Top Emergency Toilet Options
Though no one really likes to talk about it, relieving ourselves of bodily waste is something that we all have to do several times each day. Every single one of us takes for granted just how good we have it, with the porcelain thrones that not only provide us with comfort, but also a cleaner and safer way to keep our business sanitary. But think of what it would be like if one day you woke up and your modern luxurious toilet was no longer an option. With useless toilets in your home that could no longer flush, things would get real messy and smelly in a hurry. What would you do?
This is one of my Emergency Toilet Options
My nephew, Dane R. built this for me, it uses a six-gallon bucket, lined with a 10-gallon bag, with a layer of cat litter. You can use sawdust or any filler that will absorb liquid. The cheapest place to buy the 10-Gallon Bags is at Costco. I like to buy the Cat Litter in buckets because I can reuse them and I store them as-is on my prepping shelves.
Dane basically took a six-gallon bucket and built a toilet frame around it. He added a regular toilet seat and a toilet paper holder for a roll to have ready when needed. You can store the kitty litter and the box of 10-gallon bags inside the homemade toilet. He used scraps of wood, it’s super awesome.
Now, we need to be prepared to dispose of the waste. In case you missed this post, How to Deal With Human Waste When the Power Goes Out
My Emergency Toilet Options
- How To Make Your Own Portable Emergency Toilets
- Make A DIY Emergency Toilet That Is Sturdy
- Emergency Car Toilet You Need In Your Vehicle
Top Emergency Toilet Options
If your family is ever faced with a long-term survival situation, having toilets available would definitely be something that you would have to figure out. It’s not like you can go just wherever you want or dig up spots in your backyard when you have to go #2. Failing to deal with your family’s waste properly could end up getting you and your clan seriously sick, even to the point of death. You’re going to need to know about the different types of toilet alternatives that would work in the meantime. Here are some of the top emergency toilet options that would keep your situation sanitary.
1. The Cathole
The cathole is the easiest and quickest way to dispose of human waste, but it’s certainly the least comfortable and sustainable of all of the options I’m going to share with you. That’s because you’re literally squatting over a hole without anything to support you. You will also have to dig a hole each time someone in your family has to go.
In order to build one, you simply use a shovel and dig a hole that’s about 6 inches deep. Once you’re done, bury and pack it down with dirt. Keep in mind that the cathole is not a long-term solution, but it will work if you’re ever in a pinch. Using this method for a longer period of time could cause serious problems for the environment, as well as for your family’s health. It’s meant to be used when you’re out hiking in the backcountry, not for families that continue to live in one place.
2. The Latrine Trench
The latrine trench is similar to the cathole, but instead of a hole, you are digging a trench that should be 4 to 6 ft long, 1 to 2 feet wide, and 2 to 2.5 feet deep to work as a makeshift bathroom. You can also build a lean-to toilet seat directly over the trench with an A-frame design made of strong branches and whatever type of cordage you can come up with.
The latrine trench can work for your family for a much longer period of time than the cathole, but it too, is still considered to be a short-term solution for waste management. Once it’s reached capacity, you will need to cover it with dirt and then move on to a new location.
3. The Portable Camping Toilet
The portable camping toilet offers you a little more comfort and a safer way to contain your waste. All you need is a bucket with a makeshift toilet seat placed on top. Once you’re finished, simply dump the waste in a latrine trench and you’re done. Many people prefer to place a plastic bag liner on the inside of their toilets so that there’s less mess to deal with. This is fine, but keep in mind that this can create a serious issue for the environment if you do this for a long period of time. This is because it takes plastic an incredibly long amount of time to decompose and you have to determine the best location to take the bags for disposal.
4. The Outhouse
With a little more planning and effort on your part, the old-fashioned outhouse is a great emergency toilet option. It will provide your family with privacy and help to somewhat contain the unpleasant odors of fecal matter. For this one, you will need to dig a very deep and wide enough hole in the ground, and then build a privacy shed over it with a toilet seat that you install.
But even an outhouse will eventually fill up at some point, leaving you with only two options. One, you can cover up the hole and relocate your outhouse someplace else. Or two, you will need the right equipment in order to pump out the waste so that you can continue using it where it’s currently located.
