Potassium Permanganate: Why You Need It in Your Survival Kit?

Susan Morrow
By Susan Morrow February 15, 2017 13:56

Potassium Permanganate: Why You Need It in Your Survival Kit?

As a survival substance, potassium permanganate is arguably one of the most beneficial.

The 4 oxygen atoms in the compound are the key to its action and its applicability in survival. Potassium permanganate contains a lot of oxygen which makes the chemical an oxidant. It is this ability to oxygenate which is one of the reasons why potassium permanganate is such a useful survival chemical.Potassium permanganate crystals

As a slight side note, potassium permanganate is good at getting stains out of things. For example, you can remove ‘foxing’ from an old book using a potassium permanganate solution. But at the same time, if you get it on your skin, you end up with brown stains that are very hard to get off — as I once found out.

Use #1: As Water Purifier

Studies, from “The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics”, have shown that at a dilution of 1:10,000 (potassium permanganate to water) kills most bacteria within an hour.

You may be asking the question, can I sterilize drinking water with potassium permanganate? Not only that you can, but you can also do it at the source. For example, if you have a well, you can control bacterial growth by feeding the well a solution of around 4-7 g permanganate per gallon.

Related: How to Build a Water Purification System in 10 Minutes

Use #2: As Wound Disinfectant

Potassium permanganate is more readily used externally. As mentioned earlier, the oxidizing nature of the chemical means it is a very good disinfectant.

A dilute solution of potassium permanganate can be used to treat anything from trench foot to cleaning wounds to sterilizing infected water. It can even be used to treat bacterial infections in fish.

Related: Emergency Care For Gunshot Wounds

Use #3: To start a fire

Potassium permanganate is a great fire starter. All you need to start a fire with potassium permanganate is about 10 g (1/3 oz) of it and some glycerin (about 1 ml or 1/4 teaspoon). It can also work with sugar and water. Place your potassium permanganate in a small ceramic dish, or on a tile (as shown below). Next, drop the glycerol onto the potassium permanganate and stand back. Within a few seconds to a minute, the dish will start to smoke, and then a sudden purplish flame will appear. You can use the flame to light a larger fire.

mound of potassium permanganate

Create a small mound of potassium permanganate and drop the glycerol into a      small reservoir in the middle of the mound

potassium chemicals react

Stand back and watch as the chemicals react and create a flame

potassium flame 1

potassium flame 2

Use the flame as a fire lighter

Use #4: Improvised munitions

Using the same principle as in use #3 you can also use potassium permanganate as an improvised munition. As a simple munition, you can use a mix of sugar and potassium permanganate. To do this, finely grind sugar and permanganate separately (it is important to grind these separately for obvious reasons). Then using a soft brush, mix the two together — the brush reduces friction — this will form a low level munition. Wrap the powder together into something like a small bore, capped tube with a fuse.

Related: How To Make Gun Powder The Old Fashioned Way in Less Than 30 Minutes

Use #5: More medicinal uses

Wounds, including blisters, and even open wounds, can be treated for infection by taking a dilute potassium permanganate bath. Follow the 1:10,000 rule for the solution. Similarly, you can also treat eczema, dermatitis, and fungal infections using a dilute solution of potassium permanganate which you use to wash the infected area with each day. Referring back to the Pharmacopoeia from 1968, it suggests a 1 in 5000 up to 1 in 10,000 solution for weeping wounds and similar for urethral irrigation for water infections — so accuracy for external treatments can be around that solution range.

Use #6: As a mouthwash

IMPORTANT NOTE: Concentrated solutions of potassium permanganate are poisonous, so be careful!

Potassium permanganate is a disinfectant so can be used as a mouthwash. The disinfectant action works by attacking microorganisms using the oxidizing properties of the potassium permanganate.  The potassium permanganate mouthwash solution will taste slightly sweet with an astringent aftertaste. There are ongoing studies into the antiseptic properties of potassium permanganate and its use in managing periodontal disease. The concentration of the mouthwash in the trials being a 0.01% solution; that is 1g potassium permanganate per 10,000ml of water (that’s around 2 gallons of water). The trial recommends gargling with 10 ml of this solution, twice per day.

Potassium permanganate is stable as a solid at room temperature and normal light conditions, but it is less stable as a liquid. So it is best to make up solutions in small batches that will be used up quickly, so in the above example, you are likely best using 100 mg potassium permanganate to around 1 liter of water (around 0.2 gallons.)

