How To Flush A Toilet Without Running Water

If you need to flush a toilet while the running water is off at home, here’s how to do it.

Flushing your toilet does require water. So, you’re going to need water storage before the crisis, or, find it somewhere. Read on for several tips where to find water for toilet flushing – one of which should be pretty common in many areas.

>> Emergency Water Storage For Your Tub
(view on amzn)

I’ll explain where to find a water supply, how much water you’ll need to flush, and how to do it without running water in your home.

How To Flush Toilet With No Water Pressure


Under temporary water outage conditions, you can easily flush your own toilet.

You will still need water, but you don’t need running water from the pipes in your own house plumbing.

Get Some Water To Flush The Toilet

>>> Use Pool Water To Flush A Toilet Without Running Water!

Is there a back yard swimming pool nearby? You might be surprised to know that there is at least one swimming pool for every 10 households in America. There may or may not be one near you, but there certainly might! Bring over some buckets or water containers and ask if you can have some water.

>> Nearby Water Sources — Pond, Creek, Stream, Lake

You should know your own area. Get in your car and drive to any water source. Submerge container and fill ‘er up.

>> Your neighbor might be out too, but if not, well, ask!

How To Flush The Toilet

Remove the toilet tank reservoir lid. If you have already flushed the toilet after the running water stopped, the tank will be empty.

Using the container bucket(s) of water that you collected, fill the toilet tank up until the water almost reaches the top of the overflow tube as shown above.

Tip: Chances are that you won’t have to fill the toilet tank all the way to the top of the tube to get a flush. Experiment with less – enough to ‘get the job done’ (e.g. try 2/3 the way up to conserve water).

Then flush the toilet!

How Much Water To Flush A Toilet

Most modern efficient toilets only require about 1.5 – 2 gallons of water to flush the toilet effectively. Older toilets may require at least several gallons or more!

You’re going to need buckets. Water containers. Water weights about 8 pounds a gallon (just saying)!

Plus, if you drive down the road to get it (your neighbor’s pool down the street? Or the nearby lake?), it will slosh all over the place on the way back if the container doesn’t have a lid – or a purpose-designed water jug.

>> 7 Gallon Rigid Water Container
(view on amzn)

This is one of the many important reasons why you should ALWAYS keep a supply of emergency water in your home. You can store water in purpose-made containers for long term storage, and use it as an emergency supply for drinking water or even for flushing your toilet.

For example, the container that I listed above (7 gallons) will get you 3 or 4 flushes, depending on the toilet.

This article has been updated since its original post, given the massive power outages across the country from the recent “polar vortex” extreme cold weather and ice storms (no running water in many places).

[ Read: Practical Portable Drinking Water Storage ]

[ Read: Water Barrel Storage For Emergencies ]


  1. Thank you for this idea. I place a bucket in the shower to collect the shower water as it’s warming up. I then use that to flush by directly pouring it into the toilet bowel. It usually takes less than a gallon, but it works better coming out of a bucket instead of a gallon container because you need the extra force of the water. It’s good practice for an emergency. I also use the rinse water when I wash dishes by hand. An even funnier idea is to use the rinse water from the washing machine which is quite a work out! I have also used a small portable sump pump to drain bath water into the yard and water plants. My family is not very impressed with my water recycling practices and my friends think I am nutty, but it makes for good laughs. I am finding it is easier to teach people preparedness practices if you can share your ideas with laughter because they remember it better and it’s not as threatening.

    1. My friends, neighobrs and family think I’m a bit “off” too but in Ca. We are going to be limited to 50 gal. Per person per day pretty soon. I’m already ready. They are scrambling to get rid of their lawns…

      The Neighborhood watch actually got after me when I removed my lawns and “decorative trees” when I first moved in! They have no legal right by the way….

  2. Great post. Many people do not know this. Also, many newer homes with septic systems still require electricity to work. Nearly all homes with a toilet in the basement, which is most of the newer ones around where I live. Most houses with sand filters too.

  3. Every time we lose power, we lose water because we have a well. We flush like “T in TX” by just pouring a small bucket of water directly into the bowl. No need to remove the top off of the tank to fill it. The force of the 1 gallon of water entering the bowl all at once actually works better than flushing.

    1. I agree. How many times have you had to flush more than once? Gallon of water poured gently in the bowl works better than a flush. Besides, dropping the reservoir lid can make it a bad day for everybody. Oh, crap!

    2. Pouring from milk jugs is a little less effective as far as the force of water. If you’re using something with a small mouth, pour it into the tank.

  4. It’s a lot safer pouring the water into the tank. The tank contains clean water. The bowl does not. Getting splashed by ‘stuff’ from the bowl can ruin your day.

  5. We have no water from our well on a regular basis. For several different reasons; plumbing or electrical problems, a truck knocking down the power pole down the road, etc. I keep an ice cream bucket and several gallon jugs of water behind the toilet to use on these occasions. We pour the water directly into the bowl(from the bucket,not jug), with practice you can do it without splashing any yuckies on yourself, and it takes less water, a LOT less water.
    And if the power or water is off for more than a day, we only flush when there are solids.

  6. What if my tank is broken n can’t fill, can I pour water into toilet bowl to flush?

    1. Absolutely.

      just pour in a bucket of water. if it doesn’t “flush”, add another.

  7. The no-water method:
    IF you have a supply of strong trash bags, one can be prepared, put in the bowl with the extra height rolled down and adjusted to the requirements. Then disposed of or stored in a suitable place, and replace in toilet. Its better than nothing I’m told.

