8 Prepper Hacks for Cleaning Without Running Water

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By Daisy Luther

That magic moment when you go to wash your hands….and nothing comes out of the tap.

Late on Friday evening – you know, too late to reach the local repair guy – that was the scenario at our rented farm. Nary a drop was coming from our faucets.

For the past couple of months, I had believed there was an impending issue with our well. However, it was one of those intermittent problems that was impossible to diagnose before it actually fell apart completely. So, there we were after dinner on a Friday night, with laundry half way through a wash cycle, a sink mounded with dirty dishes, and the debris of a canning session all over the counters. And no running water.

Of course, having lived up North through a well going dry, numerous power outages, and frozen lines, this wasn’t our first rodeo. The nice thing about prepping is that we always plan for the worst-case scenario.

We immediately shifted to Plan B mode and tapped into our stored water.

Here’s how to keep things clean

While cleaning is certainly less than fun in these conditions, it can be done.  Here are 8 tips for cleaning without running water. (These and many more can be found in my book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide.)

1.) Break into the supply of disposable products.

Obviously in a long-term scenario, disposable products won’t be what you turn to for cleaning. However, during a short-term power outage, they can be very helpful in getting your food prep areas cleaned.

Before washing extra dirty dishes in soapy water, wipe them to get most of the crud off. You can use a cleaning wipe for this, since it will hold up better than paper towels.

2.) Use a container of rinse water instead of pouring water over dishes.

You can go through quite a lot of water running it over soapy dishes. Use a basin of water and rinse your dishes by dipping them into it. The bonus is, you can reuse the rinse water when you’re done.

3.) Use dishpans, not a plugged sink,  for washing and rinsing dishes.

Dishpans have the benefit of not letting that precious water run down the drain. When you don’t know how long your shortage of water is going to last, it’s important to make every drop stretch as far as possible. All of this water can be safely reused for specific purposes.

4.) Reuse your cleaning water.

The water that you’ve collected in your basins can be used yet again if you choose safely where to reuse it. For example, dishwater or cleaning water can be used for flushing the toilet. Rinse water can be used for mopping the floor, then used one more time for flushing.

5.) Clean counters with disposable wipes.

If you have no water and you’re pretty sure this is not going to be a long-term situation, don’t dirty up kitchen linens by scrubbing the counters with them. They’ll just have to be washed, using up even more of your stored water supply. (And depending on what you are scrubbing off the counters, they may need to be washed right away to keep from being smelly.)  Instead, use disposable cleaning wipes. When our brief disaster struck, I’d been canning tomatoes, always a messy endeavor that requires a great deal of clean-up afterward.

First, scrape off anything stuck to the counters. If your mess is dry, use a dry paper towel to get the crumbs off, then follow up with the wet cleaning wipes.  If your mess is a wet mess (like a spill) absorb as much of it as possible with paper towels. If you absorb with regular towels, hang them outside to dry so that you don’t end up with smelly, souring towels in your laundry room while you’re waiting for a chance to wash them. Once the major part of the mess on the counters is cleaned up, scrub with disposable wipes. If it is a food prep area, I usually then give it a quick spray with a vinegar cleaner and a wipe with a paper towel, because I don’t want chemical cleaner where I prepare the things we eat.

6.) Alternatively, use a basin and rag for cleaning counters.

If you don’t want to use disposable wipes, you can use a rag for cleaning the counters. Use a basin for rinsing out the rag while you clean.  Before dipping it in the basin, squeeze out the rag over the drain to get rid of some of the detritus from your counter. (Not that your counter will always be as messy as mine was after making marinara sauce.)

7.) Cleaning up after you clean up.

If you haven’t used disposable cleaning products, you will need to clean up after you clean up. Rinse all rags well in soapy water to get the chunks off. Then, wash the rag carefully, rinsing and wringing it out several times. Dip it in some of your dish rinse water to get the soap out.  Hang it to dry so that it doesn’t begin to smell sour.  If you did use disposable products and you had a big mess on your hands, take the garbage out so your home smells fresh and clean.

8.) Have a bathroom basin.

You can keep a dishpan full of water in the bathroom for handwashing too. Dip your hands into the water, then soap them up well. Scrub like you’re a doctor getting ready for surgery, getting into the nooks and crannies. Then dip your hands in the basin to rinse them well. Be sure to get all of the soap off or your hands will be itchy. After using this, you can dump the water into the toilet tank for flushing.

Wait…this stuff isn’t very organic!

If you’re reading over this and clicking your tongue over my use of commercial cleaning products, you’re absolutely right. These store-bought products are loaded with chemicals that I don’t want to make part of our every day lifestyle. But emergencies often call for measures you wouldn’t take on a daily basis. If you are running your household on stored water, you’re going to have to make some choices in order to make it last through the crisis.

