Is Toilet Water Drinkable: Believe It or Not

Is Toilet Water Drinkable: Believe It or Not

The dog thinks it’s fine, and he hasn’t died yet. On the other hand, there’s his breath to contend with, and dogs only live 6-10 years on average. Hopefully, your situation will never be so dire that you need to consider drinking after Fido. Unfortunately, as global socioeconomic and ecological issues continue to progress alongside population increases, resources are becoming more valuable and scarce. That’s a lot of big words, but what it boils down to is this: The world is getting crowded so you might need to know if, when, and how to drink from the porcelain throne.

Is toilet water drinkable? If you pull water from the tank it’s probably safer, and less disturbing, than the bowl. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on perspective, if the bowl is your only option… the answer is still yes. You can drink toilet water. There are even places where toilet water is routinely recycled for human consumption. Toilet water could save your life.

Where Does Toilet Water Come From

Some folks seem to be under the impression that sewer lines are an enclosed system. Water coming from some magically gross source goes only to our toilets and then down a dedicated pipe to the sewer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Unless you paid a whole lot of extra money, or you live at a place like Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda where they are doing a project to reduce wastewater using rain collection, then your water comes from the same place as the rest of ours. Tap water is a misnomer. The water you get in your sink is the same as the water pumped to your toilet and shower. There has never been a separation where indoor plumbing is concerned.

Truly Unsettling

Have you ever seen a brown toilet bowl? (Not the water, the actual bowl itself turns brown in some cases.) It’s disgusting, right? Clearly, someone hasn’t been cleaning as they should. At least, that’s what a lot of people think. Like the rest of the toilet topic, the answer is stranger than you might expect.

That gross brown gunk that builds up is, in many cases, limescale. Bizarrely, this is a mineral deposit from the water itself. It’s not toxic or harmful in any known way. You can drink it safely. Obviously, this is not something anyone is advising you try at home for kicks (or ever, if it can be avoided).

However, if the infrastructure of society should collapse, knowing that you can drink that, could be the difference between life and death. The question of whether it is a life worth living can wait for another day because you will most likely live to see one.

For the most part, If the toilet bowl water is free of chemicals and waste products, get a high-quality portable water filter before such a disaster occurring, to further make the water safe for consumption. You would pump the water from the toilet bowl or tank and transfer it into a clean bucket or bowl. The filter I recommend can be purchased on Amazon. Click here to get the latest pricing and details.

Things We Do to Survive

In spite of the serious nature of the topic, humor is a very human coping mechanism. We are survivors as a species even if the tendency and practical applications have been bred out socially. What’s more, when the time comes, people do what they have to even without decent guidance. Don’t think you’ll be the only one to consider using the toilet when things go south. If it helps to make a joke then, by all means, go there.


As difficult as it is to consider drinking toilet water, it isn’t as though the so-called safe sources are always a great choice. Louisiana residents have had more than one ‘scare,’ involving brain-eating parasites in the water. Tucson Arizona is another sorry example. The Central Arizona Project water has come out brown and foul more than once and some areas don’t get the same ‘treatment’ as others resulting in widespread illness.

The Navajo reservation has many people who have no running water at home. Worse, some have uranium in their drinking sources. For the purpose of this article, we won’t detail the gas leaks in Flint, but they’re still a problem. The point is that a toilet isn’t even the worst water you could get in ‘high tech,’ first world countries like the USA, let alone places with lesser water standards.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

There are roughly 40,000 toilet-related injuries reported every year, but almost none related to those unfortunate souls who drink toilet water. It happens more often than you might think in non-emergency scenarios. Young children get curious.

Never the less, once you get past the mental block that holds you back, there are still some valid concerns, both obvious and less visible. Always open the tank to check for mold accumulation. Black mold doesn’t happen often in a toilet, but check the hidden danger zone anyway. You may find more clean water to drink.

Problems With Poo

First, the “good” news. A floater probably won’t kill you, especially if it is yours and fresh. A small amount of feces is unlikely to do much harm. In this case, a small amount means about a mouthful.  Rare cases of food poisoning-like symptoms have been reported.

The bad news is that dysentery is alive and well. Bacteria (Shigella and Campylobacter) from infected feces can get into food and water supplies. Contamination of this type is a serious problem. You can have bloody diarrhea and most importantly it can kill.

Antibiotics could be hard to find in desperate circumstances, but you can treat dysentery with many of the common prescription antibiotics and antimicrobials. Unfortunately, Shigella, in particular, is becoming very resistant to treatment.

How Much Urine is Too Much

As we’ve already delved into a very dark place, we must follow this through until we come out the other side. At least you’ll be hydrated when we get there. Hopefully, it will never come to this, but everyone seems to eventually ask about drinking pee to survive. Please don’t drink pee. This is not going to work as a perpetual motion machine for producing your own emergency refreshment.

There’s a limit to human tolerance that has nothing to do with desperation versus your gag reflex. Urine is full of salt, ammonia and other toxins. Sure, some really weird porn stars drink it for fun, but they have other sources of refreshment. All myths and jokes aside, drinking pee is bad for your kidneys and it may actually speed up the dehydration process.

Diluted in a toilet it might be ok, but only because there’s plenty of other water in it. Urine is not sterile, and it does appear to have bacteria in it. The sterile urine myth is persistent, but it has never been true. Sterilized urine used for historical wound care was boiled. Ammonia is a fine disinfectant, but not so great as a beverage.

