Removing odor from hands in the backcountry

11:13 p.m. on June 21, 2012 (EDT)
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When we prepare meals other than simple "heat water / boil / stir" foods in the backcountry, we're liable to get food odor on our hands.  For example it's pretty tough to deal with a tuna packet without getting at least a little on your hands.  Same for packet chicken, salmon, or whatever.  And I suppose it's even "worse" for those who catch fish and clean them.

My concern has always been that I don't want to bring food smells into my tent... or spread them to my pack or other gear when handling them.

So what have you found to be most effective (and practical given the location, limited water, not wanting to pollute water supplies, etc.) way to remove all odors from your hands in this situation?

2:00 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I just use castile soap,  bio suds or the like. I also would like to believe the process of washing dishes afterwards, plus disinfecting cooking and eating utensils in hypo chlorinated water removes enough food smells that my human smells are the overwhelming scent emanating from my person.

Ed

9:42 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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A bit of lemon does wonders for removing stubborn seafood aromas from your hands.  While working a miserable job in a restaurant in college, one of my fellow deep fryer operators let me in on that trick. I don't worry about it much in the east, but I never bring seafood into the backcountry in Grizzly habitat.  For anything less persistent that seafood, I'm with Ed on the castile soap.

10:27 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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That's interesting - I've read about castile soap being used for washing laundry in the backcountry too - mostly to remove odors.  Is the castile soap itself odor-free?  Can it be used for washing dishes/utensils too so it can be dual-purpose & I can do away with my Campsuds?

10:36 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I carry hand sanitizer as an emergency fire starter, but I suppose there's no reason you couldn't use it to clean your hands too.

:-)

I'm guessing that should get rid of most odours.

10:38 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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More important than removing odors from your hands is the sanitation question. The liquid hand sanitizers work very well for both, in my experience. The primary ingredient, alcohol, dissolves fish oil, as well as killing bacteria and viruses. I have also used it to get stains out of clothing. And it satisfies your requirement of not using water. The hand wipes that contain alcohol work well, too, though have to carry the used ones out with you.

My understanding is that CampSuds is basically Castile soap. At least this is what several people have told me - no guarantee that this is true, though.

11:04 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Last summer I started carrying hand sanitizer on my trips, and routinely use it after visiting the "latrine" and before preparing food.  I read (elsewhere) recently that it's not necessarily effective if one's hands are dirty - if this is true it'd mean washing with water & some kind of soap first, then using the sanitizer. Hmmm...

11:14 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I use GoldBond hand sanitizer for all-around hand cleaning when backpacking, especially after pulling turtlehead patrol.  Thing is, the container says "alcohol free" and yet one of the ingredients is behenyl alcohol and another is cetyl alcohol and another is benzyl alcohol.  The chemist in me (with a 47 IQ) is flumoxed. 

11:50 a.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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are you  guys using a liquid version of Castile, or carrying a bar around? If the bar, how do you contain it in a way that isn't messy or a hassle?

12:01 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Good question ... I definitely don't want to deal with bar soap on the trail.  I don't even use that at home anymore since a nurse friend advised me that the soap dish was "basically a petri dish for germs."  Add the messy/hassle factor on the trail and ... no thanks :).

3:01 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I did some searching about Castile soap. True Castile soap is made with olive oil, plus, of course, lye. So basically it is just basic soap, using only the fat (olive oil in this case) and sodium hydroxide. Many soaps use animal fats. The lye could come from wood ash, if you want to be fully natural.

CampSuds (made by Sierra Dawn Products) is very secretive about their exact ingredients, other than saying "Made from natural vegetable-derived ingredients with natural essential oil fragrance." Hmmm, well, "vegetable-derived" could mean olive oil, or corn oil, or palm oil, or soy-bean oil, or canola, or any of a number of other oils. When I was growing up in the Sonora Desert, the locals often used yucca root.

