Dealing with human waste and hygiene

This is a guest post by Mike R

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

As a health care professional for 30 years, and with 20 years of that being spent in the military, I brag that I am a defecation expert. You could say that I, “know my shite”. The greatest number of casualties in war is to sickness and disease. War has a nasty habit of paralyzing or removing the infrastructures of society, such as good sewage systems, regular removal of garbage, and clean drinking water.

While immunizations have been given the credit for saving the lives of millions of humans, immunizations should really only be given the credit for mopping up the last of the mess; the development of modern hygiene and sanitation techniques and systems had already reduced the death rates in many of those illnesses by 80% by the time immunizations showed up on the scene.Many survival scenarios will place a person or a family into an environment that is similar to living in war-time.

Water and sewage are likely to not be dependable and the garbage truck will not show up on Tuesdays. Power to homes may be unavailable,rendering the use of refrigerators obsolete and making it difficult to cook food or even,and especially, boil water. The more populated the area, the greater the risks. In my experience in the field during my military years, I learned that modern folks do not take the presence of germs seriously–until they are very sick.

There are many articles on this site which address treating drinking water, so I will assume that you have read those and prepared (you have, havenʼt you?) Letʼs look at two other issues that you will deal with, correctly or incorrectly to your health or illness.

Waste

Humans produce pounds of liquid and solid waste per day—and that is just from the body.The primary problem is defecation. But you are thinking, “Bears crap in the woods, why canʼt I?” No shooting, Sherlock! You sure can, but how often and how much will depend on how many people are involved and how large of an area is being occupied by your survival “group.” Human “shite” is partially the remains of bacteria that have been enjoying a nice meal and the fiber and connective tissues of foods that were not totally digested.

Many of these bacteria are helpful. Some are helpful but only when confined to a safe area–like your gut and not your other body orifices. You may have recently read that fecal bacteria is a common inhabitant of the surfaces of shopping cart handles, even more so than the toilet in the bathroom that is cleaned once per day. Put these guys in the wrong place and you can be a very sick person and convey that illness to those around you. The end result can be dysentery or a number of other bad illnesses.

There are any number of good methods for the digging of latrines. Perhaps the fastest and most readily available is the “cat hole”. Just like a cat, but using a trowel or other digging tool you should dig to the depth of the tool, about 8 inches for a trowel and 12 inches for a shovel. One quick squat over the hole and then cover it up.

You may wish to mark it with a stone or cover it with natural materials for aesthetics depending upon your group size. The larger the group, the more dispersed the holes need to be. The main advantage of the “cat hole” is that it holds only a small amount of material that can decompose quickly.

That is also its main disadvantage–it only holds a small amount of material. What if there are several people in your group and you will be using that back yard for a while? In that case, you will want to consider the trench latrine.The trench latrine is exactly that–a long trench.

It should be 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep.Try to keep the dirt you have dug out on the side of the trench so that waste can easily be covered up. Then leave the shovel in the dirt with a roll of toilet paper on a stick.Then follow the old SWSW method–Squat, Wipe, Shovel, and Wash. Ideally, you should keep some sort of a small cleansing station near by for your hands–water and soap.

If using porta-potties, or any contained waste system, your challenge will be disposal of the waste. Tied, plastic bags stacked in the alley wonʼt cut it. Like all waste, it needs to be buried and like with any real estate, itʼs all about location, location, location!Chemical toilets are designed to “decontaminate” the waste, but when it comes to shite,you donʼt want to mess around. Bury that shite. Waste burial and latrines should follow two important rules:

  1. 60 to 70 adult steps (200 ft) from an encampment or water source is ideal (if you use my backyard, you just go as far as you can!). Besides concerns for water and smell,there is the real concern of flies and other pests spreading contamination. It isnʼt pleasant to think that the fly that is dining on the other end of your corn cob just dined at the latrine. Bacteria travel by air or by touch, be it with dusty winds or the legs of a fly or the hand of a fiend.
  2. Alway place your waste site away from and below the level of any water source or drainage that leads to a water source. If you have a nice spring on your survival site,never above the spring. Like water, shite rolls down hill, so the spot needs to be away from and BELOW the level of any spring, never above the potential water source. If rains is going to flow, where will it carry things? Think before you dig.

Solid waste from meals should be separated. You will want all non-animal food products except egg-shells to go into your compost file that you will undoubtedly be using to fertilize and soften your heritage garden spot where you planted the heritage seeds that you bought (you have, havenʼt you?). More importantly, it wonʼt waste valuable space in your garbage pit.

Animal products should be treated like human waste. Can animal waste be burned? You bet. You can even burn shite. Why there are even solar, gas, and electric-powered shite-burning toilets, but my guess is you and I wonʼt have access to one and the open burning of shite needs to be done properly. Better to use a latrine.But what about urine?

You should use your latrine or a designated seepage area that follows the same rule. Generally, human urine is without germs, but in its fresh form is not a great fertilizer. If you have a small group with control over the collection. Buckets to collect the urine and contain it until it has “ripened” for a few days can provide you with a very rich source of nitrogen fertilizer for your garden. Pee can be good for peas, if allowed to “ripen”.

