An Uncomfortable Topic In An Uncomfortable Situation…

By on April 22, 2013
toilet bowl

No matter how much or how little you eat, it’s all eventually gotta come out somewhere.

Most of the time you hold it until you get to the next available restroom, do your business, and all is right with the world again.

Unfortunately in any type of grid down situation, no matter how much you jiggle the handle, it’s not going to flush.

So what exactly are you supposed to do?

Stay with me now…

I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is one that you need to hear…

When a toilet is not an option,  you need to make sure that you have an alternative way to contain and get rid of any waste.

Even a small amount of exposure to human waste can turn already uncomfortable situation deadly.

So aside from digging a hole, what can you do?

Growing up I did a lot of work with my dad as a painter over the summers.  It was terrible.

Long hours, hot days and most of the time, no running water.

If we were lucky, the home we were working on was near a gas station, or even a patch of woods.

Most of the time we didn’t get so lucky..

In those cases we were forced to use a big orange bucket from home depot.

Not exactly the most graceful thing to try and use.

I wish we had known about these back then:


If you own a home, odds are you have a few extra 5 gallon buckets siting around gathering dust.

I have 2 of these in my garage with these little “toilet toppers”, and I have used them  on camping trips in the past.

I will tell you that being a larger guy, going about my business on one of these is much akin to trying to use a child size toilet.

It takes a bit to get used to but is a good deal better than the “squat and hover” method from my childhood.

The great thing about these is that you  can make an entire self contained bathroom kit that is ready at a moments notice.

If you haven’t already got at least one of these hanging around in your garage, I recommend you get one soon especially with camping season coming up.

A few other necessities that you need to make sure are inside your emergency toilet:

Toilet paper ( you don’t know how important it is until your stuck without it)

Heavy duty trash bags

Air freshener

Wet wipes

Hand Sanitizer

You have a couple of options when it comes to absorbing moisture and odor:
–Clumping cat litter
–Peat moss
–Untreated, unpainted, heated, no dust Pine shavings
–Cedar chips

Just put a layer of whatever material you choose after every visit. Make sure you keep the lid tightly closed and smell shouldn’t be a problem.

Like I said this is an uncomfortable topic but a little extra preparation can make it much more bearable in the long run.

 P.S.  Another option you may want to look at, and one that I actually keep in my garage is one of the “Honey Bucket” style survival Kits.  These come with the bucket, toilet topper, a few other  basic toiletries, and an entire 72 hour kit inside them.

These are a great option if you are just starting out your preps or if you want a quick  pre-built option:


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'Above Average' Joe

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  1. Great Grey

    One question I have is what do you use if you have no toilet paper or other modern items?

    • gena

      I have had poor friends who when I would need to use the toilet at their house used newspaper as TP. I bought a kit from Emergency Essentials which include a bucket, seat, and enzymes to solidify the excrement, and heavy duty double bags to put inside the buckets, or even your toilet and then dispose of, burying or dumping in someone else’s area and not yours. Not recommended. You need to bury the accumulated mess away from water sources and deep enough that animals will not dig it up.

    • Great Grey

      Hey, phone books and newspaper are modern items.
      Corn cobs are not.

    • Rich

      If you are camping, then you can use “Charmin of the Woods” which is Elephant Maple. If you know what a Maple leaf looks like, you will have no problem identifying the tree. Red Fern is another possibility, but not as comfortable.

  2. Gene

    Save your old outdated phone books…use them. The paper may be as soft as TP, but it’s better than leaves.

  3. face

    all you need to do to flush the toilet without running water is pour the reccomended amount of water per flush into it with a bucket all at once and it will flush just like when the water is running.if you worked on plumbing i’m surprised that you don’t know how a toilet works.

    • Diana

      Face: This will not work if the grid is totally down and the sewer system is not working. In this situation you could even have sewer water backing up into your toilet, tub drains, etc.

    • DP

      Water is more more important for drinking…….duh…

    • Hipockets

      Works good,have done it. It may come to water to drink or flush
      the toilet.For drinking,you could live several days for one flush.
      For camping,(tent or camper with no facilities,). I save gal mayo containers with wide mouths for peeing. THey work for men or women.
      Other duties’ Hit the woods,and dig a hole.

