Survival kits should include tools and resources that can be used for a variety of purposes and situations. One such tool is potassium permanganate. This chemical compound combines manganese oxide ore with potassium hydroxide, and its four oxygen atoms are essential to its applicability in survival situations.
Potassium permanganate was first developed as a disinfectant in the mid-1800s. Since then, it has been widely used in laboratory and chemical industry settings. It is especially useful because it is a powerful oxidizer and also has potent antiseptic properties.
Potassium permanganate appears as a crystal, which is similar in size and shape to coarse salt. This compound comes in a deep, purple color. When dissolved in water, it will take on a purple, pink or almost black color depending on the concentration.
And despite its strong oxidizing characteristics, potassium permanganate doesn't create toxic byproducts. This is also why it's widely used in medicine and in the production or refinement of other chemicals.
Potassium permanganate is generally considered safe as far as strong oxidizers go. When it comes into contact with skin, it will leave a brown stain that's both tough to remove and extremely dark.
But even though potassium permanganate is considered safe, you could hurt yourself if you don't pay attention when using it or if you don't use it properly. It can also pose a health hazard when inhaled or ingested in high concentrations.
Here are the side effects of prolonged or unsafe exposure to potassium permanganate:
Contact poison control specialists if urgent care is needed. For skin and eye contact, immediately remove all of your clothes and eyewear or contact lenses before flushing your skin or eyes with running water for 15 minutes.
In case of inhalation, go somewhere open and with fresh air. Monitor for breathing difficulties. In case of ingestion, drink large quantities of water. Do not induce vomiting.
To avoid unsafe exposure to the compound, wear gloves, goggles and face masks when handling it.
Survival uses for potassium permanganate
Here are some of the ways you can use potassium permanganate in a survival situation:
Disinfectant – Mix potassium permanganate with water to make a simple, all-purpose disinfectant. It's also particularly hostile against the bacterium that causes cholera, an acute diarrheal illness caused by the ingestion of contaminated food and water. You can use it to disinfect wounds and all sorts of surfaces. The solution should be a proper purple color.
Fungicide – You can use the same potassium permanganate and water mixture to treat fungal infections on your hands and feet and to rid your gear of fungi. Just soak the affected area in the solution for 10 minutes or longer.
Treatment for skin infections – Potassium permanganate also makes a safe treatment for persistent skin infections, such as dermatitis, pemphigus and impetigo. To avoid adverse side effects, take care to only add enough potassium permanganate to water that it turns no darker than a dark pink or light purple color. Dab the solution onto the affected area and apply a compress soaked in the solution if needed.
Water purification – Potassium permanganate can purify water for drinking. But this must be done with proper care and attention since using too high a concentration of the compound can make water toxic quickly. Add enough potassium permanganate to water until it barely turns pink. Give it around half an hour or more before drinking. (Related: Water is life: 10 Ways to purify water when SHTF.)
Fruit and vegetable wash – Rid your fresh fruits and vegetables of harmful pathogens by washing them with a potassium permanganate solution. After washing, rinse them with fresh water to remove residues from the solution, which shouldn't be darker than a medium purple color.
Firestarter – Potassium permanganate makes a great firestarter. Place the compound on a small tile or ceramic dish. Then, drop glycerin onto the potassium permanganate and quickly stand back. The compound should start to smoke momentarily before bursting into a purplish flame.
Snow marker – Use purple or pink solutions made from potassium permanganate to mark your trail in the snow. You can even use potassium permanganate solutions to "write" SOS messages that can easily be seen by aerial rescuers.
Potassium permanganate is highly reactive. Therefore, you need to store it safely and properly to ensure that it maintains its efficacy and that you don't suffer any adverse effects or accidents from using it in the future.
Keep it in an opaque, lidded container made from steel, aluminum, glass or ceramic. Keep it in a dry area away from direct sunlight and sources of heat.
Follow Preparedness.news to learn more about other compounds with several clever uses for when SHTF.