Informational Guide

How To Use A Composting Toilet

This guide will give you all the information you need about these types of toilets and how to use a composting toilet correctly.

by Ian Haynes

If you live in a mobile home, you have to consider how you will deal with your waste. This isn't just your trash but is the human waste that would usually be dealt with via your plumbing in a standard home.

Composting toilets offer a practical and effective solution. The majority of the waste is liquid, which is evaporated off, and the rest is converted into fertilizing soil by the composting toilet. This allows you to safely remove it, and it can even be used for planting or farming.

This guide will give you all the information you need about these types of toilets and how to use a composting toilet correctly.

Composting toilets can be used indoors and outdoors, but the make and model will determine the space you’re able to use it in. Some composting toilets have an integrated composter that is designed to deal with high volumes of waste. These typically need to be standalone outdoor units because they won’t fit indoors. There are also a lot of more compact models which are well suited for indoor use.

The key feature of a composting toilet is that it doesn’t require any connection to a water supply. This makes them useful in various settings, and you’ll often find composting toilets at festivals, golf courses, allotments, nurseries, and holiday homes. Some models do require an electrical supply which limits where they can be used.

How To Use A Composting Toilet

What Do You Use Inside Composting Toilets?

Now you know what they are, and how they work, let's talk about what goes inside them. Composting toilets use a variety of different methods to process your waste, some being more effective than others. Below are the key materials used inside a composting toilet:

Peat moss

Peat moss is the organic material often found in bogs or swamps. Peat moss is extremely absorbent and is great for neutralizing waste. However, it takes a long time for peat moss to form, and removing it from its natural environment can damage an ecosystem. A compromise is often to mix peat moss with other substances, like sawdust, and typically less than 50% of the contents would be peat moss.

Coir

Coir is the hair found on the outside of a coconut. This has become more plentiful in the US over the last decade because people are eating far more coconut products. It’s extremely absorbent and effective in composting toilets, but it can be more difficult to use because it's so dense.

Sawdust

Sawdust is affordable and effective. It absorbs the waste well, and you can pick it up pretty much anywhere. Remember, you want the sawdust from shavings, not the extremely fine particles you get from using a buzz saw.

Chopped Straw

Chopped straw is what you’ll see in most fields as you drive through the countryside. This has absorbent properties, which allow it to deal with the waste effectively. It's affordable and accessible but needs to be chopped up before being used. It can also cause havoc for anyone with allergies.

Soil

Soil can be effective at getting rid of the smell and absorbing some of the waste. It’s cheap and everywhere, but unfortunately, when mixed with liquid, it can become really messy. This is less than ideal when using a composting toilet.

Pine needles

Pine needles work well, too, and cover the smell extremely effectively. The downside is that it’s difficult to find in enough quantities to fill the composting toilet. You may decide this is more trouble than it’s worth.

Leaves

Leaves are everywhere and can be used in a composting toilet, but you'll have mixed results. If you dry them out and chop them up, then they can work, but it’s genuinely more trouble than it’s worth.

Grass Clippings

Grass clippings offer a fresh scent to cover the bad smell, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do a great job of absorbing the waste. Dried out grass clippings can work ok, but you’ll need to go through and remove all the insects from it first.

Wood Ash

Wood ash actually works really well to absorb the waste, and it covers the smell. It’s easy to get hold of, but the downside is that it can really make a mess. Only use wood ash if you’re going to be outside.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are one of the most effective items to use in a composting toilet. They’re cheap and work well to absorb the waste, without any real downside. If you have wood chips handy, then this is the perfect solution.

What Do You Use Inside Composting Toilets

How To Use A Composting Toilet: Step By Step Guide

Unless you're building a DIY composting toilet, you certainly don’t need us to teach you how to use a toilet, but composting toilets are a little bit different. Below are the steps you need to follow:

1. Set up the toilet

First, you need to put your material within the toilet. This is what will absorb the waste and turn it into compost, and without it, it’s useless. You need to make sure the entire base of the toilet is covered so that all your waste is absorbed.

