At any given time, there is a living film of microbial life that coats your body. There is not much we can do to eliminate the bacteria that exists on the surface of our skin – thankfully, most of it is harmless – but there is a standard of hygiene that we need to maintain to avoid illness and to keep our fellow humans from running in terror because of our stench.
Staying clean while traveling can be difficult. When you are at home, you have your routine and an environment that is more or less fixed. While traveling, your itinerary and your environment is constantly changing. What’s more, if you are traveling in tropical areas or in rural areas that lack certain facilities, the challenge to stay clean is even greater. You may accept your fate as a dirty human being or you can put in place a few strategies to maintain your hygiene.
Before we get started
Here are a few key resources that can be found on Sick on the Road:
Between these three articles, there is a lot of helpful information that will help you keep your hygiene in check. We will go a few steps further today, but we will also reference some of the information in these previous posts.
What is the purpose of soap?
It’s understood that soap serves to clean your body. But how does it do that? It’s not by killing bacteria and viruses (although some antibacterial soaps do have the ability to do this). Soap keeps you clean by removing microbial life. It binds with bacteria and most other things that are on the surface of your skin so that once you rinse with water or wipe down with a wash cloth, the microbial life goes with it.
In other words, simply covering your body in soap won’t do much to get you clean. And, you may find that your skin dries out because of it as well.
When you ask people the best way to get clean, most people won’t hesitate when responding: a shower. You won’t find any disagreements from us. Unfortunately, when you are traveling, you may find yourself in a place where a shower is a difficult proposition, or simply impossible. In this situation, you have to get a bit creative.
People confined to bed rest have to get clean somehow. What do they do? Well, usually someone does the washing for them, but here is how they do it:
Take two washcloths and two small basins for water. Put a bit of soap in the first basin with the water. Put only water in the second basin. Dunk the first washcloth in the basin with the soap and then squeeze out some of the water (you don’t need to get sopping wet to get clean). Scrub your body with the soaped up washcloth. Next, take the second washcloth and dip it in the second basin that is exclusively H2o. Go over your body once more, dunking the washcloth in the water basin a few separate times to rid of it soap and residue. Voila, you are clean.
What if you don’t have any water?
If you don’t have access to water, the above steps are a bit tricky. This is why you should travel with baby wipes. Yes, baby wipes. Baby wipes are made so that they don’t irritate the sensitive skin of an infant. Which means that they shouldn’t bother your skin either, even if you are dealing with skin issues while traveling.
We also recommend traveling with an alcohol based wipe, which you can use for spot cleaning. Specifically, you can use it for your hands, feet, underarms, behind the ears – those kinds of places. The alcohol dries out the microbial life, effectively killing it. This can be especially handy for the feet, which tend to become quite smelly as a trip goes on.
Travel with baking soda or baby powder
Both of these products can help dry and deodorize. Put some in your shoes, toss some in your armpits along with your deodorant and if it’s baking soda, you can even use it as a kind of dry shampoo, with a small quantity of water. Whether you are traveling or not, if you don’t know the joy of deodorizing your shoes, you are missing one of life’s simple pleasures.
Pharmacies and supermarkets are chock full of face wash wipes, make-up removers and other products that promise to liberate your pours with a simple swab of their product. Ok, maybe. But, you should also be careful when using such products. Try them out before you travel to make sure that your skin is not irritated with their use.
Other things: Don’t forget that sunlight is a natural disinfectant. Obviously, you will want to wash your clothes regularly, even if this means taking the time to hand wash them in the sink. Keeping your clothes clean will help keep your body clean. When drying your clothes, plop them in a patch of sunshine and you will profit from the sun’s sterilizing beams. Other natural disinfectants include vinegar and lemon juice. But we should note that you shouldn’t count on either of these natural products to destroy all microbial life. They will give you a hand, though.
If you are looking for some more creative ways to get clean while traveling, check out these videos on youtube, many of which address camping and hiking as well.
Photo credit: flickr users Joe Shlabotnik and Great Beyond