6 Ways To Clean Yourself When There’s No Water

If you ask survivors of war or tragedy, one of the things that they will tell you they missed the most was being clean.

I once read an article written by a survivor of a war camp and she said that she’d once traded an entire day’s food rations (which was meager but extremely valuable) for a slip of soap.

She said just staying clean made her feel more human in a world seemingly devoid of hope.

I’ve heard the same sentiment about cleanliness from soldiers who have spent weeks at a time on missions where they didn’t have the opportunity to shower. Being clean just feels good; it’s a morale booster and it’s a health necessity, but what happens if you have little to no water and still want, or need, to be clean?

There are other ways to be clean without water and that’s what we’ll talk about today.

Dry Bath

This is a product that requires no water but will get you clean. You rub the gel over your body, then rub it off with your hands and the dirt comes off with it. There are several different versions of this product available on Amazon and other sites. It’s handy to have in your Bug-Out Bag or in your stockpile, but due to cost, it’s not something that you’d want to depend on except in a pinch.

There are also several dry shampoos out there that would serve the same purpose, but again, it’s not something you’d want for the long term because of storage and cost issues. You’d run out eventually and then what?


Alcohol gets rid of odor and is an effective sanitizer but it’s not something that you want to use on your skin on a regular basis. An alcohol wipe will deodorize your armpits and sanitize your hands, but that’s about the only reasons you would want to use it straight. It can be used in homemade cleansers though.

I’ve read about other people who use alcohol dabbed on the scalp to get rid of grease. I personally have never tried this but it doesn’t seem to me like it would work the same on grease as it does on moisture. I may be wrong though; if I am, please speak up in the comments section.

Use the Local Creek, River or Pond

river bathYes, this is a cheat. But you do need to bathe with actual water on occasion. If you don’t have very much fresh water, you don’t want to waste it bathing. If you’re going to bathe in local waters, make sure that you use all-natural products that won’t damage the environment or contaminate it so that it can’t be used as a future source of drinking water if circumstances become dire.

Flour, Cornmeal, Baking Soda

This combination is great for degreasing your hair. The flour acts to absorb the grease, the cornmeal helps scrub the dirt from your scalp while absorbing more grease and the baking soda helps deodorize and absorb grease. If you have dark hair, add a bit of cocoa powder in to make it darker so that your hair doesn’t take on a gray hue if you’d like. However, if you brush your hair well after you scrub this through then shake it out, you likely won’t have that issue.

Baby Powder

There are many uses for baby powder besides making a baby smell good so it’s a good tool to keep around. If you don’t want to waste your food on hygiene, baby powder does an excellent job of absorbing the grease from your hair. As a matter of fact, it can keep it grease-free for up to two weeks without washing it if you use it every few days. Plus it will make it smell good.

Brushing Your Teeth without Water

brushing teeth sodaThis is probably one of the most important aspects of hygiene, especially if SHTF because dentists may be few and far between. A toothache is the last thing you need and if one abscesses, it can literally kill you if the infection gets into your bloodstream. Therefore, even if you don’t have water, you still need to care for your teeth.

You can always use your toothbrush even without water. If you have a little baking soda, make a paste from it and use it like toothpaste. Old fashioned tooth powder consisted of baking soda and salt. It won’t taste fabulous but you can improve that if you have a bit of cinnamon or crushed mint leaves to add to it. Be careful using this every day though because it’s an abrasive and will eat away the enamel on your teeth if you use it too often.

Flossing is extremely important, too. Maybe even more important than brushing. If you don’t have dental floss, use any string that you have available. It could be an unbraided piece of your 325 paracord, sewing thread or even a thread from your clothes. Do this daily or even every time you eat, especially if you’re eating meat or anything else that could get between your teeth and gums because that’s one of the major reasons that abscesses start.

If you don’t have a toothbrush, you could do like the old-timers did and chew on the end of a stick (make sure it’s not poisonous!) until the fibers resemble a brush, then dip it in your tooth powder. Just chewing on the stick will help clean your teeth too.

If you just want to freshen your breath after cleaning them with this not-so-amazing-tasting tooth powder, chew on a bit of mint.

It’s a good idea to always keep three dental items in your emergency kit – oral antiseptic gel, dental putty in case you break a tooth, and maybe some clove oil because it dulls the pain. Since clove oil has several medicinal uses, it’s something you should have on hand.

