Boil water alert – Washing your hands

Our city is currently under a boil water alert.  I have plenty of water in 55 gallon drums, 1 gallon jugs, and bottled water.  I pulled some gallon jugs and put them near each sink.  However, it is very inconvenient to wash your hands.  What solutions would you recommend to make it easier?  I’ve thought about buying some pump dispensers but not sure how well they will work with water.

Screenshot from 2022-08-31 10-59-07



  • Comments (21)

    • 4

      Most of my water storage jugs are the Reliance Aqua-Tainer 7 gallon which include a spigot for super easy filling of water bottles, measuring for recipes or simply for washing hands.  I love these. Super tough and you can stack them, as well. I bought my directly from REI as I’d been hearing that sometimes you’d get a knock-off on amazon.

      The Reliance Aquatainer with Spigot

      • 2

        Thanks.  I was looking for something smaller that could be placed on a countertop and easily moved.

    • 4

      If you have someone to help you wash, then a small garden watering can works pretty well, and it’s possible to wash hands with a very small amount of water. I’ve been thinking that it would also be possible to mount a hook to the wall or make a PVC pipe stand and use a cord and a foot pedal you could push to pull down a string and tilt the watering can for hands-free operation, but haven’t made one yet. 

      We also use 10l water jugs with a dispenser attachment; these are easy to lift up to a counter, but we think that the watering can is more water-efficient. 

    • 3

      At the risk of sounding really old fashioned – could you just use a jug and bowl or put the plug in the sink? 
      I realise the best advice is to use running water but in this situation that’s probably what I would do to conserve as much water as possible.

      Although I suppose it does depend what you’ve been handling in which case having a second pair of hands or as you say a pump dispenser may well be the order of the day!!

    • 4

      If your hands are not soiled or stained you can use 71% isopropyl alcohol in a small (4 oz) hand pump sprayer. I have done this for many years prior to COVID19 when I worked in a hospital. The 30% water prevents your top skin from dissolving. 

      Set an Aqua-Tainer next to the sink and trickle the water. Then sanitize the knob with 71%.

    • 3

      I have my own well but also keep lots of water in storage.  I’m a fan of water bricks and keep a good number of the 3.5 gallon size in storage.  You can also purchase the smaller, lighter 1.6 gallon size.  I have several spigots & these can easily be set on a sink or counter.  I have used mine several times thru the years & love the product.



      water 2

      • 1

        I saw this product first time, it looks different and good

      • 1

        They are perfect for me.  I’m a big guy and carrying 3.5 gallons is no big deal, especially with the handle on these bricks.  They are too heavy for my wife however.  Simple solution if it is too heavy for you, is to just put on a spigot and drain it half way before carrying it.  I personally would rather have the large ones half filled than a bunch of small ones.  They stack high very securely.  

      • 2

        I got 6 gallon water jugs they’re just about the weight limit i can carry reliably under full health and they too stack square and I’m developing backpack straps so it’s not just one 6 gall in each hand like 45 bags of groceries  with it backpack that’s 18gall  of carry capacity that’s 149.94lbs so id round to 150lbs and say i took a sip too 😂 One US gallon of water weighs around 8.33 pounds or 3.78 kilograms at room temperature. The precise weight of water varies according to its level of density, which in turn depends on its storage temperature. so i imagine you can store more cold as long as not frozen where expansion normally happens im trying to figure how to get rvc totes into the basement but for now 55gal drums 🥁 are my limits of what fits through doorways  double stacked em though cause 8ft ceilings

    • 2

      How about a fabric alternative to baby wipes. It would be a gentler option to hand sanitiser. Each piece of fabric is single use, can be placed in a container and then washed and remade.

      • 2

        Being the granola couple that we were, my husband and I refused to use baby wipes when we were at home.

        We kept a stack of small washcloths at our changing table and a small, stainless steel tub handy. When it was time to change the babies, we put water – only water – in the tub, got a couple of washcloths wet, and THEN took off the diaper. The washcloths were very effective at cleaning baby bottoms, even when things got, er… stinky. (Of course, if there were a big mess, we’d take the babies straight to the tub and undress them there.)

        We had a container for dirty cloth diapers where we put used washcloths. When it was full, we poured it all out into the washing machine. A hot wash, extra rinse, and bleach rinse cleaned all the yuck off. Hanging them on the line to soak up our high plains ultraviolet-rich sunlight helped bleach them and disinfected them further.

