How to Make a Composting Toilet

As my husband and I began mapping out the interior of our rustic shed-turned-cabin in Montana, he knew we wouldn’t have plumbing, and I knew I didn’t want to deal with chemicals or smells. With two small children and weather that can range from -20 to 85-degrees Fahrenheit, we also didn’t want to deal with schlepping outside for potty breaks. Building our own humanure toilet turned out to be our perfect solution.

With only 12x20 feet of living space, the whole cabin is virtually a kitchen/bedroom/bathroom. We had to choose between putting the loo by the hot stove (not safe for children) by the hide-a-bed, or in this quiet corner. While some question the cleanliness of pooping so close to a food prep area, one must remember that this is not a flushing toilet that sprays bacteria into the air with every flush. Your backside seals the toilet while you do your business. There is no splash. Compost debris quickly covers the deposits, and the lid is shut immediately. Also, having water within easy reach is a must for cleaning up "accidents." We hope to adjoin the outhouse to The Shabin in the near future.

We get quite a few jokes from friends and family about our “lovey loo,” but I would take our lovely-loo over a honey bucket any day! It’s a bucket inside a wood box, and we cover – um – the deposits with sawdust. it has a real toilet seat on it for looks and comfort, but it is what it is, and it works very well.

Recycled red outhouse behind The Shabin always stinks!


I’m a city girl with a flushing toilet, and if our composting toilet had ever started to stink or had drawn bugs, I would have buried the whole mess and put up an outhouse last year! In fact, we did install an outhouse on our last trip and I hate it! Within one day of putting the outhouse to regular use, it stunk to high heaven and was full of flies even though we continuously tossed lime into it. So pardon me if I prefer my little lovey-loo over in the cabin’s quiet corner. Privacy is highly overrated anyway, or so I tell myself … before swearing that we must purchase a curtain next time we’re in town!

After emptying and rinsing the bucket, start with a layer of wood shavings or other dry debris.

I’m not sure why wood shavings and leaf debris work so well to cover the smell, but I would emphasize that new shavings don’t work well. We take our composting debris from the wood pile, and perhaps the older debris has more microbes? We keep the shavings in a basket next to the lovely loo, and we do put toilet paper in with the leavings. Every “deposit” is covered with about an inch of dry compost. I would not recommend using kitchen scraps.

Using lysol after each bucket-dump could obviously negate the "green" effect of your composting toilet. However, after a bout of dysentery, diarrhea or vomiting, you may want to use a spray or two. In our case, the lysol was NOT being used for the lovey-loo but for disinfecting the cabin from an infestation of deer mice that had settled in during our absence. Deer-mice poop carries hanta virus, and breathing spores of it can be fatal.

To make your own, build a wooden box around a bucket. Create a removable lid with or without a toilet seat attached. Know where you’ll be burying or composing your deposits. We bury ours deep out in the fields where the tractors will till it under the following season, while some build a separate compost pile, covering it with straw and claiming that humanure is usable after one year. As long as fresh waste is kept away from human consumables and out of reach of small pets and children, it is an eco-friendly and smell-free means of living comfortably off-grid.

Bethany Learn lives in Oregon with her husband and two small children. She has a degree in Exercise & Sport Science from OSU, and she is the founder and main instructor behind Fit2B.US which features wholesome home workout videos for the whole family. Fit2B Studio and her blog “Fit2Bmama” are rapidly gaining popularity, and she enjoys a wide following on Twitter and Facebook, and she has been a guest on Get Fit Now Radio & The Organic View. Bethany also heads up the MOMS group at her church and operates a resource site for aspiring writers called Ready to Publish. Bethany’s hobbies include editing, reading, dragon boats with the Castaways, crocheting rag rugs out of recycled shirts, and fixing up “The Shabin,” which is a rustic little shabby shed that she and her husband are converting into an off-grid, sustainable cabin on family land in Montana.

