditions is completely beyond me.
The Army does this stupid thing where it expects soldiers to be clean shaven in the middle of nowhere in a dry camp. If I am ever in charge I will (at a minimum) institute a rule that if hot water is not made available to soldiers daily then shaving is not required. In any case if hot water is available shave as normal, a small mirror helps. Of hot water is not available I recommend electric razors (not rechargeable, the kind that take AAA or AA batteries) as the option is scraping half your face off dry shaving or using a little bit of cold water. I have a 20 dollar electric that has kept me in compliance to our stupid rule for years of field time.
Skin- If possible I like to clean my body daily even when a shower is not practical. As an added bonus doing this daily before bed helps keep your sleeping bag clean. This is especially important if you are in a hot/ humid environment or doing strenuous tasks. I am a big fan of baby wipes. You don’t need to use many of them and unless I am particularly funky 2 wipes works for my whole body. Order of precedence is face, upper torso, legs, armpits, crotch, butt. I should not have to explain to you why this is important. Baby wipes are super easy and cheap so you should get a lot of them.
If you are going to be out for awhile and or have access to at least some warm water then a washcloth and soap can be used to get the same effect. Use the same order of precedence and don’t let the washcloth get funky. I recommend letting it hang to dry and washing it often. This is pretty much how people bathed for a long time so it works fine to keep you clean over the long run.
That brings us to the subject of soap. The fellow who asked about this topic in a comment mentioned unscented soap. There is a theory/ historic anecdote that goes like this, GI’s in ‘Nam would use unscented soap so the Vietcong couldn’t smell them in the jungle. The same idea pops up every now and again in our Army culture. However in the contemporary operating environment in Iraq and Afghanistan it is completely irrelevant for almost everybody. The reason is that everybody pretty much knows who we are. We are the Americans in the crazy uniforms with all the armor and the huge tan trucks. In Iraq the centers of gravity are the cities and you just can’t hide during a patrol. They don’t have to smell you as they can see you 6 blocks away because an MRAP is about 12 feet tall. In Afghanistan we do some more patrolling but there is almost always a mounted component due to long distances involved and sparsely distributed soldiers. Also the terrain is so open that you can see people from hundreds of meters off. So I would say to use whatever kind of soap you like.
The crotch- I am going to talk about this area specifically because the crotch and inner thighs are where people tend to chafe, if they chafe. Typically chafing is an issue most often when you do a lot of walking in a hot and humid environment. You can get wicked friction burns and it is no fun at all, especially when you have to keep moving with them. Stay dry if at all possible. Some of the worst chafing I can remember was during a long road march in the spring at Benning when there was a thunderstorm. I would have been fine except my pants were completely soaked. At that point not a lot can be done.
Underwear is a factor as they cause friction. Tighty whities are probably the worst as they are right in that crotch/ inner thigh area where chafing is rife. Boxer briefs (like the spandex kind not the whitey tightey’s with legs kind) are better. The best option IMO is wearing no underwear. It decreases chafing due to less material in the area and letting things breathe better. From the time I have spent in the field with women I have never heard one gripe about chaffing. I think that smaller legs, wider hips and different anatomy make it a non issue. (As for women and underwear in the field I am about clueless. I would guess that stringy little underwear is not the way to go but other than that can’t help you. Also as to specific to female field hygiene issues I know they exist but I just don’t know anything about that)
To prevent or manage chafing you can use some gold bond powder (a darn good thing to have) to keep things dry down there. Also I’ve heard of runners using Vaseline at friction points like thighs and nipples (that wasn’t meant to sound dirty but does).
Feet- If you ignore everything else take care of your feet. Keep them in good shape or you are useless. Some folks like foot powder but I am not one of them. I find that it cakes onto your socks and decreases their ability to breathe while simultaneously shortening the amount of time you can wear them for. Keep toe nails reasonably short. Wearing good socks that are (as much as possible) dry is the best thing you can do for your feet. Also take off your socks and let your feet air out at night.
Carry plenty of spare socks, they are about the only piece of clothing you really need to change semi regularly (every couple days or so, depending). Also (though of course you should do this with everything) be sure to put your socks into plastic bags to keep them dry.
Boots- This is not a place to pinch pennies. Buy quality boots that suit your purpose from a good reputable manufacturer. Break them in by wearing them as you do everyday tasks and then for progressively longer walks and then hikes. Hardening your feet is done in the same manner. Start with short marches and then get progressively longer with heavier loads. This will also harden your legs and heart. Foot care and footwear could be a whole different post as it covers so much and is so important.
Clothes- Keep as clean as is practical. Keep some clean (a relative word) dry clothes to wear in the evening for down time and sleep. This will also let your day’s clothes air out overnight (if possible) and dry. Do the same thing with your socks. If possible wash them when you can.
Sleep wear- If your operational situation allows letting your body breathe at night is good. I typically will sleep in shorts unless it is real cold.
Sleeping bags- Get a liner as it is far more practical to was it than the whole bag in the field.
In conclusion with a little bit of planning you can stay quite healthy in the field for a prolonged period of time. Using the techniques outlines above I have been just fine for upwards of a month in the woods on multiple occasions. Mostly it just requires getting used to not having modern conveniences.
This is part two of the Oregon Trail series. Awhile back I talked about dysentery. While dysentery comes from a lack of proper hygiene; cholera comes from unclean water used for drinking or cooking. There are bacteria and or viruses with long names with long Latin names involved but for laymen like me they don't matter. Cholera is the other half of what could be called the "shit yourself to death" illnesses. Almost unheard of in modern nations but very common in developing countries.
