Since 2008 there has been a Global Handwashing Day to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times, like after using the bathroom. According to statistics 62% of men and 40% of women do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Some argue that urine is sterile, so there is no need to wash your hands on those occasions, but touching the toilet seat etc. contaminates your hands, so there is a strong case for washing hands and studies show that washing hands after bathroom use does significantly reduce transmission of diseases and illness. And it is not just after using the bathroom that you need to wash your hands, but to wash your hands not only do you need soap, but you also need water.
We have no water in the cottage. We take a bucket down to the lake and bring it up to the cottage. We are very aware of our use of water and until we have a well or pump we need to be economical with water. However, we do not ration water when it comes to washing our hands and we were not happy to go down the road of antibacterial hand washes that contain Triclosan and probably have more health issues than not washing hands!
We started by having a bowl on a table in the little room, but you can’t really clean your hands well if you are reusing water to rinse hands and emptying and refilling the bowl uses a lot of water. We needed to find a way that was more economical with water and one that didn’t reuse dirty water!
I have been to events where there are mobile toilets and wash station outside that pumps water to wash hands, so my husband set about using that idea and making our own wash station. We bought a second hand sink unit, a foot pump, two buckets, some plastic piping and a sieve and he came up with a very functional system that works extremely well.
We still have to bring the water up in a bucket from the lake and we have to strain the lake water before it goes in the bucket to stop weed from clogging the system, but hopefully in time we will be able to make that easier with either a pump or a well and a built in filter. The water is cold, but again, in time we can change that too. You can buy propane water heaters that give you hot water on demand, so that is something that we might consider at a later date. For now, we boil a kettle and fill the bowl with hot water for our strip wash. We find that is the only time the cold water issue needs to be addressed.
Another thing we considered in the design, was making sure that the collection bucket didn’t overflow. That is why we have two different sized buckets. On those occasions where we are adding hot water to the sink, making the collection bucket fill quicker than the supply bucket, there is extra capacity to avoid an overflow. Every time we refill the supply bucket, we empty the collection bucket and our soap-isticated system has worked out very well.
We added a vinyl floor, a motion-detecting, battery-operated light above the sink (for night-time visits to the “inhouse”) and plastic to protect the drywall from water splashes. But, there is still a lot of work to do in our “inhouse”. We need a real door and not just the screen and we need to paint the walls, but the room functions and it is a great improvement from where we began.