Nothing is more important than sanitation during a survival situation. The cross-contamination of germs plays a direct and indirect role in taking thousands of lives and sickening tens of thousands more every year during crises. One of the simplest things that we can do is to properly wash our hands, cooking implements and surfaces after preparing foods that contain bacteria. However, this is a challenge when living off-the-grid.
However, following the instructions below will enable you to build a sturdy wash station that will allow you to clean yourself and dishes in a way that minimizes cross-contamination. The process is relatively simple, and all you need are some components that are easy to obtain.
3 five gallon plastic buckets or pickle barrels
2 lids for the buckets
1 marine primer bulb and hose assembly (you can improvise as necessary)
New vehicle brake or fuel line
Pieces of scrap wood
3/8 inch brass fittings
3/8 inch tubing
1” and ½” pipe sections and fittings
Pop rivets or small bolts, nuts and washers
Old, short table big enough to accommodate the diameter of the buckets and spout assembly.
Preparing the Buckets
The first step is to drill a 3/8 inch hole about an inch from the bottom of one of the buckets. Place the 3/8 inch male fitting and o-ring through the inside of the hole. Attach the hose fitting on the inside of the bucket and place it at a 90 degree angle so it’s parallel to the side of the bucket. Thread the 3/8 inch female hose fitting through the outside of the bucket.
Drill another hole about a third of the way around the bucket about an inch from the bottom as well. Repeat the process above, but angle the hose fitting so that it rests against the bottom of the bucket. This will be used to suck water from the bottom of the bucket later.
Attach the hoses to either side of the bulb pump assembly. You can fashion a foot pump out of scrap wood and a hinge with a tennis ball that is attached to the inside of the lever. This will provide the springing action that will allow you to depress the lever onto the bulb. Feel free to use your imagination when creating the foot pump, or you can skip this step altogether.
Place the lid on the bucket that you just modified but do not seal it shut. This bucket will be your fresh water supply that will be pumped into the basin and greywater bucket that we will build next. Place the second bucket on top (this is the greywater bucket) and set aside.
Preparing the Basin
You can create a basin specifically for this sink project by modifying the third bucket. The first step is to cut away the top of the third bucket right at the point where the smooth sides meet the base of the lid assembly. This will serve as the basin that is a few inches deep.
The next step is to pull out the rubber o-ring that is attached in the groove underneath the lid. Cut out the section where the o-ring was seated and set aside. Trim the material around the bucket so all that remains is the wall that anchors the ribs to the inner portion of the top section of the bucket. Trim the center portion of one of the lids where it meets flange that anchors it to the bucket.
Invert this piece and set inside the bottom of the basin. Place the o-ring on top and then fit the ring you cut in the previous step atop the o-ring and lid. Press down and attach the bolts and washers or rivets into the side wall of the bucket where it meets the ribs. Drill a inch wide hole in the center. You should now have a basin with a drain hole that will fit on top of the greywater bucket.
Preparing the Table and Plumbing
Cut out a hole in the center of the table big enough to fit the bucket while the top rests on the sides of the hole. Attach a 1 inch diameter plumbing flange adjacent to the hole next to one of the edges of the table. Place the pipe inside the top of the plumbing flange and screw in place.
To make the faucet, take the brake or fuel line and bend it so that it loops downward at one end and resembles a candy cane. Try to make the diameter of the bend about ½ the diameter of the buckets. Attach a slide coupling to the stem of the line so that it can screw into the pipe attached to the flange later. Feed the aquarium tubing through the spout end of the faucet through the stem and the pipe that is attached to the flange. Turn the slide coupling so it anchors the brake or fuel line to the pipe that is attached to the table. Connect an appropriate adapter to the bottom end of the tubing and the end of the hose that supplies the faucet with fresh water.
Now all you have to do is place the clean water bucket into the hole in the table. Fill with water and put on the lid. Rest the grey water bucket atop the clean water bucket and fit the basin on top. Squeeze the pump a few times and you will start to see water run out of the faucet and into the basin. This will allow you to pump water without putting your hands on any of the components until they’ve been washed.
Consider assembling this project if you are going to be in a bug-out-location without plumbing or a wash station for a prolonged period of time. This system is an improvised way of ensuring that you don’t cross-contaminate the sink or any other objects while doing dishes after preparing meals. While it may seem overly-complicated, it will make an essential element of your off-the-grid sanitation system.