MUNDANE MYSTERIES: How Are Port-o-Potties Cleaned?

I took my daughter to Hersheypark last night for their “Dark Nights” Halloween event, when, out of the blue, she pointed at some port-o-potties & asked: “How do they clean those things?” As unexpected as the question was, it was totally valid. How DO they clean those things? I mean, disinfecting port-o-johns can’t be as simple as just wiping down the surfaces with antibacterial spray & dousing the hole with a bunch of bleach, right? So, how is it done?

To keep port-o-potties clean (or as clean as possible), sanitation workers have to use special equipment. Because, unlike the toilets in most of our homes, port-o-potties aren’t attached to a sewage system. Instead, waste goes into a large storage container beneath the seat. And that’s where all the waste stays until the holding tank can be attended to.

To clean a port-o-potty, that holding tank has to be emptied, hopefully well before it has a chance to overflow. And to do that, sanitation workers use a vacuum hose that’s connected to a large vacuum truck, which sucks out all the waste & moves it into a different storage tank that’s on the vacuum truck, itself. Then, once that’s done, the truck takes all the waste collected to a special facility to be treated.

But that’s not the end of the process (thankfully). There are also a few other elements that have to be added to a freshly emptied port-o-potty before it can once again be considered ready for public use. Once the tank’s been emptied, sanitation workers fill it with clean water & a blue chemical solution to dampen odors & suppress bacteria while the unit is in use.

And, while the cleaning of the port-o-potty tank might seem like it would be the hardest part of the process, it’s actually the sanitizing of the rest of the unit that ultimately ends up being even tougher & messier. Because workers also have to scrub down the urinal, the floor, the walls, and, of course, the toilet seat. And if you’ve ever used a port-o-potty at a live event with lots of people, then you probably have a good (and frightening) idea of just how disgusting that job must be.

So, we should all salute the real heroes out there: the sanitation workers who keep all the port-o-potties clean enough for us to use so that we can enjoy our concerts & festivals.

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