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Gray Water

Under normal conditions, hand washing should be done religiously in the kitchen and after bathroom use. After a disaster, it should be considered a life-and-death necessity. Hand Sanitizer or sanitizing wipes (use at least 60% alcohol) are helpful, but these cannot be considered a full replacement for hand-washing with water. Sanitizer does reduce some germs and chemicals on hands. It doesn’t, however, remove all germs and chemicals, nor does it remove dirt, grime, grease, pesticides, and debris and heavy metals and toxins that often follow a disaster. Hand-washing with soap and water is still the king of hand cleanliness.

We say "Hand-Washing Stations" - plural - because you absolutely should have at least two hand-washing stations in your household: one with any toilet set-up and one with any food-preparation area. There is always a faucet and sink in every home's bathroom and kitchen.

Materials Needed for Hand-Washing Stations

  • For each hand-washing station, 1 potable water container/carrier with some sort of on/off spigot (so that you could control the water flow and wash both hands at the same time). The container should be refillable. These can be ordered online.
  • Hand Soap.
  • Paper towels (cloth towels would require frequent changing and washing, using precious water).
  • For each station, 1 wash basin (7 or 8 quart tubs) or a large bowl that fits in an existing sink for catching used water. An alternative for catching water, with some basic plumbing ability, is a bucket underneath the sink, after disconnecting the plumbing, so that water drains from the sink directly into the bucket.

How to set up and use Hand-Washing Stations

1. Install a Hand-Washing Station with any toilet set-up and any food preparation area. You should have at least two Hand-Washing Stations in your household.

2. Place the Wash Basins next to an existing sink (or place a catch bucket beneath sink with plumbing removed).

3. Set up Water Containers with on/off spigot next to the sink so that the spigot empties into the wash basin in the sink or directly into the sink with a bucket placed below.

4. Have hand soap and paper towels handy.

5. Keep water spigot handles sanitized to prevent cross-contamination. If possible, use disposable paper towels to turn the spigot off, after rinsing your hands.

Because your emergency water supply will be limited, all members of your household should be quick to learn to use only as much water as is necessary.

How to dispose of Gray Water from a Hand-Washing Station

Dispose of gray water by adding at least some of it to a Pee Bucket to dilute urine before disposal (see How to dispose of waste from a Twin-Bucket Toilet System). The remainder should be dispersed in your yard. Gray water should not be reused for any other purpose.

Also see: Twin-Bucket Toilet System

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