Portable Toilet Buying Guide

Most people have used a portable toilet and probably not given much thought about the different models and probably think that all portable toilets are the same. The reality is that different models suit different situations; a hire/event company may buy one type of toilet versus a farmer.

Merlin Portable Toilets has the largest range of toilets in Australia and stocks toilets designed and manufactured in Australia – in fact the only toilets fully made in Australia. We have approx. 100 different variations of our toilets to suit all needs. If we can’t provide you a portable toilet solution – then no one can.

This guide is designed to provide information about the features to consider when buying a portable toilet and allows the buyer to compare toilets on features that are important to them.

Purpose?

What is the purpose of the toilet and who is going to use it? Private use, commercial use or to be used by the public. A toilet being used in a private situation may not require certain features that a toilet being placed out on rental every day/week.

How many people will use it daily, weekly, fortnightly? A toilet used infrequently may not need a model designed for high usage and largest capacity.

Does the toilet need to work in an isolated location or can it be attached to a sewer or septic connection? Some portable toilets are designed to work with a sewer/septic connection and separate water source; some are designed to use a holding tank with its own water source that can be used anywhere and needs to be emptied regularly or when full.

How many people will use it regularly?

This question is important for toilets that use a holding tank. We have models with holding tanks ranging from 265 litres up to 380 litres – the largest in Australia. The holding tank is filled primarily by the water used to flush the toilet and used in the hand basin. Our 380 litre tank provides approx. 750 uses and the 265 litre tank provides approx. 500 uses.

Having a toilet with too small a tank can run the risk of it filling quickly and being out of service until it is emptied. The size of the tank will also dictate how often you need to empty the toilet, if you are paying for this service this will also determine how much it costs to run your toilet every year.

A small capacity toilet will require to be emptied more often than a large tank. For example if you are paying $50 to service your toilet and you need to empty the small capacity toilet an extra 3 or 4 times a year then over 5 years this could add up to approx. $750 – $1000 extra than servicing a larger capacity toilet.

Don’t worry too much about working this out we can help you determine the right size toilet for your needs and this could save you thousands of dollars over the life of the unit.

Walls – single or twin? Plastic quality UV rating?

Portable toilets were originally made in fibreglass and then metal Colourbond cladding. Both these materials had their advantages and disadvantages – today, nearly all toilets are made from plastic. We have been making plastic toilets for approx. 20 years and many of these toilets are still in service. Plastic offers great advantages over other materials – they are long lasting, they do not puncture or dent as easily, they are cooler and they are lighter. Merlin only sells toilets that are built from plastic UV stabilised to meet Australia’s conditions. Please be aware most other toilets in the market use imported plastic sheeting that sometimes uses lower UV stabilisation.

Most toilets are built using either a single sheet of plastic for their walls or two/twin sheets of plastic to make up their walls. The twin sheets are used in our strongest toilets primarily used by hire companies that rent their toilets consistently and are being loaded and transported regularly. Single sheet toilets are still very strong and will last for many years and are also regularly used by hire/event companies.

The main consideration when looking at walls is to consider the material and thickness. You need good quality plastic and at an acceptable thickness. Many imported toilets use low grade thinner plastic to lower cost and these units have been known to crack or spilt within their first year. Some advertise twin sheets; however the overall thickness is about equal to one of our single sheet units.

Lifting System

What is a lifting system? A lifting system is the addition of lugs to a toilet that allow for the toilet to be lifted using hooks, ropes or chains. Some of our toilets offer lugs fitted to the top of the toilet and some provide lugs fitted to the bottom of the toilet (on the skid or base).

Merlin Portable Toilets are the only toilets in Australia with a full metal top frame as part our top fitted lifting system. A top fitted lifting system is the addition of metal rods in each corner of the unit and a metal top frame and four lifting lugs attached to the skid. This setup allows the whole system to work together providing strength and stability to the entire unit. We believe it is important to have the lifting system include a full metal top frame to ensure that the four metal rods work together rather than independently and this provides the additional strength and safety to the unit. If there is no top frame fitted to your toilet and an operator does not apply the chains correctly to your unit or a lifting lug fails then the unit can be crushed.

Many customers add a top fitted lifting system even if they do not intend to lift the unit with chains as it adds a metal skeleton to the frame of the unit.
Merlin portable toilets are designed with a clearance below the toilet to allow forklift access. This area is free of pipes and plumbing to ensure worry free loading and unloading of your unit.

A bottom lifting system provides an additional option to lift the toilet via chains/ropes etc by attaching to the lifting lugs situated on the base/skid of the toilet. As with the top lift system you will need to use a spreader bar or frame.

Water Source

Do you have access to a water source? Our portable toilets with a holding tank also have a fresh water tank for flushing and washing of your hands. Sewer connect toilets require access to a separate water source.

The water tank is between 1/3 to ½ of the holding tank size and gives you a rough idea of when to empty your toilet. For example if you have a 380 litre unit with a 110 fresh litre water tank – if the water tank has emptied twice then you know that 220 litres of the waste tank is used plus the human waste. It is time to start thinking about emptying your toilet.

Plumbing Maintenance

When purchasing a portable toilet the last thing you think about is what happens if it stops working. Most people are not plumbers and don’t want to be putting their hands in the waste tank. We have designed our toilets to be low maintenance and easy access to the required parts for service or repair.

Our units are designed that most repairs can be carried out on site minimising down time of the units. No need to remove walls to access plumbing and definitely no need to access the waste tank. Unfortunately, most imported models require the walls and roofs to be removed to undertake even the most basic maintenance.

All plumbing and pipes on our portable toilets are housed within the cabinet of the unit and there is no risk of catching exposed pipes with a forklift or being eaten by vermin.