Some may ask about the use of human waste for fertilizer. It is used raw in many nations, but those people also enjoy hosting a couple of dozen worms in their guts. Feces can be turned safely into a compost, can be dried and burned as fuel, and can be used more directly on gardens if you donʼt mind having worms.

Food waste that is from animals does not a happy compost pile make. It will attract a whole different gang of bugs and bacteria and It should be burned or buried like human waste or your compost pile will come to smell like it.Empty cans and food containers can become quickly filled with bacteria and pose a problem for storage as well.

Crush containers that can not be burned or cleaned first,can be crushed and buried away from the living site. Burnable containers and waste can be dealt with that way and they may be an excellent source of tinder. Metal containers can also be put into the burn pile to burn away the food that contaminates them.

If you choose to burn your solid garbage, then be aware that not all that burns is good for you. Plastics, rubber, and styrofoam, among many things, produce noxious toxins.Other than that, follow two rules when it comes to garbage burn pits: (1) keep them downwind and (2) bigger is not better. When burning garbage a slow smoldering fire is far more effective and efficient.In the end, you want to minimize the amount of waste (piles of trash are piles of trash),and keep your group healthy.

Washing

We all know about how to prepare drinking water by now and if not, search for one of the many excellent articles on this site. Your concern for water should not be just about consumption but for cleaning. The washing of the hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of most illnesses, but if you are short on water, you are likely to think about drinking before washing.

You wonʼt feel that way if you become dehydrated and unable to absorb water due to chronic diarrhea that you acquired from poor hand washing, yours or others. When considering your storage of drinking water, also thing about quantities and containers for water to be used for washing. The presence of soap is a major step towards the washing of hands, dishes, utensils, and the body as it breaks up the dirt and oil that allow bacteria to remain affixed to our hands and the surfaces of dishes, containers, and canteens.

It is far easier to remove bacteria than kill them.The larger your survival group or the greater the human density per square area, the greater you need for strict rules on hand washing. Most who prepare for disaster situations rarely store enough drinking water, much less water to clean with.

The wise survivalist will at least have containers ready to store non-potable water, which becomes good washing water. Wash before you touch your mouth, after you defecate, and before you eat. If you are in contact with many other survivors, wash more frequently.

Hand sanitizer is effective, generally, but may not be available. Good, effective soap can be made with lye extracted from ashes, and fat or oil. You can find some articles on soap making elsewhere on the site. If lacking enough soap, use the natural sanitizer for your dishes and utensils after rinsing and removing all material–energy from the sun or a fire. Leaving those dishes in the hot sun when not in use will help sanitize them. Just be sure to remove any dust they might acquire before using.

Hygiene and grooming

Survival situations are unplanned and rarely fun and exciting. Westerners soon discover that the human body smells very badly after a few days without a shower and soap. And guess what, you will thing that your body is the only one that doesnʼt stink! Just ask your neighbor–it does, and badly.

As importantly, grooming provides an important daily activity that assures the group that life goes on. Simple things like combing the hair,shaving, and bathing whenever able, brushing your teeth, and the washing or sun and fresh air exposure of clothing is very important to reminding us that we are indeed human and can stave off depression and stress.

Good military commanders know the importance of this and will insist that their soldiers are clean and groomed when at all possible. The value of a clean and/or dry pair of socks in cold or damp weather becomes clear in a matter of days. Want to make some real money in a survival situation–just stock plenty of clean underwear and socks.

Veterans among us will remember field showers that lasted only a few minutes but which took off weeks of grime and crud. The psychological effect of being clean is as important as important as the aspect related to physical health.

Mike Reith is a health professional in Fresno, CA and can be reached [email protected]

Comments

  1. Spook45 says:

    DIG!! Always DIG if you have the ability ot do so. a couple of feet is most desireable but if not just dig as deep as you can nad then back fill after. And yes, always wash well, and of coarse an yantiseptic properties you can come up with for these purposes would be a good idea.

    • If you have the money , getting a Bobcat for tasks like this would be beyond useful .

      • bamabecca says:

        Yeah, since a bobcat is bigger than a housecat, I bet he could do a lot of digging and covering! LOL J/K!

        The problem with the Bobcat is that if it gets bad enough that you don’t have sewage, garbage or electrical service…what are you gonna do for fuel? I’d rather use my saved fuel for things like my generator, etc.

        Good idea though if you can store lots of fuel for it.

        • Well thats a good point . I wonder if a bobcat could be converted to run on alcohol ? if so , your in business ! your going to be eating , have food trash , and disposing of trash anyway , you could use some of that with a still to make fuel alcohol .

          • Bamabecca says:

            I bet it could, let us know if you find any info on it….and good luck! 😉

            waitaminute…..alcohol….race cars……my car, generator, chain saw, etc, etc, etc……lol, thanks for the idea, gonna do some digging now! 😉

    • Small quantities of waste should be buried at 8 to 12 inches because they will decompose more rapidly than at deeper levels due to gas/air exchange. Putting a stone over the pit helps keep dogs and other animals from digging it up. Outhouse pits are dug deeper for economic reasons and will pollute groundwater if there is any nearby.
      If you have ever had amoeba H or shigela, you will pay more attention to sanitation– your“s and other people`s.

