5 Sanitation Items For When SHTF

I have been thinking a bit about sanitation lately. Grid down and no public utilities – How would sanitation be handled? Not often discussed and often ignored sanitation is not only a health concern but influences morale as well. Having a group of 4-6 people huddled up in some form of shelter – doing lots of manual labor – could create some serious body odor.

toothpaste tampons dishwasher detergent paper napkins deodorant sticks and more
hygiene stockpiles: toothpaste tampons dishwasher detergent paper napkins deodorant sticks, napkins, and more

Here are five things I have put back for sanitation reasons:

  • soap (bar/anti-bacterial)
  • Lysol spray
  • anti-bacterial lotions
  • Clorox
  • trash bags

Keeping clean is critical. Protection from infection is as well. Collection of trash and creating a barrier between the trash and “us” is where the trash bags come in. A combination of “cat holes” and buckets will be used for going to the bathroom. Eventual trash disposal will be via fire pit.

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I have been thinking of getting a portable toilet – or two. Finances just have not been there where buying a portable toilet and stashing it away to collect dust until needed was a priority.

Those five items listed are not the only ones that can be used for sanitation purposes. Any other suggestions? Anyone have any experience of being “off grid” for extended periods of time and can share how sanitation was handled?

Take care all – 


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21 thoughts on “5 Sanitation Items For When SHTF”

  1. Rourke, for an extended existence off the grid, women might need to step back a number of centuries instead of using tampons or pads (those will be more valuable for kindling and medical purposes): soft washable pelts (I’m thinking of you, rabbit!) served women well for millennia. You can get by with only two of them in situations where spatial limitations come into play, and using pelts (the furry side, of course) frees up cloth or other materials for more urgent needs.

    I enjoy your site… And I actually LOLled when I saw that “cat hole” is one of the tags for this article.

  2. I bought a toilet seat that snaps on to a 5 gallon bucket.I also buy the $1 13 gallon trash bags at dollar store for the liner. Cheaper way to have a portable toilet.

  3. For short term, I like the flushable wet wipes. While not any good for tinder, I have more than enough tinder before I have to worry about using other things. Most users use only a single wet wipe or two versus the long sheets of the normal dry.

    While I know of some that store old phone books, I’ve always thought that using phone book paper was less than effective. The wet wipes store in a rather small area. I usually purchase Costco’s Kirkland brand (600 wipes for about $15).

    For truly long term, I recommend using a portable hand held bidet and wash cloth (for drying). Set aside the wash cloth and launder later.

    The portable seats on a bucket I highly recommend for portability and containing the smell. Line it with those Dollar Store 13 gal trash bags and throw a scoop of kitty litter in after use if it is too fragrant for you. I’ve also taken old toilet seats and mounted them on plywood sitting on top of two crates with a hole dug between them. Also very effective.

    Visit the Dollar Store. For $20 you can purchase 20 boxes of 12-20 tampons which should easily last a couple of years. They are plain and not a lady’s favorite, but they work and beggars can’t be choosers when the SHTF. They also work well in a pinch for tinder and 1st Aid. While there, buy some of the bars of soap (as many as you can afford). While necessary for sanitation (especially cleaning your hands after using the bidet) they will be worth their weight in gold (or lead) as trade items. The Dollar store also usually carries those compressed wash cloths that store in a very small space until you remove the wrapper and add a little water to make them “grow.”
    Lastly…..deodorant….cheap deodorant from the dollar store, or try one of those deodorant stones.

  4. We have what the Brits call ‘the long drop’ as a reserve to the septic system. Some time ago, I stocked cases of Lava hand soap and Fel’s Naptha bar soap (great for poison ivy, oak, etc.), and I hid an expensive case of L’Occitaine bar soap just for the wife. The best buy on laundry soap is liquid in 5 gallon barrels http://www.amazon.com/Purex-Concentrate-Laundry-Detergent-Mountain/dp/B00J9SDA4W/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1403529641&sr=8-12&keywords=liquid+laundry+detergent%2C+5+gallon), one example of many. Everyone should stock HIbiclens http://www.amazon.com/Molnlycke-Health-Hibiclens-Antiseptic-Includes/dp/B0015TI336/ref=sr_1_sc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403529755&sr=8-2-spell&keywords=hibiclens) antibiotic soap for that medical emergency and we stock containers of liquid hand soap (like dispensed in restrooms) for light hand cleaning.

    Some time ago, I authored a post regarding economical toilet paper (large rolls like stocked in public restrooms. We buy by the case).

    Keeping clean is important. Better than having a supply of the above soaps is the knowledge and ability to make your own soap. Supplies eventually run out.

    Let’s stay clean out there.

  5. all good ideas- glad I am on a septic tank.will be able to keep going in a good manner for at least 5-10 years. . . . we stock up on TP, soaps, etc. . . always trying to add a little. . .

  6. I think you should not burn most of your trash. You would probably be using most of that easily lit material to start cooking or heating fires later.

    If you are going to dig a “cat hole” you may as well dig deeper, while you can. Restricted diet us going to make you tired and lethargic which will lead to shortcuts, or no effort at all put into sanitation. If you start “going” anywhere it is convenient, we will see the rise of the old diseases. Plus, the smell will point predators in your direction. Like any outhouse you see today, position it away from your home, away from water sources, etc. you may as well build and cut the necessary plywood and wood structure up, with plans to assemble it in a emergency, and store it in a shed or corner of your garage for future use.

    Soap is good. But no matter how much you have, given enough time you will run out. So, learn how to make soap today using the old technology. It is better than nothing, though it is not so “gentle” on your skin.

  7. I would like to suggest several points. First, if you lucky enough to be connected to a septic tank you are ahead of the game in human waste disposal. The septic tank system needs no electricity to function as it normally does now. One of the biggest problems with a septic tank is flushing female hygiene products down the drain. These items are designed to absorb fluids. They are very effective at this and thus will clog the drains of any septic tank, Apocalypse or not. Another issue with using a septic tank system is using the soft-fluffy toilet paper that everyone enjoys. Because of the ultra-soft and fluffy sheets add more materials in order to be fluffy and soft, it adds to the combined materials that are routinely flushed down into the septic tanks. And no, I’m not suggesting using the TP that simulates sand-paper either. Each family needs to find a happy medium for comfort and for long-term use of the septic tank system. Remember, there will not be anyone available to clean out your system after any large-scale crises.

    Second, Human waste makes very good fertilizer. Not too long ago, the local sanitation department allowed home-owners to come by and scoop up all the dried poo they wanted. Many folks are not aware that after human poo has dried, there is no odor. Third, if you opt for a portable toilet, complete with kitty litter, bleach, or vinegar; I would suggest keeping poo and urine separate if possible. When these items are kept separate, the level of odor will be so much less than what we have all experienced when using an un-serviced port-a-potty. The separate types of bacteria when combined are what emits the four odor.

    With concerns of the odor, this rank smell is produced by the bacterium which is contained in the human waste. Think for a moment what do you sue to clean your home. Most cleaners are used to kill bacteria. This is why many experienced campers or outdoorsman use a small amount of bleach of vinegar in their outhouses when Lime is not available. IF you can kill the bacteria you will have no smell. In my opinion, that is much better than simply covering up the smell with kitty litter. It is also much cheaper in the end; plus bleach and vinegar have multiple uses. I hope this provides useful information to all the readers here.

    Take care & God bless.

  8. Rourke and everyone- Our septic cleaning guy said to NEVER flush anything except preferably
    thin toilet paper down the toilet.We put a packet of yeast down once a month and it keeps the ph balanced.We have a handicapped portable toilet ( free or cheap from our local senior thrift store)and we have a portable toilet from Em Ess. ( seat goes on a bucket)
    Burning the trash or composting it seems practical to prevent rodent invasions.Many people will die from diseases.=especially those in large cities.Yes stocking up on all items that were mentioned is imperative.
    Using the Native American tradition or Norwegian tradition of a sauna or Inipi(sweat lodge)
    works for bathing and there isnt any odor because the entire body sweats at once.I have exp. these and they are very effective if one has firewood and the proper shelter built.

  9. We recently purchased an emergency toilet from Emergency Essentials. It was fairly inexpensive. The enzyme packs were pretty cheap too. Stocking up on kitty litter and inexpensive THICK garbage bags for future use as well (the flimsy bags won’t hold up well, and you will have a worse mess on your hands, literally). As much as I dislike it, I have stocked up on a ton of antibacterial hand sanitizer. I don’t use it now, as I have concerns about antibiotic resistance, but it will be invaluable in the future.

  10. I know a portable toilet can get expensive. Our solution was to pick up a used potty chair for free. The kind that a handicapped person would use. It has a removable pot under the seat and we can either line that with plastic bags or remove it and sit a larger bucket under the chair. Watch lawn sales in your area and also Craigs List. A lot of people will give these things away after someone passes. We also save all of our plastic shopping bags from places like Hannafords and will double or triple them up for lining the potty chair pot. They are free and you can get a huge amount of thenm in a tall kitchen bag. We also save our 35 lb cat litter buckets to collect extra water in for flushing or washing.

  11. Instead of using chlorine bleach, which takes up a lot of room and is perishable, Tactical Intelligence did a piece a while back on how to purchase, store and use Calcium Hypochlorite (Zappit 73 Pool Shock). I don’t know yet if Rourke has done anything like this, but it’s worth a look.

  12. About your list, chlorine bleach has a very short shelf life, about a year. It breaks down into a salt and water and is then useless for its intended purpose. Pool shock, as mentioned above s far superior to liquid bleach as it has a very long shelf life, can be stored compactly, and you can mix as much as you need when you need it. The cost is reasonable also.
    Antibiotic lotions and soaps are vastly over rated and are more marketing than anything else. Regular soap and water and alcohol based hand sanitizer are as effective and are more affordable. The best soap is what you make yourself. It is far superior to commercial bar soap and easy to make. I’ve been using nothing but my own soap for years. I work in the medical field and give my soap to some of our patient with skin problems, they say it works well for them.

  13. I’ve been using a good 5-gal. bucket and good, stout (don’t want leaks) trash bags or basket liners in hunting/fishing camp and some other extended uses for a good long time. Throw in a scoop of cat litter and odor is really minimal, even in hot weather.

    For body odor and general hygiene without being able to bathe, you’d be amazed what a palm full of rubbing alcohol will do when applied to the skin – keeps the pits stink-free and the rest of you feeling pretty clean. If you’re really dirty, use something (rough scubbing cloth, brush, etc.) to exfoliate and knock the worst off, first. If anybody knows how the cheap hand sanitizer works in this role, please comment.

  14. Please remember that Clorox has a shelf life and after some time becomes less and less effective . I store powdered pool chlorine and it works pretty well and last as long as you keep it dry also I found an industrial version of the old Lysol . it is really concentrated . one small bottle makes 9 gallons of cleaner .
    I hope that helps ,
    Robert W

  15. I am a nurse. The list of 5 is good plus all of the helpful comments. My additions would be disposable gloves and face masks!

  16. I’m looking more into composting toilets. Sounds a bit yucky, but for a long term scenario, it may do the trick. I started checking into them since I want a second property and don’t want to have to deal with plumbing for seasonal usage. If what I read is correct, china uses ‘humanure’ for gardening to this day.

  17. If you have a spring or well and will have running water to your home I would suggest you install a bidet. This frees up your toilet paper stashes for barter.

  18. You have to be careful using alcohol all over and especially with children and the elderly. It is possible to get alcohol poisoning.

  19. I have 2 handicapped portable toilets with Heavy duty garbage bags for sanitation. I have wash clothes for wiping and a 5 pound bucket with Clorox water for soaking the cloths in. Don’t make the Clorox solution too strong.
    My great-grand mother told me about the depression era and how they made it through. I’ve been using her instructions since I was young.
    I was prepping before it was called prepping. My Great grand mother had me buying a little extra of everything when shopping. At 65 yrs. now, its installed into my kids. Don’t forget the guns and ammo!

  20. Regarding the ‘old diseases’ mentioned above, I’ve hunted in Africa and traveled in Asia and South America. Many of those places required cholera, typhoid, and diphtheria vaccinations. I submit that tomorrow would not be too early to have these vaccinations. just because we don’t have outbreaks of these diseases in this country doesn’t mean that we won’t in the future. Modern medical protection is available now. Only a fool wouldn’t avail himself of this.

  21. Good list Rourke-We have two emergency toilets- one a portable potty ( type used post surgery etc.) that has a removable bucket-second one from Em. ess. ( seat on a bucket)
    I would dig a trench in the garden and empty into that and then cover as needed-thus future compost.Arlene


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