Close banner

Support Outside Online

Love Outside?

Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today.

Contribute to Outside
GearTools & Tech
Gear Guy

How do I clean my hands in the wilderness?

What's the best way to clean my hands in the wilderness prior to handling contact lenses? My waterless hand sanitizer warns against eye contact and I don't want to use stream water.


Wow - that's a tough one, as my first response would have been "use a waterless hand sanitizer!" Any chance you're willing to wear eyeglasses while out in the woods? That would certainly make life easier, in some ways.

Still, there are solutions to this problem. For one thing, I don't think plain old stream water poses a particular threat. I wouldn't rinse my hands off in a stagnant pond then stick them in my eye, but clean stream water should be OK. In North America, at least, there aren't any worms or parasites that are known to enter the body through the human eye, burrow into the brain, and make your head explode... I don't think.

There are alternatives, though. For instance, carry a small bottle with a half-pint or so of chlorine bleach. Whenever you need to work on your contacts, decant a few tablespoons into a quart of clean stream water. Let it sit for ten minutes or so, and use that to rinse your hands, perhaps after first washing them with your hand sanitizer. Dry with a clean, light towel you keep separate just for this procedure, and go to work. That should give you a pretty sterile cleansing bath, and ensure that your contacts don't trap any baddies in there.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside