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DIY Bucket Toilet: How to Make Your Own Emergency Potty Bucket


In our complex world, there is a lot that can go wrong, so we spend time prepping water, food, and other supplies just in case of emergency. However, how many of us have considered what we would do if our sewage or septic system were disabled? This is where a 5 gallon bucket toilet may just save your sanity!


Natural disasters regularly disable sewage and septic systems. This is particularly true for hurricanes and cyclones that create massive flooding. When this occurs, quality of life decreases, and we become more at risk of contaminating our environment with human waste. 


Therefore, we argue that an emergency bucket toilet, or emergency relief system (ERS), is as essential as your other preps, especially if you live in an area where your sewage or septic system could be at risk. 


Keep reading to learn how to make an ERS and tips for using one.


How to Make a Bucket Toilet

The good news is making a DIY bucket toilet is not complicated, nor is it costly. Plus, once you have your new potty bucket, you can use it on camping trips and not just for SHTF emergencies—pun intended.

Materials You Will Need for a 5 Gallon Bucket Toilet

There are various bucket toilet designs out there. Therefore, the materials may vary based on the design you decide to create. And, if you would like, you can purchase a manufactured ERS, but where is the fun in that?

  • A5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid
  • A box of 10- to 13-gallon compostable garbage bags
  • An absorption medium, such as sawdust, peat moss, spent coffee grounds, kitty litter, or shredded newspaper 
  • A pool noodle, pipe insulation, or something similar
  • A utility knife
  • A roll of your favorite toilet paper

Assembly Instructions

  1. Place the 10-gallon compostable garbage bag into the bucket. If you would like, secure the bag with a bungee cord. For extra protection, consider double-bagging the bucket.
  2. Fill the bottom of the bucket with a generous amount of the absorption medium you chose.
  3. Using the utility knife, cut the pool noodle to match the diameter of the bucket. Next, slice into the pool noodle longways.

  4. Fit the pool noodle onto the rim of the potty bucket.

  5. Next, sit down and take aim.

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8 Tips For Using a Bucket Toilet

    1. Use Two 5 Gallon Buckets


DIY 2 buckets to be made as bucket toilet


In scenarios where potty buckets are necessary, it’s best to have two buckets—one for urine and the other for fecal matter.


Two bucket toilets are ideal because the mixture of the two wastes can get too heavy and messy when you dispose of them. You can also prolong the time you have to dispose of your waste with two buckets instead of one.


     2. Mask Any Odors With Essential Oils

The odor from our waste is masked with modern flushing toilets largely because our waste is submerged in water, and we flush it away when we finish. However, this is not possible with a bucket toilet.


Therefore, you need to be creative about masking the odors of the waste inside the bucket. For example, we recommend diluting essential oils with water and using a spray bottle to dispel the odors.


You can also mask the odors of your bucket toilet with homemade smudge sticks or other store-bought deodorizers.   


    3. Add A Toilet Seat To The Bucket


add a toilet set for the bucket toilet


Let’s be honest—sitting on the rim of a bucket is not that comfortable. For that reason, the assembly instructions from above include the use of a pool noodle (or something similar) fitted onto the rim as a simple and economical way to make the potty bucket more comfortable.

However, should you choose, you can also purchase amanufactured toilet seat designed to fit onto 5-gallon buckets. Although these products are not as affordable (but still pretty cheap), they may significantly enhance your experience going to the bathroom. 


     4. Try A 6-Gallon Bucket

The go-to standard for emergency bucket toilets is the 5-gallon bucket. However, it is possible to make a bucket toilet using a 6-gallon bucket. 


Why? 6-gallon buckets are slightly taller than their 5-gallon counterparts. The taller height effectively makes you squat less to go to the bathroom. Sitting down easier may be convenient for older folks. 


      5. Always Wash Your Hands

This seems like common sense, but it still must be said. Washing your hands is vital for stopping the spread of germs. Washing your hands is always important, especially in emergency scenarios where you are already struggling with sewage and access to water. 


The last thing you want in an emergency is someone to fall ill due to poor hygiene. 


     6. Dispose Of Your Waste Equitably

Most of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about where our waste goes after we flush the toilet. However, that privilege can be revoked in disaster scenarios where your plumbing becomes incapacitated. 


Suddenly, you will be responsible for disposing of your household's waste. Luckily, there are various ways to do so equitably. 


For ideas, we recommend theHumanure Handbook. We also recommend consulting a sewage and wastewater expert about equitably disposing of your waste without contaminating the local environment.


     7. Routinely Sanitize Your Bucket Toilets

Even if you are super careful, double-bag, and never make a mess, it’s crucial to sanitize your buckets regularly. The reason is that some plastic buckets can hold odors. Therefore, we recommend cleaning and sanitizing your buckets every week. 


    8. Make Your Own Toilet Paper Holder


DIY Toilet Paper Holder to be used for emergency bucket toilet


During the assembly, if you cut the wire of the bucket handle in the middle, you will be able to separate the two ends and slide on a toilet paper roll. Then you will have TP conveniently at the ready. 


However, a drawback is if you like using the handle to carry the bucket, you’ll have to come up with a different method. 


Final Thoughts On a DIY Potty Bucket

You did it. You made it through an entire article about peeing and pooping in buckets. Now it’s time to go to the store or order the supplies for delivery and build your own.

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If you can even possibly think about food right now, then check out some of our products. We have the best survival food and family starter kits for homesteading for beginners as well as urban prepping scenarios.