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Pen - August 19, 2011 Reply

I’ve been reading about humanure toilets for awhile now, and I think they look like a great solution. I don’t have good access to compost/sawdust and have been thinking of using peat (which I would have to buy, but…). I’ll have to read some more.

Just an outhouse comment, from someone who has used a variety of them over the years: It’s quite possible to have an airy, pleasant, non-smelly outhouse. The key is ventilation. I won’t get into great detail here since this is about humanure toilets, but basically it can be accomplished with passive, PVC “chimney(s)” and some screened vents. I just want people to know that a non-stinky outhouse is an option that is possible.

kevinsmicrohomestead - August 19, 2011 Reply

compost toilets work very well I have one in my microhouse and use peat as a cover it never smells even in 100 plus heat . they are very portable and I’m building more of them for other spaces ,my shop , camping ect…

Gil Palmer - August 19, 2011 Reply

It would make no ecological sense to set up a humanure toilet and then use peat in it. Peat is not sustainable. The peat bogs are under severe threat.

The thing is to neutralize the nitrogen in the poop with a carbon material. Ground-up, dry fallen leaves or pine needles would work, even finely shredded cardboard and paper. If you can’t find even that, I’d just use plain old dirt.

Bill - August 19, 2011 Reply

Using Lysol as a “disinfectant” seems to negate the green benefits of humanure.

Can you get a septic tank?

    Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 21, 2011 Reply

    I’m not sure if a septic tank is a very green option either: disrupt the earth’s surface to install a non-biodegradable container to hold good usable compost? Also, see my caption change about the lysol. It was being used to disinfect the cabin from deer-mice poop which can be fatal.

winnie - August 19, 2011 Reply

I ran into (to use) a composting toilet in the Broken Island group off the coast of British Columbia. It was scenic and non-smelly which was a real blessing. I worked for the USDA Forest Service and maintained traditional outhouses, some of which became quite odorous by the end of a summer season, so was highly pleased that composting toilets didn’t have the same pong. Now if only we could have such luck and take the technology to US park and Forest Service rural systems.

Harvey Pwca - August 19, 2011 Reply

I would be VERY careful with your wastes vis-a-vie gardens. It’s NOT simply a case of letting it compost as improper handling can and will lead to serious consequences. I urge you to read an excellent book on the subject: Joseph C. Jenkins, The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure, 3rd Ed.. There are others to be sure (most notably Art Ludwig’s ‘Create An Oasis’ series for greywater, blackwater and rainwater DIY systems) BUT no matter which you choose I suggest a serious trip to the library. If they haven’t got anything then Inter-library loan most likely will.

Lisa - August 19, 2011 Reply

Sawdust and peat both work to eliminate odors. What we use at our camp is cold ash from our campfire. It works just as well plus seems to repel insects.

@toddweisscfa - August 19, 2011 Reply

Good stuff Bethany. Thanks for sharing.

Rickles - August 19, 2011 Reply

Love it!

(can we have a print button? I know there’s a few widgets for WP printing.)

Rickles - August 19, 2011 Reply

Disregard print request. The share widget has one in it.

Gaspard de Coligny - August 19, 2011 Reply

So basically… the crapper is in the kitchen…

great design…

    Randy - August 19, 2011 Reply

    Not to be critical, but I’d have to agree with you … having the toilet so close to the food prep area would really, REALLY bug me. Honestly, I don’t think I could get past that to consider anything else.

    Zer0 - August 20, 2011 Reply

    IAWTC.
    I also feel the toilet ought to be in its own little room – away from everything else, including the bath and the shower.

    Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 20, 2011 Reply

    It is a “crappy” design … LOL … but the cabin is only 12×20 which is about the same size as my kitchen in the city, so where else should it go? We thought about the stairwell, but I cannot crawl under there very easily. The other wall has the stove, and I do not wish to burn my bum. The other wall has a hideabed, and the other wall is taken up by the door and the stairs up to the loft … So we are making “doo” with what space we had … the puns are endless 🙂

Jean Kelsey - August 19, 2011 Reply

I’ve heard about these toilets and find your story and ‘how to’ very informational. This is a great way to save water that we all keep flushing away and essential for campers, vacation cottages etc…

deborah - August 19, 2011 Reply

Love the sink! I grew up with one like that back in the 50’s.

