A lot of information has been written about the need to have water for survival. And luckily, most people have gotten the message and either store extra water in barrels, have cases or jugs of bottled water, or have a source of fresh water than can be purified with chemicals or bleach.
Not mentioned, though, is the need to have water to use for washing your hands. Soap and water is the tried and true way to get rid of the germs lurking in our environment. But what if water is scarce with not a drop to spare? The good news is that there is an arsenal of other products that can be used to exterminate those nasty microbes and maintain good hand sanitation.
Hand Sanitizer: Alcohol based sanitizing gels kill 99% of bacteria on contact. These gels are inexpensive, light weight, have a long shelf life and are cinch to use. For maximum effectiveness, apply the hand sanitizer to one palm then rub hands together until they are dry, making sure you cover all parts of your hands and fingers.
What’s not to like? Well, for one thing, you need to know what you are using. Look carefully at the label before you purchase a hand sanitizer and make sure the active ingredients include ethyl alcohol, ethanol, isopropanol or some other variation of these item. The other important thing is to make sure that whichever of those alcohols is listed, its concentration is between 60 and 95 percent. Less than that isn’t enough to be effective.
Beware, also of homemade hand sanitizers. Unless the concentration of alcohol is 60% or more, don’t count on it for protection.
Household Disinfectant Wipes: I am not a big fan of household disinfectant wipes because they are expensive and environmentally unfriendly since they are typically over packaged and are good for a single use only. These wipes remove bacteria but do not kill it. That means if you use a wipe on a germy surface, it needs to be tossed since using it again on a second surface would merely spread the germs around.
Bleach: I don’t think you would want to use bleach on your hands but for general household sanitation, bleach is a winner. A good dilution is about 3/4 tsp per quart of water. More than that is a waste and not necessarily better. Just be careful or you might accidentally tie dye your clothing, your towels, and your carpeting with splatters of bleach. Also be sure to rinse well since bleach is very caustic.
Tip? Pour some bleach in to a refillable, leak proof squeeze bottle and keep it under your sink. You can easily mix up a batch of bleach and water in a small cup for immediate use without fear of drips or spills – and without a lot of waste.
Moist Hand Towelettes: Those little towelettes that come in individually wrapped packets are great in that you can carry them in a pocket, a wallet, or even tucked in to your hiking boots. Just make sure that the active ingredient meets the 60% or more alcohol criteria. One of my favorites are these from Purell.
Warning: these towelettes do have a shelf life. This is due to the packaging. The last thing you want to do is to store away a case of these little packets for SHTF only to open one up and find it is dried up. Or worse, it may clean your hands but not get rid of the germs. One thing I did was call the Sani-hands folks using the 800 number on the box and asked about the shelf life. They told me “at least two years”. I took out my Sharpie and wrote a two year expiration date on the box so I could easily rotate them to the garbage if any were left when the time came.
Vinegar: The Heinz corporation says that straight 5% vinegar will kill 80% of the germs and virus. Heinz says they can’t make the claim on the bottle that it kills bacteria because of the EPA laws. As silly as it seems, the EPA requires disinfectants to be registered as a pesticide. Still, in a survival situation, vinegar is great to have on hand since in can be used in many ways. It is less caustic than bleach and does not loose potency over time.
Antibacterial Soap: Don’t pay extra for antibacterial soap. They are no better than regular soap and are rumored to promote bacterial resistance. Why take a chance?
OK I get it. We need to sanitize. But what about those germs?
Germs are found all over the world, in all kinds of places. The four major types are: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Not all germs will make us sick but a lot of them are detriments to our health and some may even cause death. Here is a simple primer.
Bacteria: These are tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments in order to live. In some cases that environment is a human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or within the body as they cause infections. Some infectious bacteria causes include sore throats (tonsillitis or strep throat), ear infections, cavities, and pneumonia. To further complicate things. not all bacteria are bad. For example, good bacteria live in our intestines and help us use the nutrients in the food we eat and make waste from what’s left over.
Viruses: A virus needs to be inside living cells to grow and reproduce. The place where a virus lives is called a “host”. In both humans and animals, viruses can get inside the body where they grow and spread, causing sickness. Viruses cause chickenpox, measles, flu, and many other diseases.
Fungi: These are multi-celled, plant-like organisms that get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They like live in damp, warm places, and while many fungi are not dangerous to healthy people, they can still cause health problems. An example of something caused by fungi is athlete’s foot.
Protozoa: These are one-cell organisms that love moisture and often spread diseases through water. Some protozoa cause intestinal infections that lead to diarrhea, nausea, and belly pain.
