How to Clean Your Face Using a Stream


If you are on a survival camping trip or an overnight trail hike, you may have cause to wash your face using a stream. While this is not the ideal situation for many or even most, there are ways to do so to both protect the health of the stream and its inhabitants and also care for your delicate facial skin. The most important thing to remember is to use a biodegradable cleansing product.

Things You'll Need

  • Biodegradable cleanser
  • Cotton cloth
  • 5' piece of clothesline
  • Pot, camp stove and matches (optional)
  • Water-free hand sanitizer


Find a section of the stream that is flowing fairly quickly, not sitting stagnant. (Standing water can be a breeding ground for both insects and bacteria.) Look to see if the water is relatively clear. If it is brown or cloudy, you will have to boil the water before using it.

Kneel down on the bank of the stream and cup both of your hands underneath the water. Pull your hands out and splash the water on your face to get it wet. Pour a half teaspoon of your biodegradable cleanser, such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, into one hand. Then rub your hands together to form a lather.

Apply the lather to your face in a circular motion, being careful to avoid your mouth and eyes. Then rinse your hands in the stream, cup them underneath the water again and splash more water on your face to remove the cleanser.

Wipe your face and hands with your cloth and hang it over a clothesline tied between two trees so it can dry. Apply hand sanitizer to both hands, making sure to get both the front and the back.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't use more cleanser than you need. Even biodegradable products can clog the water if you use too much of them at one time. Always reapply your sunscreen after you wash your face, even if your sunscreen claims to be waterproof. Same goes for insect repellent. Check the plants near the area where you go to wash your face. You don't want to kneel down near position ivy, poison oak or poison sumac.
  • If there is any question as to whether the water is safe to use for washing, boil it first over a fire or camp stove. Never apply hand sanitizer to your face. It can severely dry out your skin and even cause an allergic reaction. Keep waste, both solid and liquid, at least 15 feet away from the stream or you could pollute the water.

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