Maintaining Hygiene When You Live Off-Grid

09/24/2018 19:01

Maintaining Hygiene When You Live Off-Grid

It's believed that by 2035, 12% of Americans will be living off the grid in search of either a simpler lifestyle or for environmental or financial reasons. Living off the grid can mean you need to get creative when it comes to certain tasks - like cleaning and maintaining hygiene.

You don't need to sacrifice the showers, modern toilets, or helpful kitchen appliances that make cleanliness easier and more practical; but you should either consider making sure these things are operating as efficiently as possible, finding alternative items or finding different ways to power them that don't exhaust your precious off-grid resources.

Maintaining Personal Hygiene

You can easily maintain personal hygiene while living off-grid (or on the road) by using a travel shower. Many of these use solar power to warm water up for bathing, or even for doing laundry the old fashioned way. When showering off-grid, it's a good idea to stand in a wading pool or large tub to catch the grey water, which can then be reused for things like flushing toilets and watering plants.

If you don't have access to a shower or clean water, you can keep yourself clean by using wipes and waterless body washes and shampoos. These foam up but don't need to be rinsed, so they're ideal for off-grid living.

Cleanliness In The Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and is one of the most important areas to keep clean to prevent food-borne illnesses. Make sure you wash your hands before preparing food, as failing to do so enables bacteria to spread. Hand-washing can prevent 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and 20% of respiratory infections.

If you don't have access to clean water, use antibacterial hand sanitizers. These aren't as good as washing hands with soap and water, but they do a good job as a backup. Keeping dishes clean is important and even though dishwashers have gotten a bad name for their water consumption, there are many modern dishwasher models that now use less water than washing up at the sink would, saving precious water.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are practically made for off-grid living. They safely and odorlessly process human waste using little to no water, plus they give you usable compost! After each use it's a good idea to put things like sawdust, coconut coir, peat moss, or commercial compost toilet mulch down it as these create air pockets which promotes aerobic decomposition (as opposed to anaerobic decomposition - the smelly kind).

There are two basic kinds of composting toilets. In a self-contained composting toilet, everything is included in a single enclosure, which is installed in a bathroom. No plumbing is required, but venting is. AC, DC, and non-electric models are available, with electric models handling more waste. If the toilet is to be used in cold weather, a heat source should be provided in the bathroom with it because the compositing microbes will stop working if it gets too cold.

Sample installation of a self-contained composting toilet

Above: A self-contained composting toilet

With a central composting toilet, a large central composting chamber is fed from one or more toilets that can be dozens of feet away. The toilets themselves look much more like "traditional" toilets, and flush to the composting unit, which is usually installed in a basement or shed. Like self-contained models, the composting unit needs to be kept relatively warm (most models include a heater). Central composting toilets can usually handle more waste than self-contained units and are therefore better for full-time family use.

Living off-grid, whether on the road or at a more permanent residence, doesn't have to mean having to sacrifice cleanliness. Many helpful pieces of equipment have been designed for campers and off-grid homesteaders alike. Cleanliness will make you feel better and keep you and your family healthier!

A sample installation of a central composting toilet system

A central composting toilet system

Sally Keys is a professional freelance writer with many years of experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

to log in