Finally, if you’re a book person, you should have a book on survival dentistry just in case something does develop. Also, this would be a valuable skill to have that you could use for barter if it would come to that.

Now that you know some useful tricks to keep your body and teeth clean, you have one less thing to worry about when it comes to survival. Also, as the lady that I mentioned before illustrates, soaps and other hygiene items will be extremely valuable barter items so if you have room, stockpile enough to use for trade. Even the little hotel soaps would be great and they wouldn’t take up much space. The travel sized toothpastes and shampoos are great, too.

If you have any good hygiene tips, please share them with us in the comments section below!


This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • Thanks for your ideas. I also use Hydrogen peroxide when I have a tooth hurting. I’ll hold it in my mouth and it’ll pull the infection out and also whitens your teeth.
    sand and snow both will clean your hands when there’s no water around.

    • Medical personnel know that hydrogen peroxide is too destructive to tissues to use in your mouth or any mucous membrane. Matter of fact, it destroys too much tissue to use on skin, unless debriding wounds like skinned knees or road rash where it foams out ground-in dirt, but at a price. Hurts like hell, too ;-). A simple rinse of salt water is better in the mouth, and simple washing with soap if you have it for skin.

    • I used to gargle with hydrogen peroxide, and one time asked my dentist about it. He said your risk of getting mouth cancer increased 1000 times, so I quit doing it.

      • I worked as a bio-medical engineer for decades and assisted doctors doing every kind of procedure you can imagine. The alcohol in the OR slowly gave way to H2O2 after the 70’s. Some Professionals will tell you it is dangerous either through ignorance or jealousy. The absolute best way to find out if something is true is to prove it your self. The internet is loaded with information on just about anything you can imagine. Use it and wisely. Since lives may depend on things we tell others we should be careful. I could go on for hours with what I have learned personally about health and peroxide. I think I will share 2 items if I do not run out of space. H2O2 is 2 atoms of oxygen and 2 atoms of hydrogen. When the 2 empty holes in the O2 atom find and bind with an electron in another atom this will cause one of the O2 atoms to break free. This causes the bubbling effect. If the H2O2 is too strong or is allowed to remain too long in one area the concentration of O2 atoms will steal so many electrons from other areas,the skin for instance, that it will cause an effect that will be percieved as burning . This why you need to learn to use it wisely. There are many strengths available. I have nine grown children and when my daughters get a UTI they put a cap full of 3 % H2O2 in an eight ounce glass of water and goodbye UTI. I know many Black people who have lived into their eighties and have never seen a dentist. They die with a full set of PERFECT and I mean perfect teeth. How is this possible? H2O2 and baking soda!!!! Many years ago I developed an acute cast of appendicitis. I waited until I was sure of what it was. No I did not see a doctor to tell me what it was .I was very capable of doing this. My 85 year old mother was upset with me because her dad died from this at a very young age. After taking 5 -12 ounce glasses of water each with 25 drops of 35 % H2o2 over a day and a half the appendicitis was gone. Oxygen will kill any dangerous bug. It must be used wisely. That is enough for now. Prove all things yourself. You and your families health is too important to put in another’s hands. The medical profession at large is infected with the same disease that exists in Washington and everywhere else.

        • You forgot to mention that if you take any H202 internally you must use FOOD Grade H2O2 only. There are several types of it for various industrial uses. But only Food Grade, not the bleach blonde grade, can be used. The 3% solution you buy from your local store in the brown plastic bottle is mostly water and safe to gargle with or apply to minor abrasions for disinfection, cleaning, itch control, etc.

          But 25 drops of the food grade H202 diluted in a drink is about max for your esophagus so use less over longer periods of time and work up to it. Non-diluted 35% H2O2 is a caustic oxidizer and will literally burn a hole through your skin if left on long enough.

          Search “The One Minute Cure” which I believe might even be a free download by now because they want you to buy their h202 solution. But this will tell you everything you need to know about h2o2 therapy. It definitely IS a remarkable alternative/complimentary treatment.

          Some years ago when the doctors sent me home with enough pain killers to dope up most of LA and advised me to ‘get my affairs in order’ if I didn’t immediately let them cut, burn, and poison me with their ‘conventional’ procedures. Which I refused to do after seeing so many friends uselessly treated as such in a horrific torture that diminished my respect for the AMA and its ‘eugenically motivated status quo.

