Maintaining Good Hygiene During a Water Shortage

Yesterday I was watching the news on TV and saw where people in an apartment house had their water shut off for 6 days because of a water line break.  The TV people made a big deal about it and showed pictures of an apartment with dirty dishes stacked high and piles of laundry.  The people were complaining that they had to go down the street to get fresh water and were having to heat it on the stove so they could wash their kids.  A short-term water shortage threw their world into chaos.

This got me to thinking about how you should handle a situation of this type.  Just imagine if you were living on a gallon or so of water per person per day.  With either a shot-term or long-term water shortage there are a few simple suggestions you should follow.

One don’t let the dish pile up, this will attract, bugs, flies, rodents and other creatures you don’t want.  To do this you may have to change your cooking habits to use the least number of dishes possible. This includes pots, pans, plates and silverware.  Keep what you cook simple.  If you have electricity, like those people did use the microwave.  The stores were open, they could have use paper plates and disposable silverware.

Human waste needs to be properly disposed off.  In other countries, people have been forced to move out of apartment buildings because of their neighbors storing human waste in the bathtub and the toilet bowl.  Check out the following post because this type of Poor Sanitation can Kill You. 

Laundry and keeping the kids, and husbands clean.  This is always a problem with a water shortage.  Just use your common sense and try to minimize the need to wash clothes.  Make the kids wear the same dirty clothes outside and change when they come in to the house.

Sun washing clothes  If you have a real water shortage, shake your clothes out and spread them out in the full sun.  The more the clothes are exposed to sun, the better.  Sun washed clothing will feel cleaner and smell better.  The ultraviolet radiation will kill off the bacteria that live in your sweat and dead skin cells.  Do not forget to sun wash your sleeping bags and bedding

Here is some information that a friend sent me on how the Romans and the current Italian Army deals with the problems of water shortages and hygiene.

A sponge bath of water and vinegar is an effective field hygiene expedient.  When camping in Italy last year veterans of the Alpini Regt. instructed us in methods which have been used by Italian troops since the Roman era.  About 500ml or a pint of vinegar  may be used straight, if water is scarce, but normally it is diluted with an equal part of water and heated over the cook fire to a steamy, comfortable washing temperature, before using first brush your teeth, then to rinse your mess tin and utensils.

Then, using a clean linen towel, or your washcloth, wipe your mess gear clean before putting it away.  Use the remaining warm vinegar-water to moisten the washcloth to wipe your face and shave, finish by sponging off the feet, armpits and crotch area and change into clean socks and underwear if available.

The big thing is, don’t let the dirt and messes get ahead of you.  If anything, you need to be more aware of hygiene than normal.  Hopefully you have stocked vinegar, hand wipes and other cleaning products.  Even a few paper plates can help you while you are getting organized.  Stay clean and keep your family healthy.


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