sink starting position, soap in clean hand

How to Wash Your Hands Without a Sink

In light of the recent coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted to pass along a super useful trick I learned at survival school (BOSS) that has helped me a ton during my travels and my endurance events.  That is:  how to wash your hands without a sink.  For this demonstration, I’m going to be using a sink to catch the water. But, you’ll see why the sink isn’t necessary for this process. 

The only things you need are soap and a bottle of water.  However, while any soap could theoretically work, I highly recommend a small bottle of concentrated liquid soap like Dr. Bronner’s.  My preference is mainly because it’s easier to operate one-handed and you avoid dropping a bar somewhere.

The biggest thing to keep in mind with this process is to really try and only have one hand be soiled or “contaminated.”  This means opening doors, touching surfaces, and wiping yourself should all be done with one hand.  I prefer to use my dominant hand (left) for all the main activities because it has more dexterity. But, your mileage may vary.

Firstly, don’t touch anything with your dirty hand.  Leave the dirty hand out of this equation.  That means that you should hopefully prep your soap and bottle of water to be accessible before you get your hand dirty.

Next, grab your soap and open the lid.  Apply a few drops of soap as necessary.  A 2 oz. bottle of Dr. Bronner’s will last you a long time.  Use 3-4 drops of soap for both hands. 

sink starting position, soap in clean hand
Start here
open your soap container with one hand
Open your soap with one hand
apply soap
Apply your soap

Close your soap with your clean hand after application, then grab your water bottle.

To open the water bottle, stick it in-between your legs to hold the body. Then, use your clean hand to open the top.

open your bottle of water with your legs and don't use your dirty hand

After that, pour a mouth full of water from the bottle into your mouth.  Hold it there.  Your mouth is going to be your faucet.

put water in your mouth
(I almost choked during the filming of this scene…)

Reseal your water bottle and put it down.

Now for the important washing-your-hands part. Rub the soap all over your hands, and then start slowly trickling the water out of your mouth over your hands.  If you really got a good mouthful and don’t spit the water out, this should last you a good 15-20 seconds while you wash.  Incidentally, this is also how long the WHO and CDC recommend washing your hands to avoid carrying around viruses like COVID-19.

Trickle water out of your mouth and over your hands while you rub your hands together
Trickle the water out of your mouth while you wash your hands
close up of water trickling over hands
A close up and what I’m doing here. The key is to not spit the water out too fast

Once the water in your mouth runs out, you should be left with clean, although wet, hands.

On the other hand (pun intended), some of you are going to ask, didn’t I just put my mouth bacteria all over my hands?  Isn’t that unsanitary?  Well… kind of.  This method isn’t meant to be used when you have access to proper facilities.  However, this method is meant to used when you don’t have the ability to keep yourself properly clean.  If you lick your teeth and swallow your spit right before you take water into your mouth, you will reduce the amount of mouth bacteria in the water you use to rinse your hands.  But mainly, by using this method, you are avoiding carrying around even MORE contaminants from the surfaces that you may be touching. These could be outhouses, your butt, or literal dirt.  I’d rather have clean hands with a little spit on them than any of that stuff.

I can’t tell you how many times knowing how to wash your hands without a sink has come in handy when traveling in remote places and especially during endurance/camping events where there aren’t facilities available but you need to go to the bathroom.

It should be noted though, if for some reason you think you may be sick already, this will clean your hands of external contaminants, but then leave you openly contaminated for everyone else.  Hand sanitizer after doing this hand washing procedure should clear that right up.

Stay safe out there everyone.  And stay clean.  Clean hands are the primary way to avoid getting sick in the first place.

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