  4. coloradolady

    I like your idea but I kinda like Home Depot so I think I will use a blue bucket from LOWES!! LOL

    • Nanook

      i was on a trip one time with my wife to pick up a horse trailer. It had a saddle room & sleeping area, so we decided to camp on our way back home. We went to wally world and bought supplies, one of which was a complete honey bucket system for less than $20. It had the enclosed lid, seat, plastic bags & odor pkts. I still have it, might want to take a look.

      • Hipockets

        I found a great set up at the dump last year. It was a metal chair,with a used toilet seat,and bucket hooked under it all. Works great.Someone already cut a hole in the chair and had it all set up.Cost 0. Would be free for anyone that could just pick up stuff and make it.

        • Carol

          Hipockets, that is called a bedside commode in the medical community. lol

  5. John

    I have a few points to discuss here. First is the sewer system at least where I live is built on a gravity flow situation. That is the sewer treatment plant is several hundred feet below the potty and everything is downhill use the bucket to flush. Use the dish water or the bath water not the good stuff. In the more flat places I can see the sewer backing up but where I am at I have no reason to worry about it. If you have a septic tank then you are of course all set. When it comes to flushing in a low water situation you just use the dish water or bath water or any other process water, just not the good stuff.

    Second, there are several ways to approach the paperwork problem when you run out of paper. The nicest way to deal with it is to use flannel rags. Any other cloth is just fine as well. if it feels good on your toush . This is acceptable for female hygiene as well. You can get real high tech and sew the edges and even double them over and sew the edges. Make them about the size of a handkerchief or a baby wipe. When you are finished with your business then you moisten the flannel rag with water and go after it. It may take you up to three rags to complete the cleanup but you are clean. In fact much cleaner than you are now using toilet paper. A gentlemen that I was working with on primitive skills actually took the suggestion to heart and tried it at home. He will not go back to the paper. It is much more comfortable and rather luxurious in his opinion. I to like it but having used everything from a muddy hand, dry dirt, or a wad of dried grass to paper of all types to the three rag system I would much prefer the moist rag. But because I am lazy I just use paper.

    The rag does create another issue altogether. A whole other class of laundry assuming you are not changing diapers. If you have children in diapers then it is just business as usual. So back to when you are finished with your cleanup, you would rinse the bulk of the mess off the rag and toss it into a pail of vinegar to wait until it is time to do the laundry. The vinegar is a disinfectant and will help clean the rags. You could use Clorox but it will dissolve your rags much quicker than the vinegar. When you launder them you just rinse out the vinegar and launder as usual. This is a little extra work but you will always be clean down under (sorry to all of you Aussies for that).

    • Maxilyn

      Pure vinegar? or do you dilute it? I prefer a capful of the original Lysol concentrate in a bucket of water; it deodorizes very well. But if we’re off grid for a long time, you’ll eventually run out of that whereas you can make your own vinegar. Baby wipes will also get you cleaner than paper. If they dry out in storage, you can just remoisten them.

    • Gary

      I do agree that the waste water will flow downhill. However in a grid down situation as the author was describing even the gravity flow will soon back up. The treatment plant will close valves to prevent an overflow at their facility. You may want to have alternatives available. Just sayin’.


    As a Farmer in my youth, We had to Construct an, ” Out-House “, as an Emergency Toilet to use when the Power went out. Again, as a Scout, we learned to construct a Woodland Latrena, As for Today’s Needs A trip to a good Sporting goods store, can supply you with a Portable Toilet, for under $100.00. These Toilets can hold up to 4 Gal. of waste & if your in the suburbs A Deep Hole in the Flower-bed can be used as a dump, or you can pour the waste directly down the sewer.
    Let’s face it, ” If you Eat, you Will Poop!”
    As for that Question someone asked about Wiping your Butt after your done, Improvising is your only out & Hope. Soft Paper, Leaves ( NOT Poison Ivy ) or Old Rags, are handy, Otherwise, ” Use your Hands. The crap your touching, Came out of YOUR Body, Don’t be Afraid of it!
    One other idea comes to mind, Always carry a large S/Steal Spoon!!
    NOTE, Most of Our Fears about our Bodies are founded in Myth, & Foolishness, Dispel those old fears & Grow up with the facts.