For this reason, we turn to harsher products than we’d normally use. Most of our homemade products are very gentle on our skin, our lungs, and the environment. I would never revert to using these things regularly but I can make exceptions when I need to extend my water supply.

The key to cleaning in the midst of a water disaster

When you are cleaning up in a power outage situation, the key to success is not to end up with a bigger mess that requires even more water. I rarely use disposable products, but I do keep them on hand for those times during which we must rely on our water storage.

Here are the items I recommend that you keep on hand for water emergencies:

What are your no-running-water cleaning tips?

Luckily, our emergency was short-lived. Our well pump had burned out and the repair person made it to our place fairly quickly.  (We also learned that there isn’t a whole lot of water left in the well, so we’re being very thrifty with the water until the rainy season arrives.)

Have you ever had a situation in which you had no running water? How did you clean when that happened? Are there any products that you recommend adding to the list above? Please share in the comments below.


Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Good points!

    When we were on campouts out in Girl Scouts, this is the water saving dishwashing routine we used. We used 3 basins to wash dishes.

    1. First, we scraped all left over pieces of food off our plate into a trash can.

    2. Rinse off dishes in soapy water. (basin #1)

    3. Wash dishes using a dish brush in a basin of soapy water. (basin #2)

    4. Dip dishes into rinse water, which had some bleach added to sterilize dishes. (basin #3)

    5. Put plate, cup and silverware into a (repurposed) onion or potato sack and hang on a branch to dry.

  • -One of the things that we used at home, was vinegar. It can be used on it’s own or it can be diluted with *water that has been boiled for two minutes and then cooled, and because it is to clean up counters, sinks, appliances, especially if it is in contact with food. Vinegar is a great for cleaning windows or appliances straight up.

    -To scrape the plates of food, use a slice of dry bread or a crust and clean all into the dog’s dish including the slice of bread.

    -We also used water from the lake or creek to flush toilets. When it came to toilets a reminder to all that if it’s yellow, it’s mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.

    -*Water from the creek can be heated and placed in a basin for the first “rinse”, for hand washing, bathing. We saved the stored water for cooking and drinking, and teeth brushing and for anything associated with food.

    -*Water from the rain barrel can be used for everything but drinking of eating.

  • We live off grid without running water! We haul drinking and wash water in one gallon juice jugs (drinking) and five gallon jugs. We haul the bathing water in 2.5 gallon reused laundry soap jugs. We use dish pans one for rinse and one for wash in the sink with with a little bleach in the rinse. It is best to prewipe dishes then wash and rinse least dirty first. Unless we have company with three of us we usually wash dishes once a day. Lots of company calls for paper plates and cups – it burns less trees to dispose of paper plates than to build a fire in the summer to heat extra dish water. We reuse rinse water either to soak dishes that would dry on between washings or as a base for the next wash water.
    We have a hand wash basin for quick cleanups. Our main bathing facility is the sauna. Mostly we do pan baths after a good sweat but have shower bags when needed. We also have a bath tub for soaky baths when needed and a high output propane burner to heat the water.
    We keep baby wipes available in the outhouse in summer and by the door in winter.
    We do most of the laundry at the local laundramat but do use our wringer washer when time and weather permit. We do use paper towels for some cleanup instead of reuseable cloths to save on laundry but could switch over in hard times.
    Our water comes from a nearby public well for drinking and cleaning. We have several backup plans if the well goes down. Summer irrigation water comes from a high volume public well and rainwater catchment.
    I usually haul water a couple times a week but try to keep at least two days ahead in case power is out at the well or other problems (filling jugs at minus forty (-40) is no fun). Also to allow more time if we need to go to plan B.
    That’s what works for us.

    • Wow, great tips, Howard! You will be one of those people who thrive if the grid goes down completely at some point in the future, because of these skills you’ve developed as a side-effect of your lifestyle. 🙂 You really need your own blog so you can tell us more, because your comments are so informative!

  • I feel your pain. I grew up in the Sixties on a 105-acre farm with a well that went dry every summer. My brothers and I had to haul water in jugs from a spring a mile away, take showers at the Y, and get our clothes washed at the laundromat once a week.

    I’d like to think my lifelong good health stems from being a dirty farm kid who only took a shower twice a week outside with a bucket of lukewarm water.

    I prize water in all its forms after this kind of formative years, naturally.

