Beyond the BabySteps: Emergency Chemical Toilet

Sanitation can be one of the biggest concerns in a long-term emergency situation. Lack of proper waste disposal can lead to the spread of sickness and disease. Having an emergency chemical toilet can help with this whether you are sheltering in place or if you need grab it and evacuate. Here is a little tutorial we got from a church hand-out several years ago.

Emergency Chemical Toilet Contents

  • 5 gallon plastic bucket (with tight fitting lid)
  • 2 large boxes of garbage can liners (8-10 gallon size)
  • 1 gallon of liquid chlorine bleach
  • Pinesol
  • 6-8 rolls of toilet paper
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • 2 boxes of baking soda
  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • 1 bar of hand soap

Emergency Chemical Toilet Instructions

To use the toilet, simply remove the contents from the bucket, insert a plastic garbage can liner into the bucket and fold the edges over the rim of the bucket. Mix one cup of liquid chlorine bleach to one half gallon of water (one to ten ratio) and pour this solution into the bucket. This will kill germs and ensure adequate coverage. Though the bucket may be uncomfortable to sit on it certainly beat the alternative. For greater comfort you can remove the seat from a toilet and secure it to the top of the bucket. You could also consider including a child’s potty training seat in the toilet kit.

Every time someone uses the emergency toilet, he should pour or sprinkle into it a small amount of Pinesol, chlorine bleach, or baking soda to keep down odors and germs. The lid should then be replaced securely to keep insects out and the smell contained.

When the bucket is one third to one half full, tie the garbage bag liner shut and dispose of it appropriately (i.e. burying it or placing it inside a large covered metal garbage can for later disposal). Then simply replace with a new liner and a new mix of bleach water.

Image from http://www.endtimesreport.com

Image from http://www.endtimesreport.com


  • leona

    never tie it, it will explode from the methane gas, dig a post hole and dump the bag and toss the bag in the hole cover with 4 inches of soil and a board on top and a rock till the next dump. at the end add 6 inches soil garden lime which is white and will hurt no one but will tell you if an animal has been there. so you can take care to have a heavier rock. You can use your regular toilet . Soak up the water wash the toilet with this water, plug the hole with a rag with lots of crisco on it or oil. or a ball. Now place your bag in it and do as you were doing with the bucket. Use a potato sack and box to carry it out or you may have an accident, to your post hole.
    Separate the urine from the fecal matter they are both gold when you learn about them. Add urn to garden, compost bin, learn about “uropothey” and you will never wast a drop again. Look at separating toilets!
    Information from Jim Phillips , three deadly holes, Sanitation course in Utah..

  • james

    Everyone talks about emergency sanitation and apparently they have never used it. In the mid sixties I was trained as a shelter manager instructor in Los Angles and we setup a two week test with 40 people in a classic bomb shelter. The test ended in a week, The plastic garbage bags that we stored the human waste in fermented even when we used Clorox to control the decomposition, they exploded. The saying about @#%^@# hitting the fan, you have know idea what it is like. If you are unlucky it can kill you, open the bags every 48 hours( not fun).

  • pixel_dust

    Here is an excellent example of how to make an off the grid, inexpensive, simple, effective compost toilet.  The video is part 2 of a video made by a couple of college age “kids” that originally set out to help a homeless man that lived out in the AZ desert.  The entire video is worth watching.  Extract the ideas from it that you can use the best for your own situation.  We have already adapted several of the ideas these young men came up with for our emergency preparedness here in the CA foothills.  A version of their compost toilet has become part of our emergency “Plan For No Power”!

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7QtF1D4tpo&w=420&h=315%5D

    • pixel_dust

      I hope you guys are able to post the correct link to the video.  I apologize for getting it wrong on the original post.  For some reason, I was unable to get the FaceBook login to work (I suspect FB, not your site).  Again, the correct link is:
      http://youtu.be/V7QtF1D4tpo

  • Pingback: Emergency Sanitation Kits {FREE HANDOUT} | Food Storage Made Easy()

  • E H

    very interesting, I must say. hey, If you can’t use a regular toilet, then this would be better than squating!

