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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about portable chemical toilets:
Questions & answers about the set-up, use, maintenance, cleaning,and emptying-out of chemical toilets. We also discuss portable toilet repairs and winterizing.
This article series describes use of chemical toilets, how they work, and how they reduce wastewater consumption. The photograph at page top is of the Thetford PortaPotti, a portable toilet which uses chemicals.
[Click to enlarge any image]
there are alternative effective recipes for use in Portable toilets that can be made from household chemicals. Do you know of any such mixtures that are available - Colin 6/12/11
Raft-camping down the Colorado River we carried an ammunition can used as an emergency day-toilet. Inside the can were supplies including ziplok plastic bags, toilet paper, and a small bottle of diluted bleach.
The routine was to defecate into the baggie and also use it to dispose of toilet paper. Since all of that waste had to be packed out of the Canyon, and because the can was exposed to high temperatures during the day, we poured a little bleach into each baggie to slow the decomposition and gas production - avoiding an exploding ammo can.
But in general I don't recommend do-it-yourself toilet chemical experiments since there are health and safety risks.
Furthermore, using bleach or PineSol or similar household cleaners in a portable toilet is likely to leave you with no place to dump the toilet when it needs to be emptied and cleaned.
That's because RV parks and other porta-potty waste receivers won't want you dumping into their systems a mix of waste that includes chemicals that kill off bacteria.
Killing off septic tank bacteria with bleach or household cleaners interferes with septic tank function and can lead to not only ground water contamination but also costly septic drainfield failures or increased costs of extra septic tank pumpouts.
I want to keep my porta potty in my van for occasional use during the upcoming Michigan winter. How do I keep it useful without it freezing? - Bonnie Jones 10/5/11
Good question Bonnie.
Short answer: to keep a portapotty in a van in freezing conditions, first buy and use RV wastewater and flush water environmentally safe antifreeze product from an RV supplier.
We leave a chemical toilet in a remote cabin in northern Minnesota through very deep freezing weather. But first we empty the water from the flush reservoir and we empty the toilet base as well. Then we leave a very small quantity of water along with toilet treatment chemical in the toilet base receptacle.
By that means the toilet is almost ready to use when people return to the cabin. All that's needed is to add water to the flush reservoir.
I would not leave any water in the toilet nor waste in the toilet in freezing conditions. The risk is that frozen water or wastewater breaks the toilet and later thaws, leaving a mess in your van.
For buildings (or vans) where we need to leave a portapotty in ready-to-use condition in freezing conditions we'd have to add a heat source OR we'd need to add an antifreeze mix to be sure of avoiding damage. You MIGHT get away with letting a small amount of waste in the toilet bottom freeze but it's risky.
If you check with your local RV suppliers you'll find that they sell RV wastewater holding tank antifreeze for use in those larger vehicles. Basically it will be an environmentally safe product that can be used in both the flush water supply and in the wastewater holding tank.
Be sure to follow the proper dilution instructions on the product label so that you don't over-dose your porta potty nor the dumping station into which it is later emptied.
Is there no way to treat a toilet so that it can be left for weeks? Thing is we only use the toilet a couple of times when we visit a remote cabin. Getting the toilet to a dump point is a mission, so it would be good if there was a way to avoid it each visit. - Mark 2/1/2012
Mark, if you use the proper amount of disinfectant I've found that a chemical toilet is just fine left alone for weeks;
i live in an area which has a lot of salty water in the soil. if the water does not affect the manhole the salt would. i need this portable chemical potty to buy where can i get one in Ghana - Evelyn 11/9/12
Evelyn portable chemical toilets are sold worldwide in most large cities at camping and RV suppliers, contractor supply houses and some plumbing suppliers; if you can't find a close source I'd just ask someone to bring one in for you - they're not heavy.
The Thetford toilet is particularly widely distributed, and back in 2011 we read of a whole collection of test-porta-potty toilets being brought from the U.S. to Kumasi by Danny Alexander.
However as you'll read in the article above, a small porta-potty is not going to be very functional for permanent or regular use in a home with more than one or two occupants - you'll find that you have to empty and clean the unit daily; conversely, a very large reservoir portable toilet means that it may be heavy and awkward to carry to a disposal point.
Where electricity is limited, there is LP fuel shortage, or where cost matters, therefore ruling out an incinerating toilet, you might be better off considering a composting type toilet, even a site-constructed one. See COMPOSTING TOILETS.
I have a cabin way up north and are wondering about a chemical toilet instead of using the out house at nite because there are bears and wolves there. The out house is legal there. Would it be safe to dump the chemical in the out house - Dave
OPINION: it would be safe to dump normal concentrations of chemical toilet waste into the outhouse but it will also have the effect of slowing down any biodeterioration that may have been expected there. Since outhouses collect a rather concentrated dose of solid feces and liquid urine, the rate of break-down of waste is very slow anyway, and the usual procedure is to move the outhouse and bury the pit when it's near full.
I'm doubtful that modest doses of chemical toilet waste will make much of a change there other than perhaps reducing odors.
But I'd be sure not to overdose the chemical toilet - just use the required amount of chemical, don't dump whole bottles or packets of chemical into your chemical toilet or you'll be dumping more than needed into the outhouse, and you might risk leaching chemicals into surrounding soil.
We are considering getting a chemical toilet for use in our home's bathroom.