Prevention is fairly easy. Start with a plan to provide your family with clean potable drinking water. Our friends Directive 21 and Our Happy Homestead sell Berkley filters as well as smaller more portable options. I am preferential to them because they keep the blog going. However you can find quality water filters all over the place. Big name brands like Berkley and Katadyn as well as a couple others are the way to go.
Be especially careful when dealing with or treating people who have cholera. Their butt pee is highly contagious. Wash clothes, bedding and anything that gets messy separately and clean the washer or whatever afterwords. It is prudent to segregate the sick to avoid spreading the problem. If possible only have those treating them interact with the sick. Bleach water and rubber gloves are your friend.
Treatment is largely the same as dysentery with re hydration being the main push. Oral re hydration is followed by IV re hydration in extreme situations if they can't keep fluids down. Antibiotics can shorten the course of the virus.
Have a plan to be able to reliably provide clean water for drinking and cooking so you don't die of cholera.
1. Mr. "I'll take 4 oxen and all the bullets $1600 will buy me" was amusing. At least he was amusing to me, Wifey who played the game as a kid also didn't see the humor, I think that was because every boy went the all bullets route at least once. Our results were invariably unsuccessful. Breaking down or starving to death way before getting anywhere near running out of bullets. You have got to allocate your resources to meet many different needs. All the bullets in the world will not feed you. All the food in the world will not help a sick kid. Medicine doesn't make up for not having a spare jacket or a broken axle. Prudent people allocate their resources diversely to meet their many needs.
2. To capture this significant issue in its own lesson; bullets will not solve every problem or keep you reliably fed. Sure you can hunt but even a great shot might not see game that often. You need to store food.
3. Sanitation and hygiene are important lest you want to die of dysentery. That pretty much speaks for itself.
4. Something will happen so you don't want to spend all of your money. If anything the game under emphasizes this point. You don't know what is going to happen. It could be running low on oxen or the need to replace that extra spare axle. People take cash so you better have some available.
5. People die and not just random strangers but people you know. The game made this almost laughable with like a 30 percent mortality rate but lets not ignore the point. To think that your family will get through a prolonged dangerous period without outside assistance is probably naive. [Especially if that time included multiple violent confrontations it is almost laughable. If you think some guns, maybe a bit of body armor and a day once in a blue moon in the backyard trying to do battle drills will mean you come out heroically and surprisingly and completely unscathed you're more optimistic than I am. Once you consider that these contacts are more likely to be defensive than offensive the odds get even worse.] Getting your medical training and supplies squared away is a darn good start. Being careful and using proper safety equipment is prudent also. Someone truly out in the hinder boonies probably needs to worry a lot more about a slip with an ax then a gunfight. However while I encourage you to prepare as fully as possible for all these situations it is worth squaring yourself up with the fact that someone could die.
6. Whatever the risk don't be afraid to seek opportunities. There are always risks in life. However if you refuse to pursue any opportunities because there is some risk involved you won't get much of anywhere. It could be moving to another state for a new far better paying job with some real potential or deciding to become a single income household. It might be moving to a rural home, into alternate housing or even off grid. All of these possibilities have some risks (though death from dysentery is low on the list) that need to be accepted. Don't be afraid to accept some risk.
7. Be prepared for a long journey. No matter how much you spend or how hard you work the road to preparedness, like the trail from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley, is very long. Some times it is going to seem like it will never end but unless you keep moving the end never comes. Then you just end up in Nebraska or Wyoming which are nice enough places but much harder to farm in than the Willamette Valley.
Alternate title: 3rd World Living Conditions: Water Filtration, Sanitation and OTC Meds
Yesterday Wifey and I drove a long way. We don't listen to the radio and instead talk to each other while driving. What a novel concept. Anyway we passed a car with a trailer and a single horse somehow we got to talking about how it would be cool to have draft animals and a wagon and go camping Oregon Trail style. I said we would need an extra kid because one of them would die of dysentery. It is sort of a funny joke and I have been meaning to order the T shirt.
We both got a good laugh. Wifey then said we would also need lots of oxen to replace the ones that would die and 3 times the amount of food we actually need because it always seems to fall out of the wagon and get washed downstream at fording sites. After a second of silence I thought of something. People still die of dysentery. Almost never in America or western Europe or pretty much any other country that doesn't suck but by the thousands in Africa, less developed parts of Asia and South America. I would wager it will get some folks in Pakistan and China because of the recent flooding.
Dysentery is caused by poor hygiene. Basically you ingest some nasty stuff. In any case you catch it and start shitting your guts out. You then dehydrate massively and keep shitting and eventually you die. Dysentery spreads like wildfire because people are in close quarters and it is an environment with poor sanitation and hygiene. If 12 people are living in a little shack/ hut with poor sanitation and hygiene and one gets massive diarrhea it is going to spread.
Part of the reason that dysentery is so sad is that it is so avoidable. A bit of common sense sanitation and decent hygiene are enough to prevent dysentery all together. Prevention is as simple as regularly washing your hands, especially after going #2 and before cooking/ eating. Treatment is super simple. Re hydration and good cleanliness are usually enough. For worse cases a course of antibiotics are necessary. Simply keeping some pedialite or gatoraide around as well as soap, etc and having a plan to deal with waste is sufficient.
Our life patterns have changed dramatically in the last 100 years or so. In particular population densities in urban areas have increased and this whole suburb thing popped up. These work because almost limitless clean water is piped in and waste is piped out. However it doesn't take much to at least temporarily break those systems. Especially in densely populated areas such as the Gulf Coast all it will take is a hurricane to bring back a primitive standard of living in a hurry. If you exclude medical personnel and those with primitive outdoor experience via rugged camping or the military knowledge of primitive sanitation is woefully lacking. You can't take care of everybody but should certainly have a plan to take care of your own.