In Arizona a disgruntled city employee, upset with budget cuts made in 2011, manually shut down numerous valves to a large city plant. His goal was to build up enough methane gas to blow up a quarter city block. Luckily, two hours after shutting off the valves he surrendered with no damage to the plant, and citizens were not affected by the protest. What if there had been damage to the plant? It is time to think about these things. After the poo hits the fan, it keeps coming! So now the question is, what are we going to with it?
Hygiene is one of the most important elements in a survival situation, but is usually overlooked. Food, water, and self defense are the most common items stocked up on, while most forget to think about sanitation and personal hygiene. Haiti suffered a cholera outbreak after an earthquake in 2010 as it does not take long after a major disaster, with government agencies at a standstill, for disease to become ramped.
There are different ways to prepare for hygiene in an emergency, as there are many variables to any given emergency. I will be covering some basic possibilities that could arise and how to prepare. I will also discuss items to stock up on and store. Most of these will be good barter.
In an ideal emergency our homes would still be standing, allowing us to bug-in; even if plumbing is not in working order. Water and sewage shut down for a short time can disrupt our lives, but this situation can easily be prepared for. First item to plan for is the toilet. Sewage can back up into the house and come through all the drains. Yuck! This can be stopped with an inflatable test ball plug. You can purchase these at your local plumbing supply, and in case of an emergency, place it in the sewage line that runs directly to your personal home to block everyone else’s brand from running into your home. When you need to use the toilet there are disposable bags made just for this job. One brand I like is called Double Doodie, but there are many different options. The bag is placed over the toilet, and then the seat is placed back down and ready to use. After use of the toilet, a bio-gel pack that comes with the bags is placed inside the bag and it solidifies waste while also masking any orders. Do not forget to store extra toilet paper at the house. I like to vacuum seal or vacuum bag my toilet paper because it keeps it clean and dry while compressing it into a much smaller package.
If you have little ones in diapers it is a good idea to store some extras, along with disposable wipes and bags to wrap up used diapers. If some city services are still in working order and trash is picking up, then used diapers will not be an issue. However, if this service is disrupted for a time then a metal trash can and a tight fighting lid would be a good back up plan to store some stinky pampers until services return to normal. Homemade baby wipe recipes can be found on the Internet, if you would prefer to store the items to make your own.
Feminine hygiene is important also. I love my grandmother, but I do not want to have to replicate her hygiene regime. Extra tampons, sanitary napkins, and disposable bags are good to store around the house for a short term emergency. A long term emergency is different, and takes more planning, but I will discuss that in a moment.
A shower can be lived without for a while, though I am always a bit nicer when I don’t itch and stink. There are a lot of options for a solar shower made for use in the home. Depending on what part of the country you live, and the water resources that are made available to you, there are different types of large bladder systems, or rain catch systems, that will easily heat up during the day for a hot shower at night. Since I live in Arizona these are not an option for me. A rain catch system would only catch dust here, where water is very scarce and cannot be wasted, so I have constructed a portable solar shower. My shower is a 2.5 gallon bucket with a lid and a handle and is spray painted black. I drilled a small hole toward the bottom, and with some simple hardware I attached a hose, a shut off valve, and a sprinkler head for a little luxury! It is nothing fancy but gets the job done. A few hours in the sun and it is ready for a shower. I can hang it in a tree or put it on top of a fence when showering.
In a different emergency scenario, if I am forced to leave the house, then I will take my portable toilet that I made. It is easily constructed with a five gallon bucket. Some survival companies, like Emergency Essentials, sell a snap on toilet seat that easily attaches on the top of the bucket just for this purpose. If money is tight, a pool noodle can be fashioned as a toilet seat, with one long cut along the length of the noodle that will slide on the top of a five gallon bucket. It is pretty comfortable. I had to break out my emergency toilet after remodeling our home with tile, and the bathrooms were off limits for a full twenty four hours. Cough. I was glad I had the practice, and decided that I would much rather take my toilet camping than use a portal-john or the woods. The disposable Double Doodie bags can be used with these toilets, but they will not last long if you even have them at all. The best long term solution I have found is The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. The book explains how to store and break down human waste and use it as fertilizer for a garden by simply using two separate compost piles. The two piles are distinguished as an “active” pile and an “inactive” pile. In this scenario, more than one bucket will be needed, with lids for each bucket. Humans waste is nitrogen, and needs to be covered after each use with a carbon, like greenery or sawdust. This will stop the odor and keep bugs away. If you use sawdust, make sure it is from real wood, and not wood composite, as wood composite will be toxic on the garden. Once one bucket is full of waste the lid is placed on top, then the bucket is left to sit and the contents break down for at least 6 months. Once it is initially broken down the contents are dumped into an “active” compost pile. After a year in the “active pile”, the compost can be used on the garden and becomes the “inactive pile.”