During a survival situation, keeping your family safe and healthy should be your number one concern. This is why you need to be sure that you have an emergency toilet alternative already in place if your toilet is no longer functioning. Which of these emergency toilet options do you think would work best for you and your family? Can you think of any other toilet options that could be used? May God Bless this world, Linda.
40 thoughts on “Top Emergency Toilet Options”
I’m on purposely on septic. As things ramped up on covid we had it cleaned out to support the possible coming extra load.
Make sure you’ve got dedicated tarps for your outdoor plan B n C cause most neighbors aren’t on the good a terms lol.
Don’t forget hand wash stations.
Long term y’all are gonna need to block them city pipes to keep them from backing up into the house as folks just continue to try to use it. A bag of quickcrete in the clean out should do it. Or since you might be digging then dig out the pipe and disconnect it.
Outdoor toilets are fine till weather hits. Anything below single digits leaves a lot to be desired. You gotta watch camper toilets in those conditions too cause it quits flowing out the pipe but will freeze and climb and back up. The wind here is another consideration as it blows hard. That means not only smell but it’ll tear down your tarps.
At the start of an event many will still be in denial and those precious busy body HOAs will be in your business so apply a modified version of the three Ss. Normally it’s Shoot Shovel and Shutup
You can figured it out from there.
It’s not that they’ll have any power in an event but it’s that it’ll create tensions that’ll lead to other things.
Hi Matt! Although we don’t live in a town or development & have well water, we are connected to public sewer. The possibility of it backing up into the house during a crisis haunts me. Do you know where to look to locate the clean out? And would we just plug that with prepared quickcrete? Thanks for any advice.
Usually in the backyard there will be a white pvc pipe sticking up. That’s your clean out. If you don’t have one then you’ll need to locate the pipe, dig it and cut it.
I think and only think that most places the water will shut down too. If that happens you’ll be ok without messing with it because folks will run out and stop being able to flush.
Great info, thank you Matt!
Hi Matt, oh my gosh, I always LOVE your comments. The three Ss. I have the giggles so bad! Oh my gosh, you nailed it! Great tips as always, you are the best Matt! Linda
Ideally, the best option for our family would be the outhouse. We’re accustomed to using one since this is what we have at our cabin. Unfortunately, we don’t have an outhouse at home so we’d need to figure out a different solution here! I think the portable camping toilet is a decent option.
Hi Amy, it’s something to think about before you need one, that’s for sure. Our sewer cleanout is on our driveway. I will take some pictures, it’s a metal circle about 11-inches in diameter. I called the city after our neighborhood had a power outage for several hours. I asked them what they do when the power goes out with the sewer lines. They have a backup generator, but when that runs out of fuel, we are all out of luck. The people down the small hill had the sewer backups, my house is above the sewer lines, sewage flows down. You may want to call your city and find out where in your subdivision the main sewer line is. Linda
Thanks for the advice Linda, much appreciated! We’re not in a subdivision or development but still have public sewer. I will definitely call to find out what’s up!
We are on a septic system. The only water that goes in it is from the toilets. The other water goes to the garden area. Well, that’s not totally true. The kitchen sink goes to a grease trap. If needed, I have a 5 gallon bucket, some plastic bags and some kitty litter. I used a pool noodle cut on on side and placed on the rim of the bucket.
I’ve also used a 5 gallon bucket to sit on while harvesting the garden. Wish I’d known about the pool noodle for it.
Hi Deborah, you and Matt are lucky to have a septic system. We need something to sit on while gardening these days!! Linda
The 5 gallon bucket with a pool noodle would work. Or if you get one with a lid, put the lid on.
Hi Deborah, great idea! Linda
We, also, have septic. I was taught years ago to feed the septic a packet of yeast once a month. It helps with the decomposition. Never, ever, use bleach in water that goes to it (surprise to this city gal). After living with our own septic and well, we have never gone back to depending on others for these matters. 😉 I will look into a composting toilet though….
And speaking of these issues, my doctor once told me to always have miralax in the house. Backing up can happen in other ways 😉
Hi Janette, I would love to have a septic tank and a well, but it won’t happen where I live now. Great tips, on the yeast! The Miralax!! Best comment, ever! Linda
If you don’t have laxatives you can try putting a single drop of dish soap or other liquid soap in your dinner. It is a potent remedy but an effective one. Just don’t stray far from a bathroom! I learned this trick in the Park Service on a multi-day campout – somebody was feeling stopped up and the appropriate medication was not in the medkit, so we resorted to this instead.