Some final uses:

  • According to the British Pharmaceutical Codex of 1968, potassium permanganate solution is used as a first aid treatment for snake bites. However, it caveats this use as not clinically proven, but that it will destroy any venom that is on the skin’s surface.
  • Potassium permanganate can be used to neutralize mustard gas, even if it has been in the ground for decades by pouring on a solution around the infected area.
  • Back in the day, potassium permanganate was used as a treatment for poisoning. The dosage varies depending on what you read, but most publications recommend a 0.2% solution as a stomach wash, post poisoning.

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Susan Morrow
By Susan Morrow February 15, 2017 13:56
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  1. Baba February 15, 14:55

    Found your info on potassium permanganate helpful. When I was 3 I got impetigo. The tx was guess what? I was highly allergic to it and broke out over my entire body. I couldn’t wear clothes. My mother said all they could do was wait it out. Have no idea about concentration. When I was a student nurse we used it in the nursery on newborn cords.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tumbleweed February 15, 15:50

    That is quite interesting, but where does one buy this? Is it available in granular form?

    Reply to this comment
    • Jean-Mi13 February 15, 16:49

      Bonjour Tumbleweed, j’ai acheté les 5 tubes de 8 grammes chacun chez MD FlashLights Etc Ltd sur amazone au prix de 6.94 euros mais vous avez la possibilité d’acheter chez Zeus 100 grammes au prix de 9.99 euros. En France le produit n’est plus en vente en pharmacie depuis quelques années sauf sur prescription médicale.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tom February 15, 23:36

      You can find it in large quantities ie cheaper at your well driller / supplier. Some pool chemical supply houses also carry it.

      Reply to this comment
    • Safety Officer February 16, 02:30

      You can find it at many farm supply stores as it is used to treat well water.

      Reply to this comment
  3. MaryEtta February 15, 16:31

    Thanks for your very informative site. I read in my spare time. So much info for elderly folks. Many younger folks think we are crazy. I hope I can help others in time of need. I am a retired nurse caring for my husband with dementia.

    Reply to this comment
  4. momlee February 15, 16:38

    OK, so where do you get this product or how do you make it?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Fishhook February 15, 16:39

    Where can you find this? Is it expensive?

    Reply to this comment
  6. left coast chuck February 15, 16:59

    The author said the P.P. turned his skin brown. I’m dredging up a 60 year old memory, but If my memory is correct, the corpsmen used to prescribe P.P. for jock itch and it turned your groin a brilliant purple, not brown. It was also prescribed for cold sores and again, you could count on a large purple blotch on your face. Not sure which was worse, the cold sore or the purple dye. Both certainly inhibited any contact with the opposite sex.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rph February 16, 14:46

      Are you sure that wasn’t gentian violet?

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck February 17, 20:08

        Well, no, now that you mention gentian violet, perhaps it was that. As I said, the memory was 60 years old and although us old folks are supposed to remember what happened 60 years ago with laser like precision the only reason is because usually we are the only one around that is left from that long ago and nobody can say, “Hey, I was there too and that’s not the way it was.” (:>))

        Reply to this comment
  7. Crystal February 15, 20:40

    How much for urethral irrigation, anyone know and using a catheter? I keep getting really bad ecoli infections even though in very careful, ive had uterine cancer and they cut my bladder and I have scar tissue and have problems ever since

    Reply to this comment
    • Old prepper March 25, 05:15

      Crystal; I suspect your dr. messed up. Some how, you have an opening, still in your bladder, that some ‘feces’? is getting into. Have you talked to your doctor? Something is not right. Have them check your bladder for some opening, Even a tiny one, will do this. Just a LAY person, but I am older. Take care.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Don February 15, 22:30

    This sounds like a really good option to sanitize my well. In the past I have poured 2 gallons of Clorox in it , but take weeks to get the oder out. How would you ever determine how much of this to add to a drilled well.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rph February 16, 14:50

      You would be better served by using chlorine tabs. They are about the size of a quarter and 10-12 work pretty good. The issue with using liquid bleach is it will rust out your metal casing pretty bad if not washed off quickly

      Reply to this comment
  9. AZ February 16, 05:07

    Where can I potassium permanganate?

    Reply to this comment
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