Personal hygiene in the long-term

Discussion in 'Health & Medicine' started by Seneschal, Dec 11, 2009.

  1. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    This is something that bothers me. Many people plan for the short term, but if something drastic should happen that doesn't just last a few weeks or a few months, or even just a year or two, there are a lot of things we take for granted that would quickly become unavailable. Some of these things are just things we like, rather than what we need, but others can be serious problems if we don't have them.

    Chiefly among my concerns are soaps. You definitely need them; while you can keep somewhat clean with just water and scrubbing with sand or wash rags, you're not truly keeping clean. Looking back at the middle and dark ages when people thought that cleaning would make them sick, and seeing how often people died young and caught horrible illnesses just highlights the importance of personal cleanliness and keeping the things around you clean.

    Keeping clean not only cuts down on germs, it also cuts down on the likelihood of wounds becoming infected. It's also entirely possible to run out of antibiotics, and even if you have some, you still need to keep your hands and tools very clean when dealing with children, the ill, or wounds, or risk infecting the person you're trying to help.

    I didn't know if anything was listed like this, but I haven't seen any mention of it, so here's a pretty simple way of making soap, including making your own lye from scratch. It won't be fancy like from the store, but it'll get the job done. There are ways to gentle these soaps, of course.

    You can make lye pretty easily on your own; you will need a barrel of some sort, preferably wood but stainless steel or some thick metal will work as well. Keep in mind though that lye can burn through some metals. Traditionally, they used big wooden barrels with a few holes drilled in the bottom placed on a slab of stone with a channel bored in a circle on the top surface under where the barrel will rest, with another channel connecting to that circle leading to a 'spout', where liquids would pour into an iron, stainless steel, or glass container. It must be one of those three materials, because the lye will burn through other containers.

    You fill the bottom of the barrel with about 3-4 inches of gravel and then layer overtop of it with straw or hay, staggering the way the stalks are laying so it makes a gridwork. This should be fairly thick; think 6-12 inches deep.

    You should have wood ash set aside beforehand; it should be from hard woods preferably, but from what I understand, at the end of the day, even banana peels, beans, bean husks, coconut husks, etc. will work for this purpose so long as they have been burned in a very hot fire and the ashes are fine and white or white-gray. Pile these white ashes on top of the straw until there is only 4 inches of space left at the top of the barrel.

    You can then either leave it out in the rain, perhaps with a very large funnel on it to gather water, or pour pre-gathered buckets of 'soft' water into the ashes. Slowly, the water will trickle through the ashes and filters and come out looking quite nasty on the other end, as lye. If you feel the lye is not strong enough, you can re-pour the lye and let it filter down again.

    Soft water is either rain water or spring water, but again, any water can be used. If you have no access to rain water or spring water, let the water sit in an open bucket in the sun for about 3 days beforehand, which will mostly remove any chemicals in the water that might interfere with the lye making process.

    Remember that lye is caustic and will burn your skin and ruin your clothes if it touches you!! NEVER touch lye directly or breathe directly over it.

    From there you can use lye for a number of things, including soap making for shampoo, hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, and general cleaning soap, and even for unclogging drains. There are a number of places detailing how to measure, use, and dilute lye on the internet, along with a number of recipes for soap making. Keeping some extracts and pleasantly scented flowers or something around your house which you can press for their essential oils will make for a better smelling soap, and if you have it, you can use certain oils from other plants to give the soaps different properties such as moisturising, insect repelling, antiseptic and antibiotic.

    Most soaps are made from lards but they can also be made from oils. Soaps made from oils will be greasier though due to the lower melting point.

    From what I understand, lye can also be used for producing biodiesel fuels.

    Please keep in mind when working with lye that NOTHING that touches lye should EVER, EVER be used to do ANYTHING else. You cannot clean it well enough to ENSURE that it will ever be safe for anything else, so any soap-making tools or equipment, including spoons, temperature gauges, mixers, etc. should be dedicated ONLY to lye and soap making.