HI Sarah, thank you for this great tip! I love hearing your tips from the Park Service campouts!!! Linda
For those unable to have an outhouse….I believe a shed that either has a bucket toilet in it or even an outhouse hole dug with a wooden box over it with a hinged lid–and the outhouse hole for one’s bottom cut out–a seat could be hung or beside it and then put in place in emergencies…and no one would be wiser. The tarp/tent affair is actually quite visible if the sun is just right. We had a garden shed that was used as an outhouse before I arrived on the scene to the family’s homestead cabin here in Alaska. I had quite a laugh when I cleaned the shed and discovered that it was indeed an old outhouse! They had filled in the hole but the disguised seating was still there. (Not that we needed to disguise anything as the family taught me that an outhouse in use has the door open!)
Hi Donna, I have a shed, great idea!! The garden shed formerly the outhouse story is the best! We really do need to make a plan before we need an outhouse!! Linda
When the stuff hits the fan we will need to look at things differently. See not what it is, but what else can it be used for. We have a very limited vision. We’ve been to comfortable for too long. Life has been easy.
One thing that has me concerned is where to bury the dead. Can’t just drag them to the street and wait for garbage pick up. Not good. This is when acreage will come in handy, a city park, a graveyard, the neighbors back yard. We will probably be on our own. Pre-think through different scenarios. Easier to do when you don’t have the stress of the time. I think we are coming into a time of anything goes. Probably a lot sooner than we think. We are just one or two idiots away from some big trouble. Yikes!
Just need to remember that God is good and He’s there to see us through.
Hi Mary, yes, the dead concerns me as well. Mark and I took CERT classes and it discussed how to bag the dead and label them. I hope it never comes to that, but I believe we are closer than we may think. God help us, we will need it. Linda
Great idea to use our shed, very smart! Thanks!
When I cared for my grandmom, she had a commode next to her bed. It was a chair with arms that had a toilet seat over a plastic removable bin. I’m wondering if this would work as an emergency toilet as well? I’m sure it’s more expensive than making one though. Thoughts on this?
Hi Lisa, I know exactly what you are talking about. I had both knees replaced. It would be perfect. It’s about $105.00 You can buy it on Amazon https://amzn.to/3fkEAeO. They are sold out at most pharmacies. I would check your local pharmacies to see if they have some that are cheaper that are not online. I will keep checking because that would be an awesome emergency toilet. Linda
Hi Lisa, one more thing, check out medical supplies. If you pay cash over running it through your insurance (which you wouldn’t be anyway) you get a much better price than what’s posted. Linda
Hi Lisa, sorry one more place: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Drive-Medical-Steel-Folding-Deep-Seat-Bedside-Commode-Gray/10728124?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&&adid=22222222227009580430&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=40754411792&wl4=pla-56960629385&wl5=9029961&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=10728124&veh=sem&gclid=CjwKCAjw47eFBhA9EiwAy8kzNNmEwSknql_DDersdxU2NMYSP0mu5B3Ic2YVpCFXYY4g4bMeU7AGYhoCY7wQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Hi Linda, great info as usual. A small camp shower tent will do for an emergency cover for outdoor hole in ground toilet. If you wanted too, you could have a plumber install a Sewage Backflow Valve onto your existing plumbing! These can be as simple or elaborate as your finances can afford. Possibly you could do this yourself if you know Code or pull a permit if needed. Yes, they do work and are designed for pressure buildup or flooding events!
Stay safe and God Bless…
Good advice about a sewage backflow valve, thanks Bill! You mentioned a camp shower tent. I think everyone should have a couple solar camp showers in their preps. Very handy!
Hi Bill, oh I like this, I will do this for sure. Thank you!! Linda
Linda, I really enjoy your work and posts. I do bit of this and that on prepping. Your help is great on so many areas. Thanks Carolyn
Hi Carolyn, thank you for your kind words, they mean a lot to me. Linda
This morning I watched a Youtube video on how to make a composting toilet with urine diverter out of a 6 or 6 1/2 gallon bucket and a small stainless steel bowl with a coupling and hose for the diverter. It looked simple enough and something that I may actually have the tools capable of making it.
