Vault Toilet: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Beginner Info, Toilet

Vault Toilet
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In this post, I’ll be responding to queries related to VAULT TOILETS in order to help you make an informed decision.

In case, your question isn’t answered here, please feel free to contact’s core team via the contact form, and they will be more than happy to assist you as best as possible.

So, without any further ado, let’s begin…

What Is A Vault Toilet?

As the name suggests, a vault toilet is a permanent waterless bathroom that sits above a vault or even a “pit” that is serviced by none other than a waste management company.

The thing that I really like about vault restrooms is that they don’t require plumbing or electricity.

All they need is vehicle access to service them.

Many of our readers may not be aware of the fact that a vault toilet is waterless and so they are non-flush and store waste in a large airtight underground container which is popularly known as the vault.

Moreover, the waste from a vault is transported to the management facility with the help of a vacuum-pumping truck pump.

Most importantly, vault toilets could be a viable option for the regions where water isn’t readily available such as parks and campgrounds.

Since they are built on campgrounds so are also referred to as camping toilets.

So, if someone asks you about a camping toilet it simply means he is referring to a vault toilet.

If you’re looking for a waterless toilet then you can consider Pit toilets, composting toilets, port-a-potties, and bag toilets as they are good alternatives to a vault toilet.

Not only do they feature unisex toilets but also are typically made as single or double vault systems.

Furthermore, they can be made up of wooden frames, reinforced concrete, plastic, or cross-linked polyethylene as the probability of these materials getting cracked is quite less which drastically reduces the risk of pollution, interesting, isn’t it?

If you’re looking for a portable vault then a plastic vault will do the trick for you.

However, a plastic vault is relatively less durable and long-lasting.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a robustly constructed and durable vault, then concrete & cross-linked polyethylene will serve the purpose for sure.

One of the many advantages of a vault toilet is that it doesn’t require plumbing which simply means that you don’t have to spend extra dollars on plumbing.

They are viable options for rural areas where there is a scarcity of water.

Since a vault toilet doesn’t consume any energy so you can consider it an environment-friendly product.

But, at the same time, you must understand that there will be a need for a vacuum truck in order to remove the waste.

 Most public vault toilets meet ADA regulations for toilets and user comfort. They’re generally odorless when properly maintained although that’s not always the case. The U.S. Forest Service nick-named vault toilets “sweet-smelling toilets” because of their overall lack of smell. 

How Does A Vault Toilet Work?

As mentioned earlier, a vault toilet doesn’t have any plumbing or a water supply.

In general, a vault toilet is attached to a holding vault that is filled with waste and so flushing isn’t needed for such a toilet.

The tank or container that is attached to a vault toilet is capable of holding up to ten thousand gallons of waste.

Once your storage tank gets filled, you need to bring a vacuum truck in order to plumb the waste out.

So, if you’re planning to buy a vault toilet then make sure you’ve got access to the vehicle.

In order to keep the vault stable, it is buried underground with a concrete slab poured on top to keep it stable and prevent any last-minute debacle.

Furthermore, the vault is positioned along a slope so that waste can flow easily without any hassle.

It consists of a structure that connects to a vent pipe and is thus built on top of the concrete slabs.

The structure is simply the bathroom area.

In fact, the waste that is held inside the vault remains there until it is pumped out by a waste management company.

In order to prevent pumping of your vault on a regular basis, you must ensure a properly sized vault toilet is installed.

We at recommends pumping a vault toilet once a week.

In order to keep your vault toilet odorless, you need to ensure proper ventilation so that air can carry away the smell.

However, in the absence of wind, the smell can build up.

Wind creates pressure and increases the air pressure which as a result forces the air to flow out, interesting, isn’t it?

This releases the vault of odor.

Similarly, the sun also plays a crucial role in helping control odors.

It goes without saying that when the vent is heated, the smell is forced out of the pipe and up so you won’t smell it.

On the other hand, in the absence of sunlight, stagnant air stays inside the pipe and may create a foul odor.

Uses Of A Vault Toilet

A vault toilet has multiple uses and is also reasonably priced which makes it a value-for-money product.

We’ve been recommending vault toilets to our clientele specifically to those who stay in an area where there is a scarcity of water.

Needless to say, building a vault toilet has multiple benefits, the biggest being the location for sure.

I hope most of you’ll agree with the fact that there aren’t ample amount of toilets in out of ways rural areas such as campgrounds so these toilets can be highly beneficial for such regions as it is flush-free and the waste needs to be pumped out once a week making it easy to maintain.