          Being a long time student of ancient Eastern Mystery Schools and a proponent of herbal/natural medicine and alternative treatments, including the above mentioned H202 I attacked my problem differently and, as you see, many years after I was predicted to be fertilizer for daisies, I’m still kicking ASS!

          So the ‘moral’ of the story is if you can still walk and do things for yourself when you get a bad diagnosis don’t immediately just melt down like a piece of butter on hot grill and let them sizzle you to death like a slab of Hickory smoked bacon. You still have plenty of time. The only urgency is the one the doctors have to get those obscene payments faster from the insurance companies.

          Take a deep breath, slow down, and ALWAYS try something less ‘terminal’ enhancing first…like Alternative medicine and treatment. There’s a lot out there. They have a far better proven success ration than conventional treatments. But we’re so ‘brainwashed’ with the so called conventional wisdom because we do pay money for it and everybody does it, that we are victims to just another form of sheeple fleecing.

          Doctors are good mechanical repair persons. Broken legs, nose jobs, etc. But they know little or nothing about preventing disease or the miracle of natural mind power magic to cure it.

          • Right on brother, The only Doctors that I ever really admired that I worked with were the surgeons (body mechanics).

      • I appreciate the informative dangers about using hydrogen peroxide orally. That is awesome and much appreciated, thank you! I also consider dentists approve of fluoride, also.

      • I’m over 70 and have been using hydrogen peroxide for over 50 yrs. and never had a cavity and never had any problems with my teeth and gums. My parents both used it and they both died with their teeth all in good condition.


  • Roman soldiers used olive oil to clean dirt off themselves. Rub it in the skin and wipe off.

    • I have used a baking soda and water paste to clean my hair with great results. This method does require a good amount of water to rinse it out. It is intended to keep the scalp clean while not stripping the hair of all of it’s natural oils. I have also read that native american’s used sand with water to wash their hair. I’ve never tried it myself so I can’t speak for the results but I’m sure you would end up cleaner than when you started if you gave it a good scrub.

  • We keep large quantities of baby wipes in our preps for the event of no water.

  • Extra sox for each person! One of the biggest problems for GIs in WWII was foot infections. They were told to change their sox everyday, but many only had one pair. Wash the extra pair daily.
    Reserve a bottle of sterile water or saline solution to wash cuts and blisters. Also a tube of Triple antibiotic. Stopping infections early can save your life.
    You can ‘wash’ dishes with sand, then wipe them clean. Many pioneers did.

    • Good advice, we take our feet for granted but how would you feel if you were toes squashed into a tight sweaty shoe and stomped on all day long?!

      After sometimes weeks deep in the jungles with no showers every once in a while the Lt. would come over to a particularly ‘stenchy’ squad and give the order ‘Attention’! Fall in! We are having OD nderwear Change Day!

      We’d hustle up straight in line and wait for the order.
      The Lt would stand in front of us and give the command.
      “…READY, on my mark…DROP PANTS!

      We’d drop them on cadence and the LT would march up and down the line examining our underwear with a pinch nosed frown like he would have checking out the decaying bodies after a bad battle, occasionally poking his bayonet at seriously encrusted residue on certain pairs of drawers.

      His next command roared out in our faces:

      …”Alright, Men, Now REMOVE PANTS!”

      The squad quickly pulled off their pants and bounced back up to attention. Then the Lt. gave the command:

      “Squad…Commence Underwear Change!” And he stepped forward and directed by pointing his finger. You change with him, you change with him,
      You change with him…and so on!

      “AT Ease!”

  • Thank you all for the tips you have shared I am printing them ou t and keeping them in a folder in case of an EMP.
    Here is another thing to use for keeping clean. Stock up on Baby wipes. If they are good for baby’s skin they are good for adults. Get the ones without perfume ingredients for those people with certain skin conditions.
    I also have a question about water. I have a couple pitchers that are used with filters that are called zero water. They came with a tester and when the filter is working, it registers as 00 When I tested the water against my tap water it actually does not register 00. Do these filters keep out bacteria particles which are much worse than other chemicals ? If anyone knows please let me know. And do the straws that you have been offering keep out bacteria as well because they are a lot less cumbersome than a water distiller especially if you are traveling or on the road.