  • Gilchristrobbie

    kitty litter works well also to put into the bottom of the bucket…our boy scout troop uses kitty litter when we camp overnight in caves…works very well! We also use the 5 gallon buckets as “washing machines” when we camp for a week at summer camp. You need (2) 5gal buckets (ours are donated from Burger King, so it takes a while to get the pickle smell out 🙂 ) with lids and 2, small cheap plumber’s helpers (plunger). Cut a 4″slit on 4 sides of the plungers (to break the suction), drill a hole in each bucket lid large enough to fit handle of the plunger through. Add water, small amt liquid soap (easier to mix in cold water and you can recap neatly), mix well, put plunger in the bucket, add clothes, more water, place lid on, pushing down over the plunger handle, and “agitate” the plunger up and down for a few minutes. Use the other bucket the same way except use it for rinsing only…can add small, small amt of fabric softner (towels), and you can do 2-3 “loads, just keep adding water, unless your clothes are really dirty. Try not to lock the lids on too tightly cause the can be hard to get off. We also use “pickle buckets” to keep everything dry on canoe trips. I hope this is informative…love your site!!

    • Judi

      Thanks for posting about clothes washing – simple but effective system … just what’s needed!  And, I agree about the kitty litter; it’s what I’ve chosen to store.

      This might post more than once – I had trouble with the post screen 🙁

  • kdonat

    If you are staying in place and water is limited for “force flushing” with a bucket of water, you can line your empty toilet bowl with a heavy duty trash bag for use. This is especially helpful for the elderly that may need to use a raised seat or for those who may have issues with using a bucket/port-o-potty etc. You would simply treat the “deposits” with any of the previously mentioned odor controls and dispose of the bag just as in the alternative potty posts. In a crisis, you want your family to be as comfortable as is possible, especially the elderly and the very young.

  • Anonymous

    If you are staying in place and water is limited for “force flushing” with a bucket of water, you can line your empty toilet bowl with a heavy duty trash bag for use. This is especially helpful for the elderly that may need to use a raised seat or for those who may have issues with using a bucket/port-o-potty etc. You would simply treat the “deposits” with any of the previously mentioned odor controls and dispose of the bag just as in the alternative potty posts. In a crisis, you want your family to be as comfortable as is possible, especially the elderly and the very young.

  • kdonat

    If you are staying in place and water is limited for “force flushing” with a bucket of water, you can line your empty toilet bowl with a heavy duty trash bag for use. This is especially helpful for the elderly that may need to use a raised seat or for those who may have issues with using a bucket/port-o-potty etc. You would simply treat the “deposits” with any of the previously mentioned odor controls and dispose of the bag just as in the alternative potty posts. In a crisis, you want your family to be as comfortable as is possible, especially the elderly and the very young.

  • Shirleymiles

    I don’t like the use of or long-term storage of liquid chemicals here…. I think kitty litter would make a good alternative. Same idea, just sprinkle kitty litter over the pee and poo each time.

  • Shirleymiles

    I don't like the use of or long-term storage of liquid chemicals here…. I think kitty litter would make a good alternative. Same idea, just sprinkle kitty litter over the pee and poo each time.

  • Wow, thanks for the tips. Never knew you could buy a porta-potty for so cheap.

  • Years ago, when I was young and single, I bought a trailer and some land. The land didn’t have Electricity, well or septic tank. I used a camping lamp for light, brought water home from work in 1 gal jugs and used a portapotty for the “bathroom”. You can buy a portapotty rather cheaply at Walmart – about $50 or so. The one I have has a holding tank. So you do your business and then “flush” the pot by opening a lever. The refuse drops into the bottom holding tank that is then closed. It has less problems with odor than the “hassock” type portapotties have – 5gal buckets would be a “hassock” type setup. It works better because you don’t have to deal with the odor while using it, only when you pull the lever to empty the pot. You learn to be really quick in opening and closing the lever! My potty has an indicator that tells me how full the holding tank is. It has a separate emptying spout. I’ve had occasion to use it in later years and it’s been a big help and water-saver for those times that you’re out of water.