        My husband was a health inspector and, as long as we were careful not to cross-contaminate anything, the system had his approval.

        As for the babies, I think each one may have had diaper rash once.

        When I was a baby (OK, I’m that old) cloth diapers were the only option. Plastic diapers and baby wipes weren’t a thing. I remember my grandmother rinsing my diapers out in the toilet bowl before sending them to the laundry.

        Sometimes you just have to put on your no-nonsense farm-wife face and do what needs to be done.

    • 3

      At an outdoors show years ago, there was a company that had a solution to this. Their thing was nifty and gadgety enough that I bought a couple, though in honesty, even while out camping or the like, I’ve always either forgotten to bring them or not bothered to use them.

      Here’s the website: https://www.saveaqua.com/

      A more all-around solution for washing up with limited water is one of those pump up pesticide sprayers (obviously, a new one, that’s never held pesticide). https://www.homedepot.ca/product/hdx-7-5l-pump-sprayer/1000755741

      You can pump it up for a persistent spray, and wand yourself down to get wet, then to rinse off for a very water efficient shower. You could probably find a way to rig up the sprayer so that you could lock it open for hand washing, or just get someone to help you by spraying your hands down.

      There’s also another relatively easy solution for a boil water alert specifically – just wash your hands at the sink like you regularly do, and if you’re concerned, hit them with hand sanitizer after to kill whatever bugs were in the water. Most of the boil water alerts for my area are for Giardia, which I’m almost certain you can’t get through skin contact, so the only (and minimal) concern would be washing your hands and then handling food, in which case you could maybe do a second hand wash with some bleach-treated water. (Alcohol hand sanitizer doesn’t kill giardia cysts.)

      • 2

        That is an awesome product!

        Here’s a video of it in action, I want one now.

    • 3

      As a young woman, I went on an overland trip through southern and eastern Africa. We bought our food in the open-air markets and camped and cooked out almost every night for six weeks.

      For hand washing, we had a big, deep bowl of water and a bar of soap. We’d plunge our hands in and lather up. We’d plunge-rinse in another big bowl of water, and then, being careful not to waste, we’d pour trickles of water over each other’s hands to get all the soap off.

      If I were doing it again, I would follow up with a squirt of hand sanitizer.

      Anyway, thirteen of us traveled through 5 countries and only once did one guy get a stomach bug for a day or so. Otherwise we were healthy for the duration.

      It’s not a perfect process, but it was better than nothing.

      • 1

        Wow! I bet Africa was quite the adventure. Glad no one got sick, there are some diseases and bugs down there that those outside of Africa aren’t used to experiencing and it could have gotten pretty bad if you got one of them.

    • 1

      During a boil order, can my family take showers or baths using tap water? Yes, it is safe to take a bath or shower, but be careful not to swallow any water. Use caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing water.

    • 2

      I’d use a bicycle pump to pressurize a 55gall drum of water for flow but gravity is such a blessing you can’t pass up something so easy just be sure to only trickle the water as you don’t wanna waste scrubbing the soap does most of the work and water trickling helps lubricate while also the full rinse at end then rather than paper towels i use cloth towels that dry naturally hanging if ones sick but not the other I’ll have multiple handtowels even for visitors

    • 1

      I ended up buying these water containers with a spigot.  You can adjust the flow and they are light enough for anyone to carry around.


    • 2

      I know this is an older post but, I’d thought I would toss in my two cents.

      I use a large empty laundry soap container that comes with a spigot.  When empty add water and the amount of dish soap I like and set up outside.  I’ve placed mine next to one of my garden rain barrels so I can rinse if I need to.  Add a nail brush and I’m good to go.  Comes in handy if I get very dirty when outside.  

      • 1

        Hi, Swansot.  I also have several liquid laundry containers with the bulb and spigot.  I use it for non-potable water.  Are you able to get the detergent out?  I’m not sure that laundry detergent is good to use for your hands.  Plus, you have to hold the bulb with one of your hands. 

      • 0

        I turn the container up and let the soap drain out, then do multiple rinses. I think I get most of the soap out and I don’t believe there is enough left to cause an issue.  Not too concerned with the spigot, it’s really an overgrown liquid soap dispenser. After I rinse off,I splash clean water on it.