How Do Airplane Toilets Work?

plumbing professionals

If you’ve ever gone to the bathroom on an airplane, you’re familiar with that loud, telltale “woosh” sound after you flush. But have you ever wondered exactly how the plumbing works on an aircraft? Here, our plumbing professionals explain:

Home Toilets

The toilets you’re most familiar with are home toilets, which use a bowl filled with water. When you push the handle to flush the toilet, it releases the flush valve to allow water to rush from the tank into the bowl. This rush starts a funnel action that drains whatever is in the toilet and the water in the bank of the tank begins to refill. Meanwhile, gravity carries the waste down the pipes and into a septic tank or a sewage system.

Airplane Toilets

If you’ve ever taken notice, you’ve realized that an airplane toilet doesn’t have any pre-existing water in the bowl like a home toilet. This is because the water would splash out as the airplane takes off, lands, and hits turbulence. Because there is no water, there is no way for a funnel to occur and gravity to carry the waste away from the toilet. This is why airplanes use a vacuum system to suck out the contents of the bowl and into a tank. When you push the “flush” button, it opens up a valve in the sewer line and the toilet actually requires very little water to flush (making vacuum toilets pretty efficient).


So why don’t we use vacuum toilets for home and commercial use? Good question. Vacuum toilets not only use less water, but they also don’t require vertical piping (they can actually flush in any direction) and they use smaller sewer pipes when compared to conventional toilets.

With all that said – would you install a vacuum toilet in your home?

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