Cleanliness in the camp kitchen is always a challenge. Either you’ve brought your own water in large water jugs, you’re toting your water from a spigot four campsites away, or you’re filtering your water from a nearby stream. No matter which way it is, your water supply is limited and it usually comes in one temperature: Cold!
All this makes proper hand washing difficult. Many folks are not good hand washers to begin with. Not using soap, wiping on a contaminated towel and not washing long enough are typical sins when it comes to hand washing. And people often don’t wash their hands after mundane tasks such as tending the fire, going to the restroom or touching their hair or face.
Washing your hands when you cook, after using the restroom and just in general can keep germs from spreading. Seems simple enough, but many folks don’t do it or do it properly. Here are some hand-washing basics adapted for the camp kitchen.
In my camp kitchen, I have a large kettle that I use to heat water. Before I start cooking, I fill two wash tubs with hot water from the kettle and add just enough cold water to take the sting off. To the first one, I add some good grease-cutting dishwashing soap. I prefer Dawn because it is also easy on the environment. The second tub is clean hot water for rinsing.
How to Wash Your Hands
First, wet your hands in the hot soapy water. Many folks like to apply soap first and then wash it away. Soap needs to be used on wet hands to work.
Second, apply soap. Yes, more soap. You should be able to see suds if you’re doing it right.
Third, rub your hands together. Make sure to scrub between your fingers, under your nails, and up your forearms. Some people teach their kids to sing “happy birthday” twice, which covers the recommended, 20-second lathering and scrubbing time.
Fourth, rinse thoroughly. I rinse in my soapy tub and then do a final rinse in my rinse water tub. If you can rig something so you’re rinsing under running water, bonus!
Last, dry your hands. Don’t use the towel you used to dry dishes, wipe down the picnic table, or carry hot pots. Dry hands on a designated hand towel or use a paper towel. I string a short clothesline inside my cook shelter and I designate one towel just for hand drying.
When to Wash Your Hands
If you’re preparing food, you need to wash your hands properly every time you potentially contaminate them. Your hands are your number one kitchen tool and you need to make sure they are clean at all times. Here are some situations when you definitely need to wash those hands:
After using the restroom (many folks forget).
After touching raw foods like meat, eggs, fish.
After talking on the phone.
After taking a break because you’ve probably touched all kinds of stuff, including your face.
After sneezing, coughing or scratching yourself (even brushing your hair away).
Before and after eating.
And, just for the record, hand sanitizers are no substitution for good old fashioned soap and hot water. If you overuse the sanitizer, bacteria can remain on your hands and won’t be killed. So skip the sanitizer and reach for the soap.
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