My questions are, can chemical toilets be flushed into a home septic tank, and do they smell really bad after a bowl movement? Any suggestions as to which type of chemical toilet would be good for in-home use would be greatly appreciated. - K.S. 1/23/13
Chemical toilets are not smelly - at least not from urine or feces that are placed in the toilet, any more than a water-flush toilet.
The deodorant recommended by the manufacturer is placed in the chemical toilet holding tank along with a small volume of water as a starter; it's effective both in odor and sanitation;
If you don't use a recommended treatment chemical, indeed the toilet may smell and also may be unsanitary if not emptied very frequently.
Provided you follow the dilution and usage instructions, limited emptying of a chemical portapotty type toilet into a home septic tank should not be harmful - the preservative in the deodorant should be quite dilute.
Details are in the article above. We discuss the worry of dumping chemical toilet chemicals into the septic tank in more detail at Dump into Septic Tank?
4/23/14 Anonymous said:
How do you avoid high heat on a boat?, and should I be worried about this?
If you are asking about a chemical toilet for boat use, in normal use the addition of odor control treatment chemicals to the toilet base should prevent troublesome methane gas formation at problem levels by controlling the amount of bacterial action - basically stopping it.
Watch out: if someone omits the recommended chemical toilet treatment, then it is possible that some models may use a holding tank that is too air-tight, un-vented, that could result in a toilet explosion. Check with the product manufacturer to make sure that the model about which you inquire is rated for high temperature locations and marine use.
At CAMPING & EMERGENCY TOILETS I describe a real-world worry about harmful explosions that can occur if un-treated sewage waste is kept in a tightly sealed container and exposed to high temperatures.
More about Marine Toilets suitable for both small craft and some larger boats, even submarines, along with their history can be read
at MARINE TOILETS.
(Apr 23, 2014) Anonymous said:
how do you avoid high heat on a boat?, and should I be worried about this?
Yes Anon, heat can be a concern depending on the toilet type and model. I've posted detailed comments to your question at the end of the article just above.
(May 21, 2014) Andy said:
Should you put a little water in the basin of a porta potty before using it.
(May 21, 2014) (mod) said:
I do that, though the instructions don't require it. Particularly if using a dry powder. It helps keep the bottom rreservoir deodorized and sanitary.
(July 1, 2014) old Century said:
Century 8l porta potty ... pump will not work. Is there a special lubricant, or sealant, that should be applied to the pump internal rubber parts?
Try silicone grease. More likely you need to replace the pump. You made sure there is water in the reservoir, right?
x(Sept 9, 2014) P.K. said:
Question: If I want to make a long trip around Europe with caravan/camper, is there any places where I can legally empty the chemical tiolet without need to stay in camping sites? For example: can I empty it in public tiolets like in gas stations etc.?
In my OPINION if the volume of wastewater were trival, say 1-4 gallons, I'd be oK with emptying that into an ordinary toilet.
Otherwise I would not, as you may damage the receiving system or even kill off bacteria in a gas station's private septic tank (preservatives / deodorants in the RV holding tank can have that effect). For an explanation see
RV HOLDING TANK DUMP INTO SEPTIC TANK?
in the More Reading links above
But there are almost always RV parts and some other stations that post signs permitting emptying of RV tanks (caravan camper toilet holding tanks), typically for a fee. That's where I'd "go".
I find your web resource very useful but I couldt' get the information that I need.
I have a summer cottage in remote area with no water system, we have to bring water from city in bottles. We have a toilet which is just a square hole digged in the earth may be 1.5 meters deep and 90 cm. each side covered by wooden cabin. So we do our job there. No wate tank or septic on our land parcel. I have two questions to ask:
1. Can you please recommend any liquid/powder or treatment solution which is eco friendly and wich I can to add to the toilet hole in order to biodegrade our human waste (urine and feces).
As you understand the odor is awful there so the the amount of feces is also increasing with time.
Are there any bacteria that eat up this biological human waste? I want to achieve two goals: Reduce the volume of waste that is already there and prevent terrible odor in the toilet.
2. I'm also considering to byu portable toilet. I can't afford to spend 900 + on composting toilet so I'm for the one in the range of 60-100 dollars.
As I said ealier, there is no water system or sewage system. I read information about portable toilets chemicals and got impression that the main puporse of this chemicals is to prevent bad odor and degrade solid parts of feces.
But I want to use eco friendly bio substances to add to flushing part and waste part of the portable toilet and then empte waste container into my garden to enrich it with biodegrated kind of humus.
Can you recommend any brand and name of such substances (fluid or powder or concentrate) that will do the job?
- Anonymous by private email 2016/06/16
My best suggestions for deodorizing a privy or open pit toilet are at
and also see
LATRINE TYPES & CONSTRUCTION for more basic designs
For a simple portable chemical toilet, just search InspectApedia.com
for CHEMICAL TOILETS to see some very inexpensive suggestions.
I should add that there's no magic solution here; you cannot by any means I've seen, even with even the most modern technology for toilets, fully deodorize human waste, compost it, produce garden-safe humus, spend less than $100., and at the same time avoid any chemical deodorants. Those deodorants are basically chemicals that retard bacterial action.
For a simple, cheap outhouse deodorant that was also used to control flies, take a look at the discussion of old-time us of lyme in outhouses in the outhouse article above.
(Nov 18, 2014) KD said:
Anyone have an idea as to why the pump on the chemical loo has stopped? There's plenty of water in it, but I haven't used it for about 14 months
Check for electrical power
Check for a stuck or failed float or switch control
Check last for a seized pump motor
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