Toilet Use During an Emergency

If my toilet doesn't work, how do I go to the bathroom?

If your toilet won't flush, you don't have water to flush with, or your sewage system isn't working, you'll need an alternative way to go to the bathroom.

Option 1

Use someone else's toilet (neighbor, friend, relative, local business) if it's working.

Option 2

Modify your own toilet to collect the waste without flushing.

  1. Turn the water valve to the toilet off.
  2. Flush out any water still in the bowl (the toilet shouldn't refill).
  3. Line your toilet bowl (under the seat) with a plastic kitchen garbage bag inside another kitchen garbage bag.
  4. Put some kitty litter, peat moss, lime, or something similar that will absorb liquid and help reduce odors into the inner bag.
  5. Go to the bathroom in the inner bag. You may be able to use the same bag more than once before replacing. Once the inner bag is full or you feel it needs to be replaced, tie it up. Insert a new inner bag and add absorbent/odor reducer for the next use.
  6. Store the used bags away from kids, pets, and wildlife. For example, place the bags in the garage inside the garbage can for disposal.
  7. Wash your hands with soap and running water. Wet wipes and sanitizer can be used if you don't have running water.
Option 3

Use a five gallon bucket. You can add a toilet seat and set it up like option 2.

Can I dig “cat holes” to go to the bathroom?

If one of the three preferred options above isn't a possibility, and you don't have access to a toilet for a day or two, a “cat hole” can be an option. Cat holes, or personal use holes, are holes you dig in the ground and squat over. Each hole is one-time use.

  1. Dig the hole on dry land at least 100 feet away from wells, homes, and open water (streams, rivers, lakes, Puget Sound, or the ocean). Avoid sloped areas that could erode your cat hole in the rain.
  2. Each hole should be dug at least 6 inches deep and about 6 inches in diameter. Toilet paper can be disposed of in the hole. Wet-wipes, tampons, and other materials that are less biodegradable should be put into a plastic bag and thrown in the garbage. After you're done going to the bathroom, cover the hole and pack the dirt down to avoid attracting pets or other animals.
  3. Mark or remember where you dug your hole to avoid accidently digging up a used hole.
  4. Wash your hands with soap and running water. Wet wipes and sanitizer can be used if you don't have running water.

More Resources