JWR Adds This Important Proviso: See the many warnings that have been posted in SurvivalBlog in the past six years about the perils of using human waste for vegetable gardens. My advice is to use it for your flower gardens but NOT your vegetable gardens. And even then, you will need to take some special precautions. These include using a dedicated shovel with its handle painted red and a bucket that is painted red. Those must be be banned from any other use!
Bugging out will change the rules for feminine hygiene a bit. For a more permanent solution, a reusable maxi pad can be used. There are many patterns on the Internet and some in my personal kit can be seen here. The pads are easily sewn together from fabric. [JWR Adds: If you don’t sew, then check out our advertiser, Naturally Cozy.] One could also use a natural sponge that can be rinsed and reused. There is also a reusable tampon option. There are different brands out there, but two specific brands are The Diva Cup, and The Moon Cup. These are just reusable soft silicone cups that can be used until full, rinsed out, and re-inserted.
In a bug out situation, toilet paper will not be applicable, and so I have constructed a soaking/dry bucket kit for washcloths that will be used as toilet paper. If the wash cloth was used and then left to dry until it was ready to be washed, then the cloth would be hard to clean and would smell. It also would be bothersome to wash one cloth at a time. The kit works along the same idea as a diaper pail for cloth diapers. After the cloth is used, it is placed inside a bucket with water and your choice of washing solution. Bleach, soap, or essential oils could be used to disinfect the wash cloths until the time comes to really wash all the cloths. (My favorite oil for disinfection is Purify, or Oregano oil by DoTerra.) A smaller bucket fits inside the larger bucket, and keeps all my dry cloths that are ready to be used. This way the cloths stay dry until they are needed, and everything is contained in one area. Each member of my family has their own kit, and you can color code the cloths if you want. Maxi pads can also be kept inside the dry bucket until ready to be used, and then once fully soiled can soak in the wet bucket until fully washed. I also store a peri-bottle in each bucket to help spray off. Any mom knows how well a peri-bottle works after having a baby. They are a wonderful part of the kit and easily found to order on the Internet. Shower curtain and rope can also be stored in the bucket to use for privacy, and can easily be strung up in a tree. Privacy curtains can be purchased online for a different option but can be expensive. Handkerchiefs should also be stored.
If young children are a part of your family dynamic, then cloth diapers will be needed for a long term solution. Cloth diapers are no longer pinned and covered with plastic loose fitting pants. There are many different options now a day. A larger pail will be needed for soaking the soiled diapers. Bleach cannot be used to soak cloth diapers; it ruins the absorption capability of the diaper.
We cannot forget about oral hygiene either. I really like my teeth and want to be able to eat the food I have stored, and I am sure you feel the same way. Floss, extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwashes are important. Couponing is a smart way to stock up on these items. I get these items for free all the time. A cap full of hydrogen peroxide and a cap full of water make a great mouth wash; coconut oil does also. There are ways to make your own tooth paste, and recipes for that can be found on the Internet. One of my favorite ways to make my own paste is with a little bit of baking soda and essential oils.
Laundry is another aspect of hygiene. I personally believe that if I am pooping in a bucket I should not have to wash clothes, but I will. There are different portable washing machines for clothes. One brand is called the wonder wash and is hand powered. A large metal tub and a washboard is another idea and are not expensive. Your great-grandma will be proud!
Laundry detergent stores well or you can make your own. I make wonderful and inexpensive detergent by mixing:
- 1 Cup grated Fels Naptha soap,
- ½ Cup Washing Soda (not baking soda), and
- ½ Cup Borax.
When human waste, trash, or Heaven forbid dead bodies are out of check; roaches, mice and all sorts of creepy crawlies will be ramped. Diatomaceous earth is an amazing product with different uses- one being pest control. It can be dusted all over your home or bug out location. It is safe to eat, and will get rid of any internal bugs that live in intestines. Mouse traps and bug spray will also help to keep critters at bay, and you should have some on hand in storage.
Other products to consider storing are diaper creams and an anti-itch powder like Gold Bond. I think my husband would rather have a year supply of Gold Bond than food. Over the counter products like Monistat 7 for yeast infections is also a good idea. I am sure a box of Monistat 7 and some tampons would have some amazing bargaining power! I am always amazed and horrified at stories of the Pioneers who gave birth while traveling. The female in the house could store a diaphragm or at least some condoms. We also cannot forget hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol. After storing food and ammo, who wants to die from an infection that started with a blister! Don’t forget medical tape, bleach, colloidal silver, gauze, bandages, deodorant, extra soap, bleach, essential oils, and disposable gloves. A simple cut can be deadly in an emergency but it does not have to be if you plan.
These are very simple steps to ensure that bugging in or out can be as clean and sanitary as possible.