Ready or Not #206: Washing Water

If you have read any of my articles you know how I feel about water.  Clean drinking water is the key to survival, but almost as important is having clean water to wash up with and maintain good hygiene.  I was talking to a co-worker today and he was telling me about his cabin lot in the mountains and how he had just buried a water tank for washing dishes and taking showers and was excited to try it out.  He decided to install the tank after he had been working hard all day and was very dirty and he had no place to wash up.  He expressed to me how important it was to have running water and up to that point he had taken showers for granted and hadn’t realized how refreshing it was to have running water to wash your hands, take a shower, or even just wash your hair after getting dirty and sweaty.

Imagine being in an emergency situation where the water supply has been disrupted (some people in the world don’t have to imagine this scenario).  I read about a woman who was in an area that had been hit by a hurricane a while back.  The water supply was disrupted for a time and there was a lot of clean-up involved.  It had been over a week since she had been able to shower or wash her hair.  She was so very uncomfortable because she wasn’t used to being that dirty and she was so very tired and her spirits were really low. After a week she decided to use the dirty water from the swimming pool to bathe and wash her hair.  She said that it was one of the most refreshing showers that she had ever had.  Imagine if she had had clean water to bathe in.

TIP: If for some reason you are unable to use your regular shower area to bathe in, you can use an umbrella by hanging it upside down from a tree or rope to make a privacy shelter.  After securing the umbrella, use the pre-made holes on a shower curtain to loop over the spines on the umbrella.  This is a really quick way to make a makeshift privacy enclosure for any purpose.

If you buy a plastic shower curtain for your 72-hr kit, you can also use it as a makeshift tent or protective covering.  Think outside the box when choosing items that you might have to carry around – make everything dual use if possible.

When I was an 11 year old scout leader I tried to teach the boys the importance of good hygiene while they were camping (I know, I know…).  After they set up their tents and put the camp together, and before fixing dinner, I had them build a Sanitation Station.  It was inexpensive and really quick and easy to assemble and it helped to keep the boys clean – especially before preparing the food.  It was quick, simple and effective.  All that I had them do was to take an empty milk jug and cut a very small hole near the bottom.  I then had them find a small twig that would fit in the hole they had just cut.  They would then fill the jug with water and tighten the lid and use this as their hand washing station.

As long as the lid was tight and the twig was in place, it wouldn’t leak.  When they wanted (a.k.a. were told) to wash their hands, they would pull the twig out and loosen the lid on the top and the water would flow out.  Upon finishing they would tighten the lid and replace the twig in the hole.  To make it really fancy I would use this task to pass off their knot tying badge by having them tie a tripod for the jug to hang from and tie a bar of soap to the frame so that it hung down and they could have clean soap close to the water source.  I then placed a large bucket underneath to catch the water so that it wouldn’t make a mess.  As the bucket filled up, it would be dumped and again placed under the water jug.

Another container that could be used is a large empty dishwashing soap bottle or large hand soap bottle because you would already have a touch of soap in the water and you wouldn’t have to worry about tying the bar of soap to the tripod.

Actually the boys were pretty good about washing their hands because they got such a kick out of using such a novel approach to hygiene.

When you are storing your water (please tell me that you are – two gallons, per person, per day for a two week period), make sure to store enough so that you can take care of your basic necessities, beyond keeping hydrated.

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