3:31 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Given my concerns, key for me would be finding one that doesn't have any added fragrances.  It looks like Dr. Bronners may be just the ticket.  Or Campsuds :).

You all will probably this this is goofy, but I've sometimes "washed" my hands with dirt, because I've noticed that seems to get rid of (or mask??) food or other odors.  Ideally, near a stream where I can rinse off the dirt :).

Well I guess this is no worse than those who say they use rocks in place of TP, a practice which I don't quite understand :).

Though, on the topic of sanitation, I've been giving this a lot of thought:

http://tzrecked.blogspot.com/p/wilderness-bidet-tidy-poop-system.html

so I wouldn't have to carry that nasty bag of used TP in my pack (I no longer bury TP in the Sierra).  The required Platypus squirt bottle only weighs 1 oz :) though I guess ideally you'd need to carry it full for those time when it's needed when there's no ready water supply handy.

4:35 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Tomato sauce will remove smells like skunk spray, and food smells from your hands. Catsup like in those little single serve packages one gets with grocery deli orders is easy to carry. Just rub it into your hands and rinse in cold water. The smell left after cutting onions leaves a smell that gets worse with every passing day under the fingernails, the tomato sauce will remove it quickly.

5:13 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Gary - I forgot you've worked in so many kitchens.  That onion odor is the worst!

I use liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronners). A Bill points out, it's just a soap, but usually with a veggie oil rather than lard or tallow. I'm not a big fan of solid soaps anymore - I agree with bheiser1 that they can accumulate bacteria. Sometimes I'll carve off a few small hunks of a bar of solid castile soap to take camping with me, cut small enough so that they disappear after one use.

6:00 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

That's interesting - I've read about castile soap being used for washing laundry in the backcountry too - mostly to remove odors.  Is the castile soap itself odor-free?  Can it be used for washing dishes/utensils too so it can be dual-purpose & I can do away with my Campsuds?

And Gonzan asked:

are you  guys using a liquid version of Castile, or carrying a bar around?

The brand of castile soap I buy is a liquid and has a pepermeint scent.  Hasn't caused me a problem over the decades I have used it, including scores of trips into bear country. 

It doesn't sanitize, but if you read the label it claims it can do almost everything - even sufice as tooth paste - except eradicate world hunger.  I still take along toothpaste, but otherwise I use castile soap for all KP and hygiene chores on the trail.  Not as good as Tide for washing clothes, but a lot more friendly on the environment.

Seth said:

..That onion odor is the worst!..

No the worst restaurant smell is the funk under your nails after performing a deep clean or unblocking a floor drain.

Ed

6:10 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Bill S said:

More important than removing odors from your hands is the sanitation question. The liquid hand sanitizers work very well for both....

Hand sanitizer will definitely sanitize, but it is worth noting studies conducted by both the National Restaurant Association and Cornell University Culinary Institute cite proper hand washing with soap and water is an effective hygiene regimen for food handlers, at least as effective as sterile gloves used under typical practices.

Ed

8:59 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I like to carry baby wipes. I look for the ones that contain witch hazel, it sanitizes but is a little more gentle if you have cuts or abrasions. They work great on bug bite or any of the poison plants as well. One wisely used baby wipe can replace a much larger amount of tp.

8:15 a.m. on June 23, 2012 (EDT)
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I carry castile soap & hand sanitizer.

I use castile soap for all my washing / cleaning / hygiene needs. I use it to keep my face, hands, and body clean, wash clothes & bandannas, brush my teeth, or wash cookware. I have used several brands including Camp Suds & Dr. Bronners.

I'm pretty sure that Dr. Bronners contains a small amount of denatured alcohol. It is denatured by adding peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus, or whichever scent you pick - which is why they no longer make an unscented soap. Camp Suds seems to have less scent than the Dr Bronners but it isn't as invigorating, nor is it pleasant to brush teeth with (the Bronners is tolerable).

I think studies have shown that basic hand washing with soap for 20 - 30 seconds is about as effective in removing germs as using hand sanitizer. However for me that can be easier said than done sometimes out on the trail with regards to having ample water to spare & cleaning under my fingernails, etc.

This is why I also carry hand sanitizer, it is a fairly quick & easy way to make sure your hands are germ free. Hand sanitizer alone (sans water) does a poor job of getting my hands clean when they are real grimy, it may kill germs but without rinsing I feel like I'm just smearing grime around or wiping it onto my clothes in an effort to get my hands clean.

I often use sanitizer just before cooking, or before & after heeding the call of nature, this is usually done after a basic washing up with castile soap. I also use sanitizer for fire starter.

Mike G.

11:59 a.m. on June 23, 2012 (EDT)
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The CDC advises that hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty. This is disturbing as its not always possible/practical to keep hands clean in the backcountry...

www.cdc.gov/handwashing

3:21 p.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

... I've sometimes "washed" my hands with dirt, because I've noticed that seems to get rid of (or mask??) food or other odors.  Ideally, near a stream where I can rinse off the dirt :).

I've done that, too, especially with things like apples that leave a lot of moisture on your hands.

And wet sand works great for scouring out a cooking pot!

3:27 p.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I use a titanium pot so I'd be concerned with scratching it.  I use a piece of a kitchen sponge, the kind with the scrub surface on the back.  But I need to find that thread where I was warned that damp sponge could become a petri dish for germs ... probably best to find an alternative.

3:54 p.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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If you carry some bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) you can use it as an excellent toothpaste - so you have clean breath; as an antacid - when you are ulcerating because of the grizzly outside your tent; and it should also work with water for stripping any odor from your hands - it is a base and really strips well.

An inexpensive remedy.

10:43 p.m. on June 26, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

..I was warned that damp sponge could become a petri dish for germs ...

This is true.  Sanitize your sponge after use the same way you sanitize other hygienic surfaces, such eating utensils and pots.

Ed

1:07 a.m. on June 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Typically I use a drop or two of Campsuds or equivalent, scrub the utensils and pots, and rinse them with filtered water.  I keep the sponge in the bear canister along with food stuff.  I think the concern raised previously was that this leaves the damp sponge to potentially become unsafe while stored in the canister.

6:42 a.m. on June 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I can understand concern about a strong food odor on the hands perhaps attracting bears; however, worrying about the sponge and microbes brings up a different point. "You've gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die."

Americans are so obsessed with antibacterial products that children now are developing little resistance to certain common microbes that previous generations had no problem with. And the antibacterials often contain chemicals that are toxic to other lifeforms. These chemicals are building up in the environment:

Halden notes the impact these persistent chemicals can have on other life forms in the environment that are not their intended target. The thresholds for killing microbes are much higher than those for other, more fragile life forms, like algae, crustaceans and fish.

“This explains why residual concentrations of antimicrobials found in aquatic environments are still sufficiently harmful to wipe out the small and sensitive crustaceans, which are critical to the aquatic life cycle and food web,” Halden says.

For certain, chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban have their place in public health, particularly in clinical settings, among people who are trained in their proper use. However, in 2005, the FDA put together an expert panel to review all the available information on these chemicals. Halden was among the voting members of this committee, which concluded that regular use of antimicrobial products by the general public was no more effective than traditional methods of proper hygiene – simply washing thoroughly with regular soap and water.

from https://asunews.asu.edu/20101112_antimicrobialresearch

12:31 p.m. on June 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Overmywaders, I'd agree with that.  I'm not thinking about going over the top with this.  I avoid using "anti-bacterial" soaps at home for the reason you described.  However I'd strongly prefer to avoid doing something (like using a sponge that grew germs while sealed in a hot bear canister all day) that will make me sick.