Hi Leanne, oh, I will go look for that YouTube! I have plenty of six-gallon buckets from my wheat! I love this! Linda
We had a bad period when our septic tank was overfilled (the people who owned the house before us flushed baby diapers and sanitary napkins down it UG). We took a 5 gallon bucket and a old chair and cut a hole in the chair and used that until we could afford to get the septic tank cleaned out. We live in the country so my husband was able to take the waste out and dump it in a hole a good ways away from the house and put about 12-15:” of dirt of top of it. Thats one thing for living in the country.
Hi Jackie, oh my gosh, what were those people thinking!! Baby diapers and sanitary napkins will “swell up”, what a mess for you guys. Country living would be my dream! Great comment and emergency toilet idea! Linda
I have a lot of anecdotes related to this topic. It’s just something I have experience with, from growing up with an outhouse, to using catholes and trench latrines in the park service, and I already told you about the bathroom situation when I was at school.
Here’s one story. It’s long, but hopefully entertaining.
I was on a trail construction crew in the Park Service. We were camped out for ten days near our project site, miles from any road. We had a trench latrine that was set up next to a fallen log. You could sit on the log with your rear end hanging over the trench. There was no privacy tarp, we just set it up a ways away from camp.
Late in the hitch, we received a visit from an a group of philanthropists who had donated to support the project we were doing. They came by to thank us, examine our work, and see how their money was being spent. We had had to hike in with all our gear, but they got special permission to come in on an ATV. These were wealthy, mostly older people, wearing business attire. They did not seem very outdoorsy. The contrast between these elegant people and our group of grimy, hippie-ish construction workers was very entertaining.
In addition to checking out the trail we’d built, the philanthropists brought a picnic lunch. That was another funny contrast – between the fancy food they brought and the dehydrated meals we’d been subsisting on. We were all looking at their stuff and salivating. They didn’t seem to want to share, but they did offer us an entire watermelon they’d brought. We fell upon it like rabid wolves while they departed to have the rest of their picnic in peace elsewhere.
I ate a lot of watermelon. One of my least favorite things about my job was the lack of fresh produce, and I had actually been having dreams about eating watermelon, so this was a literal dream come true. But eating a lot of fresh fruit does funny things to your stomach when you’ve been living on dehydrated food. Soon I needed the latrine. Badly.
When I got there, though, I was horrified to find that the donors had set up their picnic right next to it! They had probably never seen one before and didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t very well tell these people to just leave – they were paying my salary. So I stood there awkwardly, shifting my weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other and waiting for them to leave while my stomach tied itself in knots. They probably thought I wanted more of their food.
Finally they were gone. As soon as they had disappeared over the ridgeline I sat down on the latrine. Oh, heaven! Oh, bliss…
And then the ATV roared right past me on its way out of camp!
Hi Sarah, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this comment!! Oh my gosh, I could visualize the whole camp. AND the dressed-up people, I would have been in hippie attire just like you! Oh my gosh, this was the best comment ever! This could happen to any of us!!! I loved this story! Thank you for sharing, Linda
Aww, I’m glad you liked it! I have lots of stories from my time on the trails. Yeah, the contrasts are really dramatic in my line of work. I used to work in Grand Teton National Park, and once on one of our days off my crew went into Jackson Hole. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Jackson Hole, but it’s a very high-end resort town. World of difference from the wilderness we’d been living in. Being a group of young people in ratty clothes, we got followed VERY closely by security in the elegant shops.
We also had a tradition where, on the day we got back from a ten-day backcountry hitch, before anyone took a shower, we would put on our dirtiest work clothes and then go to the fanciest restaurant we could afford. We called it the Dirty Dinner. Stuff like that is funny to me. I like being the fish out of water.
Hi Sarah, oh my gosh, this is the best story ever! Dirty dinner!! I have been to Jackson Hole, it’s so beautiful! I love hearing your stories because you have learned to live in rough conditions and have learned so much! I like being the fish out of water as well! Linda
Ugh, catholes. I was a Girl Scout in my teens and I could never properly use those things for number 2. Just couldn’t hold the squatting pose long enough. As a result, I was usually very uncomfortable by the end of the campout.
Hi Anna, I highly recommend you make yourself a portable emergency toilet. Linda