Good sanitary practices and procedures are a big part of what makes modern life in advanced societies so nice. Without sanitation, germs wreak their deadly havoc with frightening ease and the ensuing epidemics can decimate entire populations. You can imagine how quickly any smaller group of people living in close proximity to one another could be waylaid by an outbreak of illness. Whatever other defenses and preparations you had made, none of it would amount to any defense against pestilence.
Sanitation is a major concern in the wake of any major disaster or SHTF scenario, and the biggest part of short and long term sanitation is dealing with the prodigious amounts of waste that human’s produce. Specifically solid waste in the form of feces. It does not take much in the way of imagination to envision a scenario where bad practices or a complete lack of sanitary know-how leads utter misery and, worse, severe illness or even death.
Humans do the deed regularly, and as a consequence we must keep our bodies clean. This means that, no matter how you want to try and square it, you’ll have to wipe your butt because we cannot count on having a bidet handy after the world catches fire. Knowing how to keep your hindquarters clean and then subsequently keeping your hand clean in the aftermath of a movement is an important skill to know in austere environments or any time you simply do not have access to any facilities of any kind (though you should always think ahead and not only stock up on TP, but also have back-up toilets such as composting toilets).
In this article, we’ll teach you how to do just that.
Staying Sanitary is of Singular Importance
Unsanitary conditions will invariably lead to severe illness, no matter the circumstances, be they wartime, peacetime, at home or in the field, if you don’t or cannot keep clean and germ free you can expect a crippling bug to get you soon. Human waste is a huge source of contamination in this regard, both as a primary and secondary vector.
Direct contact with feces will obviously mean contact and possible infection with germs, but also the infection of everything you touch afterward until you thoroughly clean and sanitize your hands. Animals are regrettably attracted to waste, and everything from rodents to dogs and insects will be thrilled to get all up in your leavings and spread the remainder far and wide. We have the expression, “Like flies on shit” for a reason.
You don’t have to be under the gun or wantonly nasty to spread germs everywhere after you do number 2; improper or no hand washing by those handling food is a prime contributor to food poisoning of all kinds. This most basic of personal hygiene commandments and sanitary tasks is even more important when you cannot run into the corner store or walk-in clinic to get some meds for your crushing case of dysentery or some other fecal-borne pathogen.
For this reason, no matter what you have at hand (even if it is only you, jeeze, your hand) you must know how to wipe your own butt effectively, efficiently, and then get clean in the aftermath.
The Dirty Details of Dookie
As mentioned above, dealing with feces in a survival situation is something that must be done. The scenario you find yourself in and your level of preparation will determine if it is a minor chore or a sickening task. As gross as it is, you cannot prepare for what you do not know.
An average adult will produce anywhere from three-quarters to one pound of solid waste a day. That waste will be typically deposited in one or more movements, so that is at least one instance per person per day where they will have contact with their backsides and then have a resulting need to wash and sanitize their hands lest they contaminate everything else they contact.
Consider the fact that you will probably have multiple people in your survival group, family or otherwise, and that they will all be pooping and wiping. This will drastically increase the chances that someone will catch germs, and if one does, all are likely to. The resulting outbreak can be a showstopper, even deadly all on its own.
Compound a crippling illness with a serious no-joke survival situation where the outcome depends on your actions and overall fitness and you can see how much worse the situation can get in no time. The young, old and already ill or infirm are especially vulnerable to the typical illnesses spread by feces.
Keeping your hands clean and sanitized is made much simpler with good wiping technique and slavish adherence to cleanliness. We’ll learn about both in the next sections.
Wiping Technique, Toilet Paper and Other Ways to Keep Clean
After you go No. 2 you’ll need to wipe somehow. The best way to do this is with, obviously, toilet paper or wet wipes. I heartily recommend you have a generous supply of each laid up in your SHTF supplies, and also have smaller but redundant caches in your Go-Bag, BOB and any other readiness supplies you have. Face it, having it is a great aid in cleanliness, but also in comfort, ease and simplicity. They are both cheap, so don’t skimp or procrastinate! Buy plenty of TP!
If you don’t have TP, run out of it, or lose it, you’ll need to use something else. People over time have wiped with all kinds of things, natural and man-made, to include the bare hand. You can use toilet paper alternatives like paper from books, magazines or newspapers, cloth, a tool of some kind like a scoop or scraper, natural items like rocks, sticks, leaves or even snow.
All have pros and cons, though:
- Paper can work well, although heavily inked paper can be slippery and hard to manage. Crumpling up paper several times before wiping can soften it for use.