  7. mkuisi8mo

    When using old telephone book pages, crumple them in your hand first, then open & fold in anyway that works…it will soften them to near cheap TP softness for use on your tush.

  8. Nateisgr8

    I actually like the idea of crapping on homodepot! I haven’t purchased anything from them in years since I found out they support all the “pride” events across the country. Please join me and many other conservatives in boycotting them.

  9. TpC

    kitty litter containers are great poop catchers – just be sure you don’t poop in the litter box or the cats will revolt

  10. missy

    Our family of seven has lived on our farm for almost 7 months now without running water. We currently haul it from a spring/cistern set up to the house, 60 gallons at a time, where it goes into a 150 gallon tank. At least I can now pump it from the tank into the house as of about 3 weeks ago. Happy, happy!! We use the dish water to flush the toilet. We’ve learned to be VERY frugal with our water.

    • Sherry Burdette

      I like the way things are working out for you. You are ahead of many in the game of survival.

  11. Roma Turner

    About 4 years ago I bought a nice Coleman travel potty. Just the right height and won’t tip over. The top on it makes a comfortable stool for just sitting on. Anyway, my friends laughed at me for spending the money since I never go camping. But, this winter in the midst of an ice storm that went on for a few days my sewer line was blocked. The weather was to bad to work on it. I finally got the opportunity to use that great purchase and it was worth every cent and them some to have that and every thing I needed right here. Spend the money and have that in place, if you need it you will be glad you have it.

  12. njcountyofficer

    There’s an item that’s been on the market for quite awhile called “Luggable Loo”. Just type in Luggable Loo on eBay or on the net, Amazon has them at the best price I believe.

    It’s a portable 5 gallon bucket that comes with a toilet seat and cover (looks and works like a regular toilet seat).

    They also sell the Luggable Loo “toilet seat” separately that snaps onto any 5 Gallon bucket.

    Here’s the Luggable Loo on Amazon.
    Seat & Bucket:

    Just the seat:

  13. Chuck

    If you are going to bury your waste in the backyard, cover each deposit with a layer of quick lime available at many lumber yards and other home supply stores. It causes decomposition of waste and you can also use it to cover any meat based garbage you have. It doesn’t matter if the treatment plant is at a lower elevation than your toilet. If the power is out for long enough, the sewer pipe will fill up from all the toilets and drains dumping into it and the sewage not being treated. Unless the plant opens the line and allows raw sewage to flow out, which I doubt they will do because of the health hazard created, eventually your toilet will not handle what you dump into it. In that event, you had better hope that you are at the top of the hill. you need to be thinking creatively about some way to plug your drain lines into your house. A little help from the plumbers on this site?????

    For many years, the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs were used in the outhouses. Newsprint is quite absorbent and stacks readily and can be used for other purposes. Consider adding a stack of newspaper to your stash of emergency gear. With sand it can be used to clean pots and pans. As someone else indicated be sure to rumple it up before use. Magazines are a poor substitute. Save a rag like the Washington Post or the New York Times.

    OR you can use a 55 gallon metal barrel, store the waste and burn it off every couple of days. Anybody who was at Khe Sanh can coach you in the technique, especially if they were E-1 or E-2. That will not allow you to keep a low profile, but it definitely will keep anyone from sneaking up on you from downwind.

    • Hipockets

      Guess I’m lucky,Live 2 miles out of town and the place had a “Outhouse” when I bought it,complete with a couple bags of lime. It has’nt been used for years,but is grandfathered in,so in a emergency,it can be used.

  14. Hujonwi

    Make sure ya crumple it up and then open and re-crumple and open several times, it gets quite soft. Learned that trick in the USN when we ran out of TP… Also ya can sprinkle some Borax on the ‘contents’ of the bucket to help with odor and bugs.

  15. Greg

    Use a trash bag inside the toilet bowl and under the seat. Do your business and then some. Throw trash bag out or whatever you find prudent.

