This is a guest post from Amber Bradshaw of the Coastal Homestead.
I wish our first experience with a “luggable loo” had been somewhere fun like a camping trip, but unfortunately when we needed an “Emergency Relief System” (ERS) as they're called, it really was an emergency. Our toilet would not flush and there was nowhere else to go.
Our family was trapped at home during the 2015 South Carolina 1000 Year Flood. (See 20 Things I Wish I Had Before the Flash Flood Emergency for more of that story.) With very little notice and an unpredictable outcome, we received almost 2 feet of rain in less than 48 hours. To add insult to injury, this rain came on top of already flooded areas from the recent Super Harvest Blood Moon.
We were prepared for:
- Food Supplies
- Water bottles filled
- Medicine on hand
- Boat gassed and ready
- Tool Box
- Electronic devices charged
Portable toilet and disposal area designated??? – NOPE!
Within the first couple of hours of the flood, it rendered our septic system useless.
Here was our situation; 5 family members (3 females and 2 males), flooding outside and torrential rain, no toilet, 3 Days. I honestly don’t think I can express the gravity of this predicament but it was as serious to us at the moment as any other emergency situation. Not only did we have to relieve ourselves, we had to do so in a manner that wouldn’t contaminate our surroundings and pollute the air.
With the advice from a friend (Laurie Neverman), access to the internet, plus a little knowledge, we were able to make a safe, temporary (still using it days after the storm due to high water levels, ugh) Emergency Relief System AKA Bucket Porta Potty.
I highly suggest prefabbing your own ERS for future emergency situations. They can be stored easily and cost almost nothing.
How to Make a DIY Portable Toilet ( AKA Emergency Relief System)
- Empty 5 Gallon Bucket with lid
- 10 or 13 Gallon trash bags
- Several plastic grocery store trash bags
- Big trash can with a tight-fitting lid
- Absorption medium (biodegradable material to soak up the liquid): Saw dust, pine chips, peat moss, or newspaper torn into thin strips
(If making the ERS for future use, I suggest storing a big newspaper in the bucket)
- Pool Noodle or Pipe insulation (For pool noodle, cut a slit through one side of the noodle all the way down. Pipe insulation comes with a slit in place.)
- Toilet paper
- Place the 10 gallon trash bag in the 5 gallon bucket
- Put a small handful of absorption medium in the bottom
- Insert plastic grocery store bag and fold over rim
- Slide pool noodle or pipe insulation over rim
- Add handful of absorption medium in bag
To Use Your Portable Toilet:
After each use, tie the small plastic bag closed and drop in bottom of 5 gallon bucket, when bucket is full, transfer all contents to large trash can with lid. Sanitize 5 gallon bucket and repeat.
If making an ERS for future use, place all the supplies in the bucket and replace the lid, mark on outside of bucket with a sharpie E.R.S. and store out of the way until needed. This makes a great camping toilet too. For a little more comfort and to keep things a little neater, you can also buy emergency toilet seats that are made to fit right on a 5 gallon bucket. If you don't want to deal with assembling your own ERS, the Reliance Products Luggable Loo Portable 5 Gallon Toilet comes preassembled, and buyers have used it for folks up to 350 pounds, so it should hold most adults.
Editor's Note: Another variation of this system is the basic humanure composting toilet. Waste is gathered directly in the bucket and mixed with ample absorption medium, then composted in a hot compost pile. The bucket is well scrubbed after each use, but will pick up odors after extended use. Some friends of our used this option while living in a very rustic remodeled barn. The only trouble they ran into was when one of the buckets was set outside during a snowstorm instead of being taken right to the compost, and it froze into a 5 gallon poopsicle.
How to Get Rid of Unpleasant Smells
Turning your living quarters into an Emergency Relief Station can be a stinky situation. I'm sure most of us have encountered the foul odor of a porta potty as some point in our lives. While a home porta potty might not be as musty as the big boys, it doesn't smell like roses. Here are a couple things you can do to ensure the air quality stays safe and your home remains pleasant-smelling.
DIY Air Freshener
- Distilled Water
- 8 oz Spray Bottle
- Essential Oils
Add following into a spray bottle:
- 10 drops of lemon essential oil
- 10 drops of grapefruit
- 5 drops of thyme, sage, or tea tree
- 10 drops of Bergamont
Fill with distilled water and shake. Spray your DIY air freshener in the 5 gallon bucket before and after use. This also makes a wonderful whole house air freshener.
Air Purifier – Smudge Sticks
Smudging is burning a bundle of herbs that have been dried and tied together.
Smudging has been used for over thousands of years and it is one practical application we can use today to help purify the air and kill airborne bacteria.
Published research reveals that cleansing herbal smoke, such as that mustered in the ceremonial burning of smudge sticks and incense, may indeed cleanse the surrounding air of harmful bacteria, granting the practice proven clinical benefit
You can purchase ready-made smudge sticks or make your own.
How to Make a Smudge Stick
- Non-Toxic Twine or String
- Bundle of herbs (see list below)
- Gather a large handful of herbs in any combination you desire, including stems.
- Clip herbs to similar length
- Bind the ends of the herbs altogether at one end and continue to tie the herb bundle like you would a roast.
- Once the bundle is bound, hang to dry in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks.
After your smudge stick is dry, it is ready for use.
Light end in a secure area and wait for the stick to smoke, gently blow on the end to create a nice smolder and cleanse the air. Place in a fireproof tray and stay with it until it is completely out.
The most popular herbs used in smudging are:
- White sage (Salvia apiana)
- Cedar (Thuja)
- Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata)
- Sagebrush (Artemisia californica)
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Mint (Mentha)
- Bee Balm (Monarda)
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
I hope our flood experience helps others be better prepared. We never thought we'd be hit with a disaster like this, but now we know better. Should flooding, a hurricane or other problems hit, now we know we have a safe and sanitary emergency toilet.
You may also find useful:
- Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out
- Winter Storm Survival – Keeping You and Your Home Warm When the Power Goes Out
- How to Build a Burn Barrel – Burn Trash Safely
This is a guest post by Amber Bradshaw of The Coastal Homestead. Amber is a environmentalist, garden and outdoor enthusiast. She is a wife, mother of three (20 yr old son, 13 yr old daughter and 2 yr old daughter), Owns a contracting business with her husband, is President of the local Herb Society, and a 4-H Leader. Amber strives to get back into nature with a more sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle that fits a busy schedule and a tight budget.
She lives on the east coast with her family on a little over 1/4 acre and encourages others to do big things with small spaces.