You’ve returned from Burning Man, and things — from your car to your brain — are in various states of disarray. Here are some tips for your post-playa re-entry and cleaning efforts. If you have some great tip you think absolutely must be included here, email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right now, your skin is probably about as dry as it’s ever been. Moisturize like crazy, every day. And odds are, unless you took really good care of them, your feet and hands are pretty battered. Soak them in a warm water bath with some lemon or lime juice to cut the alkaline dust. Then follow that up by rubbing them down with some Vitamin E foot cream. The stuff works wonders. A pedicure and/or manicure will help too.
Put some vaseline in your nose if it’s sensitive and painful, and use saline spray to restore its moisture. Become friends with a Neti Pot.
Did you get a cold? That’s not really surprising, given the amount of cups we share, hands we shake, and people we kiss out there. If you happen to develop a cough, it should clear up on its own, but watch if it doesn’t. Particularly if it starts to get painful, see a doctor before it develops into bronchitis.
Finally, if it burns when you pee, beeline to the local clinic. Just sayin’.
Your Clothes and Boots
Wash your clothes immediately after returning from the playa. The longer you let them sit, the more stale the playa dust gets, and it can get pretty nasty. Add a splash of white vinegar to your laundry (in addition to your regular detergent) to cut through and break down the alkaline playa dust. If you wear leather boots, clean them thoroughly with a rag soaked in a vinegar and water solution, then rub them down with mink oil. Finally, take the clothes you use exclusively for Burning Man, and put them in labeled tubs so you can get at them easily when August rolls around again. Oh, and definitely wash that wig.
The key here is kicking procrastination in the shins, buckling down, and getting it done. The longer you wait to deal with your stuff, the harder it’s going to be. Do it while you’re still somewhat one with the dust. Take all your stuff out, clean it (using a vinegar-based cleaning solution helps), organize it, and repack it. If you’re really organized, make lists of what’s in each box. Take note of what you need to replace (see Your Plans, below), and what you had excess of. Professional Burners learn over the years how to organize their stuff so they can practically grab a few totes, toss them in the car, buy some beer, and head to the playa. Practically.
Cameras, especially fancy ones, require very special care. See the equipment section of our Photographer’s Guide for detailed information.
If you drove your car to the playa, wash it as soon as you can after returning home, because the alkaline dust can corrode your electronics, and do damage to your upholstery, plastics, etc. Before you do anything, get an air compressor (or go to the air station at your local gas station) to blow all the dust off your engine. (Unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t spray water on your engine, as it can damage your sensitive electrical components.) Then, put on a pair of goggles, open all the windows, and turn your AC fan on high. Then switch your temperature control from cold to hot on ALL your different vent options, including both recirculating the air and not. This will start to get all the dust out of your vents.
Then wash your car with a splash of white vinegar in the soapy water. Vaccuum the hell out of it with the strongest vaccuum you can find, and then use Armor All on your plastic and leather parts, as it cuts the alkaline playa dust really well.
So you can do all this, or (be lazy like me and) take it to a professional car wash place. In San Francisco, they recognize playafied cars, and take extra steps — and charge you for them — to wash your car thoroughly, usually running it through the machine twice, and applying extra elbow grease to your playafied bits. It’s worth the money.
Clean the hell out of your bike. If you know what you’re doing, you can pull it apart and clean the moving bits, grease them up good, and put it all back together again. If you don’t know what you’re doing, take it to a bike shop. It’s worth the money to preserve your investment, and not drag around some creaky pile of bolts next year.
While it’s fresh in your mind, make a list. What did you use on playa? What didn’t you use? What didn’t you eat after all? What was the ONE thing you REALLY wish you had brought with you, but didn’t? What was that Really Cool Idea That You Want To Do Next Year you came up with in camp that one day? Make a thorough packing list now, because by next August it’s highly likely you’ll have forgotten all of it.
It’s extraordinarily disorienting to come back from the freewheeling experience of Black Rock City to be smacked in the teeth by the real world, and the impact can be no laughing matter. Know that it takes a while to get back into the swing of the real world and get reoriented. Take some time to ground yourself, connect with like-minded friends, and share your experiences. You can also connect with other Burners in any of a variety of ways. We’ve listed them here. And please, if you find yourself feeling truly overwhelmed, find somebody to talk to, and/or seek out some professional help.