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It’s rare when a movie gets it right when trying to portray the reality of grid-down. In most post-apocalyptic movies, the actors looked like they just stepped out of the shower, blew their hair dry, and their pearly whites are. . . well, pearly white. Rarely is dirt embedded under an actor’s fingernails and if the men have beards, it’s a rugged (but never scruffy) one-day stubble. The women, no matter how bad things get, find the time to put on makeup, their hair is always perfect, and their manicures and long nails are as realistic as the perfect hair.
To complete the overall picture, I might as well move on to the clothing. The protagonists clothing, after having fought off the bad guys, or having been forced to sleep under the stars for nights on end may have a strategic smudge here and there, but they don’t have funk on them to the point they could stand up on their own without having to be hung up. Yet, we never see anyone showering, brushing their teeth or hand washing laundry.
In the real world after a few days of grid-down, showers and bathtubs aren’t going to be delivering water. Sinks will be dry and toilets aren’t going to flush unless you’re set up on a septic system and have the extra water to use the bucket method to get them to flush.
For this reason, investing in a free-standing washtub for bathing is a good idea. My favorite is a Tuff Stuff tub because they can handle being exposed to the elements (both freezing and hot temperatures) and don’t crack–I should know, I’ve had a couple stored under my cabin for years now and they’re no worse for wear. I looked online, and a 50 gallon size is $76.32 on Amazon. A solar shower would be another item to have on hand. Looking around, I found REI’s Sea to Summit Pocket Shower that received good reviews and sells for $29.95.
(David’s note: If you’re cheap or unprepared, you can make a pretty good solar shower out of a black plastic construction grade garbage bag. Don’t overfill, poke holes near a corner with nails, and clip it shut with a chip clip when you want to turn it off.)
Unless you’re on a septic system, you really need a camp toilet or two. Years ago, when I moved to the wilderness, I purchased several Luggable Loo’s at Cabela’s. They have a seat that sits on a 5-gallon bucket and a lid–no frills, but at $20.99 each, they came in handy when the pipes froze under the exposed portion of the cabin. That’s been rectified, and there’s now an outhouse for when it will be needed for our large group, but I would still recommend them.
If you have the property to build an outhouse, even if it’s against building code now, it’s likely they’ll be allowed in a long-term crisis and they’re well worth the small investment. Putting the lumber, plywood, and roofing material aside now, when it’s available, is worth considering. You’ll find How To Make an Outhouse at wikiHow that gives step-by-step plans to build an outhouse, along with several excellent tips on maintaining an outhouse.
Laundry will require laundry soap, water, and a stand-alone tub, and unless you plan ahead for a manual agitator to get laundry clean, it’s going to take a whole lot of elbow grease to get the job done. If you’re on a budget and like a Do-It-Yourself approach, check out the article published in Off-Grid 101, titled DIY washing machine and homemade laundry soap. To make one only requires a bucket, a lid, and a new toilet plunger with holes cut out to agitate the clothes. Amazon carries the Wonder Wash that operates manually with a hand crank which has a 5 pound clothes capacity for $39.90.
If you’ve never tried it wring out sopping clothes by hand, I can tell you from experience that it’s best done with two people, and even then, it’s a thankless job. Better add a wringer mop bucket or an antique wringer/washer to the list. If you prefer a stand-alone clothes wringer, they’re available at Amazon for $159.39.
Once the laundry is clean and wrung out, you’re going to need clothes line and clothespins. If you have the room, a wood clothes drying rack will come in handy for rainy days when hanging them outside would be counterproductive. They cost anywhere from $19.00 to $80.00 (yep, Amazon again), depending on the size and maker.
Dishes will need to be washed, even if you’ve bought Costco out of paper plates if we find ourselves in a protracted crisis. Besides, there is bound to be silverware, cooking utensils, drinking glasses and pots and pans to wash, and once your supply of paper plates runs out, it’ll be back to regular plates. A couple of smaller tubs are a must, as is plenty of dish soap–check the dollar stores for both.
Note: Knowing how to plug your sewer line will save you grief should a grid-down outlast the the emergency power backup of municipalities. Go here for instructions; How to Plug Your Sewer Line.
I’ve put together a few lists, separated by category, that you can check against what you already have in place.
Bathing & Hygiene Products
Washtub for Laundry & Bathing (Tough Stuff sells a 50 gallon size for $76.32)
Camp Toilet/Materials to Build an Outhouse
Washboard or Manual Agitator (Check Lehmans & Amazon)
Washtub (see above)
Wringer-Style Mop Pail/Antique Wringer-Washing Machine/Manual Clothes Wringer
*Years ago, I discovered the Duggar Family (19 Kids & Counting) recipe for laundry soap, which was a huge relief. It doesn’t take up the space that store-bought laundry soap does, it can be made as you go in a 5-gallon bucket, and it’s cheap to make! I’ve found all of the ingredients called for in the recipe at Wal-Mart which can be ordered online.
The Duggar’s Favorite Recipes: Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap- Front or top load machine- best value
4 Cups – hot tap water
Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 Cup- Borax
- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-high heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
- Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
- Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of the way with water. Shake well before each use. (will gel!)
- Optional: You can add 10 – 15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: Lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.
- Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.
Dishes & General Clean-Up
Dish Washing Tubs
So, do you have any favorite movies that you feel realistically portrays life after the grid goes down? Any favorite multi-use items like baking soda or vinegar? And if you have any favorite tips for bathing, or doing laundry or dishes during grid-down please share them by commenting below.
And, if you didn’t see Ox’s speed shooting videos with a subcompact Glock or his training tips for integrating dry fire and live fire training, as well as smoothing out and speeding up your drawstroke, transitions, and learning how to train your eyes to focus on the front sight faster, check out his articles >HERE< and >HERE<
God bless and stay safe,
David Morris and Survival Diva