It occurs to me that topics like this are really basic stuff.  But what I've noticed is that although I learned a lot of this basic stuff decades ago, philosophies, practices, and technologies have changed, and I've had long gaps away from this arena.  So it pays to catch up with the latest best practices.   Hence my bringing up these basic topics :).

8:03 p.m. on June 27, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1,

I think it is a good topic.

BTW, if you want to kill any bacteria in the sponge, you already have a mechanism to do so --- urine. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC297400/

Nature usually provides us with answers, we don't always need "Better living through chemistry." :)

OTOH, not all your hiking buddies will appreciate you washing a pot after you sterilized the sponge. Go figure.



7:30 a.m. on June 28, 2012 (EDT)
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bheiser1 said:

Typically I use a drop or two of Campsuds or equivalent, scrub the utensils and pots, and rinse them with filtered water.  I keep the sponge in the bear canister along with food stuff.  I think the concern raised previously was that this leaves the damp sponge to potentially become unsafe while stored in the canister.

Using your method bacterria can become an issue, since camp subs does not sanitize.  But if the sponge is sterilized, bacteria will be slow to attain enough numbers to present a hygine issue, even if the sponge is damp.  Certainly slow enough to get you from one meal to the next without issue.  For that purpose, a final rinse solution containing good old bleach does wonders.

Ed

10:49 a.m. on June 28, 2012 (EDT)
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I have heard about the bleach technique (though not the urine one, lol). I've been reluctant to use bleach in the backcountry out of concern for plant life. I hate to even say "a few drops won't hurt" as that's what those who use soap in fresh water supplies say, and we know how that goes...

Plus I don't want it on my hands out of concern that I'd end up with bleached hand prints on my clothes, tent, pack, etc. :)

11:53 a.m. on June 28, 2012 (EDT)
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bh,

You are probably already carrying Potassium Permanganate for disinfecting water, cleaning wounds, and starting fires; why don't you use it for your sponge and hands as well? A very dilute concentration, of course.

12:19 p.m. on June 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Hmmm, no, this is the first time I've heard of Potassium Permanganate.  I'll check this out, thanks!

3:32 p.m. on June 29, 2012 (EDT)
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bourban works well and its finger-licking-good

7:19 p.m. on June 29, 2012 (EDT)
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latex gloves

6:50 p.m. on July 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, so I ended up deciding on some Unscented Baby Mild Dr. Bronners Castile soap.  I haven't been able to test it in the field yet, but I tried it at home and it seemed like it rinsed off more easily (compared to Campsuds brand).  I'll use it for hand washing.  I'm hoping it will also be effective for washing my cook pot and effectively removing oily food residue...  I've heard of people using a bit of it in a bag to launder their clothes while on extended trips too.

I did notice a residual soapy smell after washing my hands with it.  I'll try not to think about this while out with the bears...

7:09 p.m. on July 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Latex gloves and hand sanitizer and wipes

3:58 a.m. on July 29, 2012 (EDT)
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overmywaders said:

..if you want to kill any bacteria in the sponge, you already have a mechanism to do so --- urine...

True, but urine quickly degrades out side the body, and becomes a nutrient for bacteria, so unless you are using the sponge proximal to a urine soaking, it probably isn't as effective as a non nutritive sanitizer.

Ed

4:18 p.m. on July 30, 2012 (EDT)
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I am drawn to water.. Whether I am camping or hiking, I will be near water - usually fish-bearing. I just wash up in creeks/rivers/lakes, etc. Hand sanitizer works fine too... but when it is +30 degrees out (C) I have no problem cooling down by wading in the water or going for a swim.

Also, as much as I love carrying easy snacks such as tuna w/crackers I try to avoid it when I hit the backcountry.. that stuff will drive the wildlife crazy.

2:42 a.m. on August 4, 2012 (EDT)
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You could try rubbing your hands with local fragrant herbs such as lemon balm, lavender or mint.  Mind you, make sure that you don't grab nettles, poison ivy or some such similar!

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