  8. Here’s a different question. My brother lives North of Corpus Christi and was told not to use salt water to flush his toilet became it will ruin his plumbing. Has anyone heard of this because he has to haul in fresh water to flush?

    1. Who Knows:
      I doubt if using Salt Water short term will “ruin” the plumbing, just think about all the other nasty stuff that goes down that drain from the Kitchen Sink and other places.
      BUT, Salt Water, large amounts, can and will kill the Bacteria in a Septic Tank.
      I would suggest that the “Hauling of Fresh Water” to flush the tank is temporary and should not be a problem for very short term.

  9. One of the very few times I will sway from what Ken suggest.

    I also like others use the “dump water in the Bowl” method, not filling the Tank.
    One thing though, after the swish of poop going down, make sure to put a little water in the bowl without it flushing, this water will seal the sewer from “gassing” up through the toilet…

    One last thing, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” sounds gross right? butt guess what, hauling water to flush the toilet is gross also, AND a heck of a lot of work.

  10. I have saved several large vinegar jugs to use for hauling water. The handle is comfortable and an older lady like myself can easily pour from it. Will make a good toilet water jug.

    1. Great idea. Good sized jug to save. Similar to bleach size jugs, etc..

    2. The larger mouth pickle jugs work for the pour better- they dump the water into bowl + initiate the flush quicker- with smaller amts. water. The 2 ga. buckets also work well.
      One can also use a bucket of well used dishwater. When in tightest conservation measures i use rinse water as a first use, second use is heated and used as wash water and 3rd use is flush water.. I do save all vinegar Jugs. We use them to store filtered water and use regularly to fill coffee pot @ coffee bar.

  11. I would stay away from filling the tank if using grey water, pond water, or the like. Some of the mechanisms in the newer toilets might not take kindly to the grit and such in that water. Also, contaminated water may clog the holes where water pours down from the rim. I prefer dumping water into the bowl. None of the above comes into play this way.

    I too keep a 5-gallon bucket in the shower to catch the “warm-up water.” I use this water on the plants out back. ‘Was doing this LONG before Nancy’s nephew mandated water conservation to be cool…

  12. We have a back up toilet…its also known as an Outhouse! No flushing required!

    Nail by the door to hang the Farmers Almanac optional of course! :)

  13. – Afraid I’m also an advocate of pouring directly into the toilet bowl. About a gallon, as fast as you can, will flush solids away. It only takes one broken tank lid to make you feel like that’s the way to do it. Repeat as necessary.

    Also, it doesn’t take long before you are able to deal with “mellow yellow, etc.” Water is heavy to carry/move by hand. You do not want to do that any more often than you have to.

    This house has an attached garage. I keep six of the big yellow kitty litter buckets full of water stashed out of the way in the garage which gives the four adults and two preteen boys about three days. The rectangular buckets are easier to fit in the back of the truck, car or metal yard wagon.

    We are now on day 5 – I did have to do the “find a friend” and refill my buckets yesterday. Not that difficult, except that most of the town still has frozen waterlines.  As soon as I did find someone, I was told, “Sure, no problem.”

    Y’all take care and stay warm.

    – Papa S.

  14. Here in central TX, we’ve been without water since Monday, but thankfully, we were able to fill up our bathtub before the water completely shut off. Power came back on yesterday, so we’ve been dumping snow into the bathtub to melt for toilet flushing, as well. Water isn’t expected to be restored until Sunday, if they don’t push that date out further again.

    1. TxTina,

      Glad you thought to do that. Bathtubs hold a lot more water than one might think. Good idea about the snow. We did an experiment with that, in less stressful times. My DB packed a canner with snow, and we guessed how much water would come from it melting. Very surprised to see over 1/2 a canner full. I think the key was how much he packed it. Hang in there!

      1. Thank you, Farmgirl. Fun experiment! Thankfully, we received freezing rain after days of dry-powdery snow, so our snow was really wet/icy. Otherwise, I don’t think the snow would have yielded much water at all.

  15. If I loose water supply, can I use salt water from a pool to flush, without damaging my septic system?

    1. – Assuming you are talking about salt water like ocean water, you can get away with it for a few days. What you will do is reduce the bacteria in your system which will make a slight difference in the long run, but…

      Think about what goes in your septic from your kitchen, bathroom, etc. Best bet is if you have to use salt water for a few days, use either expired baker’s yeast or something like the commercial Rid-X intended to support the bacteria in your system. If like me, you are on septic, you should already be doing that every month or two.

      BTW, I think NRP answered this same question not far above here.

      – Papa S.

  16. Don’t forget you may have 30 to 50 gallons of water in your hot water heater.

    1. But how do you get it out? If there is no water pressure the spigot on the bottom will not drain the tank because of the vacuum it will create. If it does empty you will need a hose and pail as the spigot is about 4 inches off the floor.

      1. – Getting Drinking Water from Your Water Heater

        Turn off the electricity or gas to the water heater.
        Preserve the cleanliness of the water in the tank by closing the supply valve to the tank.
        Find the valve at the bottom of the tank for draining.
        Turn on the hot water from any tap in the house.
        Remove any sediment that has collected at the bottom of the water heater.

        Other Practical Considerations

        Although water from a water heater is considered safe to drink, consider purifying or filtering it before drinking.
        Seriously consider replacing the original valve on the water heater with a ball-valve drain assembly.
        In an emergency, consider other options for potable water.

        From Wikihow.

        Alternatively, use a big crescent wrench or pipe wrench and undo one of the flex pipes at the top of the water heater. If you were looking down at the nut, just remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. And yes, you will need a container to catch the water.

        – Papa S.

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