The Right Way to Make a Bucket Toilet

If disaster strikes and you don’t have an emergency toilet, then it will really be a SHTF situation!

I’d say that having an emergency toilet is just as important as having a stockpile of emergency water and food.

For most homes, the best option is a 5-gallon bucket toilet. 

Here’s what you need to know to make a 5-gallon bucket toilet, where to find bucket toilet seats, and a simple design upgrade that will dramatically improve your emergency toilet.

You Need TWO Bucket Toilets!

Having one bucket toilet is better than none, but it will be very messy to use.  (Warning: gross factor about to come!).

When you do your business in one bucket, all the pee and poo mix together, making a very gross slurry.

Carrying the bucket to empty it will cause the waste to slosh around, potentially splattering human waste around and creating a hygiene crisis.

Use your imagination, and you’ll quickly realize that one bucket is NOT a good solution.

Instead, you need a one bucket toilet for pee and a second bucket toilet for poo.

Why Separate Urine and Fecal Matter?

Except in cases where you have a bladder or urinary infection, urine is very sterile. You can even use urine as a fertilizer because it is so high in nitrogen.  Thus, urine can be safely dumped in your yard without risk of adverse health effects.

This is not the case with poo!  Fecal matter contains all sorts of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.  You must keep this away from your living space, yard, and water sources.

Separating urine and fecal matter with a two-bucket toilet system will make it much easier to dispose of the waste.

The urine just gets dumped into your yard.  The fecal matter (since it is mostly solid) can be tied in a sturdy plastic bag and buried or thrown away after the disaster has passed.

*After a short-term disaster, call your Department of Sanitation for instructions on how to dispose of the waste.

bucket toilet example

How to Use a Bucket Toilet

I talk about this in my post about emergency toilet options.  Rather than rehashing all of the info there, here’s an overview:

Setting Up the Bucket Toilet System

  1. Label one bucket as “pee” and the other as “poo”
  2. Have a lid for each bucket
  3. Line the poo bucket with a sturdy plastic bag
  4. Put some carbon material near the toilet area (kitty litter, shredded paper, etc.)
  5. Have toilet paper nearby

Using the Bucket Toilet

  1. Choose the appropriate toilet
  2. Do your business 😉
  3. Put the toilet paper into the poo bucket. NEVER PUT TOILET PAPER IN THE PEE BUCKET!!!
  4. After using the poo bucket, sprinkle about a ½ cup of carbon material on top of the fecal matter.
  5. Close the lid on the toilet after using
  6. Dump the pee bucket outside each day (or when the buckets are full). Tie the poo bag closed and put it somewhere away from your living space until you can dispose of the bags safely.

Bucket Toilet Seat

You must have a lid for your bucket toilet.  This will keep it from getting smelly and also prevent flies from getting into the poo bucket.

You could just use the lid with a standard 5-gallon bucket, but this won’t be too comfortable to sit on.

Do NOT use a standard toilet seat on top of your bucket toilet.  Here is why:

  • A standard toilet seat won’t form a tight seal over the bucket, so smells will get out and flies can get in.
  • A standard toilet seat won’t sit securely, so you could fall into your bucket toilet.

Luckily, you can now buy special bucket toilet seats that are fitted perfectly – See on Amazon

You can make your own if you don’t want to buy a bucket toilet seat.

You cut a hole out of plywood and then use nails and caulk to attach a regular toilet seat to it.

An Even Better Bucket Toilet System

The two-bucket toilet system is very effective, but you can’t always keep the pee separate from the poo (I have a 5-year old kid and am not counting on her being able to switch buckets in the middle of going to the bathroom).

You can use one 5-gallon bucket as your emergency toilet if you get a urine-diverting toilet seat.

urine diverting toilet
A urine-diverting emergency toilet

What is a Urine Diverting Toilet Seat?

A urine-diverting toilet seat is a really cool device that funnels the pee away into one container and the poo into a separate container.

Urine-diverting toilets are becoming popular in Sweden, where the government plans to use all of the urine for fertilizing instead of getting all that nitrogen into the water system.

