Tempest’s Con Survival Guide – Hygiene

Posted on Jun 03 2012

Ten years of anime con-going experience has taught me that very few people are prepared for the hygienic challenges of a convention. From running out of soap to forgetting your towel, it seems there are more problems than solutions to keeping clean at a con.

First and foremost: SHOWER EVERY DAY. There are many conventions in many seasons, but the majority of them take place in the summer. I don’t care if you have the least body odor of anyone you’ve ever met: you will sweat buckets and your deodorant just can’t hold out against that for days. Sometimes you need to shower twice a day.

My second Otakon, I wore a costume made from a fabric that was far from breathable. And though I took my own advice and showered in the morning, wore extra deodorant and tried to stay out of the sun, by the evening I was a wreck. Around midnight, I went to reach for something, and my own smell hit me so hard I almost fell over.

And, because I wasn’t willing to believe it, I lifted my arm to take a whiff and—yep, that was me alright. In my embarrassment, I dashed back to the room and showered for the second time that same day.

Showers also help regulate your body temperature: between the heat of mid-summer and the ridiculous air conditioning of the convention, you’re going to need something to keep yourself going. Sometimes hopping in the shower is just a good idea when you’re too winded, too hot and too tired. No one will be upset if you shower multiple times in a day at a con – instead they’ll probably give you roses and thank you profusely.

On the topic of staying clean, here is a guide on what to pack beforehand so you don’t have any mishaps:

• A brightly-colored or unusually-patterned towel (explained below)
• Your own soap, preferably a liquid and not a bar
• Your own shampoo/conditioner/facial scrub in tiny containers
• Your own toothbrush/toothpaste
• Your own hairbrush

So you’re staying in a hotel with some friends – why would you need to bring a towel? Because, my friend, all of the towels in the hotel are white. They are the same damn towel and it is nigh impossible to tell it apart from the other towels. So you hang your clone towel on a specific rack – what if your roommates drop it? What if they drop all the towels?

I know this may sound a little silly, but imagine the people you are rooming with have made a mess of the bathroom. Now imagine you have to pick a used towel from the dirty heap of towels on the floor – room service hasn’t arrived to clean up your mess and you need to shower right the hell now.

My advice is to bring a non-white towel so that you know EXACTLY whose towel that is when you go to shower. Also, that’s a cue to your roommates not to use your towel because it doesn’t look like the hotel’s towels, or their own towel if they’ve thought to bring one.

The hotel provides soap and shampoo/conditioner. That’s great. If you are rooming with three other people, you have a one-in-four chance of getting to use the shampoo because someone will think his/her hair is more important than yours and use it all up.

Then you may wind up with that roommate who doesn’t believe in showering every day at a convention. The one time he/she does shower, said roommate uses the one bar of soap the hotel has gifted to you. Then it’s your turn to shower. You can figure it out from here: bring your own soap and shampoo.

Try to bring soap and shampoo in tiny travel bottles. If you have more than two people staying in a room, you will be amazed by how many bottles congregate along the hotel room’s bathtub. The smaller amount of space you take up, the less likely you are to have your stuff moved around without your permission.

It goes without saying, but you need to brush your teeth and brush your hair (preferably not using the same item). Someone inevitably is going to forget his/her toothpaste and it would be best if you weren’t that person: the hotel will charge you an arm and a leg for a travel bottle of toothpaste. Also, if you go to borrow someone’s hairbrush, without a doubt there will be more wig hair affixed to it than you are willing to deal with.

Let’s say you have a cosplay for the convention. On top of the long list of things I recommended you bring, you have also taken along hairspray, glue, a sewing kit and various other cosplay necessities. Where do you keep it all?

Do NOT leave everything on the bathroom counter. Yes, it is a huge, fancy counter. Yes, there is a lot of space. No, your stuff is not safe there. Someone is going to think he or she is doing you a favor and will wind up throwing out your stuff or moving it to Alaska for all the luck you’ll have in finding it again.

I always take a travel pouch with me. It’s bigger than a pocket book, fits in my suitcase, and holds all of my toiletries. I also have a separate makeup case for my cosplays. Every day, I take my toiletries bag into the bathroom and pull out my toothbrush, toothpaste, hairspray – whatever I keep in it. Then, once I have finished with the bathroom for the day, I PUT EVERYTHING BACK IN THE BAG and tuck it all into my suitcase again. Ever since I started this process, I have not lost a single toothbrush, bottle of hairspray, bobby pin or ounce of makeup. Plus, it is polite to avoid making a mess of the bathroom counter since room service will have an easier time cleaning. Your roommates will either be glad for the space, or will have made a mess of everything anyway.

My ultimate rule is to always assume everyone else will be messy. Over the years of staying at a convention, I have stayed with quite a variety of people. However, if I keep track of my own stuff and make sure that it stays out of everyone’s way, I become everyone’s favorite roommate. Also, it never stops being funny when a befuddled roommate asks: “Who brought the red towel?”

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  • Kanashimi June 3, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    I’m disappointed Frebreze is not mentioned once in this article.

  • Kibs June 3, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    Febreeze is a godsend

  • bemused_Bohemian June 5, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Roommates? Every closet aka motel room doesn’t have excess room for roommates????
    Recycle bag for dirty clothes is a good idea. Gotta wear something in the restaurant.

  • Tyto June 5, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Funny, what with Summer upon us and all I was considering doing a remarkably similar article. Yours was notably more compact, generally more readable, and less scathingly critical and unforgiving of its reader though. Good job.

  • christmas4477 June 5, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    You know what’s great about hotels? The give you free soap. Use it

  • moonhawk81 June 9, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    All good advice, but don’t forget to bring some extra toilet paper from home. After all, if you run out in situ, however will you manage to get more? Besides, don’t you really prefer that nice, soft home-brought paper to the sandpaper the hotel provides?

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