    Here are a few good places to get information about soap making:
    Lye Soap and homemade concoctions

    How to Make Natural Soap at Home | eHow.com

    How to Handle Lye While Making Soap | eHow.com

    (This has a slightly different method of making lye. You may prefer it.)
    How to Make Lye - wikiHow

    Further soapmaking information!
    Miller's Homemade Soap Page

    Soap Making from Scratch | SoapCrafters Soap Making Supplies



    If you have anything else you'd like to add, or any OTHER information on how to make personal hygiene or hygiene in general products...please, pop in and let us know! :) Maybe think shaving cream, razors, fungicides (hey, it's nasty, but it happens sometimes, especially in tropical climates!), pesticides, etc. People get lice and fleas and ticks, too, it just happens. Got any special ways of getting rid of them and keeping them gone without going to the store to get anything? Pests spread diseases, so it's best to think about how to keep them away!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 11, 2009
  2. twolilfishies

    twolilfishies wanna be prepared

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    I have actually tried to make lye and it didnt work. Almost the same process was used and I found that after a few tries you need A TON OF ASH!
    Probably two giant barrels FULL to make enough lye to produce one bar of soap.
    You might want to store lye or make soap and store it instead.
    I would like to talk to someone who made it already.. maybe i screwed it up but we were careful to listen to instructions so ...?
     

  3. twolilfishies

    twolilfishies wanna be prepared

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    teatree oil is an antifungal and an antibacterial . You can also use it for mouthwash,toothpaste concoctions,bodywash.... It is a definite keeper!
    I guess in th elong term after all supplies are used it may be useless.. Unless your in Australia and the trees went unharmed:)
     
  4. Seneschal

    Seneschal Crazy snake chick

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    Yes, you do have to use a LOT of ash. It's supposed to be packed very densely in the 50 gallon barrel. I've also seen suggestions of using 50 gallon barrels that have corks in the bottom, corking them and then filling them with water after the ashes, gravel, and straw has been put in, and allowing it to sit for several days before draining into your container. The lye can be further boiled down later to concentrate it if desired, but the fumes would be dangerous. It could be that you used softwood such as pine rather than hard wood such as oak, which from what I've heard does make a difference. However, once you have enough ash, it's supposed to last for a considerable time if you continue to add more ash from your cooking fires/heating fires.


    The teatree oil thing is really cool!! Wonder if there's any way to import a teatree? Probably not due to import laws, but...It is good to know! I've heard of this stick that native Africans chew on, cleverly called a chew stick, which has antibacterial properties, and keeps their mouth and teeth clean almost as well as toothpaste and a brush, but I don't think that the bush or tree that it comes from grows anywhere else.
     
  5. twolilfishies

    twolilfishies wanna be prepared

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    The tv show Jericho I saw a few times really clued me into the importance of salt too. Salt is antibacterial as well and the salt mines after the fallout in the show Jericho were the most valuable part of the land because of all the fabulous uses for salt. One that ties into cleanliness would be that salt kills bacteria and bacteria is what causes BO:)x
     
  6. gamom

    gamom Active Member

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    Along the lines of cleanliness in the long term ... dry brushing and sweating (then scraping off the sweat) are two great ways of keeping clean without using soaps. Just another couple of options for personal body hygiene.
     
  7. mtnscout

    mtnscout Active Member

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    Info on soap making

    The Firefox set of books have a section on how they made soap in the old days in the mountains (I don't have the set handy to tell you what volume) and in one of the Kurt Saxon books on old time crafts there's more of the how-to info.
    If you read either one it's a lot of work.
    Soap is easy to store and doesn't go bad so putting some in a dry box with bleach and whatever other household chemicals you might need is an easy fix.
     
  8. longtime

    longtime Well-Known Member

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    Soap, tolet paper, tooth paste and other "luxuries" are relatively cheap. Stock up on 2-3 years worth then rotate. You can make lye soap after that (which I remember doing in school a few decades ago).