  • Years ago, when I was young and single, I bought a trailer and some land. The land didn't have Electricity, well or septic tank. I used a camping lamp for light, brought water home from work in 1 gal jugs and used a portapotty for the “bathroom”. You can buy a portapotty rather cheaply at Walmart – about $50 or so. The one I have has a holding tank. So you do your business and then “flush” the pot by opening a lever. The refuse drops into the bottom holding tank that is then closed. It has less problems with odor than the “hassock” type portapotties have – 5gal buckets would be a “hassock” type setup. It works better because you don't have to deal with the odor while using it, only when you pull the lever to empty the pot. You learn to be really quick in opening and closing the lever! My potty has an indicator that tells me how full the holding tank is. It has a separate emptying spout. I've had occasion to use it in later years and it's been a big help and water-saver for those times that you're out of water.

  • Great tip, thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Just a suggestion, instead of bleach, pinesol or baking soad, lime is excellent at controlling odor and it is non-toxic and odorless and best of all, it immediately eliminates the odor of what we leave in the potty. A small amount, 1/2 cup each use and you are all set. A 50 lb bag of lime can be purchased at any feed store or even Home Depot.

  • rorifirebaugn

    Just a suggestion, instead of bleach, pinesol or baking soad, lime is excellent at controlling odor and it is non-toxic and odorless and best of all, it immediately eliminates the odor of what we leave in the potty. <grin> A small amount, 1/2 cup each use and you are all set. A 50 lb bag of lime can be purchased at any feed store or even Home Depot.

  • Eric

    If you have city sewer services and it is still working (flowing out of your house and not backing up), you can still use it if the water is not working. You will still need water in bulk from a stored source or better yet to use collected rain water to flush. Just pour a couple of gallons in the bowl and down it goes. You can also fill the tank and use the handle.

    As far as buckets go, Wal-Mart sells a camping toilet bucket, it has an inner bucket and an outer shell with a lid and a seat the fits over the inside bucket and sits on the shell. I’ve used one in my truck for a few years with a little change in how it is intended to be used. First, don’t defecate into the bucket, take the bucket out and put a heavy kitchen size trash bag into the shell and put the seat on it. When done, tie the bag and dispose of outside. Only urinate into the bucket and keep it in the shell and covered when not in use. If the world fails to recover (aka Long Term Disaster), don’t use any chemicals in the unit. Dump urine out in a shallow hole away from buildings and any water source as it biodegrades easily. Fecal matter should be buried within 6 inches of the surface in fertile soil in climates with sufficient rainfall and on the surface in desert climates and dusted with a light layer of dirt. UV rays and the weather will break waste down when there are few soil microbes and little rainfall, and soil microbes will take care of wastes in fertile soils.

    Using chemicals to disinfect waste kills the bacteria that will break it down, keep the little critters alive and they will break down these wastes. If the smell is bothersome, get some air freshener or Oust to spray. Empty containers at least once a day and there won’t be a problem.

  • Eric

    If you have city sewer services and it is still working (flowing out of your house and not backing up), you can still use it if the water is not working. You will still need water in bulk from a stored source or better yet to use collected rain water to flush. Just pour a couple of gallons in the bowl and down it goes. You can also fill the tank and use the handle.

