How to Deal With Human Waste When the Power Goes Out
Today it’s all about how to deal with human waste when the power goes out. Dealing with human waste after the power has gone out can create more work and prepping on your part, but still very important. Not properly disposing of it can allow flies and even your own pets to get into it.
They will get it all over them and then bring the bacteria back into your home, right onto your meal-prepping area and furniture. Now that we have your attention, here are a few ways that you can safely dispose of waste, even when the power is not up and running.
Tips for Human Waste and No Power
Dealing with human waste and no power isn’t something you may think about on a regular basis. However, here at Food Storage Moms, I want to teach you how to be prepared in all circumstances. Keep reading to discover how to deal with human waste when the power goes out.
Can You Use the Toilet?
The simple answer is, yes. Even after the power has gone out, you will still be able to flush your toilets, in most cases. But only for a short while. After that, you’re going to have to come up with other methods for disposing of your family’s waste. If you have a septic tank, you are one lucky person.
Are You on a City Sewer System?
You want to be very careful about flushing the toilet after the power has gone out if you live in the city. In fact, it’s best not to flush your toilet at all unless you’re confident that your sewage system in your neighborhood all runs downhill. If the system relies on pumping the sewage along its path to the treatment plant then there could be issues.
Those pumps rely on electric power to work, so if the power is out the pumps are dead. If pumps are part of the system then flushing the toilet will mix your line with your neighbors all the way to the pump station, and then a backup starts, and that could bring their waste back up into your plumbing. This includes your sink and bathtub too.
Shutting off Water to the House
Also, if you live in the city and are connected to their sewer system, it might be in your best interest to go ahead and shut off your main water line altogether if you think the cause of the power outage and related issues could affect the quality of the drinking water coming into your house.
If you decide to turn off the culinary water coming into your home you’ll need to locate where the main valve is. Usually, you can find it in the basement, in a utility room, underneath the kitchen sink or laundry sink or out in the garage near your water heater.
There’s also a possibility that it’s in front of the house, close to the street. Go ahead and turn it off until the power is restored.
Have a Supply of Water Set Aside
Filling your bathtub with water, or having gallons of water set aside for “crappy” situations such as this, will be a great option. Pouring the water into the toilet tank and then hitting the flushing lever can help your toilet flush during a power outage.
If you have a big enough bucket, you can pour the water directly into the toilet quickly, and it will automatically flush itself. Hopefully, the power will come back on, before you run out of water.
5 to 6-Gallon Bucket with Double-lined Trash Bags
Another method for dealing with your family’s waste is this. Have a 5 or 6-gallon bucket on-hand and line it with 2 trash bags inside of it. To make sure it holds, use duct tape that will keep them in place.
Next, you could put a toilet seat over it, or two 2 X 4’s across it to have something to sit on. After you’ve finished with your business, put kitty litter or sawdust over it to help cover up the odor. This way you can use the trash bag more than once.
When you’re ready to dispose of it, add quicklime or another disinfectant to seal the whole ordeal. You may want to see how to make your own emergency toilet here.
Do Not Use Human Waste as a Compost or Fertilizer
I know this a debatable topic. You may read that you can use your human waste in your garden as fertilizer after composting it. Using your waste for compost or fertilizer for your garden is not safe.
Human waste typically contains viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Composting human waste at home is a risky business because we can’t heat the compost pile to a high enough temperature to kill the items stated above.
Large commercial companies have ways to get the composting materials to extremely high temperatures and to maintain those high temps steadily and produce a product for agricultural areas. It is then tested to make sure it is safe to use anywhere by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).
Build Your Own Trench Latrine
Building your own trench latrine is an effective way of getting rid of waste if you’re without power for an extended amount of time. It’s basically a trough that you dig underground, that catches all your sludge.
This method is doable if you live in a rural area and have the yard to do it in. You’ll want to build it at least 2-foot wide and at least 4-feet deep. Please dig it several hundred feet away from any water or food source.
You’ll also want to build some privacy so you don’t catch any neighbors spying on your business or using it themselves. Placing stakes in the ground and putting a simple tarp or covering over the area hopefully will give your family the privacy you want.
Keep It Sanitary
Remaining sanitary will prove more difficult when dealing with your waste after the power has gone out, but still doable.
