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The 'Tippy Tap'

The Tippy Tap is made from an old plastic container with a hollow handle

1997 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Water, sanitation and hygiene – Footsteps 30

Water, sanitation and hygiene must go hand in hand to achieve improvements in health

by Elena Hurtado.

Shortage of water is the main reason why people fail to wash their hands regularly. Here is an idea which only uses about a tenth of the amount of water usually used to wash hands. The Tippy Tap is made from an old plastic container with a hollow handle. It is based on the mukombe (Footsteps 14). It also uses less soap as the soap is hung up and protected from rain so it does not become soggy. 

1. Gently warm the base of the container handle over a candle, turning the handle around until is shiny and soft all the way around.

2. Remove the candle and quickly pinch the soft base of the handle with pliers so that it is sealed tight to prevent water flowing through it. Hold the pliers there until the plastic cools, ensuring that the seal is completely closed.

3. Heat the point of a small nail over a candle. Use the hot nail to make a small hole on the outside edge of the handle, just above the sealed area.

4. Heat the nail again and make two larger holes on the back of the bottle. The holes should be half way up the bottle and about a thumb width apart. These holes will be used to thread string to hang the Tippy Tap.

5. Thread string through the two holes and tie the ends of the string to a stick. Thread a bar of soap and an empty tin can through another piece of string. The tin will protect the soap from rain and sun. Attach this string to one of the supporting strings.

6. Tie another piece of string around the neck of the bottle and leave it hanging. This string is used to pull the Tippy Tap over so that water comes out of the hole in the handle.

7. Fill the Tippy Tap with water until it is level with the holes in the back of the bottle. Use the stick to hang the Tippy Tap in the bathroom or outside in a tree. The Tippy Tap is now ready to use.

This article first appeared in Dialogue on Diarrhoea and is used with kind permission of AHRTAG. The Tippy Tap was designed by Ralph Garnet and Dr Jim Watt in Canada.

How to use… 

  • Run water over hands.
  • Use the soap.
  • Rinse off the soap with clean water.
  • Dry with a clean cloth.

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