Colored Water

When rust makes water brownish, a magnet can often clarify the problem. Frighteningly enough, blood can have a similar appearance. In general, it’s wisest to say no to both. Should you be forced to use water with either of these contaminants then you’ll need filtration and boiling.

Blue water makes for a scenic view, but if you’re thinking about drinking it stop right there. Yellow snow may not kill you, but this stuff surely will. Automatic bowl cleaner is a death sentence in a survival situation. If that wasn’t bad enough, some tabs go in the bowl, but others go in the tank leaving you with no options at all.

You should not use the blue toilet tabs for emergency water purification either. In addition to the bleach inside them, other chemicals and odorizing agents have been added. Even if this were not the case, the dosage would be risky at best and entirely a matter of guesswork.

DIY Drinking Water

Now that we’ve accepted the premise that you can indeed get drinking water from the toilet (bowl or tank), let’s take a look at some ways to purify it. Sure, you can dip your cup right in and survive, but there are times when we need to up the ante for our own sanity. Survival is a start, but it’s nicer to thrive. We can do better than mere potty humor here.

17 Ways to Purify Water

  1. Biosand Filter

    Slow or rapid sand filtration is fairly self-explanatory. Clean sand is a surprisingly effective method for filtering water. Properly designed filters of this type can remove pathogenic organisms and debris.

  2. Silver

    Silver has been used for centuries to help disinfect water. It’s effectiveness against bacteria, and particularly E. coli has been documented by the WHO. Most, unfortunately, ingesting large doses of silver can turn you a strange shade of grey. In the case of zombie apocalypse, it’s best to avoid anything that makes you look more dead than you are.

  3. Chlorination

    This is a nice word for bleach treating water. Five drops per liter will keep you in the clear for most water bourne issues.

  4. Boiling

    The simplest method can often be the best. Heat water up to a nice rolling boil and let it bubble for 1-3 minutes.

  5. Clay Vessels

    Ceramic filters are made of terra cotta and combustible materials are mixed to create a porous clay pot. This is 80% or more effective against turbidity, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses.

  6. Ultraviolet

    Using light might seem like a strange way to kill bacteria and viruses, but it works. UV is effective and safe. It doesn’t need chemicals to work and produces no debris.

  7. Solar Disinfection

    This is another form of UV disinfection. A sealed container is exposed to light and it is supposed to kill bacterial, parasitic and viral contaminants.

  8. Distillation

    Evaporative water cleaning is one of the easier methods to use and is extremely effective for removing salt and solid debris.

  9. Sieve

    Though only useful for the largest problems, a sieve can still be a helpful part of your water purification process.

  10. Cloth or Coffee Filters

    For obvious reasons, this is only going to get the particles you can see. If you have to drink from the toilet, a little extra something might not end your life, but you don’t need to leave things in the water either.

  11. Iodine

    As essential to your body as it is to your clean water, iodine is available as tabs or a liquid.

  12. Plant Material

    Hanging progressive strips of fabric covered in non-toxic plant matter of decreasing size is another classic filtration method.

  13. Mussels

    Saltwater or fresh, an adult mussel can clean up to 15 gallons of polluted water in a day.

  14. Nopal Gel

    Cactus will filter out iron and copper. This genius method has been used to benefit small communities in Mexico where the cactus is common. The gel (aka mucilage) has some uniquely useful properties.

  15. Crab Shells

    Scientists discovered a few years back (2015) that the shells of crabs can be used to filter out copper and cadmium pollution from water. This is good news for your kidneys since metals can do some serious damage and make you very ill.

  16. Activated Charcoal

    If it’s good enough for Brita and your ancestors there’s no reason you shouldn’t use the tried and true charcoal filter.

  17. Premade Purifiers

    Yes, it’s almost like cheating, but who cares. You can survive with premade filters as long as you can get them. The one I most recommend can be purchased on Amazon. Click here for the latest pricing.

Final Thoughts

Whoever has been designing our toilets needs a serious talking to. Presumably, lightly filtered grey water would be a much better choice for waste disposal. Running a clean water line into the dumping ground is either blindly lazy, overly self-important, criminal, or possibly a genius decision made by a survivalist who wanted to keep people away from their most important resource.

Water is water. Sure, it’s a little hard to swallow the rhetoric here, but it’s true. A clean toilet is less dangerous than a mud puddle in most parts of the world. It’s not the toilet’s fault that your plans for it include some extreme and personal pollution. Perhaps the stranger question here is, “Why are we flushing so much good potable water?”

Additional Questions

  1. Can STDs Survive in toilet water? In a word, no. STD transmission is something that generally happens during sex, and almost always requires direct fluid to fluid body contact. Viruses need the heat, moisture and host environment of the inside of a human body. Without it, they die in moments. Even crabs and scabies are unlikely to be transmitted via the toilet. 
  2. What should I do if my toddler drinks toilet water? Take a deep breath. Unless your precious bundle of joy starts throwing up or having other highly unlikely symptoms, they’ve just had a common experience. Brush their little teeth or offer them a breath mint. 
  3. Why does a toilet get black streaks? A lime-like buildup of minerals from water can form. If the streaks come down from the little holes under the rim, it’s mineral deposits. Black mold can be a bathroom problem, but it doesn’t typically make identifiable stripes.