Outdoor Washing Guide | How to Wash Outdoors with Zero to Minimal Impact

How to Lather Outdoors Responsibly & Properly

Enjoying the outdoors responsibly and having zero to minimal impact is vital to our natural areas, trails, waterways, and wildlife. 

Washing in, nearby or allowing run off into any waterway is extremely harmful. Below are just a few reasons why:

  • Detergent in soaps nets less oxygen in water, resulting in harm to fish and other aquatic life.

  • Surfactants in soaps are toxic to the life in our waters, tiny invertebrates in particular. 

  • Even biodegradable, all-natural, non-chemical soaps act as a food source for algae by increasing nitrogen levels tremendously and triggering algal growth aka algae blooms. Don’t Feed the Algae, please!  

Lather Up Yourself, Camp Dishes or Laundry Outdoors - Responsibly and Safely.  

Always use outdoor safe soaps and shampoo. Never lather yourself, dishes or laundry in lakes, rivers, streams, oceans or cenotes (remember, this applies to Natural and Biodegradable soap too). Instead, carry water at least 200 feet away to do so. Dispose of soapy dishwater by first straining (pack out strained contents along with other trash) and then broadly scattering the dishwater far away from camp. 

Even better (and especially if bears are a concern), dispose of soapy dishwater in a hole dug 6 to 9 inches deep. This will help to mask the smell of food particles and the soil acts as a filter, allowing bacteria in the soil to safely and completely biodegrade the soap. The same can be done with soapy laundry water.

Plan to Swim?

Keep in mind sunscreens, lotions, insect repellents and even the body oils your body produces naturally can contaminate these vital waterways.  

Also avoid antiperspirants, dry shampoos, perfume, cologne, and makeup if you plan to swim. Each of these can be toxic to aquatic wildlife. It is best to rinse off first before swimming (at least 200 feet away from waterway of course).   

Always Follow the Leave No Trace 7 Principles

When outdoors, always follow the LEAVE NO TRACE 7 PRINCIPLES found at https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/ 

We all want to do our part in the preservation of the environment for our children and their future generations to enjoy.  

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