    As far as buckets go, Wal-Mart sells a camping toilet bucket, it has an inner bucket and an outer shell with a lid and a seat the fits over the inside bucket and sits on the shell. I’ve used one in my truck for a few years with a little change in how it is intended to be used. First, don’t defecate into the bucket, take the bucket out and put a heavy kitchen size trash bag into the shell and put the seat on it. When done, tie the bag and dispose of outside. Only urinate into the bucket and keep it in the shell and covered when not in use. If the world fails to recover (aka Long Term Disaster), don’t use any chemicals in the unit. Dump urine out in a shallow hole away from buildings and any water source as it biodegrades easily. Fecal matter should be buried within 6 inches of the surface in fertile soil in climates with sufficient rainfall and on the surface in desert climates and dusted with a light layer of dirt. UV rays and the weather will break waste down when there are few soil microbes and little rainfall, and soil microbes will take care of wastes in fertile soils.

    Using chemicals to disinfect waste kills the bacteria that will break it down, keep the little critters alive and they will break down these wastes. If the smell is bothersome, get some air freshener or Oust to spray. Empty containers at least once a day and there won’t be a problem.

  • Eric

    If you have city sewer services and it is still working (flowing out of your house and not backing up), you can still use it if the water is not working. You will still need water in bulk from a stored source or better yet to use collected rain water to flush. Just pour a couple of gallons in the bowl and down it goes. You can also fill the tank and use the handle.

    As far as buckets go, Wal-Mart sells a camping toilet bucket, it has an inner bucket and an outer shell with a lid and a seat the fits over the inside bucket and sits on the shell. I’ve used one in my truck for a few years with a little change in how it is intended to be used. First, don’t defecate into the bucket, take the bucket out and put a heavy kitchen size trash bag into the shell and put the seat on it. When done, tie the bag and dispose of outside. Only urinate into the bucket and keep it in the shell and covered when not in use. If the world fails to recover (aka Long Term Disaster), don’t use any chemicals in the unit. Dump urine out in a shallow hole away from buildings and any water source as it biodegrades easily. Fecal matter should be buried within 6 inches of the surface in fertile soil in climates with sufficient rainfall and on the surface in desert climates and dusted with a light layer of dirt. UV rays and the weather will break waste down when there are few soil microbes and little rainfall, and soil microbes will take care of wastes in fertile soils.

    Using chemicals to disinfect waste kills the bacteria that will break it down, keep the little critters alive and they will break down these wastes. If the smell is bothersome, get some air freshener or Oust to spray. Empty containers at least once a day and there won’t be a problem.

  • Eric

    If you have city sewer services and it is still working (flowing out of your house and not backing up), you can still use it if the water is not working. You will still need water in bulk from a stored source or better yet to use collected rain water to flush. Just pour a couple of gallons in the bowl and down it goes. You can also fill the tank and use the handle.

    As far as buckets go, Wal-Mart sells a camping toilet bucket, it has an inner bucket and an outer shell with a lid and a seat the fits over the inside bucket and sits on the shell. I’ve used one in my truck for a few years with a little change in how it is intended to be used. First, don’t defecate into the bucket, take the bucket out and put a heavy kitchen size trash bag into the shell and put the seat on it. When done, tie the bag and dispose of outside. Only urinate into the bucket and keep it in the shell and covered when not in use. If the world fails to recover (aka Long Term Disaster), don’t use any chemicals in the unit. Dump urine out in a shallow hole away from buildings and any water source as it biodegrades easily. Fecal matter should be buried within 6 inches of the surface in fertile soil in climates with sufficient rainfall and on the surface in desert climates and dusted with a light layer of dirt. UV rays and the weather will break waste down when there are few soil microbes and little rainfall, and soil microbes will take care of wastes in fertile soils.

    Using chemicals to disinfect waste kills the bacteria that will break it down, keep the little critters alive and they will break down these wastes. If the smell is bothersome, get some air freshener or Oust to spray. Empty containers at least once a day and there won’t be a problem.

  • Jason

    Using kitty litter or that oil absorbent works better then bleach/baking soda. Also you can use wood ash from the fireplace/cooking pit. I’ve personally used wood ash, kitty litter, lime, sand, oil absorbent in make-shift toilets.

    The biggest thing is to keep the lid closed when not in use, you can also use a “Gama” seal (screw on lid) to keep it even easier to keep the lid closed. Just watch opening it because methane/gas can build up after using it.

