For this post, we are going to talk about the S part of SHTF. This is not something I see covered enough on survival sites. Considering that hygiene is so important during any survival situation, especially long-term scenarios, I don’t think it is wise to overlook the less appealing aspects.
I have mentioned doing without indoor plumbing for two years, but one thing, at the end of that two years, I still did not have an indoor bathroom. That took another two years and hot water another year. That may sound ridiculous but we built this house as we could with no bank loan or major contractors involved. As a result we sometimes we had delays due to money or taking care of other people, or trying to get some other project done that was important.
Septic systems are many thousands of dollars, and that is a lot when you are doing everything on a shoestring. Things have to be done just so, and they must be inspected if you ever want your house to be considered a real house with a legal occupancy permit. Building codes vary and there are not many places that don’t have a lot of rules. It can hurt the value of your place if you ever decide to sell if you don’t have a real occupancy permit and while I don’t recommend having a loan on your property if you can avoid it, a bank may not give you one without a house that has passed code.
Digging a hole as needed is cleaner than an outhouse in some cases.
We buried our waste while building our house and made sure not to use the same area too often. This worked well but was not pleasant when the weather was poor.
A good shovel is a plus. I did a post on entrenching tools that has a few options but any spade style shovel will do or if you have post hole diggers, that is an option as well.
Outhouses and latrines need to be done right and not overused.
Outhouses can be dangerous to kids and pets if not designed well. Falling into an outhouse is nothing to laugh about. People have died that way. An old outhouse site needs to be filled in well or protected until it dries out depending on the severity of the situation.
I cannot tell you how long an outhouse will last. The number of people using it, the size of the hole dug, and if you add anything like lime to promote decomposition are all factors. Climatic conditions have an effect too. Latrines and outhouses are smellier in hot climates but they also have faster decomposition rates than a cold climate.
Avoid putting outhouses and latrines near water sources or wells
Years ago a lot of people straight piped even if they had an indoor toilet. This contributed to a lot of terrible water-born illnesses. Wells were not sealed and shocked with chlorine to sanitize them. In the 30s my Great Great Grandfather died of typhoid from bad water. Things have come a long way thanks to environmental regulations and increased standards of living within the average home.
During a long-term emergency though, people may do some things that they would not normally do. This is one reason you can never assume any ground level water is clean enough to drink without treatment or filtration.
Toilets don’t stop working if there is no power but the water going into them often does.
You can flush your toilet as long as you have water. Some people just keep a bucket of water near there toilet and flush it when someone has to go number 2. Of course, this may not be at all practical or possible if you live far away from any water source or have to walk up a lot of stairs to get to your living quarters.
For those of you on wells, if you have a backup power source for your pump, then you can keep flushing, but you should reduce how often if you have limited backup power. There are many long-term emergencies that start out with people telling themselves that it is only temporary.
Other basic solutions
We live in a world with a lot of survival gear and camping products. A bucket style toilet with bags you can throw away is one option. You can also use a bucket with the bottom cut out and set on it. Not the most comfortable but better than nothing.
I am including a link to a low cost toilet bucket option as well as a pop up tent in case you need something for privacy.
Reliance Products Hunter’s Loo Portable 5 Gallon Camouflage Toilet
WolfWise Pop-up Shower Tent
Teach kids how to use the bathroom in the woods and not have a fit if they can’t use a formal bathroom.
I never thought it was weird or distasteful to use the bathroom outside if you followed some sanitation rules. It seems like more people have all kinds of hang-ups about bathroom stuff in today’s world. I encourage you to get over it if you are like this yourself and show your kids that this is something they should be comfortable doing if needed.
I highly recommend that preppers add several bidet bottles to their preps. They are useful for cleaning hard to reach areas including your bottom.
Ladies need to make sure they dry off a bit because excess moisture can lead to yeast infections or encourage other bacteria that may be more common during a survival situation. You may want to reserve one bottle strictly for your medical kit, and another for bathroom needs so that you can keep things as clean as possible and avoid bacterial contamination incidents.
You are not going to be able to put back enough toilet paper for a long term SHTF situation. If you have 20% of your storage taken up with toilet paper, then you need to rethink your priorities unless you have a lot of room to spare!
At some point, toilet paper is going to run out. Hey, I don’t like to think about it either! Also if you have limited space for storing preps, you would be better off with more food and medical supplies. Toilet paper takes up a lot of room. 100-200 rolls maybe but beyond that, you are probably wasting space on a luxury that people lived without for a long time. If you have a lot of space, then that is up to you but don’t go too crazy stashing TP.
