We have talked about what we’ll do when the paper eventually runs out, but what about when the toilet doesn’t work anymore?
Consider this: You’ve had a major local disaster where the water has gone out. There is no water available to your house because water mains have been broken, the city water supply has been tainted and shut down, or one of the various other reasons that cause city-wide services to be shut down. What happens when Little Susie says she has to go to the bathroom?
Do you let her? Sure! In the beginning, it won’t be so hard. If you’ve got plenty of water stored up, you can use some of the non-potable water to pour it quickly into the bowl to help create a vacuum to flush your toilet. It’s kind of messy, and splashes a lot, which means you’ll have to clean up each time you do it. The real problem comes when the sewer lines become full and your poo isn’t going anywhere. Once that backup happens, it will be a stinky situation, in more ways than one. (This would be a good time to think about filling your bathtub with water that can be used for non-potable things like watering plants and force flushing your toilet – you can also use a WaterBob to contain it if you don’t want to keep an open tub full of water.)
But it doesn’t take too long for the sewers to get backed up and you can’t flush any longer. THEN you’re in big trouble. Susie REALLY needs to go, but without a working sewer system, that potty water has no where to go. What on earth do you do now?
The problem you are faced with now is how to be able to go to the bathroom and not get your family sick and still not feel like your house smells like a sewer. You’ll always have to worry about cross-contamination of your water supply or communal area with human waste, so you’ll need a way to dispose of it safely and effectively.
How to Make a Quick Emergency Toilet
- 5 gallon bucket
- Bag of scoopable kitty litter (regular works, too, but the scoopable helps alleviate urine better)
- Heavy-duty garbage bags (you don’t want the cheap ones that easily rip
- Toilet seat – these toilet seats are available at most camping stores and online. They fit most standard 5 gallon buckets you can get for a few bucks at your local DIY stores.
- Toilet paper – unless of course you’ve come up with a few ideas of things to use when the toilet paper runs out!
- Remove the metal handle from your 5 gallon bucket and thread the toilet paper roll on. Return the handle. This is an easy way to keep toilet paper handy without it getting dirty on the ground. Another great option is inside one of the plastic coffee cans that can serve as a protective home for it.
- Fit a 13-gallon trash bag into your bucket and cinch it tight around the top.
- Place your toilet seat on top and secure into place.
- Keep kitty litter nearby in another waterproof canister
How to use the Emergency Toilet
- Pee or poo as you normally would.
- Take a scoop of cat litter and cover your ‘stuff’ up
- As bag becomes full for you, remove and cinch the top. You can then bury it in a safe location, well away from a water source
There’s an indoor option to this. You can turn off your water supply running into your toilet, empty out the water with one more flush, scoopy out any remaining water and drain it dry, and use a similar set up as the emergency toilet above. It will give everyone a little comfort of something familiar, even if the procedure is somewhat unfamiliar. You’ll want to be sure to plug up the hole to make sure no sewer gas smells seep out over time (just as if you were replacing the toilet and had to plug up the sewer hole). This is a great solution when you know this hack will only be needed for a short time.
For our family, though, this wasn’t going to be the best option for more than a few days. For one, it is hot more often than not. Our house is also not set up with a great ventilation system of cross breezes, etc., so the inside of the house can stay hot for a long time. Having a bucket of poo sitting in the house all the time isn’t the best option for us. So we’ve scoped out a place in our garage where we can make a potty station. If worse comes to worse, we also have a great nook on the outside of the house where we can set up a similar station if needed, including a bolt in the fence to stick the toilet paper on when we’re out there. That’s why we love this plan.
You can keep a small bag of scoopable litter, the trash bags, scoop, toilet paper and some cleaning wipes stored inside of your bucket with the seat nearby in the event of an emergency.
Things to consider
Someone taught me was using 2 buckets. One with the liner for your solid waste and one without the liner for your liquid waste. The liquid waste can be used in the yard or garden safely (as long as you don’t have someone who is carrying a major disease). Then you only really have to deal with the solid waste in your first bucket.
Consider a 2nd set up for your sick-room preps. You don’t necessarily want to be using the same ‘potty’ as someone who has a gastrointestinal issue. You need to cordone off an area as a sick room and make sure cleaning procedures are followed closely, including NOT disposing of the waste anywhere near your water source or where you are growing food.
You may want to find a way to stabilize your camp toilet. Besides using the pre-made versions that give you a little stability, you can use a milk crate + legs to give yourself less chance of tipping over.
The Pool Noodle Emergency Toilet
You’ve no doubt seen the Pinterest and Facebook phenomenon of the Pool Noodle Emergency Toilet. We made one up in about 3 minutes to show you how easy it is to set up.
My son actually thought it was pretty comfy. But, it wouldn’t take long for that comfie to wear off as the noddle will eventually split from use, from weather, etc. Also, the minute you get that noodle dirty, it is forever contaminated. With all of the holes in the make up of the foam, you could never be certain you’ve completely sterilized OR sanitized it when cleaning. There is no lid so the waste is open all the time.
Ready Made Emergency Toilets
Campers everywhere have already come up with some awesome ideas for ready-made toilets that will be easy to store and use. There are also bags specially made for this set up if you want to stock them specifically. But you can also think of things like bedside toilets that you would use for folks in a hospital that are on metal frames. They may not store as easy, and might need to be maintained a little differently by pouring the contents into a bucket set up each time, but would be easier for folks who need a little extra help up and down. You might also want to consider, if you’re having to use this for more than a few days in an open area,an enclosure to give yourself a little privacy.
Now don’t completely freak out over this stinky situation This is one of those situations where it is easy to prepare yourself for a short term problem that probably won’t last more than a week or two. If, in the event of a major issue, you’ll want to look at some more permanent solutions like an outhouse. But for now, be ready for the most likely scenario!