Make sure you have extra hand sanitizer, disinfectants, bleach, and disposable gloves that you can use to deal with your waste.
Again, it’s smart to have extra water set aside for situations such as this, to help with flushing your toilets and washing hands.
If you think you can just bag up your garbage and put it out with the weekly trash, you need to think again. More than likely if the power is out and water systems are not functioning, the city waste disposal/garbage truck service probably won’t be either.
You’ll need to plan on holding on to those bags for a while. Do some research and find out if your local landfill will let you bring the bags there for disposal. That’s if the roads to the landfill are usable. Boy, so many issues to think about.
Matt gave me this link: Field Facilities for Human Waste
These are just a few ways that can help you deal with your family’s waste after the power has gone out. If you’ve gone without power for an extended amount of time, what did your family do to get rid of your waste? Please keep prepping. May God bless this world, Linda
Prepare Your Family For Survival by Linda
Copyright Image: AdobeStock-1522643 by Warren Rosenberg
23 thoughts on “How to Deal With Human Waste When the Power Goes Out”
Here in the Texas Hill Country, we have a conventional septic system that we have pumped every five years. The guy who did that the last time said we probably could have waited another five years instead of having it pumped that time. So, as long as we have water to flush, from saved rainwater or whatever, we are good to go (pun intended) for at least five years or more. We are scheduled to have our five year pump done in January, so poop problem solved for a number of years. . . . LOL!
Hi Harry, this is the best comment ever! Those people that have a septic tank that service, as you do, will really be good to go! LOL! Linda
We purchased a toilet years ago that burned the waste using propane. They also have electric ones but that wouldn’t be good if the power was off. These are quite costly however but still another option. My preference would have been a compost toilet system but the bucket does the trick.
Hi Linda, I have heard about those compost toilets. Life will surely change when we have to deal with this after a major power outage. Linda
Good article! I have found that using wood washes from my wood heater works as good as any kitty litter and is free. No odor easy to bury and have never had a critter dig it up
Hi John, thank you! Great tip on using the ashes from your wood heater!! This is honestly my biggest concern, where is all the “stuff” going to be buried. We take that garbage pickup for granted. Thanks again, Linda
I’m on septic.
You can burn it like the military does. The fuel might be hard to come by though.
Hi Matt, I’m glad you’re on septic. How did the military burn it? Did they have bins, did they dig holes? Thanks Matt, Linda
We used 55gl barrels cut in half and a mixture of diesel and mo gas (regular fuel). We’d also throw in used oil. You then stir it and burn it down.
Here is a handy guide
Hi Matt, I knew you would know how to help us! This is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much! Linda
(http)humanurehandbook.com/index.html You don’t even have to buy the book–all the information is there on the website.
Thermophilic composting, plus time (3 bins–one “loading,” one sitting for a full year or more, one to use), and you really are safe. Goes on our garden and fields. We use shredded leaves, wood ashes, shavings, sawdust, and shredded paper as cover material. We still have the flush toilet, of course, but the “lovable loo” is what we use on a daily basis–plus in our old farmhouse, it now gives us an upstairs toilet!
Hi Rhonda, thanks for the tip! This is awesome, Linda
We bought place in 1971 without power with an outhouse. (If you use sawdust or even dirt as a cover an outhouse is better than a trench with a tarp. We had a pipe in the side of a steep hill that supplied our water by filling pails by catching the water in a small pot and pouring it into the pails and covering it with lids to carry it up the very steep hill. Then in 1985 we bought a farm with no power, outhouse and an old hand pump at the well. Wonderful life. We raised our family in this peaceful setting.
We heated our home and cooked on a woodstove.
Hi Linda, wow, you really did have a wonderful life. Your family learned a lot I’m sure. Great comment, Linda
in regard to shutting off the water >>> if bugging out – shutting the water valve at the street is a step better than just closing the house main valve …
if you prepped your home for a winter bug out and drained the water lines & prepped the toilets & sinks >>> somebody coming in and re-establishing the water flow could ultimately destroy your home – safer is better …
Hi Illini, thank you for the comment, Linda
Can You Use the Toilet?
In our case this answer is always YES!!!
Growing up my parents had a rural property, our “cottage” where we dug a large hole 2x4x8 foot deep and my dad & I build a small shed with a bench having twin holes. Using normal toilet paper and keeping a bag of lime on hand, we easily kept down the odor and insects.
