SANITATION AFTER DISASTERS

Sanitation is one of the most OVERLOOKED and important part of disaster preparedness. 
It is the leading cause of illness and death in both man-man and natural disasters.  

After most disasters, you may experience no electricity, no water and no garbage collection.

​​Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene, handwashing, bathing, dental and wound care during emergencies is essential.  Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands. In most cases after a disaster you may not have clean running water so use soap and any available water you may have. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.  

Your water in a Disaster

While it rarely occurs, your
drinking water may become
unsafe to drink because of a
man-made or natural
disaster.  Listen to local
officials to find out if your
water is safe. Adding bleach
helps make water safe to use
and drink. Remember never use, drink, bathe in,
cook with, brush your teeth with, wash or clean dishes, utensils, toys, or other objects with water unless you know it is safe.


If tap water is clear but contaminated:

1. Use unscented bleach.
2. Add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of unscented household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.

If tap water is cloudy:


1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (like lemon).
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops) of unscented household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.


Remember that containers may need to be
sanitized before using them to store safe water:


1. Use unscented bleach
2. Add 1 teaspoon (64 drops) of unscented household liquid bleach to 1 quart (32oz or 4 cups) of water.
3. Pour this into a clean storage container and shake well, making sure that the solution coats the entire inside of the container.
4. Let sit at least 30 seconds, and then pour out solution.
5. Let air dry OR rinse with clean water that has already been made safe, if available.

Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.
Open windows and doors to get fresh air when you use bleach. 

Because water is so precious and should be reserved for drinking purposes, consider other ways to wash the body.


  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Powder bath
  • Bathing Wipes
  • Towelettes
  • Wet wash cloth—Use a wet wash cloth to clean teeth, wash​ face, comb hair, and wash body.
  • Makeshift shower—Use a spray bottle to shower.

Cleanliness in a Disaster

After a disaster you should keep the area you'll be staying in clear of debris, garbage, and waste. Cleanliness is the only way to help keep insects and rodents out of your home. Be careful with bleach and store brought products which may pollute the quality of the air in your home and make you ill. There are several natural products that you may have around your home that can be used in a disaster. 

Natural products and their uses: 

  • White Vinegar - cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
  • Baking Soda - cleans, deodorizes, softens water.
  • Soap - unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars that is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
  • Lemons - one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
  • Hydrogen peroxide - sanitize, disinfect, deodorize
  • Borax - (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
  • Oranges - deodorizes, oils used as insecticide


Did you think about how you will keep germs and disease from spreading if you are without running water? Maybe your first thought is “human waste elimination” with all its smells and disposal concerns. Or maybe you are thinking – I haven’t given this any thought at all! 

Emergency Sanitation should be an essential part of your disaster plan. You might be tempted to overlook this part of your preparations, after all, emergency sanitation is not a clean subject to talk about. Keeping clean is not only a nice thing to do, but it may be life-saving. This will be a very big problem if your electric, water and garbage collection is cut off and you aren’t prepared.

Your waste in a Disaster

After a disaster all of your waste will be your responsibility until the city can dispose of it.  Separate all your garbage, your pee/poo waste, and your empty recyclable items into different cans. Make sure to have a designated spot for your waste, outside your home and away from any water pipes before garbage piles up. Paper plates and paper cups are essential for your disaster kit because they are burnable waste (which will not pile up in your garbage can).  













Interruptions in your sewer service can occur because of storm damage, power outages, sabotage and/or broken pipes.

If you are sheltering at home
you can make your home

toilet into a port-a-potty.
Empty the water from the
bowl, put in a heavy duty
garbage bag and secure it
with duct tape (tape the
handle too).  After each use,
put in a small amount of
chlorine bleach or super sorb,
secure the bag with a twist tie, and close the lid until it is used again. 

Emergency Sanitation Supplies to have on hand if the water is not working but you can still use your home toilet:


  • 13 gallon size (or larger) heavy duty garbage bags– get the heaviest ones you can find – no skimping!
  • Duct tape to secure the garbage bag over the toilet
  • Twist ties to secure the bags “after use”
  • Non-scented chlorine bleach or other disinfectant
  • Super sorb (for liquid waste) 
  • Latex or rubber gloves (the kind that goes further up your arm)
  • Consider air freshener or room deodorizer
  • Bucket with a handle to place used bags in while carrying them outside
  • Large garbage can with a lid to store your “used” pee/poo bags. We will assume that the city will have a way to dispose of these bags after the emergency is over. (Make sure to seal any holes in the bottom of your large garbage can and if possible line your garbage can with extra large trash bags)















You may use bucket toilets if you cannot use your home toilet. Sometimes you may not be able to use your home toilet, it may be backed up, or you may have to evacuate. The simplest thing is to create an emergency sanitation kit in a 5-gallon bucket. Use the same supplies for your home port-a-potty listed above and store it in the bucket. It will be ready to use if you have to evacuate. You can also purchase a Fold-to-go Portable Toilet or similar RV type item if you just can’t bare the thought of using a bucket!