row of porta potties in downtown Pittsburgh

Porta johns. Porta potties. The portable toilet. No matter what you call them, these standalone restrooms are always there for us when we need them most. But where exactly does all of that waste go? And how do portable toilets actually work? We’re here to give you the explanation you’ve been waiting for.

The process goes as follows.

  1. Porta johns are delivered to their resting site by a vendor like Mr. John. Common places include construction sites, festivals, outdoor weddings, etc. The number of people using the restroom determines how many porta johns, and there are many styles to choose from depending on your needs.

  2. The porta john is thoroughly stocked with hygiene products. All standard units come equipped with hand sanitizer and toilet paper. More luxury models can include hand soap, hands-free pumping flushes, and a fresh water sink. One of the most important indicators of a clean porta john is the blue liquid that lies beneath the toilet itself. This liquid is comprised of powerful deodorizers and disinfectants that help combat smells.

  3. The porta john is used by guests or site workers for up to a week, then it’s time to be emptied. Sanitation employees visit the porta john when it’s time to clean and insert a small, vacuum-like hose into the toilet. The hose is connected to a large sanitation truck in which the liquid and wasted is pumped into. Once everything’s out, the truck then drops the liquid off at the nearest waste water treatment facility.

  4. The porta john is cleaned throughout. After pumping out the liquid, fresh blue additive is added to the toilet water. Then, the interior of the porta john is scrubbed clean. This includes cleaning and disinfecting the walls, the floors, and common points of contact such as the toilet paper dispenser, toilet seat and urinal.

  5. Supplies are restocked. It’s extremely important to keep porta johns well stock with hygiene products. The weekly cleaning includes a restock of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, soap and fresh sink water if applicable.

Be on the lookout for a cleaning log whenever you use a porta john. This will tell you exactly when it was cleaned and serviced last. At the end of your rental, your vendor of choice like Mr. John will empty the porta john again and do a thorough cleaning before safely transporting it back to our facilities.

If you have more questions about porta johns work, we’d be happy to answer them. Get in touch.