Sanitation and Hygiene In a Disaster

Oh No! The Toilet Won’™t Flush!

Maintaining Sanitation and Hygiene without Running Water

One of the biggest sources of disease and food-borne illness is contact with human fecal matter, or, as many of you may prefer to call it, pooh.

That’™s right. This may not be a pretty topic, but unless the words dysentery, cholera, diarrhea, and plaque sound like fun to you, it’™s one that you’™re going to need to prepare for in case of disaster.

If you can’™t flush the toilet, human waste is going to need to go somewhere sanitary so that it doesn’™t kill you. Literally. Therefore, having a plan for proper sanitation and hygiene in a disaster is very important.

Composting Toilets

These are available either online or at local camping and marine stores. Newer models separate solids from liquids for easy disposal. The waste goes into a sealed bucket and is treated with bleach to kill all bacteria and disease-causing parasites so that you may dump it without fear of contamination into your waste pit or latrine. You still need to find a way to dispose of it away from a water source, though.

Cat Holes

Cat holes are one of the easiest ways to maintain sanitation and hygiene in a pinch. These are exactly what they sound like. Go outside away from the water supply, dig a small hole (6-8 inches around and 8 inches deep or so) with a little shovel or spade, do your business in the hole and cover it up.

Dig a Latrine

The old-fashioned outhouse is still an acceptable way to manage waste. If you choose to Dig a Latrinedo this, make sure that you dig it at least 200 feet away from any potential water source. You can also use a slop bucket that you’™d dump in the latrine for overnight “gotta go’™s”.

To dig a trench latrine that multiple people can use, make sure that it’™s away from the water supply then dig a trench that’™s at least 1 ½ feet wide and 1 foot deep. It can be as long as you’™d like it to be.  Simply cover your waste with chlorinated lime each time that you go to keep the smell down.

If you don’™t have lime, kitty litter or wood ash will help. Cover the ditch when it begins to get full and start over. Word of Warning: If you live in an area that’™s extremely rocky or prone to flooding, digging a latrine may not be a viable option for you.

Choose a Home with a Septic System

If you’™re buying a home anyway, choose one that’™s on a septic instead of on city water, or if possible (as it is in some places in Florida) buy one with both. As long as you have access to at least grey water to flush with, you don’™t have any sanitation and hygiene concerns because your septic system isn’™t affected by lack of power.

Hunter's LooGrab a Bucket

If you have no other option, you can always use a bucket or line your toilet with a garbage bag. You’™ll need a 5-gallon bucket with a lid, heavy duty garbage bags and lime.

Simply do your business in the bucket, cover it with chlorinated lime, and put the lid back on. When the bag begins to get full, seal it up and replace it with a fresh one. Dispose of it when you can either in a sanitary waste disposal system or in a latrine.

If you want to get really fancy, you can use a toilet seat on the bucket!

How Much Toilet Paper Should You Stockpile?

Proper sanitation and hygiene is much easier if you have a stockpile of toilet paper. Though everybody uses a different amount and women use more than men, figure 1 roll per person per week. It’™s not like you can really have too much toilet paper and if you do, your neighbors will be grateful!

For Girl’™s Eyes Only

If you experience your monthly cycle, then you’™re going to need a supply of biodegradable tampons or pads. These are fairly inexpensive and easy to come by but make sure that you don’™t forget to include them in your stockpile. You know how many you use per cycle, so just figure how many months you’™re preparing for and multiply that number by how many you use per cycle.


You now have a few more things to add to your stockpile list:

  • 1 roll of toilet paper per person per week
  • 2 garbage bags per person per week for sanitation needs
  • 1 pound of chlorinated lime per person per week
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • 2 five-gallon buckets with lids

How you’™re going to dispose of your waste is a decision that you need to make and Hydration & Sanitationprepare for before disaster strikes because it truly is a life-threatening situation if you’™re not prepared. Use bio-degradable bags if possible but not ones that are going to break down while the’™re in the buckets!

Also, make sure that they meet local waste disposal standards. Even if you only set aside the requisite bucket, lid, lime and bags, you’™re going to be thankful that you took the time to prepare for the most basic elements of sanitation and hygiene!

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