We Tried Making A Portable Potty With A Pool Noodle And Are Flush With Possibilities

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Being stuck in a storm shelter may already sound like a nightmare scenario, but it can get much worse if you don't have a good bathroom plan in place. All of those cans of spam and stale crackers can quickly leave you and your family in a stinky situation. When the going gets tough, a simple and affordable pool noodle hack can make the "going" much easier. All you'll need in your severe weather kit is a large bucket, a standard pool noodle, and some trash bags! Cut the pool noodle to fit around the rim of your bucket and insert the plastic trash bag to comfortably take care of business.

We love the idea that this hack could also work for much more than storm shelter survival. You could also bring your portable potty along when you go to the beach, on a camping trip, or on a long road trip. Having an emergency toilet nearby is also a good idea for potty-training children or adults with incontinence issues. Of course, before we could recommend that you try this idea for yourself, we decided to put the pool noodle potty hack to the test. Here's how we built our own portable potty and what we learned along the way.

Picking up our potty supplies

Materials for the pool noodle potty are affordable and accessible — you probably already have these items lying around your home! For the sake of this project, we purchased a 5-gallon multipurpose bucket and a pink pool noodle from Lowe's. We already had some tall kitchen trash bags at home, but you could purchase a 50-pack of Up and Up trash bags from Target. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer are optional for the hack but highly recommended if you plan to actually use the bucket. 

To create the portable potty, you'll also need a tool to cut through your noodle. We used a pocket knife, but you could also use a small bread knife, box cutter, or even scissors. This bucket potty can be used almost anywhere and is relatively portable, especially if you store the noodle, trash bags, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper inside the bucket. We decided to test our potty in a garage with concrete flooring to simulate a storm shelter. Then we moved outdoors to simulate a camping trip to test the bucket's stability on dirt. 

Constructing the pool noodle potty

First, we measured the length of the pool noodle needed by bending it around the bucket rim. The measurement doesn't need to be exact, but we ended up cutting a section of noodle about 31 inches long. Our bucket circumference was 36 inches, so this left about a 5-inch gap on one side of the rim. Having this gap isn't necessary, but it does make it much easier to reach underneath yourself to wipe without touching the seat. Then, we used the pocket knife to slice the pool noodle along one side, wrapping the sliced edge around the rim of the bucket. Finally, we inserted the tall kitchen trash bag. While some models put the plastic bag under the pool noodle seat, placing the bag over it will keep the seat from getting nasty and make it much easier to change the bag.

For the sake of testing, we didn't actually use the portable toilet (we elected to spare you that image). Instead, we sat down on the bucket to test its comfort, usability, and stability. When sitting, we leaned from side to side to see if the potty would tip over on the concrete or the forest floor. We also added about 2 cups of water and gave the bucket a slight kick to see if the liquid would spill or splash excessively. Finally, we practiced carrying the bucket and changing out the plastic bag to see how convenient the process might be.  

This hack cleans up nicely!

We learned that this pool noodle hack can be an excellent idea for survival situations! The pool noodle made the rim of the bucket much more comfortable to sit on and kept the plastic bag from slipping during use. The bucket was surprisingly stable and comfortable on both concrete and forest floor, and liquid splashes were minimal when carried or kicked. Changing out the trash bags was easy, but keep in mind that you'll need to find a way to dispose of the waste — most cities would prefer that you don't throw human waste in the garbage, at least not without treating it first.

One potentially negative aspect is that the bucket is somewhat smaller and lower to the ground than a regular toilet. The potty works well for children and most adults but may be uncomfortable for taller adults, seniors, or people with disabilities. A pre-built version like the Magellan camp toilet from Academy may offer more stability for these individuals. With that being said, however, the pool noodle potty was better than sitting on the bare bucket or trying to squat out in the open. If you plan to try this hack, be sure to bring the bucket lid and extra trash bags. The lid won't seal over the pool noodle seat, but you can set it on top to hide the potty contents between uses. If you're squeamish, you could also choose to change the trash bag after every use.