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Cold War Era Civil Defense Museum

Civil Defense Fallout Shelter Sanitation Kits

Sanitation Kit SKIII
Sanitation Kit SKIV

Fallout Shelter Sanitation Kits consisted of 22 inch high by 16 inch diameter fiberboard drums filled with sanitation supplies. These drums and were to serve as the shelter chemical toilets until the water drums were emptied and became available to be used as toilets.

Sanitation kits came in two types. Pictured above are the Sanitation Kit III and Sanitation Kit IV. I have only found listings in CD information for these two types of shelter sanitation kits. The SKIII kit was to supply 25 persons for 2 weeks. The SKIV was to supply 50 persons for 2 weeks.

The SK III was issued in far fewer numbers than the SK IV. I believe the SK III was probably dropped from the program because there was really no need to have two different types of kits. That's just speculation, but it makes sense to me.

In a search through the City of Dallas archives I found a good example that shows the difference in the numbers of SKIIIs and SKIVs that were issued. In a City Of Dallas Office Memorandum dated 27 March, 1963 there was an itemized list of the total number of shelter supplies shipped to Dallas in the city's first shipment of supplies. The numbers of sanitation kits shipped to Dallas in the first shipment were 2383 SKIVs and only 31 SKIIIs. With the March 1963 date of the memo that shows a shipment to Dallas which was early in the shelter program. With the numbers shown in that shipment it's probably safe to assume the numbers were similarly low for SKIIIs to other cities as well. I guess that's why it took me forever to finally find one of the things. And then I had to get it on ebay. Details of each kit contents shown below.

Click all images to see larger!

Sanitation Kit Contents List

Kit Item
SKIII
SKIV
Commode Seat, Plastic
1
1
Can Opener (manual)
1
1
Sanitary Napkins
36
60
Hand Cleaner (can)
1
1
Polyethelene Gloves (pair)
1
1
Water Dispensing Spout
1
1
Tie Wire (bag closing)
1
1
Cups and Lids (plastic)
35
80
Commode Chemical (pack)
6
12
Poly Bag Liners (commode)
1
1
Instruction Sheet
1
1
Toilet Tissue
5
10

Later SK IV Kits had no Hand Cleaner and 70 Cups and Lids Instead of 80.

Sanitation Kit III

SKIII Contents Label
SKIII Contents

Inside the SKIII there are 2 boxes with the supplies and a plastic toilet seat. The SKIV is packed similar to this but the 10 toilet paper rolls are put in the bottom of the drum with the boxes on top of the rolls. In the SKIII the 5 toilet paper rolls are in one of the boxes and the boxes are a little longer than the SKIV. If this doesn't sound like Civil Defense collector minutiae nothing does :-) I think everything is visible in the above photo of the supplies in the box. The only thing that isn't is the siphon tube which is in the brown envelope with the can opener sitting on top of it. All the supplies can be seen in a little better photo in the SKIV section below.

This SKIII kit drum was manufactured by the Greif Bros. Cooperage Corp. 1962. The kit is complete except for the hand cleaner. The "OK" on the label was most likely put on when the hand cleaner was removed. More info on the hand cleaner removal below in the SKIV section....

Sanitation Kit IV

Here is a 1963 issue SK IV drum (on left) with undated SK IV drum (on right) showing no hand cleaner and 70 cups and lids instead of 80 like earlier drums. I have another SK IV drum that is undated but still lists hand cleaner on the label. The 1964 Annual Statistical Report SK contents list is identical to the contents list on the right drum in the above photo.
Thanks goes out to Doug in Ohio for pointing this label thing out to me. In 30+ years of collecting this junk I had never noticed the difference.

SKIV Contents

Here are the contents of a 1963 dated SKIV laid out for display. The kit is complete with new-condition (see "problems" section below) hand cleaner can.

Prototype Sanitation Kit

Pictured above is a U.S. Army photo of a prototype sanitation kit. I call this kit a "prototype" because the contents of this kit almost matches the early supply contents list I have titled "Standard Supplies For The Fallout Shelter." (Click link to view Adobe PDF file) I say "almost matches" because the "Standard Supplies" list shows 20 rolls of toilet paper where the photo shows 10 rolls. Since the drum size on the list is the same as the standard sanitation kit drum the quantity of 20 rolls of t.p. must be an error. There is no way 20 rolls of t.p. could fit in the drum with everything else. I have never seen a sanitation kit contents list in any other civil defense material that matches the contents in the "Standard Supplies" list or the kit in the photo above.

The prototype kit contents are similar to the SKIII and SKIV except there are plastic canteens instead of cups and lids, a large sheet of plastic described as a "privacy screen," a roll of twine and water purification tablets. Water purification tablets were stocked in the fallout shelter medical kits.


Sanitation Kit Information From DOD OCD 1964 Annual Statistical Report
Workshops For The Blind Workers Loading Sanitation Kit Drums
Workshops For The Blind Worker Loading Sanitation Kit Boxes With Supplies
These photos are from page 27 of the DOD OCD 1964 Annual Statistical Report. See page 27 here 1964 Annual Statistical Report Page 27 It was interesting to find out that the Sanitation Kits were all purchased from Workshops For The Blind. I always believed that the manufacturer named on the front of the drum assembled the kits. From this information it appears to me that they simply made the drums and the Workshops assembled the kits from an inventory of supplies.