  • Igloo insulated drink jugs!
    I had a water main go bad and for 5 days had no running water. I used two large stock pots to heat my stored water on my wood stove then “primed” the Igloo jugs just like you prime a thermos to hold a hot beverage, then filled the jugs at night.
    In the morning you will have plenty of hot water to start your day without heating water, then you can start the stock pots heating on the stove to replace the water in the Igloo jugs. Trust me, having hot water to start your day is a huge time and physical energy saver!

    Lessons learned: I use a smaller 2.5 gallon drink jug by the bathroom sink as it fits on the sink vanity. This warm water ensures folks will wash hands after using the bathroom as well as do their basic hygiene wash. I use a 5 gallon jug on the kitchen table or counter for clean up/dishes. These jugs will keep water very hot(about 150 degrees F.) for 12 hours, very warm(about 105 degrees F.) for 18 hours, and somewhat warm (about 80-90 degrees F.) up to 24 hours.

    I like using the Igloo jugs is they are great multi-taskers for holding hot/cold water depending on the season or can be used as an Ice chest. If you have to use heat to purify/sanitize water the Igloo jugs will preserve that thermal energy for a day and if you have time to fill up jugs before a big storm you can store hot water in the Igloo jugs rather than just cold water in containers. A big plus, is the drink spigot makes using water very easy with less spillage compared to using many water jugs

  • I’m a city girl, but 7 years ago we retired to a small 5 acre plot outside a small West Texas Town. Here we have a septic system and a well.

    The well went dry a few years ago. Second well dug went dry, too. So, we installed two gigantic storage tanks. One holds 2,000 gallons, one holds 500. My husband had to go to town to the fair grounds, fill up a 250 gallon tank in the back of the pick up, bring it to the big tanks, off load it and go for more. Eventually, the tanks were full and we had running water again.

    Now, the wells are OK and we still use off the storage tanks. Once a week, we turn on the well, fill the tanks and then shut the well off. This helps the well regenerate and we always have water. Draw back is freezing weather, but we have a plug in heater in the form of a long wire that keeps the lines from freezing.

    If the power goes out, or the pump breaks, we can dip water out of the tanks using jugs. Don’t want to have to do this, but it is a possibility, and we have done it before. NOT FUN.

    I have numerous jugs with the plastic “faucets” on them for filling and keeping by every sink in the house. We put bowls in every sink to catch and hold water for hand washing and eventually flushing.

    I also keep every liquid detergent jug I get, clean it out and fill with water. These I keep in the greenhouse to water plants if need be, and we have brought some in the house for flushing etc. in an emergency.

    My Mom (who just turned 101 last month) used to live in a mobile home. During winter, she shut her water off at night and drained pipes so it wouldn’t freeze. She kept jugs of water in the house and at night, she placed a couple on the floor vents where the heat came out. In the a.m. she had warm water! Smart lady.

  • Our well recently caved in and we have been without water now for 4 days. The guy is coming tomorrow (Saturday) to fill out paperwork etc. to hopefully start drilling on Tuesday. I was panicked at first with 3 kids and no running water. We have been without water several times but only for couple days at most for power outages. Luckily we have a creek and stream on our property. My two youngest kids find this to be so much fun! I have started to realize its not that bad. We have been filling up a huge metal pot and boiling the water every evening to wash ourselves with. I finally broke down and washed my hair in the creek. It was extremely cold but my hair is clean. We have been filling two large buckets and leaving them on the porch to flush our toilets with. We have also been using the creek water to water our animals. I must admit when the water stopped it was right after supper time and I had a sink full of dishes. So we quickly switched to paper products for the them being. I am going to boil some creek water today and wash dishes. Some of the ideas I have read on here have been great and will for sure be put to use here at my house. I am thinking we will be without water for another week. My parents did bring us tons of jugs of water for drinking and cooking. Since the stream is right beside my house and the creek is a little further away. I have been keeping a thing of pump soap beside the creek to just walk out and wash hands.

  • BTDT several times 🙂 Whenever I empty a bleach bottle, I fill it with water without rinsing it out first and mark WASH on it. These are handy to set next to the sink for washing hands or rinsing stuff. I also put a bit of vinegar in the rinse basin as it seems to help chase the soap film off of the dishes.

