What Is A Vault Toilet? And How Does It Work?

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Last Updated on January 2, 2023 by acechapman

A vault toilet is the most commonly used waterless toilet that you will have come across in public places. Vault toilets have a number of advantages, including reduced water consumption and a low environmental impact. They use less energy than flushing toilets. Continue reading to learn what is a vault toilet all about.

This type of toilet can be extremely convenient if constructed correctly. They can be odorless and easy to set up. It can be a challenge to manage vault waste.

Here are some details about what they are, how they function, and the pros and cons.

What Is A Vault Toilet?

A vault toilet is a type of toilet that is used in outdoor locations where there is no access to a traditional plumbing system. Vault toilets are often used in parks, campgrounds, and other outdoor recreational areas, as well as in construction sites and other temporary locations.

A vault toilet consists of a toilet bowl that is connected to a sealed underground container, or “vault,” that stores the waste. The vault is typically made of concrete or plastic and is designed to be self-contained and watertight.

To use a vault toilet, the user lifts the seat and flushes the toilet by pouring water from a container or by pressing a button that releases a predetermined amount of water into the bowl. The water flushes the waste into the vault, where it is contained until it can be removed and disposed of properly.

what is a vault toilet

How Does A Vault Toilet Work?

A vault toilet usually has two parts. The vault is dug into the ground, and the booth part is above it. These toilets can be quickly set up for events and other activities. A vault can hold anywhere from 1,000 to 13,000 gallons.

The ground must be dug in order to support the vault’s size and shape when building a vault toilet. To give stability, the vault is then buried in the ground.

A sloped toilet will allow for the best waste flow. A structure is attached to the slab during construction to connect to the vent pipe. On top of the slab is built the top (booth).

There are a few factors that can help control odors from the toilet. The wind must also be able to blow away the stench. Otherwise, it will cloud the toilets or build up in nearby buildings. The wind, which creates pressure will force out the stench.

There are other methods to vent vault toilets:

  • To burn the odors, place a torch at the vent.
  • Use long underground pipes to move waste far from the toilet. This is mainly used for vault toilets, which are permanent in nature.
  • With the addition of organic filler, the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide stench can transform into odorless nitrogen gas.
  • To remove the unpleasant odors from the toilet fumes, activated carbon can be added to the waste.

The heat vent on the roof of the vault toilet should be heated to reduce the smell of sulfur in the toilet.

The foul odor will be quickly expelled from the vent’s top if it is heated. Hot air is lighter than cold, so it quickly rises up and away from people.

Vault Toilets Advantages And Disadvantages


A vault toilet has many benefits:

Conserve water

They do not require running water, making them very cost-effective. This is why they are preferred over flushing toilets in many places.

Privacy at a high level

Only one person can use vault toilets at a time, as they are single units. They offer privacy and security to their users. People also use them to change clothes or do other activities that they cannot perform in public.


You can find a vault toilet anywhere, whether you’re at a park or an event. This makes it easy to find a toilet near your workplace or event.


You can add many other features to vault toilets that aren’t available to regular toilets. To improve the use of these toilets, you can add lights or sanitizers.

Easy to maintain and cost-effective

Vault toilets are easy to construct and require very little skill and materials. They don’t require water…no water bills!

You will need to clean it on a regular basis and drain the trash regularly.

Highly portable

You can reuse the plastic vault toilets multiple times by washing them and then moving them to other locations. They are easily portable at events or in public places.


Vault toilets have downsides as well:

Requires Heat To Properly Work

The air-cleaning process won’t work if there isn’t enough heat at the top of the vent. This can be caused either by rain, clouds, crowds, or shade from trees and buildings.

Ventilation systems could fail

It is not common for vault toilet ventilation systems to fail. The bad smell will fill the area around the toilet.

You need to have a consistent cleaning schedule

Vault toilets do not require water to flush, so you need to clean them regularly. It can be difficult because most parks don’t have enough water to flush these toilets. This water is still less than what was used to flush the toilet.

It is hard to manage waste

Vault toilets are small and can make it difficult to manage waste, especially in areas with large numbers of people. They can also become clogged, making it difficult to unclog them without removing them. This can lead to significant financial loss.

Sometimes, the riser may expose waste and make them very unsightly.

Not all types of vaults are movable

Vault toilets are loved for their portability but the plastic ones are the most portable because they can be cleaned up easily and moved to another place. Other types are not as mobile.

These are some things to consider when you go camping and need to use a vault bathroom.

Insects may be found in the toilet.

Some insects, including spiders, bees, as well as flies frequent the vault toilets. This is a rare occurrence and you might only find a few flies. Flies and other insects can be found around these toilets if you maintain a high level of hygiene.

