How Do Airplane Bathrooms Work?

March 9, 2020


Very early on in the history of aircraft, people realized that human body functions don’t stop during flight. Experiments in airplane toilets can be traced as far back as the early 1920s. After many developments throughout the years, the modern airplane toilet was created. It uses a vacuum system patented in the 1970s.

How Does It Work?

When you flush the toilet on a modern airplane, a valve suctions the waste out of the bowl. Then, it is stored in a tank until it can be emptied on the ground into service trucks.

How Do They Stop the Smell?

Initially, waste was stored in what is known as a chemical toilet. This stores the waste in odor-killing chemicals. Most portable toilets use this chemical system. This fell out of favor for airplanes in the 70s when the vacuum system was seen as a pure upgrade. However, the blue odor-killing chemicals are still used in both in the storage tank and to flush the bowl.

So an Airplane will Never Dump Waste Midflight?

Under normal circumstances, an airplane will never dump waste in the air. There have been cases of leaks that form what’s commonly referred to as blue ice on the outside of the cabin. It’s blue due to the odor-killing chemicals that are used. These chunks of ice have reportedly caused damage to roofs and even taken out an engine mid-flight! Luckily, no plane has crashed due to a blue ice incident.

It’s astonishing how much technology goes into plumbing. Even on the ground, there are new innovations gaining popularity like the motion sensor toilets you see in many public restrooms.

While we don’t work with the toilets in the sky (yet!), you can trust that Mitch Wright Plumbing, Heating & Air has you covered for all your indoor plumbing problems! For more information on the services we provide, visit us on the web or give us a call at (901) 795-9044.



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