What We Learned About Emergency SANITATION

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This post is part of our 7 Day Challenge RECAP series we promised you last week. Once a week we will be going more in depth on one of the days of the challenge to highlight our learnings, favorite comments from participants, and giving additional information where necessary.

What We Learned

In past years’ challenges we have practiced full days with no water. It definitely takes a lot more water to cook, clean dishes, wash yourself, etc. then you would think. The 1 gallon per person per day is NOT enough for proper hygiene. This year we wanted to focus on the sanitation aspect of things because last year we wasted TONS of water flushing our precious stored water. We knew there had to be a better way. This year we hinted that people should put together a basic “Sanitation Kit” before the challenge 😉

Julie highlights some of the contents from her kit here:

What YOU Learned

A few of our favorite tips from our Facebook discussions:

Milk Jug Shower/handwashing: Tie large nail to a string and tie it to the handle of a milk jug. Shove the nail into the side bottom (1/2 inch up) of the jug – it acts as a plug and string keeps it handy after you pull it out to get water. The lid tightness adjusts the water flow. —– Put heated water in it and hang from your shower head for regular shower. It doesn’t give good volume to wash hair but showers great. Put one on kitchen/bath sink side to keep hands clean.

I emptied the toilet bowl by shuting off the little faucet, took an 18 gal. plastic garbage bag set it in the bowl. (Had to use some paking tape to keep it in place.) Sprinkled a little cat litter then went to the restroom! Sprinkled a little more on top – closed the lid & it was ready for my next trip.

For in between shower days, instead of baby wipes they also have oversized ‘shower’ wipes. They use these in hospitals instead of the old fashioned sponge bath. They carry them at the pharmacies. They’re nice because it’s large and thicker than wet wipes and helps stretch the days between baths

I did go out and shut off the main water supply, so I can check that off my list. Unfortunately, I was gone for a walk when hubby got up and he called the water company, then had to call them back when I got home and explained what we were doing for the week. Yes, he called and explained to them that there had been an error and his wife had intentionally shut off the water because she was spending the day being a pioneer.

Read more about how people “survived” this day’s challenge

Follow-Up Questions

Where were the instructions on how to put together a Sanitation Kit?
We hinted about this on the blog a few weeks ago. Click here to see the post.

Where can I buy the “SuperSorb” mentioned in the Sanitation Kit list?
We found it online at Amazon.com. Click here to go straight to that product.

Where can I just buy a ready-made sanitation kit?
The kit from the video above is from Shelf Reliance. It is a deluxe 4 person, 1 week kit and costs $135. It’s not available online but we can take phone orders for it. (Email fsmethrive@gmail.com if you are interested in buying a kit).

You can also buy a less deluxe kit from Emergency Essentials for about $50 at this link. Individual items for homemade kits can be purchased at Shelf Reliance, Emergency Essentials, and Amazon.com

Our To-Do’s For This Year

To Do: Research water purifiers in depth, add to our first aid kits
To Learn: Learn more about safe first aid practices
To Buy: A water purifier system and add to first aid kits

  • Karen D.

    We learned during the aftermath of Hurrican Charley 7 years ago that keeping clean is the hardest thing to do without water.  We used extra large rubbermaid totes set outside under the downspouts to collect rain water.  We then used this water to flush toilets.  (We live in Florida and it was the rainy season, so there was plenty of rain.)  Also, standing under a downspout to wash your hair and body (while wearing a bathing suit) was very refreshing during 95 degree weather with no running water or electricity.  I was 8 months pregnant at the time, too.  We also found facial cleansing cloths work wonders for sponge baths.  These are not premoistened wipes; you wet the wipes, which already contain soap.  It took only a few ounces of water to wash your whole body.  I now keep these on hand in our emergency kits.  Walmart even sells their own brands.  So much better than premoistened wipes.

  • J-newbie

    Re “To Do” Item – First Aid/Medical
    I’ve listened to a number of YouTube videos by ‘Patriot Nurse’ .  She has a channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePatriotNurse?ob=5   and you may find it helpful to screen a few of the 39(?) available.  Just this week, she started a Facebook page, but I haven’t been there yet.
    Thanks so much for the 7-day challenges … the next best thing – and definitely preferred – to a disaster ;-).

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a link to a video made by some young builders that built a bath house/bathroom in the AZ desert for a homeless man.  There may be ideas that can be used from both videos (this is part 2 of 2), but, I’m posting this as it specifically shows a simple “sawdust compost toilet”.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7QtF1D4tpo&NR=1

  • I thought I saw disposable gloves in your kit along with the drop cloths. If not, that is something that you might want to add to your kit. When taking care of invalids or  small children gloves are worth their weight in gold not to have to get your hands in the poo and pee or anything that would contaminate the hands. Also using pads or panty liners keeps underwear cleaner when you can’t do laundry every day. Another thing that is helpful for keeping that area clean is placing a sitz bath with a little  warm water in it on the toilet and using it there..

  • Melissa RK

    I have the porta potty bucket and some bags. the kitty litter is a good idea! Get the clumping kind!  Showers…a gallon of water & a squeeze/squirt bottle.  wet, soap, rinse (mini shower!) left over water in the gallon jug can rinse hair.  I didn’t get to participate on the day of the sanitation but I do have most items needed for it.  

