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Personal Hygiene and Latrine Building/Use

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Personal Hygiene and Latrine Building/Use

In an emergency, latrines will be used more often due to anxiety and nerves.  Children disabled, elderly and able-bodied adults have varied needs of latrine use.  From the most basic of uses – i.e., a 5-gallon bucket with a garbage bag (the bucket can hold up to a 200 lb person) to more complex systems or a hole in the ground.  All depending on the time available to the people building the latrine and the needs at the time.

Bearing in mind that when disasters strike, water may not be readily available, so flushing toilets will not work and whatever water is available, will need to be used to wash hands and for other personal use.

Surviving the Shift View TT troubled times – the Hub

Latrines and makeshift toilets are usually several feet away from the living area (at least 50 feet) not only to prevent smell/odours from reaching the living/encampment area, but also to prevent disease from spreading.  It also makes sense to put the latrine downhill from an encampment in case of leakage. Buckets will need to to be cleaned every day, where as a hole in the ground can be covered in dirt until it’s full.  Holes in the ground can be as deep as 3 to 5 feet deep with a platform and can take up to a year to fill – depending on the frequency of use. Making a simple hut and seating platform can be utilized for more frequent use.  Covering the human waste with soil to prevent smell is also recommended. The hut when the hole is full, can then be moved to above a new hole and the same process can begin again.  The old hole can be covered up marked and eventually used as compost as the waste breaks down over the year of last day of usage. 

Camping toilets will also be useful but are limited because of their capacity and height – so may be better for children to use. Some camping toilets can be adapted to be placed onto the top of buckets to raise the height or adapted to suit the use at the time as needed.

There are also more complex systems, for people who are more prepared or who have the available materials - the following is a series of videos on composting toilets.

Here are also some other more elaborate solutions for latrine use:

The Toilet-   One can easily build an outhouse and even connect it to the home through a door, for times when the dreaded, constipating hike through inclement weather dissuades prompt evacuation. But there will be odours and insect infestations and if the pit below the floor is not sealed well after each evacuation, every effort should be made to NEVER, ever peer into that pit to investigate the smell, no matter what! There is a reason ‘out’- houses are sited away from dwellings. Enough said.


After outhouses, a Composting Toilet will sound comparatively like a dream. That’s because odours are very low or non-existent. And one can evacuate casually, without worrying about insect swarms buzzing your behind! Plus, after 6 months of sitting idle in a 5 gal. bucket, the waste will transform itself- courtesy of transported gut bacteria, into rich, garden compost.

The composting toilet below is intended for use inside the home.

Start with construction of a box, to house the 5-gallon waste bucket.

Short video on one couple’s solution: DIY composting toilet

Measure box height to accommodate a 5-gallon bucket, then add 2.5 inches more; this is to ensure the bucket rim clears the urine diverter when it’s centred under the hole of the lid.

Using a 5 gallon bucket for the waste is most expedient, because after 25 days or so, it can be lifted easily from the box and put out of the way for 2-4 months, with a screened cover over it.

For the latter, lay a section of aluminium screen over the full bucket and push a hoop made of tubing- Pex works ideally for this application, over the rim and screening, to keep out flies while the bucket of compost cures. 

Soap making/showering/washing.


Women’s and baby hygiene
quick makeshift diaper wool and moss can also be used.

Disposing of the waste water from washing the make-shift diapers and the hand sewn feminine pads would be the same as for expelling human waste – placing the waste water into the latrines!
Hand washing is also a must/recommendation to prevent disease – using clean water hot or cold and soap – the soap can be tied up into an old sock and hung from a tree or placed in a nylon stocking or in a bowl next to a clean source of water -
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