Hygiene is the first line of defense against the spread of disease and despair. If electricity is not available, household duties require the assistance of everyone. Persons with special needs (such as families with young children or elderly) may need the help of neighbors. Attacking messes when they are "small" keeps them from becoming big problems. If water is scarce, scrub pots and dishes with brushes (or clean sand, or newspaper) to remove food particles and grease, and then wash in hot soapy water.
Sanitizers/DisinfectantsUse ordinary unscented chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite, 5.2% in water solution, such as Clorox) to make sanitizing and disinfecting cleaning solutions.
- To make a sanitizing solution for hard, non-porous surfaces; use 1 tablespoon liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water, wet and then air dry, don't rinse.
- For porous surfaces (like a wood cutting board), use 3 tablespoons bleach per gallon, wet liberally, rinse, and wipe dry.
- Use a three-quarter cup bleach in 1 gallon of water.
- Small items can be soaked, surfaces such as floors or counters should be wet liberally and kept wet for 2 minutes.
- 1 tablespoon of powdered detergent may be added, but do not add anything that contains ammonia, as it reacts badly with chlorine.
- Rinse after disinfecting.
- For toilets, pour 1 cup bleach into the bowl, brush, let stand for 10 minutes.
- Change the solutions frequently when doing heavy cleaning.
Washing ClothesUse rubber or plastic tubs or buckets and a household plunger to wash clothes without electricity.
- Put water, detergent, and clothes in the buckets.
- Cut a hole in the lid for the plunger handle (the agitator).
- Soak the clothes.
- Insert the plunger handle through the lid, put the lid on the bucket, and agitate by raising plunger up and down.
- You can use the sink, but if water is scarce, don't allow the wash water to run down the drain (if the sewer is not working, the drain may be clogged).
- Use a tub of clear water to rinse the clothes. Some clothes may require hand scrubbing.
- Air dry by hanging on clothes lines or hangers. In winter, you can air dry outside, but you may have to crack ice to remove it from the clothes (wear gloves when hanging clothes in winter). Hand wringing clothes is laborious work, you'll want extra hands to help; use the wringer of a commercial mop bucket to remove excess water from your laundry.
Personal CleanlinessWhen water is scarce, use a bucket or tote instead of the tub for bathing. If you use a sink, don't let the water escape down the drain, you'll need it for flushing the toilet.
- Put the tote in the bathtub and stand inside it.
- Use a camp shower, sprinkler bucket, or cups of water, or a wash cloth and a basin of water.
- Wash your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet; many diseases are passed hand to mouth. If water is scarce, pour a chlorine bleach disinfecting solution over your hands (mix this in a jug, and have it ready for use).
- Cornmeal or cornstarch can be used as dry shampoos (sprinkle liberally in the hair, and then brush vigorously).
- Use only boiled or otherwise purified water for brushing your teeth or cleaning contact lenses.
- If you usually shave, continue to do so unless a scarcity of water or lack of razor blades make this impossible.
- On sunny days, you can have hot water for washing by painting food grade plastic buckets, with lids, black, filling them with water, and putting them is the sun. This can also be a source of free heat; put several into the sun and bring them into a room to help keep it warm. You can also paint 2 liter pop bottles black to obtain smaller amounts of hot water.