  2. Very good article. This is one of the things that are a top concern just below water.
    Glad you wrote it.

  3. Fantastic article on a very necessary but often overlooked aspect of survival! Articles like this are why I keep coming back to this site.

  4. AZ Rookie Prepper says:

    Great article Mike. Thanks.

  5. riverrider says:

    mike, great post. a lot of folks forget about the waste. and many, many city dwellers have no idea what to do with it. one thing i’d add to this is gray water usage. gray water is the water that comes from shower, bath sink, and washer drains. i replumbed my house to seperate these drains and ran them outside to a tank. this water is used to flush the toilet in emergencies. the toilet and kitchen drain are the only ones running into the septic system, extending its life. soaps, shampoos, detergents and especially bleach harm the natural decomp process that goes on in the septic system. i’m in the process of setting up a 500 gallon rainwater tank, with both 12v and hand pumps for freshwater.
    again, great job on the post.

    • In our home in the country that we sold back in October, the folks had their thinking caps on when it came to waste. On one side of the house was a septic tank and black water went in there and on the other side was a sort of leech field and the gray water went that way. They even had it plumbed so that you could change the way the washer was hooked up to use it with a hose outside to water when you washed clothes.
      Living in the 5th wheel we wash outside with a wringer washer and two much buckets for rinsing and then dump the water on the plants or in the garden. The muck buckets are heavy when full so they sit on a wheeled cart that I just tug over to the garden and dump when I am done. The washer has a hose with a shut off valve on it that I open up to water the shrubs around the well house.
      I feel like I am being a better steward of our resources by trying to use water more than once when possible.
      I used to change out the dump hook up from gray to black for the 5er itself but it was less than sanitary so we decided to leave it as is and reuse the wash water but not the water used in the 5er itself.
      My daughters didnt like changing out the sewer hook up every four days. I dont blame them and it was a concession I was willing to make knowing if TSHTF we can go back to the other way or some different way all together.

  6. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Good article, remember what took Napolean down, lack of sanitation

  7. This is good information and a great article, and reminds me of the great thing about living in a rural area. We have a rather self contained septic system capable of handling at least 6 full time adults. As long as I have water from our well or our creek, we are good to go. As a kid growing up in western PA, we had a “cottage” in a rural area where we spent many days in the summer. The outhouse or pit latrine (a fancy one with two holes) was use extensively. Doesn’t hurt to keep a little lime available to cover the bottom of the hole now and then; however, peat moss or other compost can also be used?
    As for trash, the compost pile and a burn barrel or burn pile have been rural staples for centuries. For those of you in rural areas, you have more advantages than you may know, and should be thankful for them each and every day.
    One additional thing to keep in mind on the relative placement of the outhouse is the 100 yard rule. No ,matter where you place it, it will be 100 yards too close in the summer, and 100 yards to far away in the winter.

    • Schatzie Ohio says:

      How often do you have your septic system pumped out? When we lived in California we never had our septic system pumped out in the 20 years we lived there. When we sold the house they had the system pumped and there was less than a foot of sludge in the bottom of the tank. I was very careful of what went down the drain in the kitchen.

      • We were having it pumped out every 3 to 5 years, but discovered that the main culprit was two females and a really nice thick 2-ply toilet paper (Northern I think). We’ve switched to a Scott single-ply which degrades more quickly and haven’t pumped it in more than 5 years, and inspections show that we’re still in pretty good shape. One other thing with a septic system is to be careful what you flush, especially when it comes to household chemicals which could kill off the useful bacteria.

        • Larry B. says:

          I make certain to flush a box Rid-X down the toilet
          every two months….or I should say, the contents of the box. We have never had the tank pumped in over 30 years. We never flush anything that might be toxic to the micro organisms. We use Sam’s members mark toilet paper. Works for us.

    • “…it will be 100 yards too close in the summer, and 100 yards to far away in the winter.”

      Amen to that, brother! My great grandma had an outhouse on her property and she would share that that exact phrase. Thanks for bringing back a happy memory!

  8. Excellent information. Thank you!

  9. Patriot Farmer says:

    Great posting. This was very practical and reminds us about the basics of hygiene and waste disposal, especially for those of us who plan to “bug in” during a crisis.

  10. I liked the article but not really practical for the vast majority of Americans who live in a city. You can’t really go out into the middle of your apartment complex and dig a poop hole.

    I would suggest everyone living in the city stock a few five gallon buckets, a fitted toilet seat lid and a bag of kitty litter. Use the bucket then cover your waste with kitty litter. When the bucket is full put a lid on it and set it out back. After the crisis has passed take your buckets to a local state park and empty the mess down the pit toilets.

    If you are living in the city, any disaster over a few weeks will bring more problems than where to poop but the buckets allow you to stay safely in your home.

    As long as the sewer stays flowing urinate in the sink or tub. When that doesn’t work piss in a specially designated bucket then empty into the storm drains. Everybody else will be pissing outside so contamination is not an issue.

