Have you ever been to a pit latrine and the stench from the pit can’t even let you do your business or is your toilet making the entire neighborhood cover their noises?

Maybe you are doing something wrong in regards to latrine maintenance. One of the first things you need to learn when you construct a pit latrine is how to keep it from smelling.

Since it is not connected with a water system, waste is just piled up in the pit of your latrine. The foul odor is natural, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

There are many ways on how to keep your pit latrine from smelling. Here are some of them:

Keep it covered.

Simple, clear and effective. This method has been used by our grandparents and can still be used today. This may require the use of a lid (usually wooden covers) to cover the hole in the floor when not in use.  If you do not want flies roving around your facility, the covering the pit hole is a great option because it prevents light from entering the pit which reduces access by flies.


A ventilation pipe from the pit to above the structure can be set up. The vent acts to suck up the odors into the pit and up to the vent. It should be ensured that the vent protrudes well above, to make it work. This improves airflow and decreases the smell of the toilet. It also can reduce flies when the top of the pipe is covered with mesh.

A Fresh Pit cess pool truck at an operation site.

The principal mechanism of ventilation in VIP latrines is the action of wind blowing across the top of the vent pipe. The wind creates a strong circulation of air through the superstructure, down through the squat hole, across the pit and up and out of the vent pipe. Unpleasant fecal odors from the pit contents are thus sucked up and exhausted out of vent pipe, leaving the superstructure odor-free.

A Sanitation Solutions Group employee gives out SaTo Pans.

Using SaTo pans and luxo pans (sanitary ware)

These are modern methods of ensuring that the pit latrines being used are closed off from the open air, thus preventing insects or other vectors from communicating those diseases.

The basic design is a plastic mold that fits into a concrete base over a pit, which means it can be used even when basic plumbing or sewer infrastructure is absent.

A pit latrine with a SaTo pan installed by Sanitation Solutions Group.

The SaTo pan operates much like a trap door, using a counterweight to stay closed except for allowing the passage of waste. The plastic design is cheap and acts as an effective seal over the toilet. In addition to the sanitary benefits, the SaTo pan also acts as a basic safety measure. Because of the nature of some open-pit latrines, young children face the risk of falling inside.

Responsible usage

It might seem obvious but many people use pit latrines irresponsibly. Many will urinate or others defecate on the sides which causes bad smell and attracts flies. So to keep it fresh and clean, a little responsibility counts. The latrine floor should be regularly cleaned.

A squatting pan should also be set up on top of the drop hole to help latrine users direct feces into the hole. Squatting pans can be made of concrete, ceramic, plastic or wood.

Emptying the pit before it gets too full

When the pit is full, the toilet is no longer usable. The time it takes to fill the pit depends on its volume, the number of users, the soil permeability and groundwater level. It can typically take between one and ten years or even longer in some exceptional cases. At that point, the pit can be covered and abandoned, and a new pit latrine built if space on the property permits this. The new pit latrine may reuse the shelter (superstructure) if the shelter can be moved without collapsing.

In space constrained urban areas like Kampala, full pits are not abandoned but rather emptied so that the toilets can continue to be used at the same location after the emptying has taken place. Fresh Pit does pit emptying at affordable rates and in the shortest time possible. Depending on the facility that requires emptying, SSG uses either a cesspool truck or a gulper, an emptying technology that is especially suitable for congested urban slum areas that are inaccessible by cesspool trucks.

Fresh Pit employees operating a gulper.

Use air freshener

You can keep these air freshener tablets hanging near the pit. They act to neutralize the pit odors. Some can be sprinkled on the facility’s wall. Fresh Pit uses Vivian, a strong ordour eliminator given to all pit latrines we empty.

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  • Hello Roselia, kindly follow and like our social media pages for more daily tips on sanitation and toilet/latrine hygiene.

  • Jacinta Nekesa Nangabo.

    Hello SSG. You are doing a wonderful job. Please keep it up! I just wish to know more about Vivian Strong Odour Eliminator, how I can acquire it and at what cost. I also wish to know how to keep away the black little flies from pit latrines; you know the ones I mean? Thank you.

    • Hello Jacinta. Thank you for visiting our website. You can acquire Vivian from our offices in Bukoto at only Shs10,000.
      Flies are a menace that ruin our latrine experience but you can beat them by installing a SaTo pan or a Luxo pan.


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