Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to Build a Tippy-Tap

Many community members in rural Uganda suffer poor health because they do not possess the knowledge of adequate hygiene. Serious illnesses can easily be halted with simple prevention strategies. Washing hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of disease.

In Kiwangala, where Children’s Sure House is located, the toilets are basic pit latrines and there is no access to running water. The combination creates a thriving breeding ground for shigella, campylobacter, amebiasis, giardia, and even intestinal worms. These bacterial and protozoan complications are serious enough on there own, however, a high population of Kiwangalans' immune systems are already compromised by HIV. The consequences of infection could be potentially devastating.

The Senior 3 class at CSH has decided to do something about the problem. They are building 20 low-cost hand washing stations, called Tippy-Taps, outside many of the latrines in the community. The structure is a post and lentil design with a small plastic jerrycan that hangs off the top beam. It is called a Tippy-Tap because when the jerrycan tips over water comes out and the user can wash his or her hands. A Tippy-Tap can be made cheaply and easily by recycling available materials found in the community.

Here’s How to Build a Tippy-Tap:

Materials- A jerrycan with a handle (a jerrycan is a plastic container used to hold cooking oil, motor oil, or paint), 2 pieces of wood for posts (approximately 1.5 meters long and 7 centimeters thick, a piece), 1 stick of wood to hang the jerrycan from (approximately 1 meter long, 2 centimeters thick), 1 stick of wood (same size) that will act as a foot pedal, a sturdy string or clothesline (1 meter), nails, two plastic bags, some medium-sized rocks, a small piece of wire (1/2 centimeter), and an old plastic margarine container.

Tools- A saw, a shovel, a hammer, and a knife.


  1. Start out by digging 15 centimeter holes for the posts to sit in. Space them about ½ a meter apart from one another.

  2. Cut the wood to the post’s desired length, wrap the bottom parts with the plastic bags (this prevents the wood from rotting) and then put them in the ground. Fortify the stability of the posts by filling in the remaining space empty space in the holes with a mixture of rocks and dirt.

  3. Next, unscrew the lid of the jerry can and poke a hole in the top large enough for the string to pass through. Tie one end of the string to the wire. Thread the string through the hole so that the wire sits snuggly in the underside of the lid.
    Poke a hole about ¾ up the side of the jerrycan opposite of the handle. This is the spout where the water will come out.

  4. Slide one of the slender pieces of wood through the handle of the jerrycan. Make sure that it can rock back and forth in the middle of the beam. If the stick is too big, whittle it down. Nail one side of the beam into the top of one of the posts so that the spout is facing you. Don’t nail the other side of the beam directly into the remaining post. Instead, hammer in two nails on either side of the beam. Leave enough space in between the nails so that the beam can be lifted up and the jerrycan can be removed periodically for cleaning.

  5. Cut the top half of the margarine container off. Punch many holes through the bottom half and then nail it to the top of one of the posts. This is a soap holder. The holes in the bottom will drain water from the rain.

  6. Dig a trench about ½ a meter and 1/3 meter deep long under the bottom of the posts and fill it with rocks. This will prevent the ground from eroding.

  7. Finally, screw the lid back on the jerrycan and tie the end of the string to the remaining stick. Fasten it in a way that the tied end of the stick is lifted 7 ½ centimeters off of the ground. Step down on the stick, allowing the jerrycan to tip forward, and place your hands under the spout to wash them.

Here are some other Tippy-Tap resources on the Web:
The IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre provides some more background on the benifets of Tippy-Taps.
Tearfund International Learning Zone describes how to build a Tippy-Tap with strings instead of posts.
This is a video showing another Tippy Tap invention.

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