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SANITATION: How To Stay Clean, Stay Healthy, Survive Coronavirus



It blows my mind how many times I’ve seen someone emerge from a stall in a public restroom and walk out without washing their hands. Yet basic hygiene and hand washing goes a huge way in preventing illness, especially the COVID-19 coronavirus that's sweeping the world right now.

Washing your hands & using hand sanitzer is of the upmost importance right now in order to stop the spread of the virus. But, if you've headed to the store in the past week, you've probably noticed that the shelves have been cleared out.

This is not a drill.

The threat of this epidemic is very real and more cases are appearing in the United States every single day.

So what can you do to keep yourself protected?

Wash Your Hands

If you were fortunate enough to get to the store & stock up on antibacterial hand soap before the situation escalated, be sure to use it and use it correctly!

Use clean water and soap whenever you can. I can’t express how important this is.  Our hands are vectors that transport pathogens to our mouths, noses, eyes, other areas of the skin, from person to person directly or via contaminated surfaces and food. It only takes one asymptomatic person with coronavirus to sneeze near you in order for you to become infected, and probably without realizing it.

This is why it's so important for you to be constantly washing your hands, especially before touching your face.

RELATED: How to Make Commercial Grade Hand Sanitizer

And not just a quick rinse! Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Make sure that you're scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.

Soap works by creating a chemical reaction which breaks up dirt and makes it easy to wash away in water. The Ancient Babylonians were using it way back in 2800 BC and people have continued to use it throughout the centuries. Just not often enough at times!

This is the time to make sure you're washing your hands as often as possible! It is your best defense against this virus.

A recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine asked volunteers to deliberately contaminate their hands by rubbing them over surfaces in public places like buses and museums. They found that washing hands with water alone reduced the level of fecal bacteria present by 49% but soap and water dropped it down to 81%. That’s a lot less poo floating around just from simple hand washing with soap and water!

Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

At this point, the last thing you want to do is head out into the crowds of people trying to pick up the last of the supplies. This will only increase your risk of being infected. And by now, the supplies are gone.

Fortunately, it's not too hard to make your own hand sanitizer from items you already have around your home.

Here's an easy recipe:

  • 2 parts 91% isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 part aloe vera gel

There's a good chance your in home first aid kit has isopropyl alcohol in it which you can use for this DIY hand sanitizer. If you want, you can even add water to make it into a spray or throw in some essential oils for a more appealing smell.

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The CDC does recommend that any homemade sanitizer contains 60-95% alcohol in order to ensure you're protected. But, what if you don't have any alcohol at home?

This is still NOT the time to head to the store. Check your house for these items that have disinfectant properties and have been used for centuries to clean:

  • Witch Hazel
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • White Vinegar

RELATED: How to Make Commercial Grade Hand Sanitizer

Here are some other ways to keep yourself healthy & functioning during this outbreak. The following is by no means a definitive list but these hints and tips have helped keep me healthy and functioning when others have gone down.


Any backwoodsman or frontierswoman worth their salt will tell you that you can make soap by mixing lye with fat. Lye can be made from ash. Out in the field when I haven’t had access to soap I have often washed my hands with clean wood ash and water. The gritty texture helps to mechanically remove dirt and the high PH level kills germs. It’s harsh on your skin, very drying, and your hands typically look more dirty afterwards but they are actually much cleaner.

You can also use wood ash to clean cooking pots and utensils. By adding ash and water to an oily cooking pot and mushing it around you can remove the grease. When the ash, water and oils combine you are actually creating a rudimentary form of soap. The greasier the pot the better the soap. As ever, make sure your water is sterilized first by heating it to a rolling boil.

On a side note, ash is also a great covering for field toilets or ‘cat holes’. The ash dries out the feces and that combined with the high PH level helps destroy pathogens.  It gets rid of nasty smells too which is never a bad thing and reduces flies, which is always a very good thing.


If you don’t have access to ash, clean dry soil or sand with water can also be effective for hand washing. There is no antibacterial action here (and it is possible that the soil itself may contain contaminants) but again the abrasive action of rubbing the grit against your skin removes grease and dirt that harbor germs.


On many occasions I have used the same knife to kill game, skin it, gut it, cook it and eat it. All without washing the blade in between times. To date, thankfully, I haven’t managed to give myself food poisoning. This is because I sterilize the knife with heat before I begin the cooking process.

You can do this by plunging the blade in the flames of a fire and holding it there for a while but I prefer to shove it into the hot coals of a fire. The temperatures are higher and it’s more controlled so you’re less likely to burn your hand.

RELATED: How to Make Commercial Grade Hand Sanitizer

Go Colonial

During the hay days of the British Empire thousands of Brits and their families left the relative comfort and sophistication of olden days Britain and headed out to pastures new in Africa, the Middle East, India and beyond. They were exposed to an entirely alien way of living – different temperatures, customs, foods and different germs. One way they kept themselves healthy was by following a simple mantra when it came to eating:

“If you can boil it, peel it or cook it, you can eat it. If not, forget it.”

In survival scenarios, after natural disasters or when I’m traveling in remote locations I try and follow these rules to the letter. If it’s not you doing the cooking, police whoever is. Make sure your food is piping hot and thoroughly cooked.  Avoid things like ice cream and salad like the plague.

