I forget, until I have to use them, how many simple survival skills I’ve used since moving to this remote and rural Ozarks life. Washing dishes with limited water is one of the most useful things to know.
Simple Survival Skills
This post will seem silly to some people, especially people who have washed dishes like this before. Many people in many parts of the world know and use simple survival skills every day. Especially those who live in third-world countries. Those who live in hurricane or other severe weather-prone areas learn some basic skills to get by until help arrives.
But many others are accustomed to modern comfort and and don’t live in parts of the country where floods, hurricanes, or ice storms keep them house-bound for more than a day or two.
How many people would be ready for more than a week without aid from Red Cross or other organizations?
Events do happen that cause utilities like electricity and water to pause, but usually food and water are being handed out by the government or other organizations to the people within a few days. What would you do if a few days went by and no help arrived?
More than a week of no utilities ushers in a whole new set of things to know and skills to use.
Sometimes it’s easy enough to predict when you’ll need your skills. But sometimes a situation comes quickly and unexpected, or continues longer than you thought it would.
That’s where knowing a few of the simple survival skills can really help.
Limited Water Washing is probably one of the most important things you can know, and should be implemented immediately when a water-rationing event happens. It’s better to have water left over because you rationed it than to not have enough to stay sanitary for the duration.
Simple Survival Skills Series
Throughout this blogging year I’m going to try and remember some of the other things I learned during our first years here at Wild Ozark.
In 2005, I moved from a comfortable 2400 sq ft house in a suburban area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. That was the year Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast.
Since that time, I’ve learned a lot of things that people leading urban lives rarely need to know. As a matter of daily life we probably employ more simple survival skills here at Wild Ozark than most people do in their lifetimes because of the rural location and our dependence on spring water rather than municipal or well.
Our house itself is also not what many are accustomed to because there’s no central heating and cooling and it’s unfinished. For many years, living here was more like camping. Since Rob and I married, he’s made a lot of improvements, but it’s still not an *ordinary* lifestyle.
After 13 years out here in the hills, it’s become a way of life and I rarely take special notice of how we do the things we do until something in particular makes me pay attention.
Here at Wild Ozark, we started out the New Year of 2018 with frozen water lines. That meant no running water in our house nor to the animals outside. The water was frozen for 5 days.
I said “in the house” because we’re very fortunate to have running water at least nearby. This was no accident. When I first started looking for the perfect place to move, nearby running water was a top criteria. I’m glad it’s one I didn’t compromise on.
When our containers are empty, we can go to the creek to fill them. Our own creek is smaller than this and right now it’s frozen pretty solid except for a few small areas. This is the larger one that ours is tributary to. There’s an easy to access unfrozen hole at the bridge.
We usually store water in gallon jugs and any empty 2-Liter bottles we have. The bottles fit into spaces like under the stairs or utility room cabinet. I used to store a lot more of them because when the water froze I’d have to use the set aside ones to water the horses with, too. But Rob and I built a good fenced in area for the horses now and they have access to a portion of the creek.
If you’re storing or using creek water, be sure to add chlorine to it or boil before using it for washing dishes or anything else that might result in swallowing any.
Limited Water Tips
The main thing is to remember during limited water events is to use the water as often as possible.
Don’t ever use fresh water for dirty purposes if you can help it. The last destination for the water should either be the toilet for flushing or for watering plants or washing down the sinks.
It’s easy to use gallons of water without noticing it, especially when you’re doing something like washing dishes. So I use a large pot in the sink. This accomplishes two things:
- I can get by with a smaller amount of water for dishwashing
- The dirty water can be poured into the toilet afterwards for flushing
Before I fill the washing pot, I use a second large pot to hold the water. Since our limited water events usually happen because of freezing temps it means the woodstove is probably going. I put the pot of washing water on the stove to heat it. This also accomplishes two things:
- heats the water without needing to use the propane
- humidifies the air
When you use a wood stove for heat, it dries out the air and that causes the sinuses to get too dry. We usually keep a small kettle of water on the stove for this reason throughout winter. I take this smaller kettle upstairs before bed during water outages to use for brushing teeth, washing face, and taking limited water splash baths.
Limited Water Rinsing or Pre-cleaning
Before I start washing them, I use a laboratory style rinse bottle to get as much of the food off as possible. The link takes you to Amazon where you can get one for not too much, but you can also use a water bottle that has the squirt top on it.
Paper towels are good for taking off more of the residue, if you have plenty of those on hand. I wouldn’t use real towels because then you’d have to use water to wash those. If this is a short term water shortage, that might work alright. You can also wash the towels in the creek. However, icy creeks have icy water in them and that makes it hard to do much washing. Hands tend to go numb after a few seconds of that – done that before and will try to not ever do it again.
Limited Water Washing
First, heat a few gallons of water in a large pot. If the electricity is out and you have a wood stove you can do it on the wood-stove. We have a propane stovetop and oven, so even with no electricity and if we had no wood stove, we could still heat water or food during outages.
After the pre-cleaning and before you add water, put the dishes into the washing pot. Arrange them so they will hold water by standing glasses or cups upright, bowls and pots open side up. Forks and spoons and knives dirty side down into one of the pots or glasses.
Clean the other side of the sink with your rinse bottle and spray cleaner (I keep a bottle of bleach water for this, or any other cleaning spray) so you’ll have somewhere clean to put the dishes after you wash them but before the soap is rinsed off of them.
Pour about half of the hot water into the wash pot in the sink.
Don’t pour all of the hot water into the sink pot. Use as little as possible to get the job done.
Re-Use the Soapy Water
Use the dirty water in the back of the toilets so you can flush them. Yes, it puts dirty water in the toilet. Once the water is running again, I can clean the dirty toilets. It is tempting to put clean water in there instead, but once you’ve hauled water by hand into the house a few times I bet you think the dirty water is a good idea, too.
After I dump the dirty water, I’ll use the rinse bottle to clean the pot. Then arrange the cleaned, but still soapy dishes, back into the pot. Pour the rest of your hot water over them to rinse off the soap.
It won’t be enough water to cover them completely. You’ll have to dip with the cups and work them around to get them all rinsed.
You can reuse this water for the houseplants. I use it also for cleaning the counters and sinks or anything else.
Long-term Limited Water
Once you’ve done this for a few days in a row it becomes easier to find ways to use water more than once. The hassle of washing with so little water becomes less of a hassle.
When our water started running again after it thawed, we were quite happy to return to our less-limited water usage. Hot running water inside my house is one of my greatest pleasures. It’s such a joy to take a hot bath or shower after doing without for a week.