With our Humanure potties we use crushed leaves since we have a lot of them here. Would not use peat, regardless since it is not sustainable.

I agree with the above poster; outhouses do not have to be smelly if they are vented correctly and treated like any humanure toilet system. (removeable contents) not a hole in the ground.

We use worms to compost our humanure. They work quickly and there is no smell what-so-ever near the wormbeds.

Carey Huffman - August 19, 2011 Reply

Thanks for the simple how to article. Assuming the bucket isn’t emptied after every “deposit’, approximately how many times is the toilet used before it needs to emptied. Also, have you thought of filling up the hole beneath the outhouse you built on your last trip and converting it humanure out building? You would get rid of the smell, move the “deposits” outside of your tiny house and gain privacy?.

    Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 20, 2011 Reply

    Yes, we have thought of that. We hope to adjoin the outhouse via a little breezeway on one of our future trips. My husband loves the outhouse because it came from the general store he grew up getting his mail from. As it is now, though, the outhouse is around back of the main entrance, and when the weather is 20-below privacy becomes less important that freezing my parts off.

alice - August 19, 2011 Reply

For the last 4 years I’ve used a Luggable Loo camping toilet as a sawdust toilet(http://www.relianceproducts.com/products/sanitation/96.html no need for plastic bags). You can buy just the lid which snaps on any regular 5 gallon pail. I use wine concentrate pails, which are just a bit taller and perfect for my bad knees. No need to build a box if you prefer not to. The seat is secure and comfortable enough for me and I’m no skinny Minnie. In it I use pine small animal bedding (http://www.amazon.com/Sun-Seed-Bedding-Small-Animals/dp/B0000CET62 is an example) which comes in tightly compressed bags, lasts a long time, is reasonably priced and easy to handle. I don’t have access to a reliable source of sawdust otherwise. You can get small bags for camping setups and the whole thing makes a good addition to an urban household emergency kit. My loo is in a 4×6 wash house that also has a showering setup and lots of tool storage.

Jenny Yasi - August 19, 2011 Reply

Weeellll…here’s something you could do to improve it. Fit it with a urine diverting lid. People pee a LOT, like about a 1/2 gallon a day. And people really don’t poop quite as much. So, when you separate off the pee, you make it easier to keep the compost aerated and scent free. Diverting the urine is a fairly recent innovation in composting toilet designs and trust me, it is a BIG improvement. I think you can find tops for this sort of bucket on line. I’d go on and on about it, but I am in a hurry, so all I can say is, I’ve used them all and you want to separate out the urine. Makes life way easier and composting toilets work a whole lot better.

    Judith Williams - August 20, 2011 Reply

    I use a separate bucket for pee, not putting any paper in it. I add a good amount of water to the bucket once a day and water acid loving plants with it.
    I started using my sawdust toilet 5 years ago and this year harvested some of the compost to put around some trees. It is great stuff.

Jenny Yasi - August 19, 2011 Reply

Weeellll…here’s something you could do to improve it. Fit it with a urine diverting lid. People pee a LOT, like about a 1/2 gallon a day. And people really don’t poop quite as much. So, when you separate off the pee, you make it easier to keep the compost aerated and scent free. Diverting the urine is a fairly recent innovation in composting toilet designs and trust me, it is a BIG improvement. I think you can find tops for this sort of bucket on line. I’d go on and on about it, but I am in a hurry, so all I can say is, I’ve used them all and you want to separate out the urine. Makes life way easier and composting toilets work a whole lot better. Here’s the link: http://www.ecovita.net/privy.html

    alice - August 19, 2011 Reply

    Styrofoam toilet seats are great in cold weather for sure, always had one in the outhouse up north. They get grubby fairly quickly though and are not that easy to clean. A sawdust toilet doesn’t need