Any prepper can get ready for a disaster by accumulating the gear and supplies they think they will need to take care of the problems they will face.
But only clever preppers will gather supplies that will allow them to craft the things they need to take care of unexpected problems.
When you are facing the unknown, especially for a long period of time, adaptability is paramount.
Is it better to have one hundred things that are the perfect solution for one hundred different problems, or only ten things that can be modified, blended or otherwise crafted in a hundred different ways to solve those hundred different problems?
When you start considering economies of scale, space, and financial investment you’d be wise to pick the latter.
One skillset that preppers typically overlook in their survival toolbox is also the one that can afford you this incredibly versatile capability, and that skill set is chemistry.
You don’t have to be a scientist or even a bonafide nerd to take advantage of the versatility, potency, and effectiveness that simple chemicals can bring to your survival stash.
Among all the chemical compounds out in the world, one of the most accessible, most affordable, and flat-out most useful is glycerin.
You might not have known, but glycerin is already all around you, everyday, and all kinds of different products and in this article, we will teach you eight innovative ways to use it as is to help you during a long-term survival situation.
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Glycerin Production and Properties
Glycerin is a common product found the world over and is produced hundreds of thousands of tons at a time yearly from both animal and plant-based sources.
Appearing as a clear, odorless, and slightly oily liquid, it occurs naturally in various triglycerides before various processes including saponification and hydrolysis are employed to extract and stabilize the glycerin in all of its many constituent byproducts.
Animal fats, palm plants, soybeans, and many others are all viable sources of glycerin.
Glycerin is what is known as a polyol compound, and in part its usefulness derives from its inherent qualities.
Two of its more important qualities include its antiviral and antibiological nature, moisturizing capabilities and even its sweetness.
Believe it or not, this supremely versatile compound is used in scientific, industrial, cosmetological and medicinal sectors in all kinds of products, way too many to list here and it is still safe to eat.
In fact, it is sometimes used as a sweetener that can improve taste without increasing a food’s carbohydrate load like sugar would.
It can even be used in dense, fiber-packed foods in order to make them easier to pass through the body. Curiously, glycerin does have a laxative effect when consumed in high concentrations!
The world’s two largest producers of glycerin are the United States and Europe, together producing more than 300,000 tons on average yearly.
With glycerin being this useful and in so much demand, you might think it would be extremely expensive, but in its raw form it is not selling for around a dime a kilogram and sometimes much less.
It is worth noting, however, that crude glycerin requires refinement before it can be implemented and its raw form to most processes and products.
It definitely isn’t useful for preppers in this form, so the glycerin you buy over the counter will more than likely have been significantly refined, and this increases the cost.
Even so, refined glycerin intended for retail is still highly affordable, and a little bit can go a long way so there is no reason you shouldn’t have some and your survival pantry.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of glycerin because it is time to get on to our list!
8 Surprising Uses for Glycerin
1. For Starting Fires
Would it really be a list about survival if it didn’t include a way to start a fire or set something on fire?
Despite its edibility, despite its extraordinary versatility mentioned above, glycerin is also an extremely capable fire starter, or more accurately it is a crucial ingredient in a binary fire starter, one that is so easy to use it is sometimes included as part of deep country survival kits.
Glycerin is “Part A” of this mix, and “Part B” is potassium permanganate, or any product or compound containing a high concentration of it.
Combining both, in equal measure, will result in a reaction that generates extreme heat very quickly.
It won’t take but a moment after combining the two ingredients before a spooky-looking purple flame appears, the color resulting from potassium permanganate.
But it isn’t mystical, and this hot-burning, the intense flame will easily light your kindling, even if it is damp or otherwise difficult to burn.
All you need to do to employ this method is to have your fire ready to go, and preferably placed in a shallow depression or pit of stones for safety.
Then there is nothing to do but cautiously combine the two ingredients and then step back.
Note, you should never, ever use the same scoop or tool to handle the two ingredients as you could accidentally cause a chain reaction in your container holding larger quantities of either chemical, and you definitely don’t want that to happen!
2. As an Ingredient for Soap
Have you ever noticed how modern soaps will get you clean but they always leave you feeling dried out with vaguely scaly skin?
This is because our fancy modern “soaps” are nothing more than lowest-bidder products sold to people who don’t really think twice about what they are getting.
Glycerin has long been a component in traditional soaps, and is overwhelmingly responsible for moisturizing skin in all kinds of products.
But the shady Big Soap manufacturers remove the glycerin and sell it off separately during the soap-making process in order to increase their net profits.
The result is a soap that smells good and will get you clean but it takes a toll on your skin.
I don’t know about you but I think that’s BS. The good news is, if you take the time to learn a little bit about soap making (and it isn’t hard to make cold process soap) you can add glycerin as an ingredient at the appropriate stage.
This way, your homemade soap will have all the moisturizing properties of the soaps of yesteryear, which were (and remain) far better than the pitiful excuses we have today.
3. Treating Canker Sores and Ulcers
Well, so far we’ve learned that glycerin makes a great fire starter when combined with potassium permanganate and is also an excellent ingredient for bar soap.
Hey, you know what we should do with this stuff? Put it in our mouths! What, surely I can’t be serious, right? Oh, but I am, reader, though I understand your reticence to follow along with me!
