Some of the most ordinary items found at home can be used alternatively for all sorts of life-saving needs. Repurposing everything from cooking oil, snack chips, and even used tea bags can help you get through a tough spot — if you know what to do with them. (See “Household Survival” in OFFGRID's Spring 2014 issue.)

As you can tell by the title of this article, we're about to delve into a household item that some people might be too shy to speak about, let alone buy, stock, and experiment with. Yes, people, we're talking about one particular feminine hygiene product here: the tampon.

In this case, tampons are no laughing matter. Knowing what you can do with them can mean living to fight another day, so listen up. Tampons are made out of blends of cotton and rayon. Cotton and rayon are both absorbent and flammable materials, making them useful for a wide range of survival uses. Tampons come in many variations; most any of them will work for our suggested uses in this story. But for best results, we recommend non-scented ones that come wrapped in plastic.

Rudimentary Filter


Whether you need to filter water for drinking or fuel for your vehicle, the cotton-and-rayon wadding of a tampon makes for a basic yet effective filter. By no means does this method filter biological, chemical, or heavy-metal impurities out of water. Further purification steps will need to be taken to make your water safe to drink. It does, however, filter out a good portion of the larger particles found in water sources so that your other purifying methods — whether by distillation, boiling, tablets, or through another filter — can be more efficient.

If things get really dire out there and you find yourself in a Mad Max situation scouring questionable sources for fuel for your vehicle or electrical generator, make sure your fuel system stays clear of contaminants by filtering your found fuel through a tampon filter first. Contaminants such as sand can put your vehicle or generator out of action, requiring repairs and spare parts. That's trouble you just don't need in a SHTF scenario.

Slow Blood Flow


The most obvious use for tampons is to absorb blood. “Well, duh!” you might say. But you don't need to limit this product to only its original application — it can serve as a temporary wound dressing until proper medical attention can be applied. Unravel it and it can be applied as a pressure bandage with the help of some tape or even paracord. Other improvised applications include stopping nosebleeds and using it as dental gauze. Tampons can also be used in lieu of cleaning pads to help cleanse a dirty wound before dressing it.

Note that tampons are generally clean, but should not be considered fully sterile from a medical standpoint. As soon as purpose-built medical supplies are available, the tampon should be discarded and replaced.

Fire Kindling


Fire is life. So, survival often depends on how quickly and efficiently you can get a fire started. Cotton is probably the most flammable fabric commonly found in household use and rayon is a close second. That's perfect for you since tampons are made of just that mix. As a bonus, if you purchase tampons that come in a plastic wrapper, your kindling will stay dry even if you are drenched.

Take the tampon out of the wrapper and applicator and rip it into a few pieces. Fluff up a piece and use it as your fire's kindling. It will light up quickly, but if you have some hand sanitizer, petroleum jelly, lip balm, or even animal fat, rub a little bit in for even better fire-starting results. Keep the leftover pieces of tampon to help start more fires in the future.

Blister Control


Blisters form on your feet because of friction between your skin, socks, sweat, and shoes. Oftentimes, ill-fitting shoes or footwear that hasn't been properly broken in will cause blisters to form. When you're humping your bug-out bag to safety, you don't need the added pain and irritation that a blister can bring. A painful blister can cause you to move slower, thereby slowing down your whole party. And there's the added danger of infection if it gets worse.

If you feel one coming on or feel that there's the potential of one forming and you don't have access to proper blister care, cover the sensitive area tightly with a piece of tampon and a Band-Aid or some tape. Keeping yourself mobile is imperative, so shielding your feet from blisters is a must.

Bore Cleaner


Having a clean, properly functioning firearm for defense is a good idea, especially if it ever hits the fan. Should you find yourself out of cleaning patches, an alternative way of cleaning your firearm is by way of tampon. Most tampons are perfectly sized for 12-gauge shotgun barrels, but smaller wads ripped from the tampon would work for other calibers. Use the tampon as you would a cleaning patch running it through the barrel several times with cleaning and lubricating solution if it is available. Use another piece of tampon to clean out the breech and chamber.



The string attached to tampons makes excellent candlewicks. Perfect for blackout situations, you can fashion a makeshift candle by using anything such as cooking oil, shortening, crayons, and older used-up candles. Make sure to coat the string in your chosen candle fuel to allow the candle to burn more efficiently. Fill a non-flammable, open-top container with the fuel and place the wick into it. Light it and enjoy the slow burn.

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