Of course, a vault toilet is a functioning toilet in the middle of nowhere with 4 walls, a roof, and a locking door and is definitely considered a better option than going into woods.

Enough of bragging about the benefits of a vault toilet.

A vault toilet is the only way to build a permanent bathroom facility in most out-of-the-way rural areas.

When building a vault toilet, you need to ensure that the access of vehicles is possible at the location else it wouldn’t be possible to pump out the waste from the vault.

How Do Vault Toilets Get Emptied?

Tanks for vault toilets can range from 750 to 13,000+ gallons.

You need to wait till the time a vault toilet reaches its capacity.

Once it has reached the upper limit, you need to call a large tanker truck for emptying it.

Make sure, your vault toilet is accessible to a tanker truck else you’ll not be able to empty it.

The operator will connect to the toilet’s tank and will vacuum the vault content into the truck tanker.

Later, the tanker will dispose of the waste in a safe and secure place.

Depending upon the frequency of use, a vault toilet needs to be cleaned.

In general, once in 2 weeks, you’ll have to dispose of the waste from your vault toilet.

Pros & Cons | Vault Toilet

Without wasting any time, let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of a vault toilet so that you can make an informed decision.

In case of any doubt or query, feel free to reach out to us and our core team will be more than happy to assist you.

Does it make sense?


Do let us know in the comment section in case, you think we’ve missed any important pros of a vault toilet.

  • A vault toilet can be a huge plus point especially when you’re on a rural campsite as it is built inside of a bathroom with a door.
  • In simple words, a vault toilet gives you much-needed privacy in the rural campsite.
  • Since they don’t need plumbing so maintenance is quick, easy, and hassle-free.
  • A vault toilet doesn’t need plumbing or a water supply so it is relatively affordable.
  • It goes without saying that a vault toilet enhances the convenience of multifold in a rural campsite by providing you with a secure place for your bathroom activities.
  • Mostly, vault toilets are lightweight and portable so you can easily move them from one place to another as per your requirements.
  • Some vault toilets come with special features including battery-powered lights which make usability easier in dim light or at night. Also, many vault toilets come with an optional dispenser so that the toilet can be disinfectant after use.
  • You don’t need water to flush a vault toilet so your water bills will automatically come down.
  • A vault toilet is designed in such a way that it shouldn’t smell. However, in the absence of proper ventilation, you can expect some foul smell.


Like any other product, a vault toilet also has some drawbacks or loopholes that we’re discussing now.

  • In order for the vent pipe to carry out odor, a vault toilet requires heat from sunlight so you may expect it to smell during cloudy days and winter when it doesn’t receive an adequate amount of heat from the sunlight.
  • The presence of unwanted garbage can block a vault toilet so you should refrain from anything into your vault toilet that doesn’t belong there.
  • If your vault ventilation system isn’t working properly then in that case, your bathroom may start to smell.
  • Only plastic vault toilets are designed to move from one place to another. They are compact and lightweight as well.
  • As we all know that a vault toilet is waterless so it goes without saying that you need to expedite the cleaning process on a regular basis to keep it clean and hygienic.

Best Ways To Reduce A Vault Toilet Odors

In layman’s terms, wind and heat from sunlight are the two main ways to effectively reduce odor from your vault toilet.

They work in sync to move odors up the wipe and finally, away from your bathroom.

You might be wondering what if wind and sunlight aren’t present on a cloudy day.

The good news is, in the absence of wind and sunlight, you can still reduce the foul odor, interesting, isn’t it?

Let’s have a quick look at the steps that you need to follow in order to reduce odor from your vault toilet.

  • First and foremost, you need to add organic filler to your vault which converts Hydrogen Sulfide and Ammonia to odorless nitrogen gas.
  • You need to place a burning flame around the vent in order to deal effectively with the smell as soon as it leaves the vent.
  • For deodorizing the gas, activated carbon is a viable option and you should try it.
  • For transporting odor far away from the toilet, you need to use a long underground pipe.
  • Moreover, for moving odors away from your bathroom, you can also use solar power, a generator, or even fuel to power fans whatever best suits you.

Vault Toilet Cleaning

Trust me, cleaning a vault toilet is a hassle-free task and can be easily expedited in an epigrammatic span of time with ease.

It’s almost similar to cleaning any other public or private restroom.

In simple words, the cleaning process includes disinfecting surfaces and handles with spray or wipes, sweeping the floors, and most importantly, Lysol the air.

Care & Maintenance | Vault Toilet

Since a vault toilet doesn’t use water so it needs to be cleaned on a regular basis as well as maintained properly.