    Always line the bucket with a sturdy trash bag!

  • Jason

    Using kitty litter or that oil absorbent works better then bleach/baking soda. Also you can use wood ash from the fireplace/cooking pit. I’ve personally used wood ash, kitty litter, lime, sand, oil absorbent in make-shift toilets.

    The biggest thing is to keep the lid closed when not in use, you can also use a “Gama” seal (screw on lid) to keep it even easier to keep the lid closed. Just watch opening it because methane/gas can build up after using it.

    Always line the bucket with a sturdy trash bag!

  • Jason

    Using kitty litter or that oil absorbent works better then bleach/baking soda. Also you can use wood ash from the fireplace/cooking pit. I’ve personally used wood ash, kitty litter, lime, sand, oil absorbent in make-shift toilets.

    The biggest thing is to keep the lid closed when not in use, you can also use a “Gama” seal (screw on lid) to keep it even easier to keep the lid closed. Just watch opening it because methane/gas can build up after using it.

    Always line the bucket with a sturdy trash bag!

  • Jason

    Using kitty litter or that oil absorbent works better then bleach/baking soda. Also you can use wood ash from the fireplace/cooking pit. I’ve personally used wood ash, kitty litter, lime, sand, oil absorbent in make-shift toilets.

    The biggest thing is to keep the lid closed when not in use, you can also use a “Gama” seal (screw on lid) to keep it even easier to keep the lid closed. Just watch opening it because methane/gas can build up after using it.

    Always line the bucket with a sturdy trash bag!

  • Bonnie

    Emergency Essentials sells a toilet seat with a lid that snaps onto a 5 or 6 gallon bucket for only $11.95. This would make using the bucket more comfortable and more convenient.

  • Bonnie

    Emergency Essentials sells a toilet seat with a lid that snaps onto a 5 or 6 gallon bucket for only $11.95. This would make using the bucket more comfortable and more convenient.

  • Bonnie

    Emergency Essentials sells a toilet seat with a lid that snaps onto a 5 or 6 gallon bucket for only $11.95. This would make using the bucket more comfortable and more convenient.

  • I forget how long it took before water pressure was back up, but it seems they were quicker with Ike than with Alicia, at least in my area. Still, it took long enough that the bathroom smelled because hubby refused to go in a 5 gallon bucket, even though I had kitty litter to cover our wastes. Maybe it was because I didn’t have a special toilet lid for it.

  • I forget how long it took before water pressure was back up, but it seems they were quicker with Ike than with Alicia, at least in my area. Still, it took long enough that the bathroom smelled because hubby refused to go in a 5 gallon bucket, even though I had kitty litter to cover our wastes. Maybe it was because I didn’t have a special toilet lid for it.

  • Linda

    Great reminder to finish this task!!

    Also read a lot of places kitty litter is good – it absorbs and takes care of the odors. I’m buying whatever is cheap (on sale w/ Q so I can get the good stuff). A 20 lb bag ends up being about $3, so not bad 😉 Also you can buy a 5 gal bucket toilet seat at some emergency supply places.

  • Linda

    Great reminder to finish this task!!

    Also read a lot of places kitty litter is good – it absorbs and takes care of the odors. I’m buying whatever is cheap (on sale w/ Q so I can get the good stuff). A 20 lb bag ends up being about $3, so not bad 😉 Also you can buy a 5 gal bucket toilet seat at some emergency supply places.

  • This is too complicated. Just go to Wal-Mart or a sporting goods store and get some Bio-Blue to add to the bucket (with water). It eliminates the need for bleach, et al.

    Bruce Hopkins

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      It’s not complicated, it’s just providing different options for things that could be useful for sanitation. I already have bleach on hand so that’s easy to include. And I would definitely want to have wipes, paper towels, bags to store the waste in, etc. I don’t think a bucket and bio-blue would be sufficient for all sanitation purposes. People can choose to store however much or little of these items they think would work well for their family.