  11. Great article ! History can be a good teacher also of what to do and what NOT to do . The military in the field used to dispose of human waste by mixing it with diesel fuel in an oil drum and lighting it on fire ( Vietnam era ) . I’m sure this smelled just peachy but seemed to work . Lack of plentiful water for hygiene and filthy living conditions were problems for soldiers in WW1 , Lice in hair and clothing became a serious problem as well as other parasites mentioned above . The trenches of WW1 are an extreme example of squalid living conditions , but as the article points out , this can become just as serious a problem to us if not addressed properly . The onset will just be more subtle than the trenches .

    • Jarhead03 says:

      Did it in the Gulf and Somalia! One part of technological advancement they haven’t figured out I guess. We had piss trough and then the “head” for #2. Good times pouring diesel fuel on it and steering lol.

  12. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Holy crap! The outhouse may be making a comeback in the not-too-distant furture. If so, save the ashes from your fires and to toss them onto the waste in the outhouse from time to time. The oldtimers did this to keep down the smell, deter flies, and to help decompose the waste.

    This week I recieved my order of hand soap and am quite happy to have 96 bars of soap that lather in cold water as well as hot, and don’t have a sickeningly sweet smell to them. http://www.kirksnatural.com/barsoap.html The price goes up on August 1st. (I am not affiliated with this company in any way, merely sharing info with friends who may want to buy soap instead of make it.)

    For camping and prospecting trips, I use WagBags and a LuggableLoo for toilet hygiene The bags and powders are biodegradable. Here’s a video about them, warning – FOUL LANGUAGE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc0QCKSaPK0
    And here’s a link to a photo of the LuggableLoo http://www.cabelas.com/catalog/largeImagePopup.jsp?productId=714054 (Not affiliated with any of the products mentioned in this post.)

    Well, this comment has been one big poop-product recommendation after another. I like pictures, they help me understand things, so I provide them here in the hope that the links will help others in their decisions about hygiene.

    I recently read that friction kills viruses and soap kills bacteria. I don’t remember where I read that, but the article explained that by rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and high-sudsing soap you will do a more thorough job of cleaning your hands than if you merely dangled them in the water for a second and gave them a quick rub. I have also read that women are much more lax in hand-washing than are men when in public restrooms. So what’s up with that, ladies???

    Good info, thanks Mike.

    • A bag of lime helps the stink pretty good also

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Yes, but ashes are free and it’s a good way to get rid of them. During TEOTWAWKI, there may be no source for lime, but ashes will be plentiful.

        • True that !

        • In the old days, lye was extracted from fireplace ash. Ashes were thrown into a wooden box type device in the yard (over a grass/hay barrier) and rainwater then leeched the ash out the bottom of the device. The lye was then collected, at the bottom of the device, for making soap, use in outhouse, etc. Saw this in Salem, IL where Lincoln’s old home town has been reconstructed with many of the nineteenth century devices in working condition, including this one.

      • Jarhead03 says:

        Plus you may get weird looks at the hardware store picking up 50 pound bags or 5 pound bags every couple weeks lol. May have some uniforms knocking on the door.

    • bamabecca says:

      LP, the ladies are busy with other things like making sure all their hair is in place, “freshening up” their makeup, etc, etc. YUK……right after using the bathroom? Wash your hands FIRST ladies! 😉

    • Lint – Thanks for the heads up on the price increase for the Castile soap. Recently paid $1.89/bar, so even with shipping it’s a good price. Kirk’s Castile and Fels Naptha Soap are an intergral part of my hygiene prepping. The Fels Naptha ( for those not old enough to remember) is great laundry soap for stains, really dirty stuff (oil and filth) treating poison ivy and getting rid of head lice. All potential issues if TSHTF. A bargin at half the price when something has so many uses.

  13. TomTheTinker says:

    Mike.. mike.. mike: I’m going to have a bad dream tonight! I’m going to find myself dragging a couple of cut off oil drums out from under a plywood privy… full… sloshing… lumpy…. ‘ripe’. I’m going to drag em down next to a wire fence and then go put a couple of ’emties’ where the full ones were. Next I’m going to see myself haul a green can of diesel down to the wire and slosh a gallon or so into each of those putrid lil cut offs…. I’m going to light em off and stand up wind with as long a stick or branch as I can find. As they burn down, I’m gonna step up and stir em up a little and try not to dry heave before I can get up wind again….. Gawd I hope I wake up before I get to the stir em up part!!!

    Good Post Sir! I think a sealed tub of quick lime is in order… if not for the ‘latrine’…. then for the bodies!

    • Omo Bob says:

      AMEN!!! I remember the “burn-out latrines” also…it was the job reserved for the new guys and yard birds. You knew for several hundred yards in any direction when one was being burned, and if you didn’t do enough stirring, it left a huge glob instead of ashes, and had to be done over again…I remember volunteering for patrols and ambushes just to get out of my turn at the “burn-outs”… (good times, good times…)

    • Tom,
      You can really spin a nightmare . . . arrrgh.

      As for the lime, it has to be for the latrine’, because I’m sure a single tub will not suffice otherwise – LOL

  14. TomTheTinker says:

    Just hit me: My AC unit condensate could double as ‘flush’ fluid and I just figured out how to drop a ‘surplus’ toilet over the basement main drain with a compression fitting to drop a 4 inch line right down into the soilpipe. Ya got me motivated MIKE!