By doing so, you’ll also be able to increase the life of a vault toilet multifold.

Needless to say, a vault toilet is prone to bacteria and other germs that can cause allergic reactions on your skin so you must ensure that your vault is pumped at least once in 2 weeks.

  • A vault toilet should be pumped once a week for the best results.
  • The bathroom area should be disinfected when your vault toilet is in use.

The area in the vicinity of your vault toilet needs to be maintained properly as well including the vault toilet building itself which includes 4 walls and a roof-like small cabin.

Make sure the roof is in good shape and free from leakage.

Furthermore, the concrete slabs need to be checked for any leakage or cracks.

If you find any crack on the slab then you need to fix it as soon as possible by filling it and sealing the concrete at the earliest.

If left unfilled, the crack can spread down to your vault which will increase the repair cost multifold.

The walls of your vault toilet need to be checked for rot or weather damage, especially around doors, windows, and the base of the structure.

Most importantly, if your bathroom consists of wood then you need to check for rot there in order to prevent any last-minute debacle.

As mentioned earlier also, your vault toilet site needs to have an access to the vehicle so that it can be easily pumped on a weekly basis. For sure, it’s a non-negotiable parameter and needs to be given top priority.

Needless to say, a vacuum truck needs to access the site for pumping out the waste.

Door locks and knobs also need to be checked on a timely basis as they are the ones that will get damaged first.

Tips For Using A Vault Toilet

A vault toilet is a regular one like you find in urban areas.

In fact, it is a toilet present in areas that are far away from most civilizations so you need to be careful while using it as the toilet may lack basic amenities and proper cleaning.

Let’s have a quick look at the tips that you may follow when it comes to using a vault toilet.

  • First and foremost, you need to check for insects when you’re opening the door of a vault toilet. You can’t deny the possibility of the existence of bees, spiders, flies, and other insects.
  • It is highly recommended that one should bring his own toilet paper. It’s always good to be safe than sorry.
  • It is important for you to understand that a vault toilet is specifically designed only for waste and toilet paper so you should refrain from throwing anything else into the toilet as you may clog it up. In simple words, never think of a vault toilet as a big trash can.
  • As mentioned earlier, a vault toilet doesn’t have either a sink or a water supply so it is highly recommended that you should bring your own hand sanitizer so that you can wash your hand and disinfect it once you’re done.
  • It isn’t a good idea to bring your belongings into your vault toilet as the floor may not be as clean as you may expect it to be. Keeping your belongings outside in a safer place can do the trick for you.

What Are The Mistakes People Make When Using A Vault Toilet?

In general, people make 5 common mistakes when using a vault toilet.

Make sure, you don’t make anyone of them in order to prevent any last-minute misadventure.

Not Bringing Their Own Sanitizer & Toilet Paper

People often do the mistake of not bringing their own sanitizer and toilet paper.

Needless to say, expecting a hand sanitizer and toilet paper at a vault toilet is unprecedented.

You’re lucky if you got one.

However, would you be really interested in using the toilet paper present at a vault toilet?

Do let me know in the comment section.

At the same time, you should also understand that a vault toilet doesn’t come with a water supply so you won’t be able to wash your hand.

So, it becomes really important that you bring your own home sanitizer and use it once you exit the toilet facility.

I don’t think you would be interested in carrying any germs or bacteria along with you that you might have picked up during the use of a vault toilet.

You Don’t Close The Lid

If you’re not closing the lid after using a vault toilet then it’s not the correct way of using a vault toilet.

Keeping the top closed when not in use will help you in preventing things from falling into the toilet.

It goes without saying that you must hear countless stories of cell phones, and other valuables falling into vault toilets.

It is really important to close the lid as often as possible to help vent the gasses into the vault toilet tank, interesting, isn’t it?

A vault toilet consists of a unique venting system that is used to reduce the smells inside the toilet space.

Moreover, leaving the lid closed allows these gasses to exit the tank through the vent.

However, leaving the cover open allows the gasses to expand and fill the entire toilet space.

You Use It As a Personal Wastebasket

Trust me, it is one of the biggest mistakes to use your vault toilet as a personal wastebasket as it will do more bad than good to you.

You should avoid putting anything into it.

Make sure only three things go into your vault toilet, that is, toilet paper, human waste, and feminine hygiene products.

To be honest, a trash filed vault is extremely difficult to empty so act logically.

You Forgot to Check for Insects

In order to comfortably use a vault toilet make sure to check for insects.

