DIY Portable Sink How to Make Your Own Off-Grid Sink

DIY Portable Sink: How to Make Your Own Off-Grid Sink

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Did you know washing your hands for 15 seconds reduces the bacteria on your hands by 90%? And this is especially important if you find yourself in nature, where harmful bacteria can be most prevalent. Fortunately, you don’t have to be worried about bacteria because there is a simple way to maintain basic hygiene when you don’t have access to plumbing and running water.

You can rely on a portable sink, where you make it yourself, or find an ideal one for your situation, portable sinks are useful tools to make your environment more hygienic.

Whether you are on a weekend camping trip or live off-grid without a plumbing system, an off-grid sink can be used for washing dishes, as an outdoor kitchen sink, or as a companion to an off-grid toilet. There are many scenarios in which you’ll need a portable sink, so don’t overlook the importance of it.

This article shows you how to make your DIY portable sink in four easy-to-follow steps. Let’s get right into it!

How Does a Portable Sink Work?

Portable sinks work much like traditional sinks except, instead of a plumbing system, they’re fitted to a tank of freshwater. The tank will need to be replaced or refilled whenever the water runs out. 

Like traditional sinks, portable sinks come in various types and designs depending on the brand and size. You’ll find them in single, double, and triple basin variants, as well as indoor and outdoor models. 

All-purpose models come with a 16-gallon freshwater tank and a 21-gallon waste tank, whereas camping and off-grid models come with a 5-gallon fresh tank and a 7-gallon waste tank. Some are equipped with a 2.5-gallon electric water heater and foot pump to dispense cold and hot water. 

When you use the sink, soap suds and wastewater flow down the basin and into the wastewater tank, which can then be emptied into any drain. 

The freshwater and wastewater tank connections are separate, so there’s no risk of contamination with gray water. Only clean water flows through the faucets. 

Portable sinks are ideal for off-the-grid situations, where traditional sinks with a full plumbing system cannot be easily accessed.

They can be used in various applications, including as a sink for your kitchen, camping, picnic, and bathroom too. As well as for events, like festivals, birthday parties, and catering occasions without sacrificing convenience. 

They’re an economical alternative to traditional sinks, can be placed anywhere, and can help save water over time. 

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Build a DIY Portable Sink

One of the biggest advantages of portable sinks is that they’re DIY-friendly. No plumbing knowledge is required to build a portable sink; with the steps below, you’ll be able to build a personal off-grid sink in no time! 


  • Faucet 
  • Stainless steel or ceramic basin
  • Two 5 to 7-gallon water tanks; one for freshwater and another for wastewater 
  • Water pump
  • Heating element (optional)
  • Connection pipes 
  • Drain pipes 
  • New or unused cabinet to place the basin in 
  • Jigsaw 
  • Sealant
  • Silicone adhesive  

diy portable sink

Step 1: Make a Plan

The success of any DIY project starts with a well-thought-out plan. Answer the following questions: 

Where do you want to place your portable sink? 

If your portable sink requires an electric outlet, you’ll want to place it in an area where it can have a dedicated outlet. It shouldn’t share an outlet with another item to reduce the risk of power failures or outages. 

The sink must be placed on a flat surface to maximize water flow. In colder months, it must be inside as freezing temperatures can damage sink components.  

Additionally, it must be installed less than 12 inches away from fluorescent lights as electrical noise can interfere with the hot-water sensor (if installed). Avoid insect-infested areas, dusty, greasy, or dirty areas, and damp or humid locations also. 

What material do you want the sink made from? 

If you’re planning to use the sink only a few times, you can make it with cheap, replaceable material. If you want it to last, you’ll want to spend a few extra dollars on a stainless steel or porcelain sink, which are both amazingly durable materials. 

How big do you want the sink to be? 

Most portable sinks feature a 5-gallon freshwater tank and a 7-gallon wastewater tank. You’ll want to make sure both tanks fit inside the sink cabinet.

How many bowls? 

For off-the-grid purposes, one bowl is more than enough. If you’re planning to use it in the kitchen, you may want to use a double-bowl sink: one for washing dirty dishes and one for rinsing.

Step 2: Setup the Design

Once you’ve laid out the basic designs of the portable sink, think of how you want the cabinet to look. 