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa – a motley crew that is best avoided if you want to maintain your health in a less than sanitary, survival situation. The best way to avoid these germs is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. But if water, or soap is not available, please use hand sanitizer, wipes, rubbing alcohol or even some bleach and water to clean your hands.
Do it every time you cough or sneeze, before you eat or prepare foods, after you use the bathroom, after you touch animals or pets, and after you touch objects in a public place.
Tell me again why this is important
When public utilities and sanitation systems go down, germs breed and spread rapidly. Remember Katrina? What about the Haiti earthquake? Maintaining your personal cleanliness and hygiene is going to be key to insuring your safety, your health and your ability to fend for yourself.
But even more important is the need to make keeping your hands clean a habit day in and day out. Everyday. The movie Contagion notwithstanding, the likelihood of a global pandemic is real. It happened for centuries with Smallpox, it happened in 1918 with the Spanish flu and in more recent times, it happened with SARS and the swine H1N1 flu. Who’s to say when it will happen again?
In a true pandemic, a virus can infect people on every continent with lightening speed, In the United States, we would like to think that CDC and our nation’s top security agencies will have protocols in place when that happens but push come to shove, we can not rely on that level of support.
It is really up to you to be prepared and increase your chance of survival by practicing good hygiene and stocking up on hand sanitizers, bleach, and sanitizing towelettes now. Get used to washing your hands frequently and be sure to incorporate other sanitation methods in to your daily life so that they become a habit.
The Final Word
Steering clear of the things that can spread germs is the best way to protect yourself. But when contact with germs – and cooties – is unavoidable, being prepared is you best line of defense.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.
From the Bargain Bin: Below you will find some links to hand sanitizers plus a couple of other items that I can heartily recommend. As you shop for hand sanitizers, be sure to check the total price with shipping if applicable. Sometimes a low price is not such a great deal if the shipping is not free. On the other hand, sometimes the price plus shipping is less than the price of a “free shipping” item. Not to belabor the point, but I do want you to be aware.
No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes: One wipe was more than enough for a complete “bath”. These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster. Also good for camping, boating, hiking and such.
No Rinse Moisturizing Body Wash: This stuff leaves your skin feeling fresh and clean with a delicate scent.
No Rinse Shampoo: This product has great reviews and lots of positive testimonials. Alas, it did not work for me.
Hand Sanitizer Gels: Alcohol based hand sanitizer gels kill 99% of bacterial on contact. They are inexpensive and easy to use.
PURELL Sanitizing Hand Wipes Individually Wrapped 100-ct. Box: I prefer individually wrapped sanitizing wipes because they are easy to carry in a pocket, back or travel kit. As long as they meet the 60% or more alcohol criteria, the brand should not be important.
The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook: The book will teach you how to deal with all the likely medical issues you will face in a disaster situation, and shows you strategies to keep your family healthy even in the worse scenarios. You’ll learn skills like performing a physical exam, transporting the injured patient, and even how to suture a wound. This medical reference belongs in every survival library!
Zwipes Microfiber 12-Pack of Cleaning Cloths: These magic rags are the rags that keep giving. Seriously. I have had mine for over 10 years. They may be a bit stained but they still work. Forget about paper towels. For a one time cost you are all set.
8 GB Flash Drive: It always amazes me that people do not use flash drives for storing copies of important documents. This particular drive is the one I use and it is currently only $6.98. Sure, in some emergencies you will not have power but in many cases you will or it (the power) will get restored. These flash drives are small and easy to stash in a bog, box or purse. Plus, it might be nice to store a few family photos, as well.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 40% off sometimes a bit more.
One of the best sale items this month is the Harvest Vegetable Combo. This combination includes one can each of freeze dried green beans, sweet corn, green peals diced bell peppers, white onions and celery. The price is $89.99 for all six cans, a discount of 36%
To be honest, during the winter months, I use my FD veggies in daily meal planning. There is no waste at all and when time is short, popping some veggies into a soup or stew is a breeze. Plus, they taste good!
Another great item this month is the Seasoned Diced Beef which is 50% off at an amazing price of only $29.99. These are just two of the items on sale this month at Emergency Essentials. Click on the link below for more great deals from Emergency Essentials.
Like this and want more?
Spread the Word – Tell your friends: Share Backdoor Survival with your friends. All you need to do to send them a short email. Now that was easy!
Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.
Amazon has a cool feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are. Like I said, very cool.
Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!
11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life: This little book will provide you with the motivation to get started or stay on track with a self-reliant life. 11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life, co-authored with my long time pal, George Ure (www.urbansurvival.com), and can purchased from Amazon.