Bucket Toilets: How to Poop for Less

Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by toilethaven

What is a Bucket Toilet?

A bucket toilet is a dry toilet that consists of a 5-gallon bucket/pail with a lid which serves as a seat. It can either be used as a home toilet or a portable camping toilet. Bucket toilets can also be used as RV toilets

So how does a bucket toilet work? That depends on whether the toilet will be used as a camping toilet or a home toilet.

A camping bucket toilet is emptied as regularly as daily. The user is normally not interested in the end product. They merely use it as a means to an end.

Residential bucket toilets take a more composting form. Apart from using it as a sanitation facility, the owner is also interested in the end product.

To keep bucket toilets from smelling, an odor eliminator like poo powder is used to cover the waste after every use. It also helps in waste decomposition. If you don’t have poo powder, kitty litter or even sawdust can be used instead.

You can dump/empty a bucket toilet in the compost pile at a park or campground. Since bucket toilets are used with compostable bags, you can also dig a hole in the ground and bury the waste.

To easily convert a 5-gallon bucket to a toilet, insert 2 ordinary garbage bags in the bucket then cover it with an air-tight toilet seat which are easily available for under $20. Use kitty litter or even sawdust to prevent the bucket toilet from smelling.

Bucket toilet pose health risks to both the user and the collector and may causes diseases if they are not used properly. The smell can also be a public nuisance. When used properly however, bucket toilets are safe, practical and budget-friendly.

Bucket Toilets vs Composting Toilets

Nature’s Head composting toilet

A composting toilet is a dry/non-flush toilet that biologically breaks down human waste and converts it to dry compost matter.

The major difference between bucket toilets and composting toilets is that composting toilets have a way of separating solid waste (feces and toilet paper) from liquid waste (urine) while in bucket toilets both wastes end up in the bucket.

Urine is emptied daily while the solid waste is left in a bin for a longer time to decompose. Peat moss, saw dust or coconut coir is added in the solids bin to deal with the smell and speed up decomposition.

The main reason for separating liquid waste from solid waste is that urine piles up faster than poop and also tends to smell more. Solid waste should also be kept as dry as possible for proper decomposition to take place.

Composting toilets are however very expensive and that is why bucket toilets are a good alternative. If you would like to have look at something of the best composting toilets in the market check out this post I wrote a while ago.

Portable Camping Bucket Toilets

While you are out camping, you want to have a toilet that is easily portable and as affordable as possible. Nothing comes closer than a bucket toilet.

Apart from the toilet, you should also buy replacement compostable bags, poo powder and a privacy tent. A privacy tent gives you the confidence to do your business discreetly. You then don’t have to put the toilet in the same tent where you sleep.

If you would like a decent tent for your bucket toilet, check out the WolfWise Portable Pop Up Privacy Shower Tent on Amazon

The poo powder is very effective in odor elimination. If you don’t want to keep buying bags and poo powder you can use ordinary garbage bags and kitty litter. You should however double on the garbage bags to prevent any leaks.

For proper waste handling, ensure that that the waste bag goes under the seat and not over the seat. When you put it under the seat, its edges will hang outside the bucket making it easy to empty it without having to come into contact with the waste.

To prevent any awful odors, camping bucket toilets should be emptied as regularly as possible. Only dump the waste at an appropriate waste disposal location.

Bucket toilet seats are designed in such a way that they snap tightly on the rim of the bucket. You are therefore guaranteed that in case the bucket falls off waste will not spill on the floor, something you and I know wouldn’t want to deal with.

Best Bucket Toilets

If you are looking to buy an already made toilet either for camping or for residential use, there are 2 models that I would recommend. These are:

1. Reliance Products Luggable Loo



Reliance Products luggable loo is the best and most inexpensive bucket toilet in the market. It is gray in color, comes with a metallic handle and a snap lid toilet seat.

Its maximum weight capacity is 200 pounds and comes with a 5-year guarantee. You just need to show proof of purchase.

2. Camco Portable Bucket Toilet



The Camco portable camping toilet is also another fantastic bucket toilet. It works just like the Reliance luggable loo but is a little pricier.

It is bright blue in color and probably that is why I ranked it in second position. I find blue too blight for a bucket toilet and blue is primarily used for portable water containers. Its maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds

Best Bucket Toilet Seat

If you already have a 5-gallon bucket, you can then choose to buy a seat only and not the whole toilet. You can however only buy a bucket toilet seat not any other toilet seat. Regular toilet seats cannot fit in a bucket toilets. Even round toilet seats.

Surprisingly enough, most bucket toilet seats costs as much or even more than bucket toilets themselves. I honestly don’t understand the logic behind it. If you don’t feel like the seat alone is worth it you can go ahead and buy a complete toilet.

Another problem with bucket toilet seats is that they don’t always snap on the bucket rim. Some don’t align well with bucket and hence keep falling off. The advantage of buying complete bucket toilets is that they are tested and the seat fits perfectly and snaps on the bucket rim.

A decent bucket toilet seat is the Bodshell Portable bucket toilet seat which you can buy on Amazon. It is a little pricier than the others but it does the job.

Bucket Toilets for Residential Use

A bucket toilet is something I recommend people to have in their homes as an emergency toilet. Just take a moment to think what you would do if all of a sudden your home pipes run dry and all you have are flush toilets!

Or better still if you only have one bathroom which you need to remodel. What would do during such a time? This is where a bucket toilet comes in handy.

Bucket toilets are also a good a good option for people who live in tiny/remote houses without access to running water and/or sewer lines. They are very economic and eco-friendly as they do not need water to function.

You can either buy a ready-made bucket toilet or you can make your own. I personally prefer an already made one since I can return it if it doesn’t work as I had intended and they are also very cheap.

If you already have a 5-gallon bucket you can go ahead and buy a seat only instead of the whole toilet. I have seen some people who wrap a pool noodle around the rim of the bucket and use it as a seat instead.

I however prefer an actual seat than a pool noodle. It is easier to clean a seat than a pool noodle and in case the pool noodle comes into contact with urine you don’t want to imagine the smell. A snap bucket toilet seat also have a lid to keep the mess covered at all times.

Residential Bucket Toilet Design

The main concern most people have with bucket toilets is the fear of bad odors. I can however confirm to you that a well-designed bucket toilet system should never smell.

There are several thing to do to make sure that your bucket toilet does not smell. These are:

1. Use 2 buckets

You should always have 2 buckets if you want to eliminate smells from your bucket toilet system. One bucket is for the number 1 and the other one is for the number 2.

A mixture of urine and feces gives such an awful stench and you should therefore try and separate them as much as possible. Urine should be emptied on a daily basis while feces will be left longer to decompose.

The best thing with urine is that it is sterile and you can dump it in your garden as soon as you relieve yourself. It is a fantastic fertilizer due to its high concentration of nitrogen and will not affect the environment in any way, unless you have a health condition.Diluting the urine prior to pouring it in the garden is advised

Feces on the other hand contains millions of microorganisms (good and bad) and shouldn’t be dumped raw. Composting it before dumping is therefore necessary.

2. Use a Carbon-based Medium

You should cover your waste with a carbon-based medium every time you use a bucket toilet. The medium is effective in odor prevention and also speeds up decomposition. Some of the best mediums to use are:

  • Peat moss
  • Saw dust
  • Wood chip

Apart from preventing odor, these materials cover the waste so that it is not as disgusting to look at. I personally like to use wood chip or saw dust over other substances which actually include top soil and dried grass.

Peat moss is great but it is just more expensive than saw dust or wood chip. I especially like the saw dust smell more so if it is from cedar.

3. Use a Fan

A fan is a fantastic way of preventing odors. Even high-end composting toilets have an integrated fan system. This is also the reason why residential flush toilets are vented.

A fan does not need to be on 24/7. You can have it only for the duration you are doing the job. There is that smell which comes during that time, and just before you cover your waste with saw dust and that is when you should have a fan on.

It is also helpful to ensure sure that the room where you have the bucket toilet is well ventilated. Air should be able to flow in and out naturally.

A trick that may prove worthwhile is to leave the bucket outside in area with natural flow of air probably overnight. This should however be within your compound as other people might find it gross.

Another advantage of having a fan although I discovered it by accident is privacy. The humming of a fan prevents people outside the bathroom from hearing you push out the logs which for me is something I always dread.

Bucket Toilet Disposal


Since decomposition takes quite a long time, you should have a barrel where you empty the contents of your bucket once it is full. The barrel should have a lid which you only empty when dumping waste from the bucket to contain any smell and keep off flies

Since the waste from the bucket will further go decomposition in the barrel, you should not use a plastic bag with the bucket toilet. Just use the bucket as it is.

Plastics are non-biodegradable and they are not something you want to bury in your garden. They would also slow down the decomposition process not forgetting how difficult it would be to empty the barrel.

To avoid waste sticking at the bottom of the bucket, always pour a good amount of saw dust (about an inch or two) before getting down to business. You should also clean the bucket every time after dumping waste in the barrel.

It is important to make sure that only biodegradable waste go inside the bucket. Do not therefore substitute toilet paper with wet wipes. Baby diapers, sanitary pads, condoms and other such products should be disposed off separately.

Since by the time you are emptying the waste into the barrel there is still some moisture, it helps to have holes at the bottom of the barrel. Use a 3/16 inch bit to drill the holes or even a hot nail.

You will then need to bury the barrel up to the ¼ quarter mark to help the leachate safely pass to the ground. Use a cover that allows natural air circulation in the barrel but also prevents rain wait from entering.

Once the barrel is full it takes about 9 months for complete decomposition and for all pathogens to die off. You should therefore have several of these barrels to alternate.

A bucket toilet is a very simple but sustainable alternative to flush toilets. It saves the water bills and is also eco-friendly.


  1. Can I poop in a bucket toilet?

Yes. It is hardly a toilet if you can’t poop in it. You should however empty it as often as possible to avoid odors especially if you are using it for both the number 1 and the number 2. Kitty litter, saw dust or peat most will help to prevent odors.

2. How much cat litter should I put in a bucket toilet?

Just enough to prevent the smell and cover the waste completely. You do not want to look at your mess the next time you use the toilet. About half a cup should suffice.

3. How do you attach a 5-gallon bucket to a toilet seat?

First, make sure that the toilet seat is designed for a bucket toilet and not a flush toilet. Put the plastic bag inside the bucket and fold its edges around the rim of the bucket. Attach the snap bucket seat the same way you would attach a bucket lid.

4. How do you prevent a bucket toilet from smelling?

Use a carbon-based medium like peat moss/saw dust/kitty litter every time you use the toilet. Keep the lid down at all times when the toilet is not in use. Have an extractor fan if possible.

5. Where should you empty a bucket toilet?

Most camping sites have designated waste disposal areas. This is where you should empty your bucket toilet. If you are using a bucket toilet at home, dump the waste into a big barrel for decomposition and afterwards in your garden.