How Do Portable Toilets Work?

July 7, 2021

If you’re putting on a large outdoor event, you will likely need to implement some form of portable toilets. You’ll need to consider how many portable toilets to use and where to place them. But have you ever given any thought to the functioning of a porta potty?

If you haven’t, maybe you should, because when making decisions, the more information you have, the better. Knowing the science behind porta potties can help you make an informed decision and lead to you putting on a better event. This article will cover the function of portable toilets.


A standard portable toilet (or porta potty) is made of a combination of aluminum and polyethylene. The roof is usually light-colored and semi-translucent, and there are often vents near the top to allow for some airflow and to prevent the interior from becoming too hot.

Inside, there’s a 60-gallon holding tank for human waste, a specially designed non-splash urinal, and a non-slip floor. Included are toiletries like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.


Portable toilets are often called chemical toilets due to the solution that is placed in the holding tank. A typical chemical composition of the solution includes water, blue dye, surfactants, fragrances and biocides and enzymes.

Water mixed with blue dye is the base for the solution. This is because the blue coloring masks the appearance of waste while also turning green to indicate that the chemicals need to be changed.

Surfactants are chemicals that are designed to help with the odor by increasing the dissolution of the smells in the water. This spreads the smell around the unit more and decreases its intensity.

Fragrances are added as you might expect to mask the smell of human waste. Cherry and bubblegum are the two most popular scents.

Biocides and enzymes are employed to help the decomposition process of organic matter within the solution. This not only reduces the number of odor-causing bacteria, but it makes the waste disposal process easier when the time comes.


The standard cleaning and emptying schedule of portable toilets is once per week or after every 100 uses. The holding tank is emptied via a vacuum hose that is either stuck down through the opening of the holding tank or hooked on to a release valve on the side.

This vacuum hose is connected to a tanker truck that holds all the waste that is sucked out and later emptied into either a sanitary sewer or a local sewage treatment plant. The workers’ job is not done once they remove the waste, however, as they are required to disinfect the inside of the portable toilet from the walls to the seats and everything in between.

They then finish by restocking any toiletry supplies that have been used. It is the work of the committed and devoted service workers that makes porta potties a functioning solution.

Call for an event consultation today

Once you understand the science behind porta potties, it’s easy to see why they’re so ubiquitous. They offer a convenient and sanitary solution and allow innumerable outdoor events to be put on safely. So the next time you’re planning an event and need portable toilets, give us a call at Pit Stop Portables. We’re proud to be the industry-leading experts in portable toilets and look forward to working with you to find a solution that you’ll be pleased with.

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