The Inventor of the Porta Potty

It may be called “the loo.” Perhaps your preferred term is “the John” or “the throne.” If you’re more formal, you might use the term “lavatory.” There are indeed many creative names for the toilet!

Humans have been using toilets for thousands of years. However, one particular version of the toilet is relatively modern. You have probably seen them at festivals, parades, and other public events. What are we referring to? The porta potty, of course!

Porta potties provide people with the option to use a toilet in places where it would not otherwise be available. When they are no longer needed, they can be moved to a different location. They are certainly convenient! Have you ever wondered who came up with the idea?

In the 1960s, George Harding received the first patent for a porta potty. However, his idea actually dates back to the 1940s. During World War II, Harding worked for the U.S. War Department and started building portable toilets for shipbuilders.

Over the years, porta potties have become more advanced. Nowadays, there are even portable restroom trailers available with running water for flushing the toilet and washing hands. However, the basic porta potty is still the most popular choice for outdoor toilet needs.

How do porta potties function? If you have ever been inside one, you already know the basics. They contain a toilet and urinal that both drain into a tank. Inside the tank, there is blue dye and fragrance to mask the waste and combat odor. The tanks also contain chemicals that are designed to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.

Many modern porta potties also have ventilation systems to help reduce the smell of waste. They also feature translucent ceilings for natural light. Some even have sanitizer dispensers for people to clean their hands before and after using the toilet.

Have you ever wondered how porta potties are cleaned? It is a messy but important task! It begins with emptying the waste tank, which is done using a vacuum pipe that transports the waste to a special truck. The waste is then taken to a treatment plant by the drivers.

Next, the person responsible for cleaning applies disinfectants and odor-reducing chemicals. They thoroughly scrub the porta potty, ensuring that every surface is clean. Finally, they replenish supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, and hand sanitizer.

Have you ever used a porta potty? If so, you know how convenient they can be. Always consult a trusted adult on the best way to clean up before and after using a porta potty. And remember to leave it as tidy as possible—many others are likely to use it after you!

Give It a Try

Ready to continue learning? Find a friend or family member who can assist you with one or more of the activities below!

  • If you don’t have access to a sink and soap, using homemade hand sanitizer is a good alternative for cleaning your hands after using the toilet. Follow this recipe, but make sure an adult helps you if you decide to make your own.
  • Do you ever wonder how toilets work? Watch the video to learn about two different types of toilets, then summarize your findings for a friend or family member.
  • Make a list of places where you have seen porta potties before. Share your list with someone and see if they can add any other locations. It’s interesting how common porta potties are!

Wonder Sources

  • (accessed 01 Mar. 2021)
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  • (accessed 01 Mar. 2021)
  • (accessed 01 Mar. 2021)


1. Who invented the porta potty?

The porta potty, also known as a portable toilet or a porta-john, was invented by a man named George Harding in the late 1940s. Harding was a World War II veteran and a contractor who realized the need for a portable and convenient sanitation solution for construction sites, outdoor events, and other temporary locations. He designed and built the first porta potty, which consisted of a small enclosed structure with a toilet seat and a tank for waste disposal.

2. How did the porta potty become popular?

The porta potty gained popularity due to its practicality and convenience. It provided a hygienic and easily accessible restroom solution for various outdoor settings, such as construction sites, music festivals, and camping grounds. The ease of transportation and set-up made it a preferred choice for event organizers and construction companies. Over time, the porta potty became a familiar sight at outdoor gatherings and public events, cementing its place as a vital sanitation solution.

3. What are some benefits of using a porta potty?

Using a porta potty offers several benefits. Firstly, it provides a clean and private restroom facility in locations where permanent restrooms may not be available or accessible. Secondly, porta potties are easy to transport and set up, making them ideal for temporary events or construction sites. Additionally, they help maintain proper sanitation and hygiene by containing waste in a secure tank. Lastly, porta potties are cost-effective compared to constructing permanent restrooms, making them a practical choice for short-term needs.

4. How are porta potties maintained and cleaned?

Porta potties require regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure proper hygiene. Professional sanitation companies are responsible for servicing porta potties. They pump out the waste from the tanks, clean the interior surfaces, and refill the supplies, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The waste is disposed of in accordance with local regulations and environmental guidelines. Regular servicing schedules are established based on the frequency of use and the number of porta potties in a particular location.

5. Are there different types of porta potties available?

Yes, there are different types of porta potties available to cater to various needs. Standard porta potties are the most common type and feature a toilet seat, a holding tank, and a urinal. Some porta potties are designed to be more accessible for individuals with disabilities, with features such as handrails and spacious interiors. There are also luxury porta potties available, which offer additional amenities like sinks, mirrors, and air conditioning. The choice of porta potty depends on the specific requirements and preferences of the event or location.

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