    • I set potted tomatoes, lettuce and cilantro under the place where my a/c drips. Its purified water and saves watering here in Texas where its so very dry.

  15. Hunker-Down says:

    Mike R.,
    Staying healthy will be 10 times as hard after TSHTF. Thanks for addressing this important topic. I will print your article for our Survival Manual and read it often after TSHTF.

    For the rest of us, if you are as old as me, you should remember how an ‘out house’ is constructed, and where to put it. If you don’t know, go to http://www.woodworkersworkshop.com/resources/index.php?cat=725 and print out the plan of your choice. Do it today, the net may not be up tomorrow. Buy (or scrounge) the wood and store it along with some magazines, catalogs and phone books. If you don’t know what to do with the printed material, further research on “out house protocol” is needed.

    • blindshooter says:

      Thanks for the link, there are some fancy ones there!
      One of the first chores I remember(who could forget?) was dumping the “night jar” in the back house. My dad installed the indoor toilet when I was about 7, my first OJT in the plumbing profession. Lets see if I can remember Pops plumbing rule, hot on the left, cold on the right and sh*t won’t run uphill. No disrespect to any plumbers, I have great respect for what a lot of those guys go through every day.

      • blindshooter,
        I was told it was:
        Sh*t runs downhill.
        Friday is payday.
        AND
        Never chew your fingernails.
        LOL

        • blindshooter says:

          “Never chew your fingernails.” OP, you owe me a keyboard. This one is useless when the juice dries!

        • And I heard that all you needed to know to be a plumber was:
          1) Paydays on Friday.
          2) The boss is an SOB!
          And
          3) S*#t don’t run up hill.
          Seems everyone likes to pick on plumbers (until you see them pull up to the bank in their Caddys). Must be envy?

          • No disrespect meant to plumbers or any of the skilled trades. They can pay well, and are pretty immune from being outsourced to China.

    • AZ Rookie Prepper says:

      Hunker-Down, I looked through the woodworkersworkshop links and printed out quite a few of the plans, not just the outhouses. Thanks for posting that link, some great stuff.

    • Matt in Oklahoma says:

      Thanks Hunker-Down

    • bamabecca says:

      LOL, I’ve actually been saving all those “junk” catalogs I get in the mail just for that purpose Hunker-down, lol. My grandmother had an outhouse when I was a child. I remember her having gardenias (or Cape Jasmine) planted on either side of it to help mask the odor in the summer.

      The lime and the ashes are also things I remember her using.

      Since there are only 2 of us (for now), I think I’d prefer the squat and cover method except during “skeeter” season. We have some down here that could almost carry you off!

    • Hunker-Down,
      I’ve been looking over all of the resources and plans on that link, and I think this is one of the most useful links I’ve seen in a long time. Thank you sir!!!

  16. Great article. I traveled to very remote areas in Alaska and used the principles you mentioned. Also, waste disposal is one on the biggest problems faced by native villagers in all of rural Alaska. This is an area many fail to address since they have never faced it. Putting bleach over your poop if you are using a bag system will stem disease. The germs in pit or trench toilets can be controlled by pouring lye over them. If you do not have lye use the ashes from your wood fire.

  17. Excellent article! We lived for eight years without plumbing. Using the outhouse was just a way of life for us and I sometimes forget how our ‘city’ friends initially responded when they came to visit. Since our kids were fairly young, we used a portable commode like they have in hospitals and nursing homes (a lightweight frame for the LuggableLoo) for after dark and below 30 degrees). From our experience, wood ashes do help but lime creates a hard crust that eventually prevents drainage. If I were in a suburban setting, I would get one of those mini tents you can use for camping showers, then I could move my shallow outhouse around the backyard.
    And for folks who are looking at ways to collect the shower water, solar showers are great – stand in a galvanized tub. If you turn the shower off while you lather up (basically just use it to rinse yourself), you can get 2 – 3 showers out of that 5 gallon bag.

  18. GoneWithTheWind says:

    Some good information but I cannot get past the statement “the development of modern hygiene and sanitation techniques and systems had already reduced the death rates in many of those illnesses by 80% by the time immunizations showed up on the scene.”

    I doubt you can prove it. You obviously believe it and your faith and beliefs made you overstate your case.

    • riverrider says:

      there are no immmunizations for dysentary, so he could be correct. only proper sanitation can prevent it.

      • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

        Clean water reduced typhus dramatically. Cleanliness nearly eliminated the Plague from Western Europe, but only after 1/3 of the population died from it. So, I think Ron was right.

        • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

          Sorry, I meant to say I think MIKE was right.

        • Interesting thing about that , medieval people were filthy and had a poor diet , 1000 years earlier , the Romans bathed and washed their hands regularly , and had a wide variety in their diet and were much healthier people .

  19. Exceptionally good post. Those of us who were in the military have the advantage of experience in this area. Thanks for the refresher.

  20. Hygiene in a post SHTF world will needless to say , be more difficult . Women may be particularly uncomfortable in certain situations . Seeing how varied this sites community is , it would probably be a great place for any of the female readers to chime in about female specific issues women will have to deal with in a post SHTF world on many levels that are seldom discussed on other sites . They need to be ! Granted the majority of readers and posters on any survival site are men . We all have wives or girlfriends that we plan to hold onto and want to keep healthy but face it , female issues are not our area of expertise . In some states , a woman can still get a midwife certification , They are not too many midwives around but are a godsend in rural and isolated communities , my great grandmother was a midwife and delivered babies on homesteads and ranches .

