How To Use An Outhouse

Outhouse rules for renters and guests

Visiting a cabin with and outhouse can be an unnerving experience for many first-time cottage renters and guests.

Outhouse Tips For Cottage Renters And Cabin Guests

Despite the simplicity of the structure, there are a few key rules to follow when using an outhouse.

Ask for directions to the outhouse

When you arrive at your friend’s cottage, be sure to ask for instructions on how to find and use the toilette facilities.

Sometimes the outhouse is located back in the bush behind the cottage. Comfort levels range from a simple hole in the ground with no seat to a comfortable full-service potty in the woods. Have the conversation with the owners right away to avoid any uncomfortable situations later in the day.

Check the door lock

As you first enter the outhouse, take a moment to inspect the locking mechanism so you are able to secure the door while using the privy and, more importantly, are able to get out after you have finished. Many outhouses have a simple sliding bolt or a flip-hook that is used to lock the door. Some are a bit trickier.

An outhouse door often has a spring that closes and locks the door automatically. The only way to open it from the inside is to pull on a string located beside the door. The string is connected to the outside latch and allows the person to open the door.

As a guest you don’t want to break open the outhouse door because you couldn’t find the latch string. Calling out for help is embarrassing. Some people might simply panic and decide to break the door.

Check the outhouse supplies

Take a quick look around the privy before you settle in to make sure the necessary supplies have been re-stocked. Conscientious owners maintain immaculate well-stocked privies, but not all cottage owners are conscientious. At a minimum, there should be toilet paper, hand disinfectant, a small garbage pail to place personal sanitation products, and some form of light for evening visits.

As a guest to a cottage, it is a good idea to bring along your own emergency supply of toilet paper, hand gel, pocket flashlight, and a small plastic garbage bag just in case the outhouse is empty when you arrive and are too shy or in too much of a hurry to go back and ask the hosts for the toiletries.

Inspect the seat

Outhouses generally have a standard toilet seat bolted onto a rough wood frame. Take a moment to lift the seat up and down a couple of times before you sit. This will make sure any spiders or other critters that may be hanging around will have a chance to get out of the way.

Animals can also get into the outhouse. A woman in Alaska apparently got a shock when a bear bit her as she sat down on the outhouse toilet.

Remember what can go in the outhouse toilet

Only three things should ever go into a pit privy. These are the natural ingredients that you are there to deposit and the toilet paper. Never put personal care products in the privy because they do not decompose. The outhouse should have a garbage pail for all other items.

Leave the privy clean and closed

When you are finished using the outhouse be sure to put the seat back down, turn off the light, and close the door properly so the latch is securely fastened. This will keep out any curious members of the local forest community.

With a few practical precautions, your first outhouse experience will be pleasant and hopefully, uneventful.

Written and photographed by: Andrew Walker

Go to the Being A Good Cottage Guest page.

Go to the How To Rent A Cottage page.

Go to the Being A Cottage Neighbour page.

Go to the Outhouse Maintenance Tips page.

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