Shortages of Soap Caused Serious Medical/Hygiene Problems

My mother says that during WW2 shortages of soap caused serious hygiene problems in England.  Soap was shortages of soap caused problems in WW2rationed and hard to get.  Lack of hygiene can result in skin and other medical problems.  My mother was an infectious disease nurse at the beginning of the war and later served in the British Air Force.  She recommends that we store extra soap and hygiene supplies as well as learn to make our own soap.

Hand soaps – Bar soap keeps better than the new liquids, which can evaporate, if stored in the heat.  Figure out how much hand soap you use in a given period and double the amount.  You will probably be dirtier than normal. Salmonella, campylobacter, MRSA, flu, diarrhoea and sickness, the common cold, impetigo, are some of the viruses and infections passed between people who do not wash their hands.

Dish soap – liquid, or powder.  The soap should be biodegradable because you may have to use the grey water for your garden.  Look for soaps that will work well in cold water.

What do you do when the soap and scouring pads run out?  Scouring pads can be replaced with clean sand.  Rub the inside of your pans with sand and a little water.  This will remove caked on grease and food particles.  It will not remove fats and oil from your dishes.

Fats and oils can be removed by using wood ash.  Obtain pure wood ash.  Do not use ash from a fire in which you or others have burned plastics or garbage.  Scrub the dishes with the wood ash and water.  You can heat the water by adding hot coals.  Be sure the water is boiled, treated, or filtered.  Do not wash or rinse your dishes in contaminated water.

Laundry soap – It should be biodegradable.  Consider putting in a clothesline.  Do you have a washboard and tub?  I think powdered soap will store better than liquids for long term storage.

Sun washing clothes  In an emergency if you have a real water shortage, shake your clothes out and spread them out in the full sun.  The more the clothes are exposed to sun, the better.  Sun washed clothing will feel cleaner and smell better.  The ultraviolet radiation will kill off the bacteria that live in your sweat and dead skin cells.  Do not forget to sun wash your sleeping bags and bedding.


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6 Responses to Shortages of Soap Caused Serious Medical/Hygiene Problems

  1. david says:

    To clean a cast iron pan of stuck-on cooking residue, use salt. Salt does not dissolve in oil so it works as a abrasive and does not harm the conditioning of the cast iron. Use with a paper towel or rag. Coarser salt is better but down to table salt size will work.

  2. GoneWithTheWind says:

    So all of the pre-soap cultures had skin diseases and died young from infections? I would imagine that being without soap would be inconvenient but not as medically serious as stated.

  3. admin says:

    Many of the skin problems and infections won’t kill you just make you miserable. Most indigenous peoples used some form of cleansing. Many of the Native Americans used used various plants for cleaning. Also since they never had soaps they built resistance to infections we have never been exposed to. The situation is very similar to the ability of people in third world countries to drink water that makes us sick.

  4. ke4sky says:

    A sponge bath of water and vinegar is an effective field hygiene expedient. When camping in Italy last year veterans of the Alpini Regt. instructed us in methods which have been used by Italian troops since the Roman era. About 500ml or a pint of vinegar is may be used straight, if water is scarce, but normally is diluted with an equal part of water and heated over the cook fire to a steamy, comfortable washing temperature, before using first to brush your teeth, then to rinse your mess tin and utensils.

    Then, using a clean linen towel, your wash cloth or a triangular bandage from your first aid kit, wipe your mess gear clean before putting it away. Use the remaining warm vinegar-water to moisten the wash cloth to wipe your face and shave, finish by sponging off the feet, armpits and crotch area and change into clean socks and underwear before putting on your clothes which have been warmed, dried and lightly smoked near the cook fire to repel insects.

    Vinegar is a very effective general purpose cleaner, deodorizer and fungicide which relieves heat rash and insect bites. It has many uses all over the house and if you run out of soap is an effective expedient sanitizer.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for your input ke4sky. I use vinegar as a hair/body rinse and deodorant already. I especially appreciate the details in your reply. Many time folks will comment “great for…” but don’t tell you the how part. Think I need to store more vinegar!

  5. ke4sky says:

    In the Italian infantry section, the unit of issue for both coking and washing purposes is 2 liters weekly per man or 20L for a ten man section.

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