    • joe tentpeg says:

      Old Army trick for the gals: get’em a “portable toilet” aka a rain poncho when on the move. Many a gal could take of business while on convoys, patrols, etc. by taking a temporary halt, and “dropping trow” with the poncho on and squatting (etool and paper included).

      • True that , and very practical . I prefer the idea of another posters idea of a fortified community . Women should be trained to be able to defend themselves with confidence , but hell if I’m letting my gal go on a patrol , or convoy action . Thats what the cannon fodder , I mean guys are for . 😉 women too valuable , not to mention chivalry forbids it lol .

  21. Papabear says:

    Great post. You brought back some memories of the army though.

  22. Great and practicle article. A properly sited and built outhouse will have a hole about 4 to 5 feet deep. If more then one person is using the outhouse then the paper should be burnt not dropped. Also… Don’t over do the lime or wood ash and it will serve you well for many years. (If it cakes up you are using too much).
    Now everyone needs to address these needs while maintaining OPSEC or Operational Security.

  23. I have 38 bars of soap I had them for over a year. Down to only 1 extra body wash (our preferred way to wash) 6 bottles of shampoo and 3 bottles of conditioner. Yes I have been meaning to store new socks and undies (not for trade though)

    • I have to travel a lot for my job , when they send me out for a short term (2 weeks +) , its always a hotel . I always pack the soap /shampoo / etc . everytime the maid puts it out when I come back from the job . I end up with a good stash at the end of two weeks lol . Free preps is the way I look at it .

  24. AZ Rookie Prepper says:

    I have to admit,when I first read the title of this post “Dealing with human waste…”, I thought it was an article on how to deal with human vermin and mutant sodomizing zombie types…..glad I took the time to read further….LOL

  25. SrvivlSally says:

    Very thorough article and it was very complete. This was a subject that needed to be discussed, by someone with the experience. When thinking about people becoming or being sick, especially with things which could be contageous, it would have been interesting if you had included the wearing of a clean gown, mask and gloves for protecting their clothing and selves and the steps for correctly donning those items so that they do not risk contaminating specific environments.

  26. Why waste it! Compost the stuff and use it to grow food. if you’re not sick then you have nothing to worry about from pathogens. Read the “Humanure”.

  27. The Blue Ghost says:

    When Christchurch had the devastating earthquakes in February, one of their main problems was broken sewer mains. I think every portable toilet in the country was sent in, and the Government arranged for thousands of chemical toilets to be flown in from USA and China. People were doing many of the suggestions made here – digging holes in their garden (those who didn’t have flooding or liquifaction), Using all manner of buckets with and without toilet seats attached, or queueing for the portable toilets on every street corner.
    Of course while in these toilets, they were all hoping that they could get out before the next aftershock hit!
    Many people have held onto their chemical toilets in case the sewer lines broke down again, and indeed we had another major aftershock in June, so everyone went back to their chemical toilets.

    One thing I never heard though, was where people were emptying these toilets. Many were dumping into the street corner portaloos, but where were these being emptied? Probably taken to the few remaining sewage treatment stations.

    Because the authorities jumped on the problem before it got out of hand, there was no outbreak of dysentry or anything else, despite the thousands without water or waste systems, and many without power, heating , or in many cases, a stable roof over their heads.

  28. Mike, you are a woman’s dream guy! When you talk shite, you talk shite, and we listen! lol Excellent post. Question – what about the use of “humanure”? What are your thoughts on that? Sites and videos on line. A local town near me composts, santizes etc, all the “waste” and it’s free compost. I haven’t used it, but I know others have and their plants grow well. Not sure if they use it on their veggie plots though.

    T.R. good question – thank you for thinking of us! Yes, as a woman, I would find it difficult to squat and wipe (not just due to older bones lol) in front of others (mainly, our male counterparts – gf’s – we pee in front of each other all the time, no big deal. #2, well that’s different). For the most part, since women are the caretakers of their families when sick, children, spouses, older relatives, we are used to the “bodily functions” and disposal of those wastes. We are wives, gf’s, moms, doctors, nurses, midwives, etc and are used to seeing ill people who are unable to help themselves do this., so we help. But, when it comes to US doing this? Well….

    We, as women, need to “get over it” in a SHTF situation, but here ya go: as women we do have certain body parts that are noticed/desired by males. Even in a down and dirty, life threatening situation, some men will notice and take adavantage i.e. rape at some point when he sees a female that sparks that “desire” and he can’t control it (or groups of men). Hence, why women are taught modesty, awareness of surroundings and the need to protect oneself (hard to use a pistol when you’ve got one hand in your keister). I suggest the buddy system – one oor more guards – the other squats. Just look at the numbers of rapes that occur in war time – Unfortunately, we HAVE to squat, we don’t have the ability to stand and shoot (yeah, we know how guys compete to see who can pee the highest on the wall – mom of boys, 4 brothers), so it places us at a definite disadvantage. No unzip, pull it out, pee and reverse. We literally undress.