It will just a couple of minutes to discover a creepy crawly bug or a swarm of bees in and around the vault toilet.

You Don’t Close the Door After You Leave

Last but not least, you need to ensure that the door is properly closed when you’re done using the vault toilet.

By doing so, you’ll be able to prevent insects from entering the vault toilet.


In this section, I would be responding to the queries related to a vault toilet in order to help you make an informed decision.

In case, I’ve not answered your question, please feel free to reach out to us via the contact form of, and our core team will be more than happy to assist you in the best possible way they can.

Does it make sense?

Do Vault Toilets Smell?

It goes without saying that any kind of toilet smell at a certain point in time, and for sure a vault toilet isn’t an exception either.

However, a vault toilet is uniquely designed to get rid of foul smells on its own.

In fact, vault toilets are uniquely designed to be odorless but it isn’t the case always because a lack of proper cleaning and maintenance may lead to some type of odor inside the toilet.

A vault toilet features an 18-diameter pipe that starts at the vault and extends over the top of the roof of the bathroom.

However, for the vent system to work properly, proper flow of wind is needed so that adequate pressure can be created and foul smell can be moved out through the pipe and carrying the stench up and away from the toilet.

Another important thing that is needed is an adequate amount of heat from the sunlight as it will carry odor up and out of the vent.

On the other hand, in the absence of wind and an adequate amount of heat, the stench can cloud around the toilet.

At the same time, if you want to get rid of the smell in an epigrammatic span of time, then using Lysol can be a viable option.

How Deep Is A Vault Toilet?

A vault toilet generally has a 3-foot-deep concrete vault buried beneath the floor.

This is easily accessible from the outside which makes vehicle access a non-negotiable parameter.

In the absence of vehicle access to your vault toilet, you’ll not be able to pump out the vault, and eventually, your vault toilet will become useless.

For keeping the vault intact in place, it is secured to concrete footings.

On average, a vault toilet floor slab is 4 inches.

Moreover, the vault is another 36 inches on average and rests just under the floor.

In fact, the vault may sit on 12 inches-deep footings depending upon its size and design.

However, you must be aware of the fact that not all the vaults require additional footings.

In simple words, the average vault toilet is approximately 40 inches deep which includes the vault and the floor slab.

Furthermore, an 18-inches diameter pipe comes out of the vault and extends up above the bathroom roof to vent out foul odors.

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Vault Toilet?

Frankly speaking, there are two important parameters on which the installation cost depends, that is, size and design.

In layman’s terms, the size and design of a vault toilet can drastically increase or decrease the cost of your vault toilet.

For example, for a basic one-room toilet with an approximately 5000-gallon vault, good quality concrete slab, and vent pipe, the cost of material will fall in the range of $7,000 – $10,000.

Another important cost will be labor charges which can easily double the number, again it depends to a large extent on the location.

Transportation cost is yet another important parameter that you can’t ignore as almost all the vault toilets are built in out-the-way places.

So, you’ll have to transport the materials to the site.

Also, you may be needing excavation as well as a freshwater supply for mixing the concrete.

Long story short, $22,000 – $44,000 is a good price range for an all-in vault toilet.

Nonetheless, you should expect a spike in the price range in case, you’re planning to build a vault toilet really far away from civilization because of increased transportation and other costs.

Vault Toilet Vs. Pit Latrine: Are They The Same?

Though vault toilets and pit latrines have many similar features still they aren’t the same for sure.

Let’s have a quick look at some important similarities and differences so that you can make an informed decision.

To be honest, a vault toilet and a pit latrine share the same basic design and are often confused with one another.

Each one of them can be found at campgrounds as well as in remote residential areas because they don’t require a water supply.

Both are flushes and can be a boon for areas far from civilization.

However, both aren’t the same and come with some significant differences that we’ll be discussing in a while.

Pit latrines are popularly known as pit toilets and it involves digging a trench beneath the ground that collects waste.

In layman’s terms, a pit toilet consists of a deep hole inside the ground similar to a well.

As a user, you need to sit on the top of the hole to use it effectively.

In simple words, a pit toilet collects waste directly into the soil which isn’t the case with a vault toilet.

A vault toilet collects waste in a tank that can be pumped clean.

What makes a pit toilet so popular and effective?

  • A pit toilet is easier to build as it doesn’t require a tank, concrete, or a vent pipe.
  • It requires a little upkeep because you don’t pump a pit toilet out.
  • Compared to a vault toilet, a pit toilet is more economical and cost-effective.