The Nomix urinen diverting toilet seat
The Nomix urinen diverting toilet seat

Most compost toilets have urine diverters, but composting toilets are expensive, so I wouldn’t recommend them as your emergency toilet unless you can afford them.

If you are interested, we recently reviewed the best composting toilets for indoor use.

You can buy a urine-diverting toilet seat for about $100 to $200.

A urine diverting toilet lid with setup
A picture of the Ecovita urine-diverting toilet seat with lid

You can make your own if you don’t want to spend $100 for the special urine-diverting toilet seat.

This will require some work, but it is easy to do as a DIY project.  Here are instructions on how to make a urine diverting toilet seat.

The urine-diverting bucket toilet system isn’t perfect. You’ve either got to aim your pee perfectly or sit down for it to work.  But it still simplifies the bucket toilet system, so you will be ready for a disaster.

Have you gotten an emergency toilet system yet?  What type?

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  1. You can also get what’s called a “commode” that’s used for elderly or recuperating people that straddles a standard toilet. It’s height adjustable, has a catch pan, handles, a back rail and a lid for about $25. Doesn’t fold as small as a bucket seat but if you’re not a 25-year-old, and can’t just pop up from a low squat without taking the whole works to the ground with you, then the commode may be an option.

    This makes you appreciate sanitation workers doesn’t it. And it’s not even their own baby ruth bars (Caddy Shack).

  2. I have a urine diverting toilet in my home and to make sure that the urine doesn’t go into the solids compartment, I put an ordinary plastic dustpan over the gap. A quick rinse with a cup of diluted vinegar when you’re done and that’s it: no odours! The acidity of the vinegar “stabilizes” the urine.
    By the way, the toilet paper (eco friendly recycled paper) goes in
    under the dustpan with the solids.

  3. Doctors or labs sometimes give out a specimen collecting device (nicknamed a ‘hat’) to sit in your toilet to collect either urine or BM depending on which way it is facing. Disinfect and save for a budget way to keep things separated (it even has a pour spout).

    • Geez! I wish I knew about those before I made my compost toilet. I ended up using the plastic lid from a cake box which I cut in half. 😀 You can buy urine diverters for compost toilets but they are stupidly expensive for a little piece of plastic. Thanks for the tip!!

  4. Aren’t there ah?? “Tablets” ? one can put in the bag with the poo to um… “decompose” it? I keep thinking my mom put “something” in, during our camping trips. [I was 10 yrs old. Don’t recall really. Just askin’.]

    • YES! There is a really cool product called “Poo Powder” by Wag Bags. It stabilizes poo so it is solid and safe to throw out in the normal trash. It’s not decomposing it, but it’s still awesome. You can buy Wag Bags with the powder already in it but they are a bit pricy to use for long-term plumbing outages.

  5. It also needs to be mentioned that urine—as a sterile liquid—can be “recycled” as an emergency hydration source. It is possible to drink urine for a span of time without negative effects, and that time can be prolonged if it is run through a good charcoal filter. I live in a dry, arid climate where there is no rainfall for 6 months of the year, little surface water and few wells, so in a SHTF situation, once my water reserves run out I would be in real trouble. “Recycling” my water on a low-level basis for a prolonged time could be the key to survival.

  6. Looks great minus the plastic bag! Take a little bit more time to compost it properly and then you’ll end up with great fertilizer for some trees instead of a pile of rotting plastic bag poo

    • This post is more intended for unforeseen emergency situations, basically a “whatever gets you through secenario”.

  7. There are a lot of studies, with success, of using DILUTED urine as basically fertilizer in your garden. The key is to dilute it enough that the NPK elements are low enough concentration to approximate MiracleGro.

  8. Human Urine is high in nitrogen, but also is fairly acidic and usually contains a lot of sodium in it, all of which can cause damage to a yard in large concentrations.

  9. I just found a urine diverter for a bucket that is dead simple. You simply snap the diverter onto the bucket. The guy makes them using a 3D printer. You can buy one on Etsy under the store name of Johnny Compost. As of time of this writing a diverter starts at $30.

  10. Skip the plastic bag! If you bury it without a plastic bag you allow the nutrients to recirculate. Plastic does not readily degrade so instead of your humanure turning into compost you just get a buried bag of anarobic shit.


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