A Short on Sanitation and Hygiene – Keeping Clean When SHTF

Sanitation and Hygiene - Keeping Clean When SHTFSurvival preparedness is not always all about being Mr. Macho and being entirely informed in the ways of shooting, evading capture, or surviving on the absolute bare minimums (though, it’d be more than wise for one to have knowledge in all of those fields). No, sometimes you have to buckle down and learn about some of those “underlying” lessons that are as equally important to your survival as the popular, fun topics. This is what this here article is all about today, sanitation and hygiene.

Cleanliness. This term alone keeps many, many a modern soul from even penetrating the golden, arched doors to the great outdoors. Words like sanitation and hygiene, or better yet lack thereof, leave prospective outdoorsmen trembling in their unprepared boots. Thank goodness we are preppers, and we are clever enough to be ready for it all.

We preppers have, surely, all come to the understanding that one of the biggest principles that come into play during any survival-like scenario is that of compromise. Personal sanitation and hygiene is of no difference. Though, that little bit of compromise does not lessen the importance of sanitation and hygiene and how they can, in part, play a key role in you and your families survival. These two also play a critical role in guaranteeing supplies, such as food, water, and utensils, remain unsullied and are safe to consume.

Sanitation and hygiene, in today’s modern world, maybe so second nature that it is one of the least thought about things. We know to take a shower once a day, put on deodorant before a big meeting and to scrub our gums at least once a day. And all of that is fairly convenient thanks to the man-made updates available, such as running water, hot-water tanks, latrines, bathtubs with high-pressure shower heads, oscillating toothbrushes and electric shavers, etc.

However, this all runs down the metaphorical drain rather fast when disaster or survival situation arises suddenly. The simplest of commodities will, at best, be scarce, and in most cases not even available at all. And this is precisely why it is very wise and advisable to understand the proper handling of sanitation and hygiene during any sort of survival situation.

Fortunately, there are an abundance of tips and techniques that will help you to be in better control of your health during a time of crisis.

Let’s separate them into two different categories, as to simplify them:


Sanitation plays a key role in protecting the health of ALL living forms involved in a crisis-like scenario. Simply put, sanitation has all to do with appropriately getting rid of waste. In our modern world, as it lay now, we have numerous services available to help us with the duties of sanitation, and for the most part, they do an admirable job. However, without the proper sanitation services, diseases and sickness will quickly spread.

There is proof of the harm disaster will bring with it when proper sanitation techniques are not operated; we can see this when we look at the horrific weather tragedies of the earth. A terrible hurricane can wreak as much havoc on a human body as it does the towns and cities it rips through. Look back at Katrina, for Pete’s sake…

Human Waste

Proper human waste control is crucial during a survival situation. There are many germs and bacterias produced by human waste. Staying healthy throughout the course of a survival period is one of the most important factors that will ensure you will actually pull through.

#1 Separate the waste:

One technique to keep in mind is to keep your urine away from your solid waste, as this will help to keep the smell down. It has also been said that you can save your urine, dilute it 10:1, and use it on your plants as a fertilizer.

#2 Bury it:

One important step is to ensure, firstly, that your waste is not polluting your drinking/water source. If you plan to have a base-camp, it is advisable to bury your waste at minimum 200 feet away from your water source. Common sense will tell you the other geographical elements of where to bury (as in, don’t bury it on a hill where rainwater and groundwater will run over it and spread it into the water supply).


If you and yours have decided to/find yourself in your house during the crisis, and you have a septic tank, you can still use the toilet. You will just need water to flush down the waste. You will have to have water to use this technique (maybe a creek on the property or a rain collector).

Five-Gallon Bucket

Or, the human litter box that makes the cat jealous. This kick-ass technique gives you (almost) the same comfort as the old, nostalgic porcelain thrown. Especially if you give it just a few simple adjustments. My favorite thing to do is to take an old pool noodle (the one that you can shoot water through like Han Solo’s laser pistol) cut it to fit around the lip of the bucket and slice down one side. The noodle will now slide over the rim, giving you the soft comfort that might just be the thing you need to make it another day!

You can also take an old seat off nearly any toilet, and rig it to fit right on your poop-bucket. Talk about luxury.

Depending on how many stinkers you have in camp, you will need to regularly clean the bucket out (or simply cut the bottom out and place it over a “cathole”), as it will fill up rather quickly, not to mention the smell…no need to go into detail. You can fill the bucket halfway up with sawdust or dirt, and cover your waste with more, and you’ll have a box that’d seriously make the cat envious.


This barbaric method is as old as man himself. The design is rather simple and plain; dig a hole 6 to 12 inches deep and wide enough that it doesn’t run over. Be absolutely sure that you designate the hole at least 200 ft from all of your sources (food, water, etc.). Once you are done using the cathole, you can fill it with the surrounding earth to help keep the odor down (which will also help to keep annoying pests away).

The Cruddy Case of Toilet Paper

Of all the methods of cleaning off those “hangers-on”, using various leaves, different types of rocks, sticks, and a slew of others, the best one I have seen and put into personal practice is the Handy Wooden Butt Wiper.

