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How does a portable toilet work?

Updated February 21, 2019

Portable toilets are self contained toilets that do not require plumbing hookups. They are commonly used in campers, in campgrounds and in rustic outback cabins.

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How Portable Toilets Work

A portable toilet is used in a similar manner as a conventional house toilet is used. The toilet flushes after use and carries waste away. The difference is, the waste is not carried to a sewer but instead is carried to an attached holding tank. The holding tank is hidden inside the bottom of the toilet. Inside the holding tank are chemicals that deodorise waste and break down solid waste and toilet paper. Depending on the model of the portable toilet, it either flushes using water that comes from a hidden water holding tank inside the toilet or it flushes by using the toilet chemicals and broken down waste from the holding tank.

Maintaining a Portable Toilet

Before a portable toilet is used, chemicals and water must be added to the holding tank. Holding tank chemicals that contain formaldehyde, bromine or enzymes are used in the portable toilet. Holding tank chemicals can be purchased at camping supply stores. When the portable toilet is no longer being used and ready for storage or when the toilet is full, it must be emptied. A portable toilet is emptied through a hose that attaches to a sewer connection at a dump station.

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About the Author

Rose Kivi

Rose Kivi has been a writer for more than 10 years. She has a background in the nursing field, wildlife rehabilitation and habitat conservation. Kivi has authored educational textbooks, patient health care pamphlets, animal husbandry guides, outdoor survival manuals and was a contributing writer for two books in the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Series.

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