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The Right Way to Make a Bucket Toilet

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When emergency strikes, there may be situations where you are not able to flush your toilets.

Sometimes people lose water pressure and want to save all of their water for drinking and cleaning.

Or if things ever get really bad, you may need to flee to higher ground and go camping for a while.

Dealing with human waste properly can be the difference between you and your family maintaining good health, or getting really sick.

One of the cheapest emergency toilets if you are on a budget is one you can make yourself out of a 5 gallon bucket, a plastic trash bag, and a child’s plastic foam swimming noodle. The only problem with this model is not having a lid. A better way is to get a toilet seat designed to fit on top of a 5 gallon bucket. Then you will have a lid to close over to help reduce the odor a bit.

This article is going to have the “gross factor”, so you have been warned. However it is very important. One of the most dangerous things in an long term crisis situation is how human waste is dealt with. We all do it.

So we have to plan how to deal with it in a sanitary fashion or sickness and disease will be a big problem.

Have 2 Buckets

Most people who have actually used bucket toilets when camping will tell you that it is best have two buckets. One is for urine and the other is for poop. It is easier to keep the odor down this way by keeping the feces dryer. Then you can sprinkle some carbon on them, something like saw dust or cat liter.

Urine is sterile because it contains no living organisms, unless the person has a bladder infection. There is less bacteria in urine than in tap water.  Urine by itself is sterile enough that you can actually use it to water your gardens without having to worry about diseases such as e coli. It is very high in nitrogen so it really makes good fertilizer.

Feces is filled with harmful germs and bacteria. If you use one bucket for both, then you will get a wet slurry that will be very sloppy to deal with and empty. (I warned you about the gross factor!) When you are carrying out a mixed bucket to empty it, any splashing could cause sickness. So be sure to have two separate buckets, and keep them separate. Label them so that people don’t mix them up.

The Feces Bucket Toilet

This is the most important bucket toilet to manage properly because it is the one with all of the germs and bacteria. There are two ways to deal with lining the bucket for feces. The first, and most common, is to line this bucket with a plastic trash bag. The positive about plastic is it keeps in any moisture and odor better.

The down side is you cannot bury the plastic bag. (Also if the crisis situation continues long term, you may run out of plastic bags.) If you need to bury your waste in order to dispose of it then you are going to need to dump it out of the bag (more gross factor).

Then you have a germy plastic bag to deal with that can be a future cause of disease. If you try to re-use the bag you take great risk of exposing people to harmful bacteria. This can be overcome as long as you have a good way to for everyone to wash their hands after taking care of business.

The second way to deal with lining the bucket is to use paper. If you are someone that saves all your old newspapers, this may be just the ticket. As long as nobody is sick and has diarrhea, if you put a couple of layers of newspaper lining the bucket. Then when you empty the bucket you can bury the newspaper with the poop (dig a deep enough hole).

If you use this method you will want to put a inch or so layer of pine needles, leaves, sawdust, or kitty liter on top of the newspaper at the bottom of the bucket. This will keep some distance between your moist feces and the paper and make emptying it easier and less messy.

Also each time someone does their business in the bucket, have them sprinkle a layer of pine needles, leaves, sawdust, or kitty liter on top of the feces to keep the odor down.

Pink Eye

One of the most common things people catch (even with modern conveniences) from poor bathroom hygiene is conjunctivitis, commonly called “pink eye”. If you get pink eye a lot then you, or someone you come in contact with a lot is not properly washing their hands after going number two.

Hand sanitizers alone don’t always kill all of the bacteria or viruses. Alcohol does not clean your hands, so there may still be bacteria holding dirt or feces on your hands after using hand sanitizers. Also alcohol does not kill all germs, bacteria or viruses such as the norovirus or E. coli. Soap and water, even sterile grey water, is much more effective and sanitary.

Water will be at a premium during a crisis. But you have to have a plan on how everyone can properly wash after doing their business. They call pink eye “mild conjunctivitis”, but in a crisis situation where it becomes rampant, and normal medical treatments are not available, it will not seem very “mild”.

Other Diseases

The bacterial infections that can be transmitted by human feces include infectious diarrhea (also called dysentery), E coli diarrhea, shigella, salmonella, and cholera. The viral infections that are transmitted this way include norovirus and rotavirus. Some of these can be dangerous with access to medical care. In a long term crisis situation they can be catastrophic.

The Urine Bucket Toilet

With this bucket, unless you use the swimming noodle seat method, you do not need to use a bag or anything to line the bucket. When you are ready to empty it just take it to your designated place and dump it out.

The main rule here is empty it frequently so that it is not so full that it is messy or overly heavy to carry. Just make sure that you do not use old feces buckets for urine buckets or the urine bucket will then also be full of bacteria and germs.

In a long term crisis where people are having to grow gardens to support themselves, as was mentioned above urine is a safe and effective fertilizer. If you do this hygiene is crucial. If any feces, or unwashed hands after going feces, touch the urine bucket, then don’t use it as fertilizer.

Disposal Of Human Feces

Just writing that title had the gross factor! Hey but again, in a crisis proper disposal of human feces is critical for good health. The best method is to have a large hole pre dug with all of the dirt from the hole in a pile next to it.

When you empty a bucket of feces into the hole, you will want to through some natural carbon materials on top of the pile. Then take a stick and stir in these natural materials into the feces pile. This will get the bacteria mixed in with the feces that is necessary for it to be broken down. It will decompose faster this way.

Next take a shovel and cover the feces with enough dirt to block the odor and to keep animals from being attracted to it. This is very important as well. If your dog gets into this pile and you don’t know it, when you pet him you could be contaminating your family with the harmful germs, bacteria and viruses.

It is a good idea to have a large hole where you can put multiple buckets in it. During a long term crisis if space is limited this is especially important. But you have to make sure to cover it with enough dirt to keep animals out.

Also you do not want to put your hole near a water source. If you have a well make sure you put your whole as far as possible from your well. If you are getting your water from a stream, keep the hole as far away from that as possible.

In Conclusion

Although this is a less than desirable topic to talk about and deal with, it is very very important to plan for in a long term crisis. Crisis times are tough enough if you are healthy.

The last thing we want to do is have our family and loved ones dealing with sickness, disease or even death, that we could have prevented. The very fact that you are reading this article means that you are someone who likes to be prepared and protect your loved ones.

There are nicer more expensive composting type toilets that you can get for an emergency. However they are more difficult to carry in an evacuating or having to flee type of a crisis. Bucket toilets (before being used) can also be filled with other emergency supplies so that if you have to evacuate it acts as a container to help you carry your other supplies.

I hope that this article was helpful. Thank you so much for reading it. Please share it on your social media so that other people of a preparing mind can get educated on this very important subject. Thanks again!

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Hi! I’m David. For most of my life I have been interested in emergency preparedness. Over the many years things have changed a great deal. From freeze dried food, to LED lanterns, preparing for an emergency has never been easier. The continual research I have done over the years has become the basis for this website. Now it is one of the most trusted sources to learn about emergency preparedness.