  • This is too complicated. Just go to Wal-Mart or a sporting goods store and get some Bio-Blue to add to the bucket (with water). It eliminates the need for bleach, et al.

    Bruce Hopkins

  • This is too complicated. Just go to Wal-Mart or a sporting goods store and get some Bio-Blue to add to the bucket (with water). It eliminates the need for bleach, et al.

    Bruce Hopkins

  • This is too complicated. Just go to Wal-Mart or a sporting goods store and get some Bio-Blue to add to the bucket (with water). It eliminates the need for bleach, et al.

    Bruce Hopkins

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      It’s not complicated, it’s just providing different options for things that could be useful for sanitation. I already have bleach on hand so that’s easy to include. And I would definitely want to have wipes, paper towels, bags to store the waste in, etc. I don’t think a bucket and bio-blue would be sufficient for all sanitation purposes. People can choose to store however much or little of these items they think would work well for their family.

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      It’s not complicated, it’s just providing different options for things that could be useful for sanitation. I already have bleach on hand so that’s easy to include. And I would definitely want to have wipes, paper towels, bags to store the waste in, etc. I don’t think a bucket and bio-blue would be sufficient for all sanitation purposes. People can choose to store however much or little of these items they think would work well for their family.

  • gaby

    that’s an excellent idea. thank you!! it sounds not fun to have to use that but in a emergency it will be very helpful. thank you!1 that will be my next thing to put together.
    so then a question do I have to choose one of the bleach, baking soda pinesol? or do I use the 3 ?

    thank you!!

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      Gaby, I didn’t put the original list together, but I’m assuming it’s not a good idea to mix chemicals. So probably just use any of the ONE items each time you use it.

  • gaby

    that’s an excellent idea. thank you!! it sounds not fun to have to use that but in a emergency it will be very helpful. thank you!1 that will be my next thing to put together.
    so then a question do I have to choose one of the bleach, baking soda pinesol? or do I use the 3 ?

    thank you!!

  • gaby

    that’s an excellent idea. thank you!! it sounds not fun to have to use that but in a emergency it will be very helpful. thank you!1 that will be my next thing to put together.
    so then a question do I have to choose one of the bleach, baking soda pinesol? or do I use the 3 ?

    thank you!!

  • gaby

    that’s an excellent idea. thank you!! it sounds not fun to have to use that but in a emergency it will be very helpful. thank you!1 that will be my next thing to put together.
    so then a question do I have to choose one of the bleach, baking soda pinesol? or do I use the 3 ?

    thank you!!

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      Gaby, I didn’t put the original list together, but I’m assuming it’s not a good idea to mix chemicals. So probably just use any of the ONE items each time you use it.

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      Gaby, I didn’t put the original list together, but I’m assuming it’s not a good idea to mix chemicals. So probably just use any of the ONE items each time you use it.

    • Jodi — Food Storage Made Easy

      Gaby, I didn’t put the original list together, but I’m assuming it’s not a good idea to mix chemicals. So probably just use any of the ONE items each time you use it.

  • Liz C

    REALLY IMPORTANT:

    If you’ve used bleach in the emergency toilet, *do not add anything else*. Adding acids or ammonia to chlorine bleach can produce chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride, and hydrazine.

  • Liz C

    REALLY IMPORTANT:

    If you’ve used bleach in the emergency toilet, *do not add anything else*. Adding acids or ammonia to chlorine bleach can produce chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride, and hydrazine.

  • Liz C

    REALLY IMPORTANT:

    If you’ve used bleach in the emergency toilet, *do not add anything else*. Adding acids or ammonia to chlorine bleach can produce chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride, and hydrazine.

  • Liz C

    REALLY IMPORTANT:

    If you’ve used bleach in the emergency toilet, *do not add anything else*. Adding acids or ammonia to chlorine bleach can produce chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride, and hydrazine.