  • Sarah

    Here’s a gravity-fed water filter that filters a LOT of water at once because it’s working with 2 filters. It’s one you can make yourself and I found it through another preparedness blog.

    Also, I’ve heard the small water pumps are better for a to-go kit than the water filter water bottles. The bottles you have to suck really hard to get the water out!

  • OutdoorsMom

    A similar sanitation kit can be put together for far less money than $135, but you may have to shop around to get the individual items rather than just ordering a kit over the phone.

    I checked over the weekend and found everything in the camping/hunting aisle at Wal-Mart except the “hunters loo” which I found at Bass Pro Shops and other similar camping/outdoors shops, and the water filter bottles which I found at a few different camping/outdoors shops.

    -5-6 gallon bucket, ~$7 from many sources
    (if you are into food storage you probably already have a supplier)

    -bucket toilet seat (Reliance brand) ~$8-$12 from outdoors/camping stores
    or a “hunters loo” (cool camoflage colour) ~$15 from outdoors/camping stores

    -duct tape is ~$1 from a dollar store or Wal-Mart

    -toothbrushes/paste are easy, you buy these anyway and only a couple of $ each

    -individual wet wipes ~$1.50 for a box at Wal-Mart (check the travel size toiletries)

    -toilet paper without the roll ~$4/package from Wal-Mart or camping/outdoors shops

    -camp shower ~$10 from Wal-Mart or camping/outdoors shops

    -folding camp shovel ~$14 from Wal-Mart or camping/outdoors shops

    -water filter bottles ~$20 each from camping/outdoors shops

    -waste bags (Reliance brand “Double Doodie” bags) ~$ from Wal-Mart or camping/outdoors shops

    -drop cloths are a couple of bucks from the hardware or dollar store or Wal-Mart

    Be creative and think outside the “preparedness store” box–most of these items are typical camping/hiking items, as are so many other emergency preparedness supplies.

    • OutdoorsMom

      Missed the camp soap, hand sanitizer, and rope, tissue packages–again all a couple of $ each from Wal-Mart’s camping aisle.

      The N95 masks are a couple of $ each as well from medical supply shops, or you can get packs of 10 or 20 or whatever.

      And I forgot to put in the cost of the waste bags, you can either use trash bags and kitty litter or peat moss (from gardening center) which are quite inexpensive, or the waste bags with the absorbing gel inside are ~$10/package from Wal-Mart’s camping aisle.

      If you shop around, the most this kit will cost will be around $90.

      • Thanks for the summary!  That’s really helpful for comparisons.  We always like to provide multiple ways for people to achieve their preparedness.  For some people that are really busy but money isn’t as much of an issue, it’s super convenient to get it all at once and have it delivered to your home.  For others where money is tight and they don’t mind doing a little running around to gather items, we included the sanitation kit contents on our free handout.  Definitely different ways for people in different situations.  We try to meet the needs of all our reader types by showing them the different options 🙂

        • OutdoorsMom

          Glad my comments didn’t overstep, I just know that it could be SO very overwhelming for some people to watch that video and have to think about paying $135 all at once.

          All that is really needed in the short term for human waste is a deep (2-3 feet deep) hole and a small shovel–just cover the waste each time with earth from the hole and cover with a board to keep critters and bugs out.  You’ll mess up your lawn if the emergency goes on for a long time, but you’ll be relatively sanitary and also be providing your lawn with some great fertilizer!

          The next step up is a trash bag in a dry (turn off the water, drain by flushing) toilet, keep the lid closed/bag folded over when not in use.  Obviously you will need to research how to dispose of the waste when the bag gets full.

          The minimum requirements for a bucket toilet are similar to using the trash bag in the dry toilet.  Our kit includes kitty litter, because it is something we stock for our pets anyway, but someone also posted about using peat moss in the comments on the Sanitation Crisis day.

          Clean hands are most important for good health, and keeping clean is relatively easy with a good supply of wet wipes (choose unscented or “for sensitive skin”, we stock all-natural biodegradeable wipes at our place) and hand sanitizer (which kills most bacteria NOT viruses) but the best way to get rid of all germs is good handwashing technique).

          A clean body is tougher to come by, but as an outdoorsy person who camps a lot I will say that your body equalizes out after a few days and you really don’t get any “grosser” feeling as long as you can clean your hands, face, underarms, and private area. 

          Clean teeth don’t depend on toothpaste, just brushing with water is ok in emergencies, and adding baking soda or salt works even better.  Primitive peoples who clean their teeth do so only with fuzzy sticks, and suffer very little tooth decay.  We just like “minty freshness”.

          Laundry hasn’t really been mentioned, but in the old days people didn’t so much clean their outer clothing, but
          rather brushed and aired it out and only cleaned the layers closest to
          the skin (underwear, shirts, socks).  This is a huge water (and time)
          saver when it comes to laundry.  You can wear a pair of trousers and
          sweater/hoodie/jacket over top of your inner layers for many days before it is truly dirty.  Be like your
          ancestors and wear an apron when you do messy work, it’s much easier to
          launder an apron than a whole outfit!

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