On the downside, a pit toilet isn’t as sanitary as its vault counterpart as it isn’t cleaned or pumped out.

Needless to say, dip pits are hard to fill up but once they are filled you don’t have an option but to fill the top with specks of dirt and dig a new hole.

The waste that is left behind is biodegradable and slowly and gradually, it breaks down into fertilizers.

What I really don’t like about a pit toilet is that the accumulation of waste and the lack of a ventilation system will attract flies and other insects to the pit.

Unfortunately, this makes the user susceptible to a wide range of germs and diseases.

On the other hand, a vault toilet is more sanitary and hygienic and is considered a modern version of a pit toilet.

In simple words, a vault toilet is superior to a pit counterpart in almost all respect.

Given a choice, I’ll always opt for a vault toilet.

Nonetheless, if you’re stuck in an area far from civilization which can’t be accessed by a vehicle then in that case, a pit toilet will do the trick for you.

You can call a pit toilet an old-fashioned outhouse.

For enhancing privacy and keeping your pit toilet dry, you can cover the pit with four walls and a roof at the top.

Vault Toilet Vs. Outhouse: Are They The Same?

A vault toilet and an outhouse aren’t the same for sure.

Let’s have a quick at the features that make each one of them so unique and useful.

The outhouse functions somewhat similarly to a pit toilet as the former doesn’t come with a sunken tank beneath the floor for collecting waste.

An outhouse is a small room with a seat positioned over a deep pit.

Once the pit is filled with waste, it is covered with specks of dirt and the house is moved to a new hole.

In general, outhouses aren’t permanent structures and don’t consist of a vault or a vent.

Since an outhouse doesn’t consist of a wastage tank so you don’t have to pump wastage out of it.

In simple words, an outhouse can be built in a place where vehicle access isn’t possible.

On the other hand, a vault toilet consists of a tank that collects the waste and is pumped out when it is filled.

It’s a permanent structure that doesn’t needs a water supply.

In the presence of heat and proper ventilation, you can expect a vault toilet to be odorless, thanks to its unique design.

Compared to an outhouse, a vault toilet smells better because of the presence of a ventilation pipe.

In an outhouse, foul odor can’t go out rather it goes up and into the bathroom so you can say that an outhouse is an odorless toilet.

Since vault toilets are present in parks and other recreational areas so they are built to ADA standards which isn’t the case with an outhouse.

Why Is It Called A Vault Toilet?

It is called a vault toilet because of the presence of a “vault” in the toilet.

A vault is something similar to a large tank which is used to collect wastage and is then pumped out.

In simple words, vault toilets are odorless and waterless toilets with an underground tank or vault used for collecting waste.

Campgrounds, national parks, and other public recreational areas are the places where you’ll find these vault toilets.

Flush Vault Toilet Vs. Compositing Toilet: Which One Should I Choose?

Frankly speaking, I’m not the right person to dictate to you which of the two toilets you should choose.

However, I’ll try to help you by throwing light on the pros and cons of each of these toilets so that you can make an informed purchase decision.

Advantages of Flush-Vaults

  • They are odorless and will never smell foul.
  • They consist of sinks that allow the visitors to feel clean afterward.
  • The public universally prefers restrooms with flush toilets to any other system.

Disadvantages of Flush-Vaults

  • They require water to be delivered as well as sewage to be hauled away.
  • They consist of sinks and flush toilets that need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • They comprise moving parts that need to be either fixed or replaced over a period of time.

Advantages of Composting Toilets

  • Compost toilets do not require water to be delivered, or sewage to be hauled away.
  • Composting toilets have no moving parts to break down.
  • Since compost toilets have no sinks or flush toilets, the cleaning frequency may be less.

Disadvantages of Composting Toilets

  • Maintenance employees may be exposed to pathogens.
  • Compost toilets are expensive to maintain. Frequent servicing includes:
    • Knocking down the fecal cone as it forms
    • Frequently adding a bulking agent
    • Removing materials that are thrown down the riser
    • Removing excess liquids

It’s A Wrap

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for being with us till the end.

Secondly, I would like to bring to your notice that I along with my core team have put loads and loads of effort into coming up with this idiosyncratic superlative piece of information on the topic, of vault toilets.

And, in case, you liked our effort and want to appreciate us then please do share this post with like-minded people and the ones who are in search of it.

After all, sharing is caring, isn’t it?

Long story short, we’ve tried to the best of our capabilities to respond to almost all the important queries related to the topic, of vault toilets.

Feel free to reach out to us via the contact form, in case, I’ve not answered your question.

That’s all, as of now:):)