    Second, women have the advantage over males of menstrual cycles – thus, we require certain “extra” equipment/stores of tampons, pads, menstrual cups, etc. Removing and placing these wonderful items in and on our bodies in front of others is not really my idea of “fun times” (you however, might be kinky – don’t wanna know). Disposal is also “different” in that tampons/pads cannot be flushed down a septic system, have to be wrapped (to avoid grossing out the others in your household) and placed in the trash – can be burned, will eventually decompose. Menstrual cups catch the flow and are removed, emptied, cleaned and reused. I know they are still around, and have made somewhat of a comeback for those living a more “natural” lifestyle. The really ancient way is to make pads out of rags. Again there has been a resurgence of this, and there are some that are sold nicely sewn for reuse – but requires more water to cleanse – a precious commodity in SHTF world.

    Some women, unfortunately, have severe cramping, bloating, nausea, headaches, PMS, that send them to bed for several days when menstruating. Medications (prescribed or natural) don’t always work – definitely puts us at a disadvantage, as in safety when incapacitated – if we have no partner to protect us while we are “down and out”.

    This also lends itself to “undergarments or support garments”. Many women have been “blessed” with large breasts which can be difficult. They get in the way of certain physical abilities – try bow/arrow shooting – we can do it, but they can definitely hamper your throw/aim.

    Good support bras are necessary as it helps with the shoulder and back pain/strain, and if you have to RUN, a good bra definitely helps keep you from blackening an eye. It HURTS to run with your breasts bouncing all over the place. Ladies with smaller breasts, stand up and cheer, be grateful!

    Panties – awww, well now… put away the idea of thongs. See number two above, many women have heavy flows and regardless of the type of “pad” they use, will overflow onto their panties. SHTF, no way to wash the panties, need a large supply of extras. Pads are held in place by your panties and clean panties just make you feel better. They also help to keep the flow and a woman’s natural cleansing fluids off of her outer clothing. Put on your big girl PRACTICAL panties and deal with it.

    As a woman, I can tell you that the things that make me feel “clean” when I can’t take a shower and can make me easier to live with are: clean undies, clean hands/teeth/face clean feet, and a clean crotch/backside. Well, and to brush my hair. SO, get me a supply of bras, panties, socks, toothpaste, and ways to wash at least these small parts.

    Remember, that your young daughters, cousins, nieces will grow into needing these things…I’m sure that the other women on this site can come up with some other great information on prepping for women. I only touched on the most basic, undesireable physical topics.

    Great article/posts – I tell ya, I love this site!

    • As far as rape and mens desire goes ……… YES they CAN control it ! they just choose NOT to ! there are absolutely no excuses here . Your either a human being or your a piece of crap that needs to be flushed with the greatest of haste . Period . Self control is a strength , not a weakness . The military is notorious for cover ups of that , I ever caught somebody doin that , they would get a point blank bump fire . Period .

    • Schatzie Ohio says:

      GrannyJ – No need to undress when peeing. Just get yourself an feminine funnel like a Lady J, Freshette, or a Go Girl. I used mine when I went backpacking. Just unzip – pull the leg elastic toward the other leg – place the device and let it rip.

      • TR you’re right – they can….they just don’t. But there are also a lot of mentally challenged folks out there, who with meds, are wonderful, productive human beings – take away their meds, and they can become monsters, unable to control themselves…unable to understand…I’m afraid the pile from your fire will be large – hope I have someone like you watching my back, and my front, and my sides when the time comes.

        Schatzie, thanks for the info…I’ve never heard of them….I’ll be checking that out…I hate baring my butt in the woods as I’m very allergic to poison oak, maybe poison ivy. That’s how I found out….sad sad…I swelled up like you wouldn’t believe – NEVER want to repeat that little episode.

        • Aye that ,
          hopefully we never have to be in that situation . Bad all the way around 🙁

      • Schatzie Ohio – I thought I was ahead of the curve when I got my “she wee”. Talk about impowering. Having traveled many miles in Europe and the US I would get very AGITATED when normal body functions became impossible or expensive under the exisiting mores of society. Guys had it made and used their God given apparatus with recklass abandon and absolutely no embarassment…anywhere..against a building, along the road where ever the spirit moved them. This $12 device changed all of that…know what true freedom is girls. Give it a try http://cottagelife.com/14313/diy/projects/perfect-privy-

  29. I should also mention that I’m speaking of there being no pro-activeness on the part of the government as in Christchurch. Total chaos, etc. I know the folks on this site are more prepared by having their portable, chemical toilets, Outhouses, etc available. Having the portable “toilet” tent that can be set up when needed, and taken down and folded away when not is great, but in a real chaos world, large groups of people around, you NEED a buddy to stand watch; something you can’t do when you are doing your biznizz inside. (always have the weapon at the ready) One never knows. We have to be prepared for all that we can.

    Ok, Im off to the large city wide flea market – lots of old tools, etc. great prices. Where I got my huge supply of canning jars last year.