- Cloth is a reliable go-to, but should be used hesitantly if sourced from any rag or source that may be chemically contaminated. Likewise, think before committing a good rag to this purpose as you will likely not be able to get it truly clean again.
- Sticks work if not sharp, splintery, or too rough. Take the time to find one that is soft enough for the task.
- Leaves along with grasses can be folded or overlapped to from fairly comfortable pad-type tools to wipe with, and are always plentiful almost anywhere. Take care that your fingers don’t poke through.
- Rocks if smooth and properly shaped make fine wiping instruments. Take care that you find a rock that is not sheltering insects or snakes.
- Snow is definitely wake you up, and also has the benefit of wiping and cleaning in one pass.
**Warning: You must know for certain that any plant matter you recruit for the task is not poisonous or otherwise irritating. If in doubt, don’t use it!**
Probably the best plant for the – ahem – job is Woolly Mullein, a plant very common in N. America that looks like this:
All of the above materials can and will work just fine if you know what you are doing with them. Like anything else, even this, practice is advised before you have to do it “for real” under stress when SHTF. Sorry, maybe a poor choice of words.
On your next hike, camping trip or practice outing, take the time to learn how to wipe with these improvised tools, or if you are very skittish, bring them into your home bathroom so you have your TP, wipes and sink to fall back on if things go awry.
If you don’t have TP and you don’t have anything else above at hand, you still have an option so long as you can wash your hands: your, well, hand. No matter what we think of some cultures and countries around the world that do this as a standard, we should learn how to do this ourselves so we don’t wind up a creek without a paddle.
There are a few things to know ahead of time before you even attempt to do this. First, you must not have any open nicks, cuts or sores on the hand you plan on wiping with. To do so is to risk severe infection. Second, you must have a way to sanitize your hand.
Water and soap followed by copious scrubbing and a thorough rinse is the best, but you have other options that I will detail below. If you have no way to clean your hand, you’ll be spreading germs far and wide. Third, this entire procedure goes far better if you have some way to get water on to your butt in order to help with the process. There are two good ways to do this, and maybe more. Last, keep your fingernails as short as humanly possible. Trust me.
Before you commit to doing this, you’ll need the first one of the following for post-wipe cleanup, and preferably all of them:
- At Least: Water and soap, and plenty of both
- Followed by: Hand sanitizer
- Or preferably: bleach handwash solution, made from water and 5-6% bleach.
And you will also appreciate having:
- A small bowl or container with water
- A squirt bottle capable of shooting a stream of water when squeezed
Now it is time to wipe:
- Have your container handy at your drop site. Have access to handwashing supplies listed above.
- Do the deed.
- With the hand opposite the one you eat with, wet your fingers and wipe, taking care to remove any large chunks of feces. You may also slowly pour some of this rinse water over the small of your back so that helps rinse your anus.
- Alternately: use the squirt bottle to flush your anal area in between using your fingers.
- Once finished, vigorously wash your hands with soap and water. Pay attention that you get under the nails very well.
- Follow this wash and rinse with a heavy dousing of hand sanitizer and a brisk rubbing, or another thorough wash with your bleach solution.
- Caution: If you cannot smell bleach it is not working! Take care to mix up bleach solution regularly or at the instance so it is potent. Contact with air breaks down bleach, so remember that if you cannot smell it, you cannot count on it.
If you are employing this method, take care from then on to avoid touching your face and eating with the hand you wipe with.
Fecal-borne pathogens are capable of incapacitating or even killing you, and that is the last thing you want to be dealing with in an already bad situation. No matter what, though, you’ll need to answer nature’s call, and simple washing of the hands and use of something to wipe with is a highly effective way of reducing the spread of these nasty germs.
Post-SHTF Potty Checklist
You can make your life so much easier by having the right supplies on hand so you don’t have to fetch a rock or something else. Make it a point now to stock and keep on hand the following in your stash.
- TP – Minimum 1 mo. supply for household
- Wet Wipes
- Antibacterial soap – Preferably alcohol based
- Hand Sanitizer, waterless
- Bleach – Unscented, regular liquid bleach
Proper preparation will greatly reduce the chances that you will need to utilize any of the improvisational or alternative techniques we have discussed in this article.
Proper sanitation is essential for health and survival, even after SHTF. People who forget this, or grow lazy and complacent from stress, fatigue or other circumstances will stand a high chance of being laid low by fecal-borne pathogens.
Knowing how to make do when conventional bathroom facilities and toiletries are unavailable will greatly contribute to your health and ongoing survival in the event of a sustained emergency when clean hands is more than a faucet away.
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.