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What is a Porta Potty?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A porta potty can refer to several different types of toilets or portable bathrooms. Often in the US, porta potty refers to small toilets that can be used by toddlers while they are being potty trained. At the same time, porta potty may refer to portable bathrooms you’re likely to find at outdoor events, construction sites, and anywhere else where it would be inconvenient or impractical to build a bathroom.

The porta potty that is really a portable bathroom is not always a wonderful place to be. Usually, instead of having flushing ability, the bottom of the toilet bowl is coated with chemicals that slowly degrade human waste. Many also find this type of bathroom short on cleanliness because most do not have a sink. Waterless handwash, available in dispensers, has been a boon to the portable toilet industry, since people can at least clean their hands after using the bathroom.

For children, the porta potty is much smaller, and generally placed in the bathroom next to the regular toilet. These are thought much easier to use for young children because it can be uncomfortable to sit on a regular toilet if your legs do not reach the ground. Plus, the standard toilet opening may be too large and children may fear falling into the toilet. Porta potties for children come in a variety of different makes and designs, some inflatable, others merely made of molded plastic. They’re often made in bright colors in the hopes that children will find them attractive and wish to use them, hastening training.

The disadvantage of the porta potty, as any adult who has potty trained a child can tell you, is that you don’t have a flush feature. You do have to dump the contents of the potty into the regular toilet, and the potties require frequent cleaning to keep them sanitary. An alternative that some children prefer is an attachment to the toilet seat that makes the opening of the toilet smaller. These are often cushioned so that the seat is more comfortable. Some parents prefer to avoid porta potties altogether and just help children learn to use the toilet with one of these smaller seats.

Occasionally, a portable toilet for an adult may also be called a porta potty. In this sense, the term is somewhat derogatory, since porta potty usually evokes the potty training of children, and most adults don’t want to be thought of as childlike merely because they can’t use or can’t get to a standard toilet. It’s better to refer to these portable toilets for adults as chair toilets, or merely portable toilets, so as not to offend those who cannot take advantage of the privacy of a bathroom.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a About Mechanics contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By tshell — On Mar 12, 2009

Most portolet rentals are constructed of injected molded plastic, 4' X 4' and can service around 80-100 uses.

By bdtile21 — On Oct 19, 2007

What is the blue stuff in the bottom of the Porta Pottie?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a About Mechanics contributor, Tricia...
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