    • Susan, There is a fantastic filter system out there called Berkey. If you look on line for berkey water filtwers you can find out they are the best on the market.
      You can filter rain water. arsenic water if you buy the right filters. You can filter pond water and everytime it will be like spring water. No lye I bought one.
      I boughtr the Royal berkey with the 4 black filters and the bottom chemical filters. along with the see though water gage. The filters will last 10 years on continuous use. Rain water is a great source. nobug after filtering. Also there is a new product out called water book. made of copper and silver icons that kill microbugs instantly when you filter. but after using this you still have to use the berkey to rid the other contaminents. Hope this helps.

  • Cut the end of a large goose feather into a long lasting toothpick-flosser by shaving off half of the end of cylindrical quill portion and fashioning the remaining half of the quill structure into a fine point. They work great, won’t hurt your gums and last a long time.

  • In the discussion about using alcohol above, make sure it is ethyl alcohol and not isopropyl alcohol. Most hospitals now use ethyl to replace iso because it doesn’t dry out the skin as much. Also consider if it is needed orally or internally. You could consume ethyl alcohol as in 100 proof vodka or Ever Clear but not isopropyl. Perhaps the biggest reason not to use iso is it is cancer causing according to Dr. Hulda Clark (search for her books). There is nothing that isopropyl alcohol can do for you that ethyl alcohol wont do better with less adverse side effects.

  • You might not want to rub down with dried dung like desert Africans, but dry dirt, sand and fiber can be an effective rubdown to get mud and other substances off of you and to deal with sweat. You need a first rub to absorb moisture, followed by a second one to get the moist dirt off. At least there is less that absolutely needs water!

  • If I had to take one thing and run for my life, it would be a bottle of Tea Tree Oil ( melaleuca alternifolia ). A drop on your finger and applied to an aching tooth stops the pain immediately. Periodically reapplying it will cure the infection in most cases. The underlying cause must eventually be fixed, as in the case of a broken tooth or missing filling, but it will sure do the trick in a hurry! This oil is also anti fungal, antibacterial, will help ease achy joints, etc. It was the main item in Aussies’ first aid kits in both world wars. It also will loosen rusted nuts/bolts etc. I always keep several spare bottles at home. It is inexpensive, about $8 at Wal Mart, in the vitamin section, and even cheaper if you get it from a vitamin catalog. In my opinion, it is an indispensable first aid item.

  • Hydrogen peroxide will help with oral hygiene also; 1 part peroxide and 1 part water. Use it as a gargle too to treat mouth sores and sore throats.

    • clove can be used for mouth pain also.

  • Personally I like hydrogen perioxide and vinegar to brush your teeth in a nd/or to bathe!

  • oral hygiene : oil of oregano cures abscesses..a drop or several on a tooth pick ..gently insert tip of pick between tooth and gum …repeat a time or two to make sure oil gets to where the bacteria are .. it works very well ..

  • Crushed cloves have both analgesic and antibiotic properties, and will not only reduce the pain of an abscessed tooth, but if kept packed against the abscess (like a dip of snuff), it will reduce the abscess after a few days. I have done this when I had a severely abscessed tooth and couldn’t get n to see the dentist for a number of days, and was surprised to find that the abscess was nearly completely gone after only four days.

  • Stock up on tubs of baby wipes. It’s the easiest way to clean up without water.

  • Dentists will tell you that mint and cinnamon both are actually very irritating to gums and oral mucous membranes. Despite the pleasant taste and popularity, eschew 😉 them as you want to be as kind to your mouth as you can. Flossing need be done only once in 24 hours to stop anerobic bacteria in its tracks; save your floss! It’s the single best thing for saving your teeth and you do not want to run out.

    • I personally don’t like floss. It has pulled out some fillings in the past. Waterpick works for me. And it can be charged on a small solar panel when on the go. There is the ‘bathoom counter” larger model, and also Waterpick Flosser, that I take on camping trips. It gets into all various nooks and crannies that floss never seems to address. For people with teeth closely together waterpick is such a great tool.

  • If you have no way to brush your teeth, they will be surprisingly clean when you use a corner of your t-shirt or similar type fabric and rub across your teeth and into the gaps and spaces between your teeth. I did this once when I didn’t have a tooth brush and was amazed; my teeth felt almost as clean as when I walked out of the dentist office after a regular cleaning and now use this method anytime I’m away from home and my teeth feel nasty. I think I read somewhere in a book that people used this method before toothbrushes.

  • You talked about dental health. You can add to the list using Garlic daily is a natural antibiotic and keeps dental absess away. I use it all the time
    so I don’t see the dentist.