TP goes further if you only use it for defecation and use a bidet bottle for cleansing after urination.
You can make your TP stash go further if you are aware and make an effort by using other methods for urination. If you have a lot of ladies in the house, then they all need to learn to use bidet bottles. You can probably double or even triple how long your toilet paper supply lasts by doing this!
Other Toilet Paper Alternatives
At one point I did a complete post on toilet paper alternatives. It may be worth revisiting if you are putting together some bathroom supplies for SHTF.
Lime is cheap and can sanitize a latrine. It is powdered or pelletized and inexpensive. A bag goes a long way. Pelletized is nice because it doesn’t give off a lot of dust when you are pouring it. Preppers look over lime as something to put back, but it is useful for a lot of things from fertilizing to enhancing decomposition when needed. Of course, you need to be careful with anything that enhances the breaking down of organic matter. Lime is not something you want to leave on your hands or get in your eyes.
Feces carries a lot of germs. While we are all exposed to plenty of it, you do have to be careful during a survival situation because it is easy to forget to wash your hands. Hand sanitizer will work to some degree but using it too much is not a good thing either. Wet wipes or soap and water should be used after each poop if at all possible. During an emergency, your system may be stressed enough that you don’t have the ability to tolerate some bacteria, viruses, and illnesses. This means handwashing is even more important than usual!
Handwashing also helps reduce the risk of disease becoming very widespread. If someone is suffering from any type of intestinal or colon related virus or bacteria, it is essential to make sure their bodily fluids do not come into contact with other people in your group. If someone has been suffering, keep them away from food duties if possible until they get better.
Donna did an excellent post on handwashing.
Any cuts or openings in the skin that come into contact with feces should be cleaned and treated immediately!
Feces promotes infection. During the Vietnam War, sharpened sticks that were dipped in feces were used in traps to promote infection. In a hot and humid jungle, an infection could happen fast. This is one of the lessons I learned from my father about the reality of jungle warfare.
One reason you want to keep it clean is the fact that a lot of people are carrying parasites and are not even aware of it. Pinworms are very easy to catch from school-age children or even the parents of school-age kids. Everyone should have some worm medications in their medical kit. Parasites are a major issue during a SHTF situation, especially in the warm and humid parts of the country. Summer and spring are when parasites thrive. You don’t have to get poop on you to get them either. If people avoid touching their mouths, it can help prevent parasites, but when you are asleep, it can happen.
Using lime or burying waste can help kill any parasites that are lurking about. It is far easier to stop this type of thing in the beginning then get it under control after you have a major problem.
Lack of modern sanitation can lead to parasites even if you are careful. I recommend that you keep some worm medicine on hand for your entire family.
Reece’s Pinworm Medicine is the name brand that many people go for because it is sold at drug stores and readily available online. If you are the type that doesn’t mind substituting for a generic then you will do a lot better getting large bottles of Pyrantel Pamoate and putting them back. This is the same thing as Nemex that you give dogs and cats and the same active ingredient as Reece’s but at a much lower cost.
Yeast infections are more common when toilet paper or methods of cleaning are not available.
Women and men can get a yeast infection, but during a situation where a regular bathroom is not available, they can happen more often when there is less toilet paper and other supplies for drying. It is important to keep yourself dry in order to avoid yeast and other fungal infections. Yeast infections can get passed back and forth too, so men need to be aware too.
As part of your medical kit for SHTF, I recommend adding some antifungals. A few packs of Monista is a good start but you can get Fluconazole for fish. This is the same active ingredient as Diflucan, a strong pill that doctors prescribe for yeast infections. The fish version is only 100 mg whereas the prescription for people is 150 mg so you have to take 1.5 pills to equal what the doctor would prescribe.
Please note that I am not a medical professional. It is a personal choice if you take a pill labeled for fish or any other animal. If that is all that is available during a SHTF situation, you may not be that picky.
Fish Flucon from Thomas Labs
One advantage to burying your waste or throwing it away in bags is that it will not attract flies or stink a bunch. During the hot time of year, this can be a major issue especially if a site is used by a lot of people.
I have a lot of issues with composting toilets. Part of this is that they tend to have a smell, are not very portable, and they are expensive, but not compared to a septic system. I did a post on composting toilets for those that are interested in learning more about the current options and costs. There are more options than their once were and they are less expensive.
Have you considered what you will do about bathroom duties during a SHTF situation?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org