We’ve all experienced events that have caused supplies to run low. Some of us have even faced natural disasters where we were unable to purchase supplies or food. Whether you face a natural disaster or blackout, or there is a societal meltdown, it is wise to keep certain essential items on hand at all times. The types of things I am referring to are those that can be used in a variety of ways, take up little space, and have a long shelf life. If you store these everyday items, you can find ways to use them to make substitutions.
As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That’s exactly what Americans did during WWII when rationing became the norm. Those on the homefront had to make do with what they had and found many ways to reuse everyday essentials for substitutions.
Women even found substitutions for the cosmetics and fashion supplies they were unable to purchase during the war. Imperial War Museums explains, “Beetroot juice to stain the lips was a substitute for lipstick. Other beauty tricks included using boot polish for mascara and drawing lines up the back of legs to give the impression of stockings.”
While lipstick and mascara are not at the top of your list when it comes to disaster preparation, it is a good reminder that, with a little creativity, you can use many essential items in new ways to keep your household running during a disaster.
Everyday items with multiple uses
The best types of items to stock up on are those that have multiple uses. The following is a list of common household items with examples of different ways they can be used during a disaster to keep your household running.
- Borax: Many people already use borax to make their own laundry detergent, but it is also used to make all-purpose cleaners for surfaces and keep bugs and spiders away.
- Washing Soda: Similar to borax, washing soda is used to make your own laundry detergent. Additionally, you can use it to remove difficult stains, unclog drains, and clean tough surfaces.
- Vinegar: Vinegar is used for everything from cleaning produce to easing sunburns. Check out 40 Reasons Vinegar Should Be in Your Preparedness Toolkit.
- Baking Soda: In addition to deodorizing and aiding in recipes, baking soda is useful in a variety of disaster situations, such as healing canker sores and relieving heat rash. See Baking Soda – An Emergency Preparedness Staple for more ideas.
- Cast Iron Skillet: If you haven’t invested in a cast iron skillet, now is the time. A cast iron skillet is useful in disaster situations because you can use it to cook a variety of dishes on the stovetop, in the oven, on the grill, and even place it directly on the fire. It also makes a pretty solid weapon.
- Charcoal: In addition to using charcoal for outdoor cooking when the power goes out, you can use it to absorb odors.
- Bleach: Bleach is traditionally used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and small items. It is also used for disinfecting water. Simply add two drops of bleach for every liter of water, mix, and let sit for 30 minutes or more.
- Towels and Linens: There are endless ways to use towels and linens in disaster situations, such as making tourniquets, dressing wounds, staying warm, and starting fires.
- #10 Food Cans: Not only do the Ready Hour #10 cans contain emergency food that can be stored safely for up to 25 years, but the cans themselves also come in handy during disasters. For example, you can use a #10 can to make an emergency stove. Check out 18 Uses for #10 Cans.
- Cooking oil: Beyond using cooking oil in the kitchen, it also works as an oil source for DIY oil lamps. Plus, you can douse newspaper with it to make a fire starter.
- Tea bags: Black tea bags contain tea leaves that can be used for medicinal purposes, such as hemorrhoids and toothaches. Plus, they are great fire starters.
- Feminine hygiene products: Feminine pads work as substitute wound dressings, and tampons work as a substitute fire tender, fishing bobbers, and bleed stoppers.
- Duct tape: If MacGyver always keeps duct tape, so should you. Duct tape seals wounds, patches holes, works as a sling, and more. Check out 25 Ways to Use Duct Tape in an Emergency to see why.
- Rubbing alcohol: In addition to its many first aid uses, rubbing alcohol is also used to start a fire and make ice packs.
- Salt: Beyond cooking and food preservation, salt is used for melting ice, exfoliating skin, and soothing sore throats. Iodized Salt comes in a #10 Can for long-term storage.
- Coffee filters: Coffee is a necessity for survival for most of us. But beyond its caffeine benefits, the coffee filters work in a variety of ways, such as starting fires and filtering water.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Aside from disinfecting wounds, hydrogen peroxide can be used for disinfecting produce and vegetables and removing mold from surfaces.
- Cornstarch: Cornstarch serves many purposes, including cleaning your hair, your windows, and your carpets.
Recipes for using essential items to keep the household running
It’s easy to use these essential items as substitutes. Here are a few examples to get you started.
Use borax and vinegar for all-purpose cleaning
- Dish soap
Instructions from Apartment Therapy
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of borax into 4 cups of hot water
- Mix with 1 teaspoon of dish soap and 4 tablespoons of vinegar
Use borax and washing soda to make your own laundry detergent
- Washing soda
- 1 x 4 or 5 oz bar of household soap
Instructions from the 1940s Experiment
- Grate the household soap.
- Mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl with the grated household soap.
- If possible, add the mixture into a blender and pulse until the grated soap and powders are well blended into smaller particles.
- Place powder in a glass jar.
- Use 1 flat tablespoon max per load.
Use baking soda for bug prevention
- Baking soda
Instructions from The Old Farmer’s Almanac
“Lay down a barrier of baking soda under sink-pipe openings and along basement windows to keep carpenter ants, silverfish, and roaches from invading. Roaches eat the baking soda, dehydrate, and die.”
Use charcoal to get rid of odors
- Plastic storage container with lid
Instructions from Bob Vila
- Pierce the lid of the container with little holes.
- Put out several lumps of additive-free charcoal in the lidded plastic container.
- The charcoal lumps will absorb funky odors and moisture, leaving the area smelling clean.
- Place in areas with moisture, such as refrigerators or under the sink.
Now that you know, stock up on essentials, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply