waste advice from ZTERS

Ask Angela: How do we winterize portable toilets?

Angela Phillips is a Senior Account Manager III at ZTERS Waste Solutions. She helps customers with some of their most challenging site service issues, and she answers your questions here on our website.

Hi Angela: Is there anything we need to do to winterize portable toilets? We’ve got porta potties on a jobsite, and it’s scheduled to run through the winter. We don’t want to end up with a frozen mess, you know?

Angela: With winter coming, this is a great question. We hear this every year from customers in cold climates. In most cases, your vendor is going to handle any portable toilet winterizing for you. In fact, whether you want it or not, many portable toilets come prepackaged with winterizing chemicals and a winterization fee of $10-20 per billing cycle per toilet. That’s already built in when you rent. But that’s not always the case, so it’s good to know what to do with toilets in winter.

The first part of the answer is it depends on where you’re located. If you’re in the South, or in areas that don’t freeze very often, you probably don’t need to do anything special. One or two days of freezing weather likely won’t cause a problem.

But if you’re in an area where temperatures regularly drop below freezing, your portable toilet vendor will need to come out and winterize porta potties. This is something we help our customers schedule, but you can also bring it up to your vendor before the temperature drops.

Here’s what’s involved in porta potty winterizing:

In most cases, the vendor drops a special chloride pellet mix into the toilet each time it’s serviced. These pellets protect the porta potty from freezing in temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. These need to be refreshed weekly, so your service schedule needs to be regular for this to be effective through winter.

What about places where temperatures regularly drop below -25 F? In some areas it makes more sense for vendors to simply swap out the toilet. Each time they service, they’ll remove the existing toilet and drop off a new one. This is a pretty expensive option, though, and it can be labor intensive. This isn’t common, but you may see this depending on how cold it gets in your area.

A more common version of the swap-out is the tank swap-out. Some portable toilets now have smaller collection tanks, and these tanks can be swapped out instead of removing the entire toilet. With these porta potties, a vendor will just remove the existing tank, insert a new tank, and you’ve got a clean, non-frozen porta potty through winter.

For most jobsites in the U.S. you’re going to see the chlorine pellet method. There are some other things you can do to help prevent freezing, though. For example, move porta potties to a protected area that limits their exposure to wind. Place them against a wall or pack sandbags around the base to help prevent winter winds from freezing the contents. Wind-chill is a major reason porta potty freeze in the first place.

You can also invest in small space heaters that are specifically made for porta potties. Check with your vendor on whether they recommend this method for your particular toilets. Placing them in an enclosed area would be ideal, if that’s possible.

One last thing to consider in winter is whether to swap out your single portable toilets for a restroom trailer. Restroom trailers are larger and can be ordered with multiple stalls inside. If you have the space and electrical access, they can be heated and are way more comfortable for crew members.

We help contractors and project managers find winter solutions for construction sites every year. Give us a call if you have questions about your winter service options.