What Happens When You Flush an Airplane Toilet?

PHL Airport parking

Using the bathroom on an airplane can be a bit odd – from the tight quarters to the movement of the plane to the loud “whoosh” when you flush, it’s all too different from using a bathroom on solid ground. But have you ever wondered how an airplane toilet works and what actually happens when you flush it? Our PHL Airport parking company explains:

The Mechanics of It All

You may (or may not be) familiar with the way your home toilet works: when you push the handle to flush, you open up a flush valve that lets in a flow of water from the tank to the bowl. This flow triggers a funnel action that sends whatever is in the toilet swirling down the pipes and into a sewage system or septic tank. After the bowl is emptied, the tank fills back up and the process starts all over again.

While an airplane toilet is shaped very similarly to your home toilet, it works very differently. First of all, there’s no water in the bowl to begin with – this is because the movements of the plane would make the water splash out. And because there’s no water in the bowl, there’s no way for a funnel action to occur when you push the handle to flush. Instead, airplane toilets use a blue disinfecting liquid and a vacuum system (instead of gravity) to get rid of the bowl’s contents. When you push the “flush” button, you open up a valve in the sewer line and it vacuums out the bowl.

Where Does the Waste Go?

There are all different theories about where the waste goes after it’s “flushed” from the toilet bowl. The truth is that once it’s sucked into the vacuum, it’s deposited in a specific “closed waste system” container. Once the plane lands, the container is vacuumed out into a waste truck. Once the waste truck is full, it’s emptied out with the rest of the waste from the airport.

Although there have been reports of “blue ice” falling from the sky, it’s not because airplane waste is simply discharged from the plane mid-air; it’s likely from a sewage leak or a frozen drain tube.

Before you book your next flight and view the toilet system with a new perspective, make your PHL Airport parking reservation with Winner!

*Photo courtesy of travelpulse.com