Use Booze

Using a knife or other eating utensil, or even a stick with it’s bark stripped off, is great way to avoid putting dirty hands on your food when hand washing is unavailable.  But obviously the implement itself must be clean.

I always carry a little flask of booze in my survival kit, if you can’t wash your fork or shove it in a fire, spirit alcohols such as whiskey and vodka make an excellent disinfectant. In eateries in far flung places I always order a whiskey with my meal, even breakfast, purely to sterilize the silverware. Though I have been known to drink it afterwards.  Waste not, want not….!

Want to know more? Check out these related articles on our site:

The Time To Prepare For Coronavirus Is NOW

What to Include in a Home First Aid Kit

Preparedness Tips for Those with Elderly Family Members

Last update on 2024-07-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  1. ScottA

    December 9, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    The other side to this argument is that exposing yourself to different germs and things builds your immune system. People who work in the health care field are constantly exposed to more things than anyone, and before the hand sanitizer was everywhere in clinics, my mother was one of the healthiest people I knew (X-Ray Tech). I purposely expose myself to things to build my immunity, and I am the healthiest person I know. Should you run out of sanitizer, my immune system may likely be stronger than others for NOT using it. Just my own thoughts of why I purposely don’t use it. Good suggestions on alternative sanitation methods.

    • Marius

      December 11, 2013 at 2:00 AM

      Good point! Actually I’m doing it myself and I call it “natural vaccination”. If goes wrong,which so far it didn’t, always I have at hand some colloidal silver, or if it goes really nasty, some hydrogen peroxide. One teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide in one glass of water will get you rid of all the nasty viruses and bacterias. Anyway, beware! It will kill your intestinal flora as well, so after that shock treatment, you should gulp on probiotics, in order to restore your digesting capabillities…
      Anyway, if you consume enough colloidal silver on a weekly basis, no virus would have the chance to get you…

  2. Edd USN Ret.

    December 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    I’ve spent many years in South East Asia and have learned in many societies there that it is a major insult to put your left hand on the food table or even to touch someone with the left (TOILET) hand. My son showed a preference to using his left hand to doing most everything and not having him experience being and outcast I encouraged him to learn to use his right hand more in doing things. I did not put him down for being left handed but pushed him to become am bi-dexterous which has served him well now that he has experienced left handed taboos himself.

    • Marius

      December 12, 2013 at 3:00 AM

      Well,that’s good to know, but as a right hand user, like 80% of people on this Planet, I use my right hand to write, use a fork AND wipe my ass ( not in the same time )…Do Easteners comprehend that?…

  3. Edd USN Ret.

    December 9, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    When I knew I was going to be in an area for awhile, I took steps to try to accustom my system to conditions in that area. Knowing I might not always have access to good water and if my system did not develop antibodies to what was in the water, I slowly introduced the water to my system without SHOCKING it. While I still had access to good water for a week or ten days, I would use the local water to rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth. some of that water before I spit it out would find its way to my stomach with its goodies in tact. generally just a tiny bit but enough to introduce my system to what lurked in that water. Over time I could use the water without suffering side effects. Just something to consider while you still have safe water and lots of unknown quality water.

    • Marius

      December 12, 2013 at 3:09 AM

      Nothing else than what I call “natural vaccination” (see my reply to ScottA). Anyway, you should be preppared if one of those experiments goes bad. Otherwise could cost you your life…

  4. RachelWells

    December 9, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Bravo Ruth! While most of us may not find ourselves in rugged survival situations, these rules are a lesson for those who go camping, hunting and fishing – spend time on a trail or frankly, in the kitchen. I , too, get teased about my obsessiveness for cleanliness in the kitchen – but it is for the reasons you describe; preventing illness.
    So my friend, I am printing out this article and putting it on my fridge , in the backpacks and on all bathroom doors (for a few days) – because I love my family and friends and a ounce of prevention is better than crapping into a Rwandan toilet right? Great piece Ruthie! Thank you.

  5. dave5470

    December 9, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    Two comments – burying your blade in the coals briefly is probably less damaging to the temper than heating it over them until it changes color. Also, try using high alcohol content stuff – we call it grain alcohol, but you can buy the Polish drinking version called Spiritus Recktyfickuany or something like that. It’s 192 proof ethyl alcohol, entirely drinkable, great for sterilizing anything including wounds and stomachs / intestines, and burns if you need to light a fire, also cost competitive with cheap vodka and whisky you wouldn’t want to drink – c. $20/litre around me.

  6. Edheler

    December 10, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Does DayOneGear have permission to reuse your article in it’s entirety?

    If this is theft of content please send me an email and I will remove the link on Reddit.

    • 'Above Average' Joe

      December 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      Hi, Edheler, yes they have permission to repurpose my article as long as they give a link back to me

  7. Dale Hodgkinson

    December 10, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Brilliant Sis! x

  8. Earl Williams

    December 11, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    Great thoughts on a world that mostly disregards sanitation as a priority. I often have fears of silverware and will try a glass of whiskey. It will feel strange to do this in public at first as it was not to touch anything in the bathrooms of restaurants. The entire family knows how to take get in and get out using elbows and fannys. Felt uncomfortable at first but seeing someone leaving a restroom without washing erased my embarrassment.

    • Gail

      December 12, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      I NOW appreciate my mother’s nagging mantra when I was little: Wash your hands.

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