Friday, June 10, 2016

The Many Uses of a Washcloth

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I don't mean this in a breathless "lifehack" sort of way; I mean it more in terms of "a washcloth has a place in your bugout bag, and here's why."

Washing Your Body
Let's start with the obvious: washcloths are perfect for wiping the sweat, dust, and other bits of grunge off your body. Yes, I suppose you could use a shemagh or other bit of cloth for this, but:
  1. If you use your shemagh for this, you now have a wet 4'x4' piece to cotton. A wet washcloth takes up much less space, so it dries faster. 
  2. Also, you might not want your shemagh to be wet, or you might want to use it for other things. 
  3. Washcloths have a better texture for cleaning than a shemagh or a t-shirt. 
Washing (ahem) "Other Things"
Let's say you didn't properly wipe yourself after performing the squat & drop, and now sweat has run down your back and between your buttocks. You desperately need to clean up, but regular toilet paper won't do and you really don't want to put your shemagh back over your face after wiping down there. Or perhaps you're a lady, and you have to keep your pubic area clean, and the thought of using a dirty piece of clothing to rinse just makes you shudder. In all of these cases, you will be glad for a dedicated washing cloth.

Protip: Use a dark-colored washcloth for this. Trust me. It will make you feel better about yourself and prevent other people from being grossed out when you put it out to dry.

Protip: If you're easily grossed out, pack two washcloths. Use the light one for regular washing (face, hands, etc) and the dark one for nether bits to prevent confusion.
Some of you may be asking "Why do we need two, if I use only one on the shower?" and the answer to that is "When you're in the shower, you have access to soap and hot running water. When you're bugging out, you'll be lucky to have a splash of water to moisten the cloth. Trust me, getting cloths clean in the field is a lot harder than in the home.
Replacing Facial Tissue
I have chronic allergies, and so I'm constantly sneezing and blowing my nose. If I use disposable tissues while camping, I usually run out of them quickly and then start using the toilet paper. But if I have a washcloth for a handkerchief, it lasts a lot longer and is cleanable -- and don't underestimate the relief that a wet cloth has on a raw, red nose!

Sometimes a pack strap just won't sit comfortably, or you keep bumping a bruised or otherwise sensitive area. A dry washcloth secured with tape or velcro straps can serve to cushion and protect that area. 

Water Catchment
Since washcloths are meant to absorb water, they are great for absorbing moisture -- such as when you are constructing a solar still, or trying to catch the morning dew.

First Aid
This is where the washcloth really shines.
  1. If someone is overcome with heat injuries or a severe headache, a wet compress can bring relief. 
  2. If you need to wipe away dirt and blood before you can address the wound, it makes more sense to use a washcloth than use up alcohol swaps. Clean first, then disinfect.
  3. If you have a child who panics at the sight of blood, a red or otherwise dark washcloth applied to the wound will make it less traumatic. 
  4. If you or someone in your group knows how to make poultices to help with rashes, swelling etc, then you won't care if your first-aid washcloth gets stained. Protip: this is a good use for thin washcloths, either those who have gotten a bit threadbare from use or are just cheap to begin with (like the kind hotels use). 
If you plan to use a washcloth for first aid, make sure it's as clean as you can get it. Wash it with bleach, and then store it in a watertight container (like a ziploc bag) after it dries. It won't be sterile the way bandages are, but it will certainly be cleaner than if it was just loose inside a first-aid kit. 

Washcloths are small, light, and multi-purpose. Pack a few in your bugout bags and you'll find out just how versatile they are. 

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