If there was just one chemical that I could have with me in a survival situation, I would want it to be Condy’s Crystals.

What is Condy’s Crystals? Also known as KMn04, potassium permanganate and permanganate of potash it is a purple compound created by a London chemist named Henry Condy in the 1860s. It’s use was as a topical antiseptic and anti-fungal solution when added to water in the right proportions. For the survivalist, Condy’s also has a couple more amazing uses including lighting a fire with glucose and purifying water found in the wild to ensure that it is potable.

Fire Starting
You will need some Condy’s and glycerin. Sugar or a glucose tablet will do just find. Even antifreeze from a car radiator will work in a survival situation. To create a fire by means of a chemical reaction you need a mix of Condy’s and glucose at a 50/50 proportion. Crush half of the glucose tablet so that it becomes fine powder. Next, scrape them together on a hard dry surface with a knife blade and the mixture should spark and flame. Be ready to light your tinder (such as a cotton ball with a dab of Vaseline or petroleum jelly) with the brief flame.

Sterilising Water
Add 3-4 crystals to every litre of water, stir or shake and let it sit for 30 mins before drinking. Condy’s kills harmful viruses, pathogens and bacteria such as Giardia lambia and Cryptospordium. The water will be a light tinge of pink but should not be any darker. Remember the rule “If its pink, then its OK to drink.” If its purple then its for your feet (as an anti-fungal treatment).

You can use a light pink solution of Condy’s to irrigate wounds and as a mouth wash.

Anti-fungal Treatment
Condy’s kills ringworm, tinea and athlete’s foot. Soak your feet in a dark-pink solution each day for 7 days. Don’t forget to wash your socks at the end of the day with boiling water to ensure that any fungal spores are eliminated.

Due to its purple colour, sprinkles of Condy’s Crystals can be used to draw ground-to-air signals and directional arrows on wet, light coloured beach or river sand as well as on snow.

Although potassium permanganate is marvellous, there are some cautions that you should be mindful of when using it:

  • Like many other things, it is toxic in concentrated form
  • It can cause caustic burns
  • It will dye anything it comes into contact with either purple or pink
  • It is a very aggressive oxidiser and must be stored in a non-reactive container

Where Can I Buy Condy’s?
Try checking your local chemist or pharmacy for “potassium permanganate” rather than “Condy’s Crystals”. Not all pharmacies stock it (at least my prominent local one didn’t). Instead, I found them available at ChemMart, a popular Aussie chemist for about $10 for a 50 g bottle. Be aware that you can only get Condy’s in limited amounts due to it being classified as a hazardous material and one certainly capable of doing serious destruction at that.

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