The most common form of maintenance required on a portable toilet is the replacement of the rubber fittings in the pumps. Merlin Portable Toilets use high grade marine pumps and most customers report they get approx. 4 to 5 years from a new toilet before having to replace the rubber fittings. The lifespan relies on how often the rubber has the opportunity to dry out, if it dries out regularly through lack of use then the rubber is more likely to crack, however if it used regularly and the rubber does not dry out then it will less likely to crack. However, no matter how well you take care of the unit they will need to be replaced at some point. The pumps that we use are easy access and the parts are “remove and replace”.

Servicing and
Emptying toilets

All portable toilets with holding tanks require to be emptied on a regular service basis or when they are nearly full. Most toilets are emptied using a vacuum truck that sucks out the contents through the hinged toilet bowl assembly or through a valve fitted to the back of the toilet – called a rear evacuation valve.

Toilets fitted with a rear evacuation valve can also be emptied into sewerage or septic access point using an evacuation kit. The process relies on gravity and additional water to do the work and generally requires the ability to lift and move the toilet to the respective dump point.

Hand pump vs foot pump

We offer both pumps as an option in the majority of our toilets. This is personal preference, some of our customers like foot pumps and some like hand pumps.

Our experience has shown that hand pumps usually require less maintenance and are easy for children, ladies in high heels and elderly to use. Foot pumps offer hands free operation.

It is often asked “Are foot pumps more hygienic than hand pumps because with a hand pump everyone touches the handle of the pump?”. The foot pump option offers the hands free option however as everyone has to touch the door, handle or lock to get in and out of the toilet it is hard to prove that either option is more hygienic than the other.

Transport with water tank full.

Some customers need to prepare their toilet for use ie fill them with water, and then transport them to location. Merlin Portable Toilets are built to enable the transport of the toilets with their water tanks filled. Please be aware that many imported toilets are not designed to this level and will fail under the weight of the water moving in transit.

Spare Parts

Merlin Portable Toilets are built in Australia and we are able to supply spares parts for all our toilets. All parts on our portable toilets are available as spares to ensure a long life span even if they are damaged at some point in time.

Second Hand

We are often asked about second hand toilets. As we build our toilets to last there is an active second hand market for Merlin toilets. If you can buy a second hand Merlin rest assured we can support you with spare parts. However, some Merlin’s are now nearly 30 years old and our earliest models may require some updated fittings to accept the current spare parts. Our best advice is if you are about to buy a second hand Merlin – obtain a photo of the unit and we can let you know what we can provide you in spare parts.

Please read our article about second hand toilets and the perils of buying a second hand imported toilet.

Manufacturer Warranty and Support

All Merlin Portable toilets come with a 2 year warranty and this backed by our knowledge and support gained from being in business for over 25 years. We are the only fully Australian manufacturer of portable toilets and pride ourselves on service and support.anywhere and needs to be emptied regularly or when full.

Trailer mounted portable toilets

Selected models are able to be mounted to trailers to provide a mobile solution. Ideal for farms, road crews or any application with a workforce always on the move. We have options to mount one, two and even 4 toilets to a single trailer to meet any needs.

Options include brakes, galvanising and off road setups.

Sewer connection vs holding tank

Sewer connection toilets are like your toilets at home. They are a porcelain bowl with a cistern for flushing and a hand basin with running water. These units do not have a holding tank and must be connected to a sewerage line or septic tank. They require a water source to fill the cistern and to provide water to the hand basin.

Sewer connection portable toilets are designed for use by builders on a suburban/commercial block which have existing sewerage lines or someone requiring an additional toilet without the expense of building or altering their home. Often used in high rise developments and with the addition of a lifting system can be craned into position.

Can a portable toilet with a holding tank be converted to a sewer connection? Not easily. It takes significant plumbing alterations. It is not recommended.

Australian Disabled Unit (ADU)

What is an ADU? An ADU is a specifically designed special needs portable toilet with design features to allow easy access for those with mobility needs. The toilet can either be supplied with a holding tank or as a sewer connection. There is a specially designed stainless steel rail to provide additional support to the user. There is a flat ground entry floor with a wide self-closing door.

Please note this is designed for temporary events – it is not designed as a permanent structure and does not meet the requirements for a disabled/special needs bathroom in a permanent structures.

Expected life

How long will my toilet last? If well maintained you can expect a long life from your unit. The advantage of dealing with Merlin Portable Toilets is that we have been supplying toilets for nearly 30 years and we have many of our early models still in service. Our toilets have stood the test of time and considered one of the best toilets in the world. We ship our toilets all around the world and favoured in areas with harsh environmental conditions.

Odour control – chemicals / deodorisers

How do you control odour in a portable toilet?

There are a number of options:

  • Perfumed liquid / drop in – There are a number of products specifically designed to mask the odours with perfume and these are placed in the holding tank and last for a maximum of two weeks. Ideal for regularly serviced/emptied toilets.
  • Bio liquid / drop in – There are a number of products designed to react with the waste in the holding tank using bacteria. The bacteria turn the waste’s sulphides into CO2. Designed for holding tanks not regularly emptied.
  • Deodorisers – These products are for use in the cabin and provide a perfume to mask any residual odour. There are number of different products ranging from a disc to sprays.

Liquid vs Drop in? Most products in the industry started as liquids, however over time users found they were messy, stained user’s hands, experienced wastage through spillage and not measuring doses correctly. There are many products now available in convenient pre-packaged sachets that are simply dropped in the waste tank after a service/empty and mixed with water to activate.

We are specialists in portable sanitation and
provide a one stop shop for all your needs.