How to Wash Hands When Camping

December 3, 2023

Camping Germ Safety

It is common knowledge that washing your hands with soap and water removes most germs. While most of us are on top of keeping our hands clean, this becomes more difficult when you have limited access to clean water, like when you go camping. Luckily, by thinking ahead, you can ensure you have a means to wash your hands to help you stay healthy.

How to Wash Your Hands When Camping

Between dirt, preparing food and touching other surfaces such as playground equipment, you likely handle a lot during your camping trip, making it essential to have a means to keep clean. Some ways you can keep your hands clean even if hot water and soap are not easily accessible are:

  1. Plan ahead: As you pack for your camping trip, pack bottled water, soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer or towelettes so you have what you need to wash your hands if clean water is not readily available. Your first choice for cleaning your hands should be the soap and bottled water, especially if you need to clean your hands before or after handling food.
  2. Pack alcohol-based sanitizers: CDC guidance suggests using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. To properly apply hand sanitizer, put the gel in the palm of one hand, rub your hands together and make sure the gel covers the entirety of your hands and fingers until they are dry. Make sure you do not wipe or rinse off the hand sanitizer before it completely dries.
  3. Know the limits of sanitizers: Hand sanitizers are less effective when your hands are greasy or dirty. Make sure you wipe off your hands before applying the sanitizer.
  4. Use CDC and FDA-approved options: When choosing which sanitizer to pack for your camping trip, stick to commercially produced or FDA-approved options. Do not try to make your own sanitizer, as it can be ineffective or unsafe.

Hands washing with soap foam on background of water flowing from faucet.

How to Wash Your Hands Correctly

While washing your hands seems simple, there are some specific steps to follow to properly remove germs and other dirt:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, warm water. To save water, turn it off as you rub the soap between your hands.
  2. Rub your hands together with the soap to create a rich lather. Make sure you get soap on the backs of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers.
  3. Keep rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds to ensure you get as much soap as possible.
  4. Run your hands under clean water until there is no soap remaining.
  5. Thoroughly dry your hands with a clean towel.

3 Ways to Stay Clean While Camping

While washing your hands when camping is a significant part of maintaining hygiene, there are some other tips to keep in mind to ensure you stay clean while camping.

1. Save Clean, Dry Clothing for the Halfway Point

If you are planning a multiple-day camping trip, you should not plan to wear all of your clean clothing within the first couple of days. Wear one outfit a few days in a row, and then wear your second pair of clothing for the second half of your trip. Saving your second outfit for later in the camping trip provides you with backup clothing in case your first pair becomes damp or dirty.

2. Have a Specific Pair of Clothes for Sleeping

Instead of wearing the same clothing you have worn all day to bed, set aside an outfit as your sleeping clothes. Wearing the same clothing you have worn all day can cause pollen and smoke to cling to the fibers. Your clothing can also become damp throughout the day, making it uncomfortable to sleep in.

3. Wash Your Dishes

Even when camping, it is vital to wash your dishes to prevent bacteria and mold from growing. To keep your dishes clean while camping:

  1. Pour water into a large pot or dish bin.
  2. Squeeze a small amount of dish soap into the water. If possible, try to bring a biodegradable option.
  3. Take a piece of steel wool and remove any food remaining on your dishes.
  4. Once you clean the dishes, put them on a towel or rocks to dry.
  5. Take your pan or soapy water bin and walk at least 200 feet from your campsite. Dig a hole to pour the dishwater into.
  6. Put dirt into the hole to minimize the risk of animals smelling the dishwater and coming to look for food.

Enjoy Access to Clean Bathrooms When You Stay at Kampgrounds of America

You will find clean bathrooms waiting for you regardless of which KOA Campground you choose. If you need to wash your hands before cooking dinner or want to clean off some dirt, each campground location offers restroom facilities so you can reduce the spread of germs to ensure your camping experience is clean and safe for everyone.

In addition to clean bathrooms, many locations offer various ways to stay, such as RV Sites and Camping Cabins. You will also find exciting amenities like pools and playgrounds. Book a campsite at a KOA near you today!

About the Author: Kampgrounds of America

Kampgrounds of America is the largest system of open-to-the-public campgrounds in the world, with over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. Founded in Billings, MT in 1962, KOA’s family of campground brands – KOA Journey, KOA Holiday and KOA Resort – today serve more than a million camping families each year. KOA is dedicated to “connecting people to the outdoors and each other” by providing people with a variety of camping experiences and the information they need to make the most of their camping trip. Read more of their camping and travel resources by visiting

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