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How to Keep Clean Off the Grid

laundry outsidePlanning for long term sanitation is oftentimes just an afterthought, but for hygiene and health reasons, it really needs to be brought to the forefront.  Disposing of garbage and the washing of clothes should be two priorities for maintaining sanitary conditions in an ‘off grid’ situation.

Garbage Disposal

Trying to store trash for a long period of time is not practical for most and is a health hazard in waiting. There are really only two options that the long term survivalist has:

Trash burns.  In areas that can safely accommodate them, small trash burns are the most expedient.  For urban dwellers and most suburban survivalists, this may not be an option. Still, there are several burning methods that could work in many places.  By using safe, controlled burning methods, it’s possible to conduct a safe burn in a backyard. The use of fire pits or steel drums can control the burn to limited spaces. As long as other basic fire safety rules are followed, such as burning on low-wind days, ensuring proper ventilation, dowsing embers, trash burns can be considered.

Bury the trash. If burns are not an option, or you don’t want the smoke to draw attention, then dig a hole.  It needs to be a fairly deep hole, however, so that it doesn’t attract animals. If you are relying upon any below ground or a nearby water source, buried trash could render it undrinkable.

Food waste makes for great compost so it should be buried separately from other kinds of trash. While it is possible to store cardboard trash, it should be flattened and bundled to save space. Just be aware of the possible fire hazard.

Washing Clothes

Maintaining a sanitary environment is critical during an emergency, and dirty clothes are a threat to personal hygiene as well as the sanitary conditions of the dwelling. The accumulation of sweat, dirt, and toxins can cause serious skin problems. Clothes washing skills, especially in the shortage or absence of electricity, a water source, or detergent should be learned and practiced before a disaster strikes.

Plunger method.  Take a big bucket or container and pour just enough water to cover a few items of clothing (don’t overfill or water could slosh out and be wasted). If you have any detergent or baking soda, pour a very small amount into the container. Then start plunging with your toilet plunger. Rinse in another bucket of clean water and then set out to dry.

Natural sunlight.  When there is ample sunlight, clothes can be “cleaned” with the natural UV rays of the sun. Simply lay the clothes flat and or on a line for a few hours. To ensure that the clothing items get full sun exposure, they would need to be turned after a couple of hours. Then, beat the clothes with a broom (if on a line) or shake them hard.  As an added measure, the clothes can be left out at night to collect nature’s moisture, then left to fry again.

Ammonia. When ammonia is applied to a bucket of water it creates a “no-rinse” way to wash clothes. Used with the plunging method or some other means of churning the clothes, the ammonia smell eventually just disappears so there is no reason to rinse.

All of these trash disposal and clothes washing methods provide low cost, space saving, resource preserving ways of maintaining the best possible sanitary conditions. It’s very important to determine, ahead of time, which methods are the most practical for you, and the only way you’ll really know is to practice NOW.

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