A topic greatly neglected by most primitivists, including me. Most outdoors people seems to look upon being dirty as a proof of masculinity. I am now of another opinion. If you were living permanently in the wild, especially along with several other people, it might have gotten rather uncomfortable, not to say hazardous to your health. It is amazing how good it feels to clean up properly in the wilds, I’ll say it is even better than showering at home
The most obvious consideration when it comes to staying clean is washing the body. Washing the genitals and anus should preferably be done every day. Either with a wet piece of cloth or with your hands. Soap isn’t really necessary to become clean. If you wash every day, you will never get so dirty that you need more radical means. That is however an utopia. Most people don’t have the discipline to wash every day. To clean properly up you then need to sweat it out and plunge into either water or snow to remove it before it sets back into the pores. This can either be done by exercise or a sweat lodge. In winter, sweating in your clothes can be dangerous, so the only alternative used should be the sweat lodge.
I have built and used a sweat lodge a couple of times and I love the way you feel after a sweat-bath. Slightly prickly on your skin, but glowing.
When cleaning it is no point in heating any water,except for comfort. You become cleaner with cold water. Most bacteria thrive in normal bath-temperature. Warm water is however more fat-soluble, so there you have another reason to use the sweat lodge. How to build a sweat lodge will be covered in a later article.
When I was saying that bathing is the most obvious task with hygiene in the wilds there is an subject that really deserve that position. However, from experience I can tell you that this is not the case for a great number of people. Washing your hands after going to the “bathroom” is very important to prevent stomach upsets etc…
When it comes to wiping, there is usually an order of preference. I prefer sphagnum moss, with other mosses coming second and grasses and leaves third. In winter, none of these are usually available. As rather uncomfortable substitutes I use pine or spruce branches (with the needles!). To clean up properly afterwards I resort to snow. Sometimes, if there is nothing else around, I will use snow all the way. It is a good thing that the diet offered in the wild usually is full of fibre….
Nails and hair
That the hair gets all fatty is quite annoying. Personally I have never gone without soap long enough for this effect to disappear, but from what I have heard it disappears after a few months. To avoid the hair becoming like a cake of dreadlocks, you should comb it every day. Making a simple comb isn’t all that hard. You just need some pointy sticks tied together. Alternatively the hair can be braided. When the hair needs trimming (I wear mine long), you can either use a flake or a glowing coal. I have tried neither, but I assume that with some training the results can be satisfying. Especially if someone else does it on you. Beard can be cut or burned, but both seem too hazardous for me. I would rather braid mine.
The nails can be cut in one end and carefully ripped off. I have tried this and the results are a little too unpredictable for me, but it may be all due to lack of skill. Alternatively they can be abraded down on a stone. A slow task I’d assume, but if done every day it may not be so bad.
Tooth rot that goes too far can actually be lethal. Because of that, preventing this problem is essential to long term survival. As long as you eat wild food only, it will probably not be much of a problem, but to be on the safe side I would suggest to brush your teeth with a chewed twig or a finger with wood ash on. Especially if you have eaten lots of carbohydrates. Pitch is sometimes recommended is pine/spruce pitch, but keep in mind that the taste will linger on for the rest of the day and ruin the experience of that fine venison you have for dinner…. Fine fibres, and sinew in particular, are suitable for flossing the teeth.