You can’t eat soap and you definitely can’t eat chemical fire starter, so why would you put glycerin in your mouth?
Well believe it or not, and you should, but glycerin is completely safe to put in your mouth and is even edible. You’ll probably even enjoy the experience because glycerin naturally tastes sweet.
But beyond its pleasant taste, glycerin can do something much more important in your mouth, and that is heal ulcers, canker sores, gum line injuries, and more by serving as a topical disinfectant and moisturizer.
You can dab some on yourself with a clean fingertip or reduce the chances of adding germs to the place you’re trying to get rid of them and use a clean cotton swab for the purpose.
4. As an Oral Rinse
We aren’t done putting glycerin in your mouth! Oh no, not even close! All joking aside, there is another excellent and legitimate use for glycerin as an oral rinse, just like you would use your morning mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
This works superbly well for soothing irritated tissues and also for freshening up your breath, once again by killing germs.
Creating this mouthwash is the picture of simplicity, as all you’ll need to do is add fresh water to a quantity of glycerin until a clear, thin liquid result. Stir or shake well to combine and you are ready to go.
You’ll use this oral rinse pretty much the way you would expect: Pour it into your mouth, hold it and then swish, gargle and swish again until you are satisfied, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
Once again, don’t sweat it if you swallow a little bit of the wash because glycerin is safe to ingest, unless you are eating pounds and pounds of the stuff.
5. Use it as Lip Balm
Okay, this is the last mouth-related use for glycerin, I promise but bear with me because I think you’ll really like this one.
Anyone who has suffered through badly chapped or cracked lips knows how painful it is, and worse, knows how long such injuries take to heal.
Modern chapsticks work well for protecting lips, but you might be surprised to know that several big name lip balms actually contain ingredients that will suck moisture out of your lips, not put it back into them. That’s just going to make the problem worse!
Well, fear not because you can leave it to glycerin. Glycerin’s superb moisturizing and antimicrobial properties mean it is an excellent lip balm.
It even works well in harsh conditions consisting of extreme temperatures or high winds.
You can use glycerin to protect your lips or to heal lips that have already been chapped, nothing to it, as all you’ll need to do is spread a small amount on the affected area with a fingertip or with a swab.
Glycerin is completely safe in this role so you don’t need to hold back, you can apply as often as you desire.
6. Treating Skin Ailments and Injuries
I mentioned near the beginning of this article that glycerin was already all around you in all kinds of products you use every day.
An exhaustive list of these products would stretch on for miles, probably, but you’ll be most interested to know that glycerin is almost universally included in any topical medication or beauty product that is designed for moisturizing and healing damaged skin.
In fact, most products that tout their healing capability in this capacity rely on glycerin to get the job done, and not some super-secret proprietary formula.
You can use glycerin directly on any part of your skin that is chapped, rashy, cracking, scratched, scraped or even burned, so long as you aren’t dealing with a third-degree burn.
It also shows efficacy for treating bug bites. You can apply the glycerin directly and allow it to absorb into the skin or apply it to a clean bandage or compress before holding it on the affected area.
7. As a General Purpose Moisturizer
You don’t have to wait for an injury or malady to appear before using glycerin to moisturize skin. It works superbly as a preventative, particularly for hard-working hands and feet.
If your fingertips split after intense manual labor, or your heels crack because you stand around so much or put a lot of miles on every day and you can use glycerin as part of your evening routine to rapidly replenish these abuse areas and make the skin simple again, which will prevent cracking.
Even if this doesn’t describe you, keeping your skin moisturized will keep it healthy and keep you looking good, so there’s no reason you cannot replace an ingredient-laden moisturizer product or lotion with good, old fashioned and all-purpose glycerin
8. As a Suppository or Enema
This last use for glycerin could wind up being one that is most important, but I saved it for last because it is one that nobody likes to talk about. I’ll be square with you: glycerin has a laxative effect whenever it gets inside your body.
Allow me to explain. If you eat a lot of foods that feature glycerin as a flavoring or additive, you’ll probably notice your bowel movements get rather fast and easy.
Overindulging these foods or even eating straight glycerin will see poop moving through you faster than it does a goose.
This can actually be a benefit for those who suffer from impacted stools or significant constipation. Glycerin’s lack of side effects, aside from this one if you want to call it that, means that it can be reliably and safely used long-term for most people.
However, you don’t have to eat glycerin in order to get this laxative effect. You have probably noticed glycerin suppositories on the market and drug stores before. Yep, this is heading exactly where you think it is heading.
You can, uh, manually apply glycerin to the interior of the colon in order to stimulate a bowel movement the exact same way, or even create a thin solution out of it with water to make a high volume enema when called for.
I know, and get the laughing out of your system, but consider that this could be an unimportant treatment for elderly family members or any members of your group who have been living on MREs for too long!
For any prepper who’s considering brushing up on their chemistry skills as part of a well-rounded survival skill set, there is hardly a better compound to begin with than glycerin.
Glycerin is almost completely safe and is so useful and so adaptable to a variety of purposes that it is difficult to imagine getting along without it.
It is widely available, affordable, and completely forgiving of the vast majority of mistakes one might make with other chemicals or mishandling. This is one compound that deserves a home in every, single preppers stash!
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.