If you've ever considered holding a big outdoor event, chances are you've considered porta potty rentals.
It's not a glamorous idea to research but it's a very necessary one. If you don't have enough porta-potties, your event will be a disaster. It doesn't matter if you have U2, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and AC/DC playing all at once … your event will be terrible if you don't have enough porta potties.
We have good friends who run a local brewery, Manor Hill Brewing (by the way, great beer, love their Citra Splendor and Grisette). The brewery is on a farm, which means they hold a few outdoor events each year. The brewery doesn't have the restroom capacity to handle the huge influx of attendees so they rent porta potties.
Half the grossness of a porta potty is in the servicing. If you rent them for a day or so, even the cheapest porta-potties will be fine. They arrive in pristine condition, get used for a day or a weekend, and then they get picked up. It's when you try to stretch a porta potty multiple days, in the hot summer, that you run into disaster.
If you're running an event, whether it's a big family reunion backyard affair or perhaps a wedding or mini-festival – here's what you need to know if you're going to rent a porta potty.
How Many Porta Potties Do I Need?
First things first, you need to know how many you need. This might surprise you but despite all the different types of portable bathrooms, they each have the same amount of “containment.” The units themselves might nicer, bigger, and have special amenities… but they basically have about 200 uses of capacity.
So how many do you need?
Well, PolyJohn, a manufacturer of these units, recommends that a commercial worksite has 1 portable restroom for every 10 workers. But what if you're not running a worksite? What if you're having a party?
PolyJohn also has a special event estimator. “Estimator” makes it sound like it's more than it is – it's just a table in a PDF. And the basic math is simple – each unit has approximately 200 uses. Then they calculate how many hours you'll need it and arrive at a “uses per person” for your event.
The end result is this table – which has the number of portable bathrooms and sinks.
It's super easy to use. If you have a 2-hour event with 500 people, you'll want 4 porta potties.
A local rental company, Gotugo, estimates that you'll need one unit for every 75 people at a four-hour event. If there are lots of liquids being consumed, they recommend two units. (using the same 48-minute rule as PolyJohn, this estimates the units have 120 uses…)
Sometimes, you'll see calculators recommending 10-15% extra uses when there is alcohol involved.
Different Types of Porta Potties
Porta potties run the gamut in terms of “luxury.”
I know you probably don't think about it when you're in one but they really do vary in terms of size, amenities, and quality.
Just think back to when you were last in a porta potty. If it was at a race, where the porta potties are available just for a few hours, they were usually very basic. They were the small ones with just a toilet, no flushing, and a door. For large events, it's all about numbers.
If you were at a more upscale event, like an outdoor wedding, you may have seen one that was more like a trailer and less like a plastic box.
As you can imagine, the trailer costs a lot more.
Here are the major categories:
Standard Porta PottiesThese are the most common, the cheapest, and a rental company can empty and clean them on location. They're single-unit portable bathrooms that have no flushing capability and no sink. The holding tank is ~60 gallons. You see these a lot in locations where you need a porta potty but only for the short term.
The PolyJohn PJN3 is an example of this type of porta potty. It's 91″ tall, 43.5″ wide, and 47″ long. If you were to buy it, you can get it in dozens of colors but I've only ever seen blue, dark blue, and similar neutral colors. PolyJohn calls this the “workhorse of the industry,” given how often it's used.
Deluxe Flushable Porta PottiesThe next step up is a porta potty that has flushing capabilities. They will usually come with a sink area to wash your hands, a mirror, and a urinal. They look at a lot like the standard porta potties except they're bigger.
The PolyJohn FS3-2004 line of products is an example of a deluxe or premium porta potty. It's 91″ tall, 47″ wide, and 47″ long – the extra width gives it greater interior space. They claim 24% more interior floor space than comparable models.
You don't see too many of these out in the wild and as a user, I'm not sure it's really necessary. It can handle the same amount of waste but it costs more to seem slightly nicer. But it's not nice enough to be considered upscale, so it's tough to see the utility.
One step up from a “portable restroom” is the idea of a portable restroom trailer. If you've ever been to a summer music festival that runs for several weeks, you may have seen a few of these in addition to traditional porta potties. They are essentially restrooms on wheels and sometimes called VIP or wedding restroom trailers. If you were inside one, it would be like you're in a regular restroom and not a portable unit.
These can be very luxurious if you're willing to pay for it. For example, check out this Mr. John Wedding Cottage and it's shed-like design. It has four private restrooms with flushing toilets, sinks, and glass mirror. If it wasn't on a hitch, you probably wouldn't even know it was temporary.