Sink cabinets come in various designs: pedestal, free-standing, floating, and cabinet. For off-grid sinks, we favor the cabinet-style sink with pull-out drawers that double as storage. 

Making a custom DIY sink cabinet is fairly simple. Start by finding a piece of furniture that fits the sink dimensions. It can be new or salvaged, depending on your taste and preference. 

You can use a solid wood piece of furniture or particle board furniture, as long as you protect it from moisture by applying a sealer. If you’re good with your hands, you can build a sink stand from scratch.

Once you’ve sourced your cabinet, cut a hole in the surface of the cabinet with a jigsaw. Use the sink dimensions as a guide. 

Apply several coats of sealant on the cabinet surface and let it dry for up to 24 hours. The sealant is a crucial part of this process because it protects wooden furniture from moisture damage. If you’re using a ceramic or polypropylene cabinet, you can skip this step. 

Place the sink into the hole and check your alignment using a measuring tape. Trace the sink using a pencil then apply a line of silicone adhesive on the top and underside, then carefully set the sink in place. 

Let the adhesive dry completely before proceeding to the next step. 

portable sink

Step 3: Connect the System

There should be two equal parts inside the cabinet. The lower portion will house the fresh water tank and the wastewater tank, whereas the upper portion is where you’ll place the battery switch, water pump, and other equipment.

Connect the drain pipe to the washing basin to the tank receiving used water. Then, attach the other pipe to the sink’s primary system, composed of the heating element, pump, and faucet. Ensure that the second pipe connects the tank to freshwater. 

If your area doesn’t have reliable access to electricity, you can instead use a solar water heater or battery-powered water heater. 

Step 4: Test the System

When testing out the system, double-check the connections. Make sure that everything is properly and firmly connected by lightly tugging on the pipes. For that extra bit of security, wrap the connections with fast tape to avoid water leakage.

Turn on the water and check the status. If the sink doesn’t release water, fill the freshwater container and position it at the back and right-hand side of the unit. 

If the pump turns on but doesn’t pump water or shut off, the pump is likely drawing in air and having trouble getting water through the system. Check the tubing and connections from the freshwater tank and ensure they’re not leaking air.   

rainwater harvest

Where to Source Clean Water for  an Off-Grid Sink?

To operate your off-grid sink, but buying gallons of water every time your sink runs out of water can be expensive. After all, water is a valuable resource and may not always be readily available. Some ideas for sourcing water for your sink are:

  1. Natural Springs
  2. Rainwater Harvesting
  3. Rain Barrels
  4. Water Wells

Once you have sourced the water, it is just as important to treat the water to make it safe for use. Fortunately, there are many inexpensive and simple ways to purify water. Some include:

Who Needs a Portable Sink?

Portable sinks are designed for a variety of purposes. It’s suited for campers and off-the-grid homesteaders who don’t have easy access to a plumping system. It’s also used in outdoor festivals, food service operations, and any other event where plumbing is either prohibitive or not available. 

Other common applications include: 

  • Medical offices 
  • Patient treatment rooms 
  • Salons and spas
  • Classrooms
  • Outdoor wedding venues 
  • Farmer’s markets 
  • Fish markets 
  • Concerts 
  • Food truck events 
  • Sporting events 
  • Petting zoos 
  • Road trips

If you’re operating facilities like salons, spas, and anything that deals with food and healthcare, installing portable sinks is a good way to maintain licensing requirements.  

Since no plumbing is required, you can move the sink whenever you need it most without worrying about technical installations.

no plumbing sink

Final Thoughts

There you have it, folks; our guide on how to build your own DIY portable sink! 

Building a portable sink all comes down to proper equipment and connection know-how. To minimize the risk of cross-contamination, label the freshwater tank and the wastewater tank. 

Other than periodic cleaning, portable sinks require minimal maintenance. The wastewater tank needs to be emptied once a week, depending on your water consumption. Add chlorine bleach to the wastewater tank, stir well, and empty it out. 

The freshwater tank should be refilled around the same time. 

If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more about building an off-grid water system, consider reading other articles on our site. We have picked out our favorite composting toilets, answered 18 of the most common FAQs of composting toilets, and discussed the various methods to shower while off-grid. 

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