Personal Hygiene During a Disaster: Baby Steps to Preparedness Week 5

Have you given much thought to personal hygiene during a disaster situation? If you think back to the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, you may think about it more than previous generations, but there’s more to consider than just tp. After this week’s shopping list, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the topic.

Hand washing is critical for good personal hygiene during a disaster.
Hand washing is critical for good health and good hygiene during disaster (Source)

Personal hygiene during a disaster may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re prepping, but it’s important nonetheless. Poor hygiene leads to illness, and that’s the last thing you need to deal with if you’re already in a stressful survival type of situation. That’s why this week’s list focuses on a few hygiene items.

Week 5 Shopping List

You’ll shop at the grocery store this week, though you may find the best prices for hygiene-related items at Walmart or someplace similar. As always, adjust your shopping to fit your budget. If it’s cheaper to shop at a big box store than your local grocer, do that. 

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 can meat
  • 1 can fruit
  • 1 can vegetables
  • 2 rolls toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer (with 60% alcohol or higher)
  • Bar soap
  • Extra toothbrush

Personal hygiene items:

  • Toothbrush, comb, etc.
  • Travel size toothpaste

For every item on this week’s list, purchase one for each person you are prepping for.

Action Steps

This week’s action step is simple and optional if you don’t have pets. 

Take some time to call or visit your veterinarian to discuss the right size pet carrier for your pets if you need to evacuate. Your vet may also have educational resources available, so this is a great opportunity to ensure that your pets are safe in the event of a disaster.

A Note on Hygiene During a Disaster

As I mentioned, hygiene is critical to good health. For that reason, it’s important that you don’t look at it as a waste of resources. For example, you might think you don’t need to wash your hands every time you use the bathroom. Don’t make this mistake! According to the CDC, “Feces (poop) from people or animals is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease.” 

Hand sanitizers can help you to conserve water, or if you don’t have access to soap and water, but they do NOT eliminate all types of germs. They don’t remove chemicals either, so good old-fashioned soap and water are essential to have on hand.

Wash your hands at the key times that you are most likely to get or spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage


Bathing is also important for good hygiene during a disaster, and for more than just aesthetic reasons. But how often you should bathe really depends on your lifestyle. If you are fairly sedentary, you can probably bathe just a couple of times a week, but if you are very active or get dirty, more frequent bathing is required.

According to Harvard Health, daily showering is unnecessary for good health. Two or three times a week is sufficient. However, in a disaster situation, you may be more active or get very dirty, requiring more frequent bathing. Depending on the situation, “Short showers (lasting three or four minutes) with a focus on the armpits and groin may suffice.”

But, if you are on municipal water, it’s important to follow local guidelines on water safety. There are situations when tap water isn’t safe to use, even for bathing. On the other hand, water that isn’t okay to drink may be just fine to wash up with.

And if you have a well, that doesn’t mean your water is safe in a disaster. Your local, state, or tribal health department can provide specific advice on well testing and disinfection if extensive flooding has occurred or you suspect your well may be contaminated.

And About That Toilet Paper

If you’ve ever stocked up on toilet paper, you already know it takes up a lot of space. Then there is the issue of disposal if you are in a survival situation. While the topic of going to the bathroom outdoors will be a different topic for another day, you should know a few tips to make things easier.

As long as you have water, “reusable” toilet paper is a good option. This would be rags or washcloths that are washed after use, much like cloth diapers. There’s also a product called Portawipes which are essentially compressed towelettes. These are much easier to store and carry.

Other options include installing a bidet or getting bidet bottles for each family member. These will keep you clean and eliminate the need to dispose of used TP.

And, of course, there is the age-old option of using plant materials: corn cobs, mullein leaves, moss, grass, snow, etc. The key is to keep yourself clean and healthy, and if you’re in a survival situation, you may be surprised at the options you can think of. 

3 thoughts on “Personal Hygiene During a Disaster: Baby Steps to Preparedness Week 5

  1. Great article! Sometimes we get so busy focusing on the big things, we forget about those small things that make a real difference.

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