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Your Guide To Hygiene At Sea (Seafarer’s Life)


Cleanliness is, as they say, next to godliness. Personal hygiene in any work place is important, but at hygiene at sea – well, it is critical. We look at the ways to stay shiny and happy, and of the ways in which you can become more popular and stay healthy too.


Hopefully you don’t need us to tell you the importance of keeping clean and tidy. Let’s face it, if you do, you are probably in trouble already – but let’s explore why personal hygiene is so important.

Hygiene Isn't Just About Germs

Hygiene Isn’t Just About Germs

It’s not just about germs and infections – though there is that. No, being clean, smelling nice and feeling good is very powerfully linked to performance. The better you feel the better you perform.

Hygiene and grooming is closely, very closely linked to self-esteem. Which in turn is a major element of performance. So, without too much of a stretch it is possible to see that clean people perform better.

Certainly the people around clean people perform better. Bad odours and discomfort can be major sources of irritation. That would be bad enough in an office ashore, but in the close confines of a ship. Well, the knock on effect of hygiene issues can really affect the life of all onboard.


What hygiene tips do you have for your time onboard ship?

Maintaining personal hygiene is necessary for many reasons; personal, social, health, psychological or simply as a way of life. Keeping a good standard of hygiene helps to prevent the development and spread of infections, illnesses and bad odours.

Most people are very conscious of personal hygiene because they were taught of the importance at an early age, they may have learned hard lessons from bullying at school, or they may like to feel good.

It Is Important To Smell Good

It Is Important To Smell Good

The motivation to look nice, to smell good, and feel fine is clear for all to see. The Romans and Greeks knew it, and the link between clean, fresh and good has stayed with us for millennia.

It is also important in relationships…and we don’t mean in a romantic way – that goes without saying. Just in the way others judge you. By ensuring that our body is clean and well presented, we are more assured of projecting a positive body image that reflects our personalities.


It is not just about vanity or being self-absorbed. Picking up a deodorant doesn’t make you a slave to fashion. No, there are real and serious health reasons for keeping clean.

Washing Hands

Washing Hands

Poor hygiene can lead to poor health. If you have cut yourself, the wound should be cleaned and dressed suitably, this can help reduced the risk of infection and pain. While hand washing is vital, as this simple action can prevent a plethora of illnesses and disorders developing. Many people ‘forget’ to wash their hands after using the toilet or before handling foods; this can cause a great deal of illness and even death.

Good mental health stems from being clean too. By being well presented, clean and tidy, people can feel more confident, especially in social situations. Our chances of succeeding either in work or social settings, or even with the opposite sex can be altered by maintenance of good hygiene.

Maintaining hygiene practices helps to reduce the risks of ill health, but equally important affects how we and others perceive ourselves and can influence our levels of confidence and self-esteem which can affect many aspects of our lives.


Critical Hygiene Areas

Critical Hygiene Areas

It can be a little embarrassing for seafarers to think about hygiene. There were those awful films in college as cadet, all about soaping up your…well, you know. Anyway, the demands to be clean are still there. So how do you go about polishing all those glorious bits of you, from hair to down there?

1. Hair: Dirty head hair does not actually cause many health problems; it’s mostly for appearance factor that keeping hair clean is a good idea. Let’s face it, you feel better with a nice clean mop of hair on your head. Dirty hair is itchy, and if you are showering properly why the heck wouldn’t you slam a bit of Vosene in and lather up?

There are some issues which shampooing is important to combat. If you suffer from dandruff, there are many shampoos available to help ease the discomfort and ridiculous Christmas look of “snow-fall shoulders”.

2. Teeth: It has been said that a beautiful smile can make a person’s day…now that may or may not be true onboard ship, but if teeth are grubby or breath is smelly, it has an entirely different result. No-one wants to be grinned at by Fungus the Bogeyman. So get polishing.

Brush your teeth twice daily with a decent toothbrush (powered ones are best), a fluoride based toothpaste and an antibacterial mouthwash and you can’t go far wrong.

3. Smelly breath – To illustrate the effect of bad breathe we have even made a limerick for you…

There was an old Captain from Den Haag

Whose breath was like that of a dog

He’d speak close to your ear

The stink’d make you queer

And you’d rush to put your head down the bog

Bad breath can really take its toll, and more than making people feel ill talking to you, it can also be the sign of a gum infection. Halitosis can also be a result of dehydration or an empty stomach, so eat and drink regularly.

4. Hard to reach bits: There are parts of your body which are prone to odour and fungal infection. Stand naked in front of the mirror…they are all the bits you probably can’t see.

There are other parts too, from which unpleasant smells and infections are most commonly experienced. These areas of the body are warm and not often exposed to fresh air: the feet; the genitals and some of our sweat glands.

5. Smelly Feet – Feet contain lots of sweat glands. If feet are confined in socks and shoes the sweat has nowhere to ‘evaporate’ and the skin bacteria will in effect attack to, causing that smell. You know the one the cats on YouTube all retch at.

There’s a variety of reasons why some people suffer more than others, but cleaning can help. So what can you do to minimise smelly feet? Get some good shoes or boots! Poor quality footwear is made of even nastier glue than you ever thought possible – this often leads to some terrible odours.

That aside, you should wash regularly and dry thoroughly with a soft towel and an anti-bacterial foot powder or a baby talc. Allow feet to air when feasible and wear open shoes as much as possible. Change socks more than once a day, and make sure they are cotton or other breathable fabric.

6. Your special areas: The “pantal” areas are prone to bacterial infections and unpleasant aromas if not kept clean. Conversely though, too much cleaning with scented products or soaps can cause bacterial infection…oh the irony. The best hygiene for your downstairs bits is to clean once or twice a day using mild soap and water. And then keep them out of places where you wouldn’t put your hands.