This useful hand art is a tool any good prepper should know about. It is uncomplicated. Take a piece of wood, and your knife, and carve out the butt wiper (surely you can imagine, without the gory detail, of how the shape ought to be). Many may laugh and contend, however, it is not hard to see this tools benefit. It is simple, reusable, and very easily cleaned. If you are going to be using the cathole method, you can use the wooden butt wiper as the tool for digging, all the while giving the multitool a good cleaning! It is highly advisable to make a separate one for each member of the group.

As mentioned before, there also other obvious “natural” items in the great outdoors that can be used as an alternative to the “white-gold” known as toilet paper. One must pay very close attention to what he uses to wipe his hindquarters, as that is a fairly sensitive area, no matter your stature of “manhood”. Check thoroughly that it is not a known irritant, or that it isn’t hiding some vicious pest (such as a mosquito or tick).

Related article: Survival Sanitation And How To Deal With It

You don’t want to use your hands or certain types of leaves, (not only because it sounds absolutely revolting) but because then you’d have to wash your hands far too much, and clean water and soap come at a premium. “Pioneer soap” is simply way too hard to make to be using it up after every single deuce-disposal.

Now, on another note, speaking of “white-gold”; when SHTF, TP is in the top twenty on the list of valuable barter items. In fact, some folks will be absolutely desperate for the stuff, which could potentially mean some really good trades for you (that is, if you can get down with the Handy Wooden Butt Wiper!).


This is going to be pretty simple if you have truly honed in on the other necessary skills that are needed for a survival-type situation. Hopefully, you will have understood the need for minimization, and will not be producing much trash.

However, what trash you do produce will need to go somewhere. After salvaging through it to ensure there is nothing that can be of use (there will more than likely be a good use for almost any sort of trash, if you use your noodle that is), the best way to dispose (God-forbid if some read this) of it is to simply burn it off.

It will be best if you try to repurpose anything that you can. If there are certain kinds of paper being burned, you know, some clean paper; that could maybe be used in the bathroom (ahem, ahem…). Aluminum cans can be used in many a different way, as well as glass and plastic containers.

Collecting Rainwater:

Though illegal, at the moment, in many states (I’m sure many will take offense to the following statement), however, in the case of a SHTF type event, and praying that there isn’t some nuclear substance involved, harvesting rainwater will be one of the best moves you can make. You can use that water for nearly everything; gardening, showering, cooking, extinguishing a fire, hand washing, dishwashing, etc. The list goes on and on and on.


Your first lesson in hygiene will always be to understand the major relativity of the word “clean” when it comes to literally anything “outdoors”. It takes on a whole new definition with the change in lexicons. In comparison to the comforts of modern day hygiene, transitioning to the “resilient” side of things can be slightly jarring.

However, simply because you are a rip-roaring Lumberjack-bucko, doesn’t mean that you should skip your “daily shower” either!

Personal hygiene is your greatest defense against any sort of infections and diseases. In other words, the cleaner you stay, the healthier you will continue to be.

There are several steps to take to keep up your good personal hygiene, and this is not by any means all-inclusive. But the basics will get you by in time of distress:

No Soap; No Problem:

In the wild, many plants can act as natural cleaning agents for your skin. Some other traditional methods can be used as well. Another great technique to use is making soap with a combination of ashes and fat.

Use a water source (pond, lake or river) as a natural bath. The water will not only cool you off, but it will also rid your skin of sweat and grime. Be sure to not use any soap in the water, and check to be sure other people aren’t using the water source downstream from you. You can also use biodegradable soap and a container of water. Finally, if it is simply too cold to douse in water, use the “sponge bath” method. This can be done with a bandana, moss-patch, etc.

No Deodorant; No Problem:

A great traditional technique can be used as the perfect deodorant, killing nearly all body odors that’ll accumulate throughout the day. And the big winner is charcoal! That’s right basic charcoal does the trick, all natural.

What about my clothes?

Knowing when to change and clean your clothing is a bigger deal than you’d probably think. It is important to change out of your soiled clothes and into a cleaner, dry ones each evening upon making camp/sleeping. Avoid sleeping in wet, grimy gear as this will not only sully your sleeping bag but will cause rashes and skin irritations through the night, making the morning activities to come more than agonizing.

Take Care of Your Feet!

This, for obvious reasons, is one of the paramount things you need to keep in mind during a survival situation. Keep your feet dry, clean, and massaged at least once a day.

Seeing as to how there are somewhere in the ballpark of about 9,700 articles of opinion upon which items are needed in your bug-out-toiletry kit, so I’ll not waste my thumb-strokes here. Besides, you are this deep in the prepping world, surely you have a good idea as to a properly packed B.O.B…

There is one item, however, that I’ll leave you with. That is the royal, the regal, the magnificent Baking Powder. Now that, my friends, is a chock full of power, bug out bag essential. Its uses are nearly never-ending. Here are only a handful.

Practice all these skills on your summer vacations or weekend romps, and get accustomed to the nature of personal hygiene out in the “real world”, or rather off the grid. You’ll find that while maintaining good hygiene is essential to comfort, it is really not that difficult to achieve; at least not with a good dose of diligence and perseverance.

This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.

Useful resources to check out:

This ONE THING Can Help You Terminate Your Store-Bought Dependency

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

A Green Beret’s guide to combat and shooting

Survival Lessons from the 1880s Everyone Should Know

Find Out What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home

Learn how to Safeguard your Home against Looters

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

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