  16. GreyGhost

    One thing to bear in mind, if you have a septic tank, you can partially uncover the top, pull the inspection plug and build a temporary outhouse over it and voila….. no flushing but everything is still sanitary.

  17. Eddie

    The ability to deal with toilet waste is a valid one in a survival situation. Certainly prior generations had devised ways over time to deal – although there were definite health issues with some methods – poor sanitation and dysentery (sp?) in group settings were common and dangerous! Proper treatment of sanitation and avoiding water contamination must be fellow travelers! Just a few notes: All public waste treatment systems (city sewer systems) are going to become useless within a week or so in a survival situation where basic infrastructure has failed (ie. no power, no water supply, no waste treatment facilities operationalor personnel to operate). Those with a septic tank will be in the best of shape but need to mind several considerations. Just being able to make a toilet flush with a bucket of water will not assure serviceability for very long. Septic systems for residential applications are designed to deal with a predictable set of expectations. Flush water is used to float solids – including toilet paper along the waste piping into the septic tank where bacteria break it down and the resultant liquids are disposed of via the drain field piping. The amount of water needed is not much but must be close to the level from a normal tank flush or else there will not be enough to float the waste all the way to the tank. Too little and the solid portion of the waste will not make it to the tank and can build up in the line. Subsequent “flushes” are then partially blocked and create an increasing barrier until total blockage occurs. The key is to provide a large enough supply of water to the flushing action – so “more is better”. This makes for a greater demand for water but saving up grey water from other uses – or for this purpose alone will help avoid the more primitive solutions discussed. Second, Septic systems are designed for a predictable range of toilet paper and waste materials. Just because you can get the toilet to flush the materials doesn’t mean it will float all the way to the tank – or that the tank will be able to break down the waste material encountered. Blockages will render the whole setup useless if they occur so try and use the least dense and minimal amount of paper if you want to have the best chance of avoiding tank blockages. You may want to just save the inside toilet for night time uses or when going outside is the least desirable. No heavy papers or rags or other items often warned against by “don’t flush these items” signs often seen in public restrooms. Newsprint and yellow pages medium for toilet paper may not work in survivor setting for long. I haven’t done any experimenting and don’t plan to do so but my guess is that they will work for the wiping requirement but they are heavier and more dense than tiolet papers normally encountered and may not float as well through the waste system piping all the way to the tank. Once in the tank they will not break down very well and will probably build up before too long and seriously impact the use of the septic system. Best of luck with that!

  18. star

    I loved reading all this and had a good chuckle smiles. I grew up with an out house and at night we used a chamber pot. Yes we used newspaper and such for toilet paper too . Here is something some people don’t seem to know and that is squatting is better for getting rid of the waste in your body than just sitting . Hence a chamber pot is as low as a squat . What this does is lines your body up or straightens your colon more so you can easily pass the waste . Even in a pinch one can use a bowl [ esp. if one don’t want to go out at night . I one lived in a house and the bathroom was shot so for a few months I either used a bucket as didn’t have a chamber pot back then later found one at a yard sale and I grabbed it , or went out side and did my business . Simple one can put a couple or so boards on something to have a seat . As for tp I prefer washing but I have used leaves and all that too . And if I have to I can again .

    • star

      Oh by the way at that time it was cold smiles . I had to shut that bathroom door as the floor was up and all also had to deal with field mice coming in the house and so on as for a bath I heated water in a big pot on my stove and took bird baths . One more thing is if one doesn’t have much water for a bath and has vinegar one can wash with vinegar and one will still be clean .Just wet the cloth with it .

  19. Texican

    Flushing will be an issue, if your connected to the water grid, or on a home well system (without means of powering the deep well pump, such as solar or wind energy, it’s useless). 5 gallon buckets will work, but, ‘hauling’ 5 gallon buckets of water any great distance is going to be a killer… and one will soon ‘think’ why don’t I just ‘go’ outside, and save the long trek to water?

    I have a gravity flow water system out of my own private lake… flushing isn’t an issue… minimum 5 year supply of water…

. .