My wife and I live on a rural property with a well & septic, and when the septic was installed it was a large tank, based on the square footage and number of bedrooms. We had it pumped about 10 years ago; but, with the three kids now gone, we hardly tax that big tank any longer.
We also have a whole house auto start propane fueled generator and more than 3000 gallons of fuel on hand. We do however; keep several 5 gallon buckets nearly full of water, with loose fitting lids on top to keep out bugs & dirt, specifically for emergency flushing. With modern 1.6 gallon flush toilets, each bucket gives us at least 3 flushes, and in a real emergency, we have a creek on the property where we could haul more flush water.
Before we had the generator this was essential; but, even with the generator, we’ve needed them on a few occasions, since the well pump has died on 3 occasions, about every 10 years, and we still have to flush until we can get another and install it.
While a bit off the main topic.
For potable water we keep ice in the freezer, some bottled water, and the RO pressure tank holds another 7 gallons, plus we have DIY water filters that can make even creek water potable. Ours are equivalent of the Big Berkey and can be easily constructed using some 5-gallon food grade buckets and a filter kit like this one on Amazon. Instead of a link, I’ll just let you look for it: ” Gravity Water Filter Kit for DIY Purifier, Includes .2 Micron Ceramic Filter, Pre Filter, Dispenser, and Instructions by SHTFandGO”
For around $30.00 plus a few buckets, a drill & some time, you can make potable / drinkable water.
HI Ohio Prepper, thanks for another great comment! You are really in good shape. You planned out your living conditions very well. Thanks for the tips on the Gravity Water Filter! Linda
Good ideas here again Linda,
Yes, the old Army trench latrine, used it many times. When you dig the trench, pile the dirt to one side a little bit away from the trench so you have footing on both sides, much easier to use if you can straddle the trench, and keep the shovel close by. When you are finished whatever, take the shovel and lightly cover it with dirt, no smell, no bugs, ready for the next visit..
Oh my, this article and comments sure did bring back memories, none of which I Ever want my children to have. My family went from having a ‘very modern’ ranch to living in town to living at a totally unmodern farmhouse, then to a barely modern farmhouse. By modern, I mean having running water to kitchen and bathroom, having a flush toilet. When I was 5, we’d had to move to the unmodern home. My mom had to handpump water at the sink. We had a bucket by back door for when we didn’t want to walk to outhouse at night. In later years, , she told me she was just glad she didn’t have to do this outside, lol. We heated water on our stove for cooking, dishes, bathing. NO water was wasted! The warm dish/bath water was poured down the outhouse to help the decomposing. About once a yr, my dad would dig a new hole. Outhouse moved over. I guess I learned a lot from this when I built my rural house in ’03. Linda, your tips would be invaluable if we have a power outage, whether city or rural. I do gotta say that if a person is thinking buying rural, that they need to understand the type of soil they have as to drainage and compost of human waste in the event we don’t have reliable electricity. Almost all septic fields/tanks depend on pumping rather than gravity. I think that was an old thing, as I remember our place that sat on a hill: our uncomposted septic ran into a ditch behind our house. We had flooding that year: our well was contaminated. My folks had to pay for 50 gal water tanks that spring. We moved in June, to a place that had a cistern. Well water was only fit for animals. Mom said it was better than the tanks. And, we had a ‘composting’ septic (pressurized gravity) that just cost a little bit for electricity. Now, in my modern years, I have a Huge septic mound system. The pump does need electricity but very little, and certainly could be done by solar or battery power. I also know my soil so know where I can pump fresh water without contamination. Um, personally I’ve peed outside enough while working to know that this won’t affect my groundwater. For city folks, I recommend having a lot of kitty litter!
OH Wendy, oh my gosh, you have learned so much throughout your life! Your dad digging a hole and moving the outhouse is awesome to hear. We may be doing that sooner than later!!! LOL! Great comment, Linda
Years ago when we had our septic system cleaned, we were told never to use the products like Ridex. etc. on the market to keep your system clean. It only causes problems. He told us to use just regular yeast (like for baking). That helps digest what is in the tank. We have used it ever since. We have had no trouble in all that time. We only put it in once a month or so. It is a lot cheaper and works great.
Hi Cheryl, wow, great tip on the septic tanks!! Yeast, that’s the best idea ever! Linda