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      What you need is a Toilet Holster by Ronco. It fits snuggly on your portaloo, holds at least 50 extra rounds of your favorite ammo on its adjustable belt, and has a convenient place to safely stow your weapon of choice. You can get the Presidential model, which holds your standard hunting rifle and fits on toilets that are full of shite. You can order the Congressional model, which holsters your semi-auto assault rifle and has a built in deodorizer for all the stink it raises. You can order the Vice Presidential model, which holds a double barrel shotgun in any gauge and is best when used on toilets that overflow with shite. Or, you can order the Supreme Court model, which holds any pistol you’ve got (it’s adjustable) and works best on toilets that work only when they want to. Lastly, you could order the Al Gore Toilet Holster, it’s good for nothing.

      Order today and you can get 2, that’s TWO, Ronco Toilet Holsters for the price of 1. Just pay the extra shipping & handling charges.

      The Toilet Holster – don’t GO without one.

  30. bamabecca says:

    Mike, you did a wonderful job with this “sh*tty” subject! LOL thanks so much for jogging my old brain into remembering things I already knew but had forgotten and for some new information too. Like someone else said, I’ll be printing this one.

  31. The 4F’s are, (no, get your mind out of the gutter)
    Fingers
    Flies
    Feces
    Filth

    I remember growing up, we always had an outhouse. Only we sprinkled the poop with lime when we finished. I also remember those huge Sears and Roebuck catalogs that the postman use to mistaken bring to the house instead of outback.

  32. Think Methane Digester !
    Simple
    Put caca in sealed container with outlet tube for off gassing.
    Stir daily, by rolling etc.
    Will start producing Methane in short order.
    In 60 days is totally benign to touch and very high in nitrogen , no bugs no disease. Very good for garden.
    Use Methane for cooking, generator etc.
    Look it up folks
    Did my thesis on the subject.
    There are many simple designs out there.

    • Spud – Don’t stop there…the thesis was the hard part…where’s the PDF download for construction. You know we all want to know how. It’s a DYI right? This is not sarcasim, no offense meant. Is it doable?

      • Important point of interest !
        Do not allow off gassing port to clog !
        Shite will hit the fan, when pressure builds.
        Remember, the gas is very flammable !!!

  33. Mike thanks for bringing forward a critical issue all of us will confront if times get tough. There is a lot of information out there concerning human waste disposal and we all need to prepare on various levels.
    #1 Your municipality has a sewer problem (short duration hrs-days). Use the lugable loo, the tote-able toilet with enzyme packets, the wag bag, porta potty, Double Doodie Plus bags with Bio Gel etc. This is a simple one…it generally ends in a few hours and is a blip on the screen.
    #2 Weather /geological related interruption to normal sewer and water services – extended (weeks to months) Serious stuff – cat holes, trench toilets, (layering lime, wood ash, dirt, kitty litter), being careful to keep you site far away from your house and down hill from water supplies. Keeping a “lid on” the contamination is critical as bacterial infection will seep 300 feet, draw animals, rodents and flys ( not good for general welfare and health) Stench!!! not so good.
    #3 TEOTWAWKI – this is the worst case scenerio so if you handeled #1 & #2 we need some levity…but in all seriousness a distinct possibility for the forward thinking prepper. http://www.cottagelife.com/14313/diy/projects/perfect-privy-3

  34. Mike has hit so many good points here and on a subject nobody likes dealing with and, unfortunately, we’re likely to become more like a third-world country post-SHTF because of this very reason.

    Additionally, I might also point out that many people may have unexpected sewer system backups (where the “shite” flows back into your own home and out your drains and toilets) because everyone else is still trying to flush toilets and/or use drains!

  35. grannyj says:

    Mike, others, does anyone know the real scoop on the human poop?

    Humanure – I’ve checked it out on the web, but am still not convinced that it would be a good source….how do they really kill the viruses such as Hep C, HIV, etc….

    I would “suppose” that the next county who DOES give away free recycled human waste/compost has researched, etc…..I hear it works wonders on flower, but veggies? What about after the worms eat it….does that help “clean it up? Inquiring minds want to know…

  36. In industrialized countries human waste isn’t used for fertilizer unless it is biologically sterilized first. DO NOT RISK using it as a food crop fertilizer. It isnt about parasites it’s about viral and bacterial infections. In Vietnam Pungi sticks were dipped in human feces to case massive infections in those who had the misfortune of a run in with them, and it worked quite well.
    Also, disposal of plastic, styroffoam and metal containers as well as other non biodegradable items should end with washing and storage. The disposable world will quickly come to an end at that point. Those cans may be the sole means of repair materials for holes in the roof and so on. Styrofoam dissolved in any solvent capable of melting it makes an excellent sealant for porous materials such as canvas (waterproof a tent), plastic bottles hold that wash water at the latrine… We need to retrain our mindset NOW to be ready for the THEN.

  37. Mike must be a city boy! And, a young one at that. Cat holes, slit trenches, and Porta-Potties are temporary measures. The only semi-permanent solution is an old fashioned “toilet.” When I was a kid in the early ’40s in rural East TN, EVERY house had one and NO ONE had indoor plumbing any other such niceties. A toilet is a five or six foot deep square hole in the ground with a small shed sitting over it. The shed floor includes a “throne” for making deposits. Waste can be covered with a shovel of dirt each time. When the hole starts to fill up, just dig another and move the shed over the new hole.

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