Keeping clean at festivals

Mud may seem like the best thing ever when you're five, but not when you're knee-deep in the stuff and trying to dance. Here's how to survive the festival mud and stay (relatively) clean.

Very muddy people trying to hose off

Is this awesome or awful?

How to survive the festival mud

  1. Waterproofs and wellies: Take them with you and wear them. Your feet will stay dry and they’ll make wading across the muddy lakes much easier. Plus you’ll be the envy of other punters and won’t have to spend all your beer money on a pair when you’re there. Prices can be extortionate.
  2. Plastic bags: Failing wellies, plastic bags wrapped around your feet can help keep your feet dry. They are also useful for putting all the muddy things into and keeping clean things out of the mud. Bin liners are also great for sitting on if the waterproof-trouser look just isn’t you.
  3. Wet wipes: Absolutely essential for removing everything from make-up to mud. Take lots of them.
  4. Clothes: Unless you’re going to let it all hang out, keep one set of clothes clean and dry to sleep in/travel home in. Pack clothes you don’t mind ruining.
  5. Pitch: Don’t camp by the stage, a walkway or at the bottom of a hill. Your tent may drown. (Camping too close to portaloos isn’t advisable either.
  6. Failing all the above: Cover yourself from head to toe in mud and pose for the press while everyone points, laughs and shouts “Twat!”.

Apply mud once daily for three days

Some hardcore grimy types will be happy rolling around in the mud. They should probably be reminded that it really isn’t anything like the stuff you get in a health spa. Wrong kind of mud pack, ladies and gentlemen, and you won’t get a lovely warm white fluffy towel to clean up with afterwards or meet a nice masseuse called Tina.

Festival mud is different. The Mix’s highly scientific-ish analysis of its composition reveals it to be made up of cowshit, rain water, overflowing chemical toilet effluent, half-eaten noodles, salmonella-burgers and germs. Don’t be tempted to eat this stuff. The argument “it’s only a bit of dirt” won’t wash here – and neither can you.

Festival-goers at a very wet Glastonbury were treated for trench foot. It’s caused by having cold, wet feet for several hours and the symptoms are tingling, itching, pain, swelling and blisters. Seek urgent medical attention or try to avoid it by taking your wellies along with you. After all, you can get them in all sorts of pretty colours these days. See our guide to festival footcare for more.

Avoid festival bacteria

Bacteria such as E coli come from cow dung and sewage and love breeding in those stinky puddles. They can easily be transferred from hand to mouth, causing diarrhoea and vomiting. You’ll never last in the queue for the portaloos – and even if you get to one in time, expect to be stuck in there all afternoon. To escape this horrible punishment take a small pack of baby wipes with you and clean your hands before you eat.

Tetanus spores live happily in the soil and can get into the body through even the tiniest wound or scratch. Tetanus infection has become rare in the UK, but it can kill. The incubation period is about four – 21 days, followed by muscle stiffness, lockjaw, sweating and fever. Make sure you’ve been immunised against it and go to the nearest medical tent if you do cut yourself to get the wound cleaned. You may need a booster shot.

Festival footcare essentials:

  • Plasters
  • Two pairs of shoes – one sturdy pair and one open-toe pair
  • Wellies – ones with buckles at the top if possible, to avoid leaving them behind in the mud
  • A clean pair of socks for each day
  • Wet wipes to clean feet and loo roll to dry them everyday
  • Don’t just wear trainers – athlete’s foot fungi love nothing more than warm, moist places and trainers are usually the biggest culprit for inviting infection to set in
  • Try to wear sandals when the sun’s out so your feet can breathe a bit
  • Don’t just go bare foot – sorry to ruin the romantic vision of running through fields, but broken glass, old needles and half-eaten curries hide well in long grass
  • Get yourself to the medical tent immediately if your feet get swollen and blistered or you’ll live to regret it – there have been reports of trench foot at previous muddy festivals.

Next Steps




Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of muddy people by Shutterstock