2. Use the toilet

When using the toilet, you'll either be urinating or disposing of fecal matter. For the latter, you need to use the lever on the toilet to open the trap door. This allows any solid matter to go into a separate storage unit which is also lined with your absorbent material. Having this separate compartment helps to contain the smell and makes the composting toilet much easier to empty.

Not all composting toilets have this separate compartment, but the majority do. Make sure you close the door again when you’re done. Toilet paper can be disposed of as usual in a compost toilet, but you might consider having a separate bin for it to avoid any blockages.

3. Activate the mechanism

A lot of composting toilets have a mechanism that mixes up the waste. This allows you to mix the waste with the absorbent material, helping to neutralize the odor and break down the waste. Fans are sometimes installed in toilets to help dry the waste out, making it a lot easier to empty.

4. Empty the composting toilet

Finally, you need to empty the toilet when it’s full. This should be done every 3-4 days to avoid any build-up of odor. Liquid waste should be removed and safely poured on vegetation, but it’s safer to do this as far away from your home as possible.

The solid waste doesn’t need to be disposed of as regularly and can be disposed of in one of two ways. You can either empty the contents into a biodegradable trash bag and throw it away or, you can empty the waste into a compost bin. This allows it to be safely used as fertilizer for your plant life.

5. Handle the smell

As an extra step, you can put in some vinegar to your emptied compost toilet to help neutralize the odor. Sugar can also have a similar effect, or you can opt for specialist odor neutralizers.

 The video below gives a complete guide to using a composting toilet:

Where Do You Dump Your Waste?

It’s not the nicest thing to think about, but you need to handle and dispose of your waste safely. For your own safety, you should always use gloves and wash your handles regularly after emptying your compost toilet.

Unlike a regular toilet which mixes liquid and solid waste, most composting toilets deal with each element separately.

Liquid Waste

Liquid waste, urine, builds up more quickly than solid waste and should be removed every 3-4 days. Odor can start to build up quickly with liquid waste, but you can add a spoonful of sugar to your toilet to neutralize it. You can pour the liquid waste down any drain, or you can dilute it and use it to water your lawn. The liquid waste will be good for plant life, but you should consider going at least 10 yards from your home to avoid any bad smell on your doorstep.

Solid Waste

For solid waste, you’ll typically need to empty the composting toilet after 90 uses. This can be anywhere from 1-3 months, depending on the number of people using it. You can empty the solid waste into a biodegradable trash bag and throw it out, or you can add it to your compost pile, which eventually can be used as fertilizer. You shouldn't clean out the solid waste compartment once emptied because the bacteria helps break down any other waste added to it.

Where Do You Dump Your Waste

People also Ask (FAQs)

Are composting toilets legal in the US?

Composting toilets are legal in most states in the US, but some states have specific restrictions. The legislation has been updated a lot recently, but there are restrictions in place in Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and New Jersey.

Can you use toilet paper in a composting toilet?

Yes, toilet paper can be used in a composting toilet, but it may clog some models. Often users choose to use a separate bin to dispose of toilet paper.

Can you use kitty litter in a composting toilet?

Most kitty litter will work in a composting toilet, but clay-based kitty litter won’t.

Can I use a composting toilet in a freezing climate?

Yes, but in very cold conditions, the composting process for solid waste will be less effective.

How can I retain moisture in my compost pile?

Adding air to your compost pile is the solution for keeping the moisture in. You’ll need to turn it regularly to get that extra freshness into the pile.

What is the difference between a dry and composting toilet?

In a composting toilet, materials are used to help encourage bacteria to break down the waste. In a dry toilet, the goal is to try out the waste, which breaks down the pathogens. Toilet paper should never be added to a dry toilet.


Conclusion

Composting toilets are really useful and offer a practical solution so you can use a safe and hygienic toilet without any plumbing. It’s important they're used correctly and with the right materials. Hopefully, this guide has given you everything you need to get the most from your composting toilet.

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.

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