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Green Alcohol, Duct Tape and WD-40

July 16, 2010 by · 4 Comments 


No, it is not a recipe for a new mixed drink.  They are three of the most important items for any camper to have with them – any means those with tents to big motor homes.

I’ll start with the green alcohol.

All RV’s have sewage holding tanks that eventually need to be emptied.  Tent campers often carry porta- potties that also need emptying.  The amount of harmful fecal bacteria present in the effluent is overwhelming.  There is enough stuff in one of those tanks to infect the entire population of my home town and still have some left over.

I am appalled at the number of people I see dumping their sewage tanks with bare hands and no apparent method of disinfecting themselves.  Some use heavy canvas work gloves or rubber gloves.  But, unless they are disinfected all they do is spread the bacteria to their container and even the person using them. Disposable vinyl or latex gloves should always be used.  Disinfecting is also necessary, but many campers ignore this important step because they do not know what to use.

Years ago I used a solution of bleach and water mixed together in a spray bottle as a disinfectant.  But, if any bleach happened to get on my clothes they were ruined.  I also found the smell unpleasant and it was not good for my skin.   I switched to Lysol in an aerosol can, but it could get kinda expensive.  Then, one day when I had to take Oscar to the veterinarian, I was introduced to wintergreen isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant.  The Vet’s used it in the bottle it came in and just screwed on a spray top.  After one animal was examined, they would spray down the tables with the green alcohol and then wipe them off with a paper towel.  I thought this was a great idea!  Wintergreen 70% isopropyl alcohol is available at Wal-Mart for about a buck and a half a bottle.  The wintergreen has a nice scent.  Once I have dumped my holding tanks,  I spray down my gloves, peel them off into a trash can and then spray down my hands with enough alcohol to disinfect the spray bottle handle as well.  Next I spray all the dump levers and caps.  Lastly, I spray down the soles of my shoes before climbing into our truck.  An application of a little hand lotion once in the truck helps to prevent any dryness the alcohol may cause on my hands.

For tent campers green alcohol is great for spraying down your hands after using a porta-potty. You can recycle or purchase small spray bottles that hold a couple of ounces and fit in your pocket.  These small bottles of green alcohol are beneficial as a disinfectant for public porta-jons or restrooms.  If you check the ingredients of a small hand sanitizer bottle you will discover that it is isopropyl alcohol.  Buying it in a pint bottle is much less expensive.  It is great stuff and no camper should be without it!

Silver duct tape is also called Hurricane Tape, Racer Tape and now Camper Tape.

Duct Tape was first used in WWII as a sealing tape for ammo boxes.

At the time it was called Duck Tape (as in quack-quack).  Truthfully, it is not a good tape for sealing heating or air conditioning ducts.  Its adhesive is a natural rubber compound that dries out and releases its adhesion after a few months.  But, for temporary or emergency repairs to a RV or tent it is unsurpassed by other tapes.

I keep a big roll of 3M duct tape in the RV all the time.  Rarely do we set up camp that I do not use duct tape for something.  There are many other brands of quality duct tape such as Scotch, Duck and Nashua.  Unfortunately, some brands are of inferior grade.  Sticking with a brand you know is good is the best way to go – it does not have to be 3M if you know the quality of the brand.  Another brand of duct tape that has recently come on the market is Gorilla Tape.  It is thicker than regular duct tape and its adhesive is awesome.

I have used duct tape to fix torn awnings, rips in rubber roofs, torn aluminum camper siding, rips in  tents, lawn chair repairs, tarp tabs, leaking pipes and hoses, and I have even twisted it into a rope for tying items down.  I have friends that have used it to hold in broken windows, hold a compartment door closed that had a broken latch, seal where gaskets are missing around slide-outs, repair a broken fender on a golf cart, patch a leaking air mattress and even patch a crack in a camper grey water holding tank.  I have seen wallets, jackets, pants, boats, tents, door mats, and drinking cups made entirely of duct tape.

Pop-Up Camper with canvas/vinyl material completely recovered with silver duct tape.

Director's Chair completely recovered with silver duct tape - a new life for camping furniture!

I used a piece of duct tape today to make a tie to hold one of my tomato plants to a post.  Without a doubt is it the most useful tape a camper can have with him.  The only downside is that one must understand that the tape is a temporary repair.  While it is extremely strong, has a really sticky adhesive and is somewhat water proof, it will deteriorate when exposed to the elements and the adhesive will dry out and release over a period of several months.

Now, duct tape is being used as a “fix” for a reception problem on the new Apple Iphone 4– who would have ever thought……… ?

The TV show Myth Busters recently did two episodes on duct tape that included putting a car back together that Carrie totally cut apart, making a black powder cannon from the stuff and even a suspension bridge that Jamie and Adam walked across.  In summary, don’t leave home without at least one roll of duct tape.  The stuff is amazing and its use is only limited by your imagination.

Last but definitely not least is WD-40.

This amazing liquid in an aerosol container can make anything you have not secured with duct tape move.  I have used it on my camper’s screw jacks, as a fire starting fluid, to clean chewing gum off of the carpet, as a cleaner for bugs splattered all over the front of the camper, waterproofing for shoes, a cleaner to remove road tar from both the truck and camper.  It is useful as a cleaner and rust preventer for tools that are exposed to salt air or high humidity.  It also works well to remove the gooey residue left after removing duct tape from a smooth surface.  Having spent the past two weeks at the ocean-front I have used up a full can on my golf cart, lawn furniture, beach umbrella, tools, beach cart wheels and even the snap on Oscar’s leash which filled with sand and salt water.  A light spray on the polished aluminum wheels of our truck that is wiped down with paper towels leaves a clean, shiny surface that easily repels brake dust and road grime.  It is great for removing paint, grease and dirt from your hands.

I remember my grandfather polishing his big black DeSoto sedan with a can of kerosene and a rag.  The kerosene would leave a brilliant shine, remove dirt and make it easier to get the next round of tar and bugs off of the paint.  Today, WD-40 has replaced kerosene as the preferred petroleum based polish and cleaner for the fiberglass front cap on many trailers and can make sun aged plastic parts look new again.  It also helps to preserve and protect these parts.  WD-40 should NOT be used on your rubber camper roof.

You can scroll through a list of other uses for WD-40 by downloading the PDF at

When combined as a three-pack, green alcohol, duct tape and WD-40 are indispensable items for any camper.


4 Responses to “Green Alcohol, Duct Tape and WD-40”
  1. Suzie says:

    Dr. Professor Randy,

    I want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blogs. You write about things that are real to campers and they are sometimes funny while still being useful. I hope you will write more chapters for your first aid series soon. I am a nurse but never really considered some of your advice for camping. I bet duct tape will be one of the items to add to your first aid kit LOL .

  2. Liz Bard says:

    My husband told me when he was stationed at Fort Greeley, AK, they were preparing one of their UH-1D helicopters to be placed in a museum. According to the logs the helicopter had never been out of the United States but they found some bullet holes that had been “repaired” with what was called “hundred mile an hour” tape. He said he had been there about a year and did not know when someone made the “temporary” repairs.

  3. Jim Preston says:

    Duck Tape is also a very good wart remover. No kidding, takes care of small warts in a couple of days. Who knew.

  4. Purple Frog says:

    Another great post. Since we’ve started camping, this has come in useful SO many times. And also, since having kids to be honest! There’s always a broken toy or piece of furniture which Sealing Tape can provide a quick fix. Good info on the green alcohol too, from some of the stuff I’ve seen, I think some people could do with some lessons in camping from you before they went!

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