Never throw trash in the vault toilet

You can only use vault toilets for excrement. People can block the toilet by dumping solid objects, such as tampons, as well as diapers into the vault. It may be necessary to remove the toilet from the vault. It can even make the toilet inaccessible, causing you and others to have to use another toilet.

Make sure you keep your belongings safe

If you don’t have a car or a friend who can take care of your belongings while you are in the vault toilet, take your backpack with you. Otherwise, you might lose it if you don’t. You should lock your car before you go to the vault.

You have to use your own toilet paper

Toilet paper is available in vault toilets at most events and camps. Toilet paper depletes quickly due to the large number of people who use these toilets. You may feel embarrassed if you don’t have enough toilet paper. You can carry it into the vault toilet.

Keep a handy hand sanitizer

Some vault toilets have handwashing and sanitization stations, while others may not be available. You should instead carry a hand sanitizer that you can use to clean your hands after you have used the toilet.

what is a vault toilet

Vault Toilets Vs Pit Toilets

Pit toilets and vault toilets have the same working principle, and they are often mistaken for one another. Because they don’t require water to flush, they are often found in remote areas and campgrounds.

Pit latrines or pit toilets are made by digging a trench under the ground. The user must only squat on it to use it. Modern pit latrines have roofs while others have benches with holes.

Pit latrines collect the waste directly under the soil, unlike vault toilets which store it in containers or tanks. They are simple to use, easy to maintain, and inexpensive to build. They aren’t as clean as vault toilets. Although large pits rarely fill up, the odor from below makes them unsafe to use.

Flies can also be attracted to the pit by the accumulation of waste and lack of a proper ventilation system. This makes it more susceptible to getting sick. Vault toilets can be used as modern outhouses or for other purposes. They are more comfortable than pit toilets. A vault toilet is the best choice if you have to choose.

Vault Toilet Vs Porta Potty

Vault toilets don’t have flush toilets. Porta potties, however, are flush toilets because they have flushes that are similar to the American standard. Porta potties also have smaller vaults than vault toilets and therefore require more frequent emptying.

How to Care for Vault Toilets

Like all other types of toilets, vault toilets can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other disease-causing organisms. It can be a breeding ground for germ-causing microbes if it isn’t cleaned and emptied regularly.

Here are some tips for caring for vault toilets:

Use water sparingly.

Toilet paper, human waste, and a small amount of water are all needed to use a vault toilet properly. Avoid using large amounts of water to flush the toilet, as this can unnecessarily fill the vault and increase the frequency of cleanings.

Dispose of waste properly.

Only human waste and toilet paper should be placed in a vault toilet. Do not dispose of other materials, such as wipes, feminine hygiene products, or trash, in the toilet, as they can clog the system and make it difficult to clean the vault.

Report any problems.

If you notice a problem with a vault toilet, such as a clog, a leak, or a lack of supplies, report it to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. This will help to ensure that the toilet is repaired and maintained properly.

Keep the area clean.

Keep the area around the vault toilet clean and free of litter. Dispose of trash in the designated receptacles, and do not leave any personal items behind.

Respect the toilet.

Treat the vault toilet with respect and use it for its intended purpose. Do not abuse the toilet or engage in activities that could damage the toilet or the surrounding area.

By following these simple tips, you can help to keep vault toilets clean and well-maintained for the benefit of all users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Vault Toilets able to flush?

Vault toilets are able to flush, but the flushing mechanism is different from that of a traditional toilet. A traditional toilet uses a flush valve and a supply of water from the plumbing system to flush the waste and water from the bowl into the sewer or septic system.

In contrast, a vault toilet uses a smaller amount of water to flush the waste into an underground container, or “vault,” that stores the waste. The vault is typically made of concrete or plastic and is designed to be self-contained and watertight.

What does it smell like?

Although vault toilets don’t smell very bad when they are well-ventilated, sometimes the wind can be needed to remove the odor.

Are vault toilets safe?

Vault toilets are generally safe to use, as long as they are properly maintained and used according to the instructions. Vault toilets are designed to be self-contained and watertight, and they are typically made of durable materials such as concrete or plastic.

However, it is important to follow proper hygiene practices when using a vault toilet, as with any toilet. This includes washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and avoiding contact with surfaces that may be contaminated with feces or other potentially harmful substances.


Vault toilets can be mistaken for older outhouses. However, vault toilets are more sanitary than the latter. Vault toilets can be an economically beneficial option for those looking for waterless toilets. Vault toilets can be used safely because they comply with ADA regulations.

Overall, vault toilets are a practical and cost-effective solution for outdoor locations where access to a traditional plumbing system is not available. They are easy to install and maintain, and they do not require a connection to a water or sewage system.

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