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How Do Airplane Bathrooms Work?


If you’ve ever wondered how an airplane bathroom works, you’re not alone. Does it get collected into a tank? Jettisoned out of the plane at 12,000 ft in the air?

Toilets can be a taboo topic for many, but let’s break through the stigma and discover what exactly goes on in the bathroom — for all our sakes.

What’s in a Toilet?

The average toilet found in a residential home is typically a porcelain bowl connected to a tank that fills with water after every flush. The waste is flushed from the bowl, out through the connected plumbing, and into either a sewer system or a connected septic tank, depending on where you live.

The method of waste removal is great for a non-moving bathroom, but on trains or airplanes (methods of travel that usually have restrooms onboard), turbulence and motion don’t mix well with an open bowl of toilet water. Enter: the vacuum toilet.

Airplane Toilet vs Traditional Toilet

Vacuum toilets are the stereotypical toilets you’ll see on transport services. These toilets don’t use a siphon and gravity to flush waste in the same way a traditional residential toilet does. Instead, vacuum toilets feature a valve inside the sewer line to suck all the content of the bowl out. The waste is collected in a separate tank that needs to be emptied out on arrival.

The suction of the valve creates the loud noise you may be familiar with if you’ve ever been on a plane. The benefits of this system as convenience and hygiene — the vacuum method means that toilets have to use less water and/or sanitizing liquid in the flushing process to keep the bowl and line clear. This system also uses significantly less water than the traditional home toilet does. Vacuum systems can flush with half a gallon of water, whereas a low-flow siphon toilet uses about 1.6 gallons. In contrast, older, non-efficient models can use up to 5 gallons per flush!

So there you have it! Traditional toilets use water and gravity to flush waste, but airplane and train bathrooms utilize vacuums and thus, don’t have to rely on water sloshing around to clean the bowl.

Got toilet troubles? Get in touch with your team at Mallick Plumbing & Heating at (301) 804-6759 for bathroom plumbing installation, replacement, repair, or maintenance.

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