Waste Sanitation for Emergencies and Survival

You may not realize how important your sewer or septic system is until it is not functioning. Many of us have experienced clogged toilets, backed-up septic systems, or even just having to go in an area where a toilet is unavailable. These are minor inconveniences compared to the continuous waste accumulation that will happen if you are not prepared to deal with human waste in an emergency.

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Why Sanitation is Important for Survival

Sanitation systems were first implemented as clay pipes in Mesopotamia way back in 4000 BC, and then the Romans introduced indoor plumbing later. These systems allowed those societies to flourish, improving their citizen’s health, development, and economies. The importance of avoiding and managing our waste is timeless though.

Parasite infections and disease outbreaks are much more common in communities without sanitation systems. Other communites that manage waste well even use it for agriculture, transforming a burden into a resource.

Do Not Use Bleach

Using bleach to try and stave off any bad smells can be the last mistake you make. Bleach mixed with the ammonia in urine and feces can create many toxic chemicals- potent enough to kill. Especially if you are in an enclosed area, bugging in. Chloramine and hydrazine are a few of the nasty by-products produced, and both cause extreme nausea and a burning sensation in your eyes.

Grey Water is Great Water

Grey water, the non-potable water you use after washing your hands or bathing is perfect for attempting to get solids to go down the drain. Your potable water supply is worth its weight in gold when you are bugging in, so keeping your grey water for uses like this can keep you from using up your all-important water supply.

Get a Bucket Toilet

A bucket toilet is pretty convenient, especially if you are prepping for others as well as yourself. In the interest of space, you can also get a bucket toilet seat, which provides a little more flexibility in where you get the bucket from. With the seat, you could use the 5-gallon bucket you already own and have it serve a dual purpose (up until the point you start relieving yourself in it).

Camco portable toilet bucket with handle and seat as our top pick in the review.
Campersville toilet seat attachment for 5 gallon buckets as our budget pick in the review.
TRIPTIPS collapsible toilet adjusted to max height as our upgrade pick in the review.

The bucket toilet fix is a great portable prep that can save some scraps of dignity in an emergency scenario. You want to line the bucket with trash bags or specialty bags for easy cleanup and to be able to seal any excrement quickly. Getting a lid for your bucket toilet or 5-gallon bucket can allow you to be mobile with it as well.

Cat Holes

Borrowing from the world of kitties is never a bad idea. We follow their lead outdoors when digging cat holes, so why not follow their lead indoors as well? Kitty litter is great for absorbing odors and liquid.

Put about an inch in the bottom of the bucket and trash bag, and then cover each squat salvo with at least 1/2″ of kitty litter. Some pet deodorizers may also come in handy to minimize the odor. Sawdust also works well if you do not have a feline friend or their commodities around.

Composting Toilets

You may think this is swatting a fly with a baseball bat, but the composting toilet is the Rolls Royce of toilets without plumbing. Composting the solids, requires many uses before they need to be emptied. It receives rave reviews from RV owners, campers, bug out cabin owners, and even sailboat captains.

Incinerating toilets are another option for this group but do not fit as well for an urban emergency scenario since they usually require a type of fuel. While composting toilets are not for everyone, it is worth mentioning the best option regardless of the cost and space it may take up. 

Best Composting Toilet for Off Grid Sustainability

Night Soil

Composted human waste can be something of a commodity. Entire civilizations once depended on ‘night soil’, and even fueded over the collection of it. As a type of agricultural manure, it can change entire landscapes from infertile to fertile.

To make human waste work for composting, you’ll need to divert the liquids from solids. Composting toilets make this easy and do this for you. From there, processing the solids into fertilizer is relatively simple.

Out the Window

If you are not brushed up on your history, you may remember being taught in grade school that in the Middle Ages, people would toss their chamber pots out into the street from their windows. While I’m sure somebody’s best contribution to the world has come through a window onto the street, it wasn’t standard practice. They were just as sensitive to foul odors as we are today, and there were strong penalties for not using latrines (which drained into cesspits).

That didn’t stop everyone though, as rules aren’t always followed. Most of Europe had a period where it had public sanitation issues, with London, Berlin, and Paris being overrun with human waste. People were even using the balconies and stairs of the Louvre as toilets.

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is important for hygiene and sanitation. Many preppers stock up on conventional toilet paper, to the point where it’s a bit of an inside joke.

For mobile kits, there is also a interesting solution in compressed toilet paper tablets. We reviewed those and found the best toilet paper tablets, and they are cheap enough to pick up and stash in your bug out bag.

Best Toilet Paper Tablets

Another Option: Bidets

Bidets aren’t common but are an excellent option for long-term prepping. Instead of using a limited resource, like toilet paper, all you need is some water. Even grey water is acceptable, since bidets are used to rinse your behind.

If you are using a composting toilet, things can get a bit trick since you want to still keep solids and liquids apart.

Installed bidets often don’t need electricity and can still function in a wide range of disaster events. But our go-to is the portable bidet, which really excels in any emergecy and is wildly veratile.

Best Bidet for Survival Kits and Homesteads

The Final Word

Don’t let something as simple as waste management affect your health and chances of survival. Most people, even if they have emergency plans, overlook the need for human waste management alternatives.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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Survival Human Waste Sanitation

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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