Sanitation Kit Problems

Very early on in the fallout shelter program the sanitation kits issued to community fallout shelters had problems with leaking hand cleaner cans which resulted in the release of a bulletin from Civil Defense. The bulletin dated November 6, 1964 covered the cause and instructed for the removal of the hand cleaner cans during normal inspections. I found a copy of the bulletin at the Dallas City Archives when I was going through their old civil defense files a while back. I guess it's really more than anyone would ever want to know about sanitation kit hand cleaner but here it is anyway....

Bulletin no. 65—8 November 6, 1964
Subject: Sanitation Kit Hand Cleaner

Routine inspections of warehouse stocks of the sanitation kits have indicated the existence of a number of leaking cans of waterless hand cleaner. This discovery prompted the office of civil defense to initiate laboratory tests to determine the cause of the leakage and to develop remedial action.
A summary of the results of the laboratory investigations is as follows:

(a) The cleaner will withstand a considerable period of storage at moderate, fairly uniform temperatures, but will separate into cream and liquid layers after exposure for 16 hours to 10 degrees F. The flash point of the separated liquid when removed from the can is 124 degrees F. The material tends to deteriorate at a temperature level of 120 degrees F, but at a relatively slow rate. Cyclic temperaturechanges within the range of 32 degrees to 120 degrees F accelerate the rate of deterioration.

(b) The cans in which the cleaner is packaged are adequate for the purpose as long as the cleaner remains emulsified. However, the liquid organic solvent component of the separated cleaner tends to soften and penetrate the seam sealing compound of the cans. Cans which have separated may be identified by a "sloshing and clunking" sound made when shaking the can.

As a result of the laboratory tests, it is concluded that deterioration of the hand cleaner may eventually be expected if exposed to extreme temperatures or cyclic variations. The separated solvent may ultimately penetrate the sealing compound in the can and damage other materials in the sanitation kit. Although the separated material will clean the hands, it is less effective and becomes progress ively less satisfactory as the cream tends to harden and the solvent is lost.

Action has been initiated by the Office of Civil Defense to remove all waterless hand cleaner from sanitation kits in Federal warehouses. Plans are being made for the use of this material where found to be in good condition by Federal activities before deterioration has made the product unserviceable. the hand cleaner will not presently be replaced. A project has been initiated for the development of a more suitable material or an alternative method of cleaning the hands. The soap presently contained in the medical kit provides a material for cleaning purposes.

Recommended guidance for the local civil defense directors with respect to the water less hand cleaner in sanitation kits now placed in public fallout shelters is as follows:

(a) remove all hand cleaner from sanitation kits during normal inspection.
(b) dispose of hand cleaner found to be separated or leaking and develop an equitable use for the material in good condition tn accordance with local regulations for locally owner materials.

Signed
Bill Parker
Regional Director

A number of sanitation kits I have found over the years had the hand cleaner removed and the "hand cleaner" marked over on the kit label. Notice on the SK III I have pictured, at the top of this page, that there is a big OK with a red dot next to the "hand cleaner" written in red on the front label of the kit drum. A few kits I have found with the hand cleaner still in them did have the problems exactly as described in the above bulletin. Later kits had no hand cleaner. The kits I have seen without hand cleaner listed on the label had no date on the drum. I believe these kits are late 1963 or 1964 issue kits. The 1964 Annual Statistal Report sanitation kit contents list shows no hand cleaner.

Hand-Written Note By Dallas CD
I also discovered another interesting thing in my search at the Dallas City Archives. Well, I guess it wasn't that interesting but I thought it was because it was a hand written note from someone at Dallas Civil Defense. The note discussed inspection of sanitation kits for leaking commode chemical. Here is what was written in the note....
DCD 26.9
We have checked 536 sanitation kits in 10 shelters.
Of these, only about 50 were found to contain the
commode chemical listed as being stored in all
sanitation kits. In these kits In checking these kits,
5 were found to be damaged by leakage of the
commode chemical. In each case where the
commode chemical was leaking the plastic container
in which it is stored was found to be packed
that it rested against the sharp metal edge of
the hand cleaner container.
All other sanitation kits checked were in good
condition.

MKT warehouse - 2 damaged
Sanger Harris Shop. Ctr. - damaged
Southland Center - 2 damaged

Until early 2012 I had never encountered a sanitation kit with a different type of commode chemical other than the chemical packets shown in photos on this page. I recovered 22 sanitation kits from a building in Dallas that were about to be thrown away. Of the 22 kits I noticed one had damaged boxes when I opened it. Turns out it had the type of chemical referred to in the above note. See photo....


As it turned out three of the kits, all dated 1962, had this iodine liquid chemical inside the one kit box. The chemical bottle pictured was resting against the hand cleaner can just as described in the above old Dallas CD office note but it was also upside down in the kit box. How it hadn't completely leaked out over the years is a mystery to me because the other two bottles had leaked. One had emptied completely. Here's the result.....


I would be willing to bet this kit has been like this for a VERY long time. From the way the hand-written note reads it appears that Dallas CD was asked to inspect kits for this specific problem. I found no other documentation as to who might have requested the inspection though. I have never seen a bulletin issued by Civil Defense about leaking commode chemical but that doesn't mean there wasn't one issued.
SKIV Drum and Water Drum in "Commode Mode"

SKIV Drum WIth Toilet Seat And Plastic Liner
Water Drum With Toilet Seat And Plastic LIner
Here are the SKIV Drum and Water Drum outfitted for your full toileting comfort. The seat on the top is packaged in the Sanitation Kit drum with the rest of the kit contents. Needless to say with the fiber drum, if the plastic liner had even a pinhole sized leak, things would get nasty quickly when the fiber board started getting soaked. As soon as the water drums were emptied they were to be used as the toilet drums.


San Kit filmstrip picture