Young man sitting on sand by tent, holding cup, looking away, smiling
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Everyone likes to feel clean, but sometimes lathering up with a bar of soap just isn't an option. This can happen if you've run out of soap at home, or if you're camping and miles from the nearest shower. Thankfully, you don't need to make an emergency run to the store to buy a bar of soap. Just a pinch of baking soda has the power to ward off odors and get you clean.

Fill a bathtub with warm water. If you're camping outdoors and don't have a bathtub, fill an bucket or bowl with water instead. Any similar nonporous object that can hold water will also work.

Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water. Baking soda deodorizes and cleans without soap. It's a mild abrasive that gently lifts dirt and dissolves odor-causing grease. It neutralizes smells instead of simply covering them up with artificial fragrance. For example, baking-soda water also works as an odor-eliminating mouth gargle if you don't have mouthwash or toothpaste.

Collect some of the water in a cup. If you're not in a shower or bathtub and have no access to running water, you can use bottled water instead. Running bodies of water, such as creeks and streams, will work in a pinch. Don't use standing water, such as water from a pond or puddle; it may harbor bacteria. Pour the water over your entire body to wet it thoroughly. Wet your hair now if you'd like or wait until you're ready to wash it.

Wipe your skin down with a wet washcloth. If you don't have a washcloth on hand, any clean cloth will do. For example, a T-shirt also works. Rinse with another cup of clean water.

Dispose of the dirty water down the drain if you're in the shower. If you're using a bucket or some other container, pour the water out on the ground. Fill the tub or bucket with clean, warm water and 1 teaspoon of baking soda.

Pour a cup of the baking-soda water water over your hair if you haven't wet it already. Use your fingers to comb the baking-soda water through your hair. Massage your scalp to work the baking soda into your skin. Rinse with clean water, then comb your hair to remove any knots. Pat yourself dry with a towel.

Scrub the underside of your fingernails with a nailbrush, if you have one handy, to clean out dirt and debris.

Apply unscented deodorant to your underarms -- if you're outdoors, the fragrance of scented deodorants can attract insects and animals. For example, flies and bees may find sweet-scented cosmetics attractive because they smell like a potential food source. If you don't have deodorant, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and apply it to your underarms.


Rubbing alcohol also works as a quick sanitizer when you don't have time for a bath.

If you have shampoo handy, use it to wash your hair instead of baking soda. For camping, take travel-size shampoos with you to lessen the weight of your pack.


Never bathe in standing water outdoors. It may contain bacteria that can make you even dirtier or cause you to get sick.