The Trash-niquet: Using Garbage to Save Lives

Introduction: The Trash-niquet: Using Garbage to Save Lives

Tourniquets are a basic human right, right? So why bleed to death just because you can't afford the latest, greatest, top-of-the-line, combat-tested, doctor-approved, high-speed, low-drag, tier-one, gung-ho, haute couture tourniquet du jour?

That was a rhetorical question. You shouldn't. Tourniquets aren't cheap, especially when you should have at least one for everyone in your family. You should have them in your home, your glove box, your IFAK, your purse, your backpack, your briefcase, your suitcase, and your SHTF bag. At over $30 a pop, it adds up.

In this Instructable, I'll show you how to make a perfectly functional emergency tourniquet out of garbage. First, a disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, paramedic, EMT, Navy SEAL, or four out of five dentists. Okay, well, I am a doctor, but the PhD kind, so that doesn't count when it comes to medical advice. Speaking of which, I am not giving medical advice. Tourniquets should be used as a last resort and with the understanding that while they can and do save lives, they can also lead to tissue damage and the need for amputation. This is not an Instructable on when, why, or how to apply or monitor a tourniquet. PLEASE get training before using tourniquets.


  • Q: Will this work in an emergency?
  • A: Yes.
  • Q: Will it work as well as my $35 tactical tourniquet?
  • A: Probably. Plus, it'll save you $35.
  • Q: Is using this dangerous?
  • A: Yes, but not as dangerous as bleeding to death.

Step 1: Get a Flat Bicycle Inner Tube

The purpose of a tourniquet is to wrap around an injured limb, above the wound, and constrict until blood flow is halted. You can use anything long and flexible for a tourniquet, including shoe laces, fishing line, barbed wire, and para-cord. However, the ideal material will be:

  1. Wide, and
  2. Elastic

These properties will mitigate tissue damage and reduce the likelihood and/or extent of amputation once professional medical care is obtained. A bicycle inner tube meets both criteria. For this Instructable, I used a 2.5 x 26" tube (BMX size). It was new, but didn't hold air, making it garbage. I cut a 4' section of tube that did not include the valve.

Step 2: Get a Buckle

You can use a number of things here. I used one of two D-rings from my son's old web belt that he left in the bed of the truck until the sun ruined the fabric. That's okay. It wasn't a very good belt to begin with. You could also use a carabiner, loop of para-cord, an old bracelet, or something else.

Step 3: Attach the Buckle

Slide one end of the inner tube through the buckle. About 3" should do. Then fold this "tail" back over onto the inner tube.

Tighten a plastic zip-tie around the inner tube and the tail, about 1.5" from the buckle.

Step 4: Secure the Buckle

To make absolutely sure the buckle doesn't detach, fold the remainder of the tail back over the first zip-tie, toward the buckle.

Use two additional zip-ties to secure the tail in this position.

I did not, but you could wrap a half-width strip of duct tape around the Trash-niquet, covering the ends of the zip-ties. Or, if you wanted to get really fancy and splurge, you could work some large-diameter, heat shrink tubing over the zip-ties and shrink it to fit.

The Trash-niquet itself is now finished! Easy, right? You have a buckle end and a tail end.

Step 5: How the Trash-niquet Works

Again, this is NOT an Instructable on how to apply a tourniquet. However, I do need to explain the mechanics of this particular product.

First, the tail end of the Trash-niquet s threaded through the buckle, forming a loop.

Second, the loop is placed around the patient's limb, above the wound. By "above the wound", I mean between the wound and the patient's torso. I do not mean covering the injury, although the Trash-niquet could be used to apply direct pressure.

Once the Trash-niquet is in place, its tail end is doubled back, away from the buckle (see image). The Trash-niquet is cinched as tight as your training indicated.

Step 6: Securing the Trash-niquet

Continue wrapping the Trash-niquet around the injured limb. Each wrap should overlap but not directly cover the previous wrap.

Tuck the end of the tail securely under previous wraps, making sure it does not pop free or loosen.

With a marker, write the time of Trash-niquet application on the patient's skin, just above the Trash-niquet. Use either military time (e.g., "1432 HRS") or include "am"/"pm" designations (e.g., "2:32 PM").

Monitor and adjust the Trash-niquet in accordance with your training.

Congratulations. You just saved a life. You're a hero and they will sing songs about you for the remainder of all time. You will land book deals, play yourself in movies, and marry a model. Babies, mountains, and parks will be named after you. You're welcome.

Step 7: Storing the Trash-niquet

Apply the Trash-niquet to a marker as you would a patient's limb (albeit a very scrawny limb). Tightly wrap the Trash-niquet around the marker, and secure the tail in place with red duct tape. The red will help you locate the Trash-niquet quickly during stressful moments. When the Trash-niquet is deployed, you can also use the removed duct tape to secure bandages to the open wound.

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    Question 4 years ago on Introduction

    How long is the part you used as a TQ? You said 4", but that is way longer than 4".
    Also, does it fit on a leg?
    Thank you!


    6 years ago

    wow, my first Aid Instructoe and I are very proud of you nice details with the marker and red tape!