Sanitation in the City: What To Do When the Toilet Won’t Flush

by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper

Did you ever stop to put some thought into the flushing power of your toilet?

It’s one of those things we in modern society take for granted. We use the restroom, then we flush, wash our hands, and forget it.

But during extreme scenarios, this isn’t always so easy. When researching my book, The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide, I spent a lot of time reading about water, sanitation, and waterborne illness. These issues are all closely linked, and it’s vital to find solutions.

If you’re on a septic system, you have a safe place for your waste to go during most types of disasters, assuming you have additional water on hand for flushing.

But, in the city, on a public sewer system, there exists the possibility that a situation could arise during which flushing is not an option. Do you remember during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy when residents of high-rise apartment buildings couldn’t flush because the city water system was down?  There were numerous reports that people were so desperate that they were defecating in the hallways.  They quoted a resident of a senior apartment complex, Anna Hay, who said, “They can’t go upstairs to go to the bathrooms. Where are they going to go? They’re walking all around for a place to go. There’s nowhere to go in this area.” (source)

With some very small and inexpensive preparations, it doesn’t have to come down to that. Just having a portable toilet is not enough for good hygiene and safety. If you live in an urban area, going outside to do your business may not an option. You have to figure out a way to take care of this, indoors, while maintaining the health of your environment.

As a former city prepper, I’ve been through a few situations during which our toilets were inoperable due to a local disaster. Luckily, I had the supplies on hand to create a kitty litter box for people, so my children and I were able to stay in the safety of our home without risking illness due to poor sanitation.

How to Make a Kitty Litter Potty

Here’s all you need to make a litter box for people:

  • Kitty Litter (For this purpose, get a scented one)
  • Extremely heavy garbage bags (Get the kind that contractors use and do NOT skimp on the garbage bags, whatever you do)
  • Your toilet or this “luggable loo” (which is awesome for only $20)

Hopefully, you realized you weren’t going to be able to flush before using your toilet. If there is waste sitting in your toilet, you’re going to need to get rid of it. Not fun, I know, but if it sits there for several days, it’s going to smell terrible, even with the lid down. To get rid of it, you’ll need to have a bag set up with a bit of kitty litter in it. Then, use a cheap dollar store utensil like a slotted spoon to fish out the poop. Try not to hurl, because that’s just something else you’ll have to dispose of. Get rid of the slotted spoon because you will NEVER want to stir beans with that one again. You’d have flashbacks.

Now that this is out of the way, you have two options. You can line your toilet and continue to use it following the directions below, or you can switch to the luggable loo, which is basically just a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a toilet seat and a lid. The process is the same for either one.

If you’re using your toilet, turn the water off to the tank. (The knob for this should be on the wall at the back of it.)

Line the toilet with a garbage bag. Let me repeat: DO NOT GO CHEAP ON THE GARBAGE BAGS!  You want to use the best ones you can get your hands on. The ones for contractors are designed to carry very heavy loads. (There’s a horrible pun that I’m resisting making right now.)  The last thing you want is for a bag full of human waste to break as you are carrying it out of your house.  Put the bag in the bowl, then pull the top of the bag down over the edges of the toilet. Put the seat down to hold the bag into place.

If you’re using the Loo, line it with a garbage bag.  Same as above, put the bag into the bucket, then pull the top edges down the side of the bucket. Put the seat down to hold the bag into place.

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