A portable toilet is a completely self-contained toilet that can be moved. Rather than needing to be attached to a sewage line, they have holding tanks that collect human waste. Chemicals are used to help minimize the odor and help break down solids until the waste can be disposed of.
The chemicals needed for a portable toilet include dye, biocides, fragrance, and surfactants. These four key chemicals work together to help mask the sight and smell of the waste, hinder the growth of bacteria, and help to break down the waste for better disposal.
In this article, we will look at the uses of portable toilets and explore in detail the chemicals required, their uses, and where to find them. We will also look at alternatives for portable toilets.
Who Uses Portable Toilets?
You may think of portable toilets as large plastic boxes found at construction sites, festivals, or campsites. Though they fall under the same category as they are portable and use chemicals in the place of water and sewage lines, you can also find portable toilet units for personal use.
So who is using these types of toilets? The explosion of the tiny house movement over the last five years has seen a big growth in the need for off-the-grid living. Couple this with camper vans, caravans, and houseboats, and it is clear that portable toilets are becoming a necessity for the nomadic lifestyle.
The appeal for portable toilets stems from the ability to have a self-contained unit that requires little to no access to public utilities. Cutting off from these utilities includes having no power, water, or sewer access. It is believed that by going off-the-grid, you can reduce your carbon footprint, along with your bills.
However, it is not just nomads looking to use portable toilets. Many people are choosing to live off-the-grid, whether it is this couple living in a yurt to avoid large mortgage payments or some incredible remote getaways.
Whatever the reason, portable toilets are compact and easy to maintain, as can be seen in the video below:
What About Chemicals?
As mentioned above, these types of toilets require chemicals. This is for a number of reasons, including the need to reduce the smell. In the past, formaldehyde was used for its disinfectant properties, as it is very effective in killing most bacteria. However, it has been largely removed from this use due to environmental and health concerns.
The main chemicals are found in the tank. These are usually blue and need to be diluted with water. Their purpose is to break down the waste to make disposal easier, in addition to helping to mask any odors.
Secondary chemicals are found in the flush tank. These are typically pink and also need to be diluted with water. They are used to help clean and disinfect the toilet bowl as the liquid flushes the waste into the tank below.
- Dyes – The dark dyes used in portable toilets have a couple of functions. Not only do they mask the waste from view, but they also act as an indicator, so you know when it is time to empty the unit and change the solution. When the color turns green, you know that the limit of waste has been reached. This means the chemicals will no longer work effectively and need to be changed.
- Biocides – Per Wikipedia, biocides are “a chemical substance or microorganism intended to destroy, deter, render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any harmful organism.” These chemicals are necessary to help prevent the growth of bacteria in the waste tank, and in turn, help to prevent odors. Unlike formaldehyde, they are safe for humans.
- Fragrances – Even with stronger chemicals working to kill off bacteria, not all of the odor can be masked, and in a smaller environment, the smell of a portable toilet can quickly become unpleasant. In adding fragrances, you are able to mask any lingering odors.
- Surfactants – Surfactants are used to help the other chemicals do their job more effectively, by lowering the surface tension between the chemicals and the waste. They do this by attracting water molecules in the biocides, allowing them to work much faster.
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Where Can I Find the Right Chemicals?
Chemicals for your portable toilet, including concentrated drop-in detergent packs, can be found both online and in stores.
Double packs of concentrated chemicals, such as the Aqua Kem Duo offered at Omeara Camping, are an excellent choice, as they offer both the flush fluid and the holding tank fluid. Another great option is concentrated detergent packs, such as Walex Bio-Pak, which claim to break down even thicker toilet paper.
Amazon has a number of options available for delivery, as do larger stores dedicated to outdoor activities, such as GO Outdoors. Many RV supplies and camping stores also hold a big selection of chemicals that can be delivered.
Visit the Right Stores
The majority of larger stores provide both in-store and online availability. Big box stores, such as Home Depot, Walmart, and even Sears, have a selection of chemicals available for purchase. If you are on the road and cannot receive deliveries, camping, RV, and outdoor activity, supply stores will also offer a selection of chemicals.
Portable Toilet Alternatives
Though portable toilets are an excellent option for travelers, RV vacation-goers, and tiny house builders alike, the use of chemicals can be a drawback. Though they no longer use formaldehyde, those looking to be more environmentally conscious may want to research alternatives. Luckily, there are a few other options that don’t require handling any harsh chemicals.
Composting toilets are dry toilets, meaning they use no water. Some separate the liquid from the solid waste, and this added chamber needs emptying once every day or so. The solid waste is collected in a tank, and in most cases, the user must cover the waste with a layer of wood chips, moss, or sometimes food scraps.
The result is a composting compound that can be recycled as a fertilizer. This product can safely be added to soil to create a nutrient-enriched base for planting.
As the name suggests, this dry toilet burns human waste rather than flushes it. Much like the other options, this toilet does not need to be hooked up to any sewer lines. However, it does require electricity or a gas line to function.
These toilets work when waste is deposited into the chamber, and the user selects the flush function. The waste is ignited and forced through an exhaust pipe, leaving nothing but sterile ash behind. The beauty of this system is that the waste is dealt with incredibly quickly, leaving no smell behind or chemicals to deal with. They also do not need to be emptied as often – we’re talking months rather than days.
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Portable toilets are quickly becoming an easy and affordable option, and for use in an RV, tiny house, yurt, or when camping, they look and feel like the real thing.
In order for these units to function properly, it is important to use the correct chemicals. Though it may be tempting to skip the flush fluid or stretch out the life of your tank chemicals, this can cause odors and germs to grow, making your portable toilet unpleasant.
When looking to buy chemicals for your portable toilet, remember that you need the following:
These four key chemicals work together to make the toilet look, smell, and function in a way that encourages their use.