  • Living in the country w/a well, has taught a lot–you never know when the well will need a part OR power goes out. Over the years, I’ve learned to keep minimum 2-3 wks of water for flushing, kitchen use &drinking. Since I’m a recycler, water is collected in mainly recycled bleach and vinegar jugs because they’re thicker &last for years. Because our Texas water is highly mineraled, including iron, one side of the kitchen sink always keeps a wash tub full: it must be filtered before drinking. Have made a DIY water filterer using Food Grade Plastic Buckets & Ceramic filter cartridge–said to last up to 100 cleanings; by prefiltering twice, using coffee filters & strainers atop bowls/whatever’s handy, the ceramic filter lasts longer between cleaning (2-6 months vs. few days-couple weeks w/o prefiltering). In Deep Winter the well is turned off when temps fall below freezing. For hand-washing, bowls/recycled yogurt or cottage cheese tubs are handy: 2 per basin: one catches soapy water, the other is for rinse. ‘Soap’: very diluted dish detergent that rinses off easily, kept in a recycled hand-soap pump-bottle. The dish detergent brands that are ‘easy on hands’ are best if you have Dry Skin. For cleaning: mix vinegar & baking soda; after it stops fizzing, fill spray bottles; add water PRN. This cleans just about anything, your home, hands or whole body in a pinch. Rinse; when power’s off, I’ve even used a spray bottle to reduce amount of water needed but you’ll figure out what works for you. Online there’s a recipe for ‘Hobo’s Quick Wash’ (not the name). It works well but wet washcloths help ‘rinse’. Prepping to turn off the well: precook certain foods, keep in frig & reheat in microwave. There’s also foods kept that don’t need heating. Dish tubs are great around the house: things are hand-washed here. I want to thank all who post their ideas; I’ll be using the ones that work for me.

  • I realize this thread is organized about ways to clean while conserving what water is available. I think it’s also relevant to discuss some ways to make more of that available water super clean for drinking, for cooking, for brushing teeth, for medical use, and any other purpose where zero contamination water is a must.

    Some ways to make clean drinkable water from yucky disgusting filthy water:

    This is from Sharon Buydens who oversaw the installation of many locally made “slant tabletop” style passive solar water distillers — used especially along the Southwestern US border where stupid laws blocked a decent municipal water supply system, and the local water badly needed purification. There are versions of this design on YouTube, typically with a few missing details. Her book on Amazon fills in those details. It’s easy to build using her design. A discarded sliding glass door makes a good top for this slant top design.


    There are many other ways to clean dirty water, whether from a pond, a river, a ditch, or whatever.

    A sufficiently hot solar box oven can bring water up to a boil, although that won’t remove heavy metal or chemical contamination.

    A double-walled solar glass tube with reflectors to gather additional sun energy can also boil water for the same benefit.

    A older style pressure cooker with a jiggle weight can be repurposed by temporarily replacing that jiggle weight with a clamped-on high temperature capable plastic tube, which then can be connected with a coiled metal roll of tubing (preferably stainless steel) which can be routed through a bucket of colder water (even dirty) to cool down the steam into perfectly distilled drinking and cooking water. HighWaterFilters sells both complete systems or just parts at


    Such systems are usable on a campfire, on a cookstove, or even on a solar heat system.

    There are even people who build large water boiling systems powered by freebie huge Fresnel lenses from discarded rear projection TVs. Some DIY effort is needed to build a pivoting wood frame to hold the lens at the changing angle to the sun, and a platform to hold a blackened pot of water with that coiled metal tube again to collect and condense the steam.

    There are some other designs of water distillers, easy to find on eBay or by running a search. This website has an excellent variety of water distiller systems available for sale:


    and some of their videos are on YouTube.

    There are even little portable solar tube systems used by campers, hikers, mountaineers, boating people, etc capable of both cooking and boiling water. Some are adaptable to hooking up a coiled length of metal tubing so they can even distill seawater.

    I haven’t even discussed the water filter varieties on the market. That’s often covered already here on TheOrganicPrepper.com — which, if one is certain that the cleaning ability of the filter on hand is a good match for whatever water is available, then the right filter can make sense. I choose the distiller route so I don’t have to worry about constantly changing varieties of contamination, the inability of regulatory authorities to keep up with such varieties, and the need to regularly test water since the game keeps changing.


  • what are these aggravating blocks on left of all your screens i.e. 3K, 2K f in circle, tweet, p in circle with 515 below? how to get RID of them?? cant read your articles!!!!

    • I have no idea. Are you on a mobile device or on a PC? If you could send us a screenshot to hello@ theorganicprepper.com (remove spaces) that will help us get to the bottom of it. Thank you for letting me know!

  • Okay…
    1. Have accumulated 2 pallets of bottled water over time. Pickup a couple case very week. Maintain over time.
    2. Have 9 primary 55 gallon water barrels. Cost $20.00 a piece via Craigslist. I have 9 more that still have to be cleaned out. Fill, rinse with small amount bleach, repeat rinsing. Half are filled with rain catchment other half by muni access when needed.
    3. 6200 gallon rain catchment, 4 stage filter. Solar powered pump.
    5. RV 78 gallon fresh water
    6. Pond. Have Berkey filter and Life Straws

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