tips for using soap responsibly
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Paul Kane
(phoeniciansailor) - F
tips for using soap responsibly on 08/22/2009 21:07:19 MDT Print View

i really don't like contaminating an area with chemicals or scents, but there are times when water alone doesn't get me or my clothes clean. would like to hear what your approach is to this situation, and how you keep your impact as low as possible.

to wash socks (or other clothes) i pack a litre or two of untreated water out away from camp and the water source, wet my clothes, add a few drops of soap, scrub, then rinse, possibly twice if i have enough water. i use camp suds or dr. bronners, which -- for soaps -- seem as close to zero-impact as possible.

when washing myself, it's mostly just a swim, or a cloth soaked in hot water, but when soap becomes necessary, it's much the same situation as when washing clothes. i might heat the water up ahead of time, if i'm cleaning with treated water.

does anyone use soap in camp, or at the water source? when washing your face and hands, do you use untreated water?

any clever techniques or tips appreciated!

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
tips for using soap responsibly on 08/23/2009 00:14:41 MDT Print View

"Biodegradable" soap still can kill aquatic life. It may break down a little faster than standard soap, but most of this is marketing hype, IMHO. Use any soap at least 200 feet from any water source, including formerly boggy areas that have dried up (those are water sources part of the year). Spread the soapy water (with as little soap as possible, please) around so it doesn't all go in one place. Use as little soap as possible.

Your body should be rinsed off well (again, 200 ft. from the water source) before getting into the lake (i.e, swimming)--such things as sunscreen and insect repellent can be dangerous to aquatic life. For example, salamanders in the Cascades have become endangered as a result of exposure to what we slather on our bodies and rinses off in the lakes we swim in. A good rinse (200 ft. away, of course) before entering the lake will ameliorate the problem.

I prefer not to use soap at all for these reasons. I take a 2-gallon plastic bag and use it as a "washing machine" with plain water for my socks and underpants, using the above guidelines for dumping the waste water and going back to the stream for enough water for 2-3 rinses. I bought some "no-rinse" soap for sponging myself off, but I haven't used it yet. I'll take it on my next trip, but if I don't use it I'll forget about it for future trips. I prefer to use an alcohol wipe in the tent at night to wipe off the "strategic" areas, such as in skin folds. It might be more appropriate to leave the no-rinse soap in the car at the trailhead so I can clean up before heading for "civilization."

Most of us are too conditioned by our current "daily bath" culture. Out in the wilderness, the environment suffers for it. I'm old enough to remember weekly baths--everyone got along just fine with that regime.

Edited by hikinggranny on 08/23/2009 00:17:33 MDT.