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flo's avatar

Exactly how does a portable toilet work in more detail than the following articles?

Asked by flo (7793 points ) September 4th, 2014

Do you ever see any maintainance people, or just the line up of people using them?

“The collection basin below the toilet seat, to which the urinal material is also channeled, is stocked with a mixture of chemicals. The exact composition of the chemicals varies among manufacturers and isn’t readily available. The job of the chemical mixture is to break down the waste products, rendering them harmless and odorless.
Isn’t there some more info about it other than the odor
http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4925069_porta-potty-work.html

Wikipedia is addressing the odor thing. I am not sure that is the most important thing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_toilet

Can you offer more detail than that?

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18 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

What more do you need to know? The poo unclumps and becomes somewhat dissolved in the chemical broth, and also disinfected by the bleaching agents in the goop. Usually, they get suctioned clean into a truck with a holding tank, and then lifted away to be thoroughly washed before using again.

janbb's avatar

Funnily enough, the trucks that come to empty the toilets are called honey wagons.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have had the “pleasure” of using them in the field so I can pass along some practical experience-based info.

You pay a service to drop it off and put blue juice in the tank. The chemical is supposed to make you think it breaks down the solids and reduces odors. I does – in about 1000 years!. From the first day it is used until the day it is picked, up the stench is horrendous, even with the vent tubes and the door propped open. On the left side wall as you walk in there is a molded white catch basin that looks like a sink. It isn’t. It’s a urinal for men, but in our case guys are supposed to pee out in the bushes.
The toilet seat is molded plastic that sits on top of the 100 gallon tank with a hole on top. When you look down you’ll see the blue sludge consisting of everything deposited by everyone who came before you. A glance is all you need to see the mound of droppings that range from loose to rabbit pellets, from worms to logs. That is peppered with toilet paper, tampons, and other unmentionables all fermenting in the blue-brown goo.
If you are in there for more than a minute you will eventually have to inhale. The stench is enough to make you regret having the nasal polyp surgery that fixed your sense of smell.

Depending upon the temperature and number of people the service will come and replace it for a fee. Typically the rate is about one week for 20 people.

I’d like to offer a placement tip. Keep it in the shade if you can, and face the door away from the group. You will not be able to see the “Occupied/Vacant” symbol so come up with something else like a piece of wood leaning against the side. That way people can use it with the door open After 2 days the fresh air will outweigh the loss of privacy.

The experience will help you appreciate the human condition.
You willlearn that few things are as underrated as a good s**t.
Enjoy! .

Stinley's avatar

We’ve got a caravan that has a toilet. I add chemicals that I buy in caravan shops. Some of them contain formaldehyde and most aren’t suitable to be emptied into septic tanks. They break down the poo to make it runny, so that you can get rid of it more easily. They also break down the toilet paper and you can buy toilet paper that breaks down more easily. The chemicals mask the smell also.

I don’t allow my family to use it for poos though. Only in dire emergencies. We use the campsite toilets

flo's avatar

Thanks esp. @LuckyGuy. omg, let’s hope I never have to use it.
“When you look down you’ll see the blue sludge consisting of everything deposited by everyone who came before you. A glance is all you need to see the mound of droppings that range from loose to rabbit pellets, from worms to logs. That is peppered with toilet paper, tampons, and other unmentionables all fermenting in the blue-brown goo.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’m happy to be of service. Clearly, that info was not in the wikipedia and ehow articles.

I can assure you the person who wrote: “The job of the chemical mixture is to break down the waste products, rendering them harmless and odorless.” has either never used one or always had first dibs.
May you always have American Standard or Toto at your back.

RocketGuy's avatar

So that’s different from what they add to a septic tank – bacterial to eat the poop.

They are starting to make porta-potties with solar powered fans to suck out the stinky air. I’m not holding my breath.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The units we used had a stack that supposedly vented the vapors above the roof. I cannot say if it worked or not. It is possible the stench left the tank but descended around and into the port-a-potty like Assad’s nerve gas in Damascus.

Even the slightest downdraft on the vent will force the fumes up through the opening in the toilet set and around the seated user.
This is the one instance I can think of where an exceedingly large butt offers an advantage over fit, buns of steel.
In the field no one has a bottom that makes the rockin’ world go round .

janbb's avatar

@RocketGuy You probably should still be holding your breath!!

RocketGuy's avatar

Yeah, opening the door causes suction, which reverses the flow of air. Phew!

LuckyGuy's avatar

What a coincidence!!! I was just asked to order one for a field event!!!
The price of a basic unit is $95, delivered, for “as long as you want it”. I only wanted one week. It comes with the chemicals and toilet paper. Apparently this is the type they usually get.

I ordered the top pf the line model for $175 ! It has a flush option like on an airplane, so you do not see the stuff below, a sink with running water, mirror, toilet paper, paper towels. Again, “for as long as you want it.” This model is used for weddings and graduations.

If the accountants complain about the increased cost, I’ll just pay the extra $80 out of my own pocket. It is worth it! I’ll bet if I passed a hat (I won’t) I’d actually make money on the deal!

flo's avatar

@LuckyGuy That’s more like it, the $175 one.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know I would easily pay $20 to use a nice one for a few days. I’m sure others in the group would too. I could place a tip jar on the sink and I’ll bet there’d be way more than $80 in it at the end.

I’m pretty certain they’ll never again ask me to order the port-a-john. Success! :-)

(I’ll take pictures of it for you.)

flo's avatar

But “for as long as you want it” That must be for very good customers no?

snowberry's avatar

@flo I’m sure they’d have to pay a monthly maintenance fee, rental fee, etc.

flo's avatar

@LuckyGuy by the way I’ll take your word, I have a good imagination.
@snowberry $175 per how long that is what I mean.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@flo He said “as long as I want” at that same price as long as he is not called for an extra pump out and clean up. I’m guessing I could keep it for a month without any additional charges.
A week will be plenty for my application.

If you only want it for 1 day it still costs $175. He has to put chemicals in it, fill it with supplies, deliver it, fill it with water, pick it up, clean it. All that work is the same whether it be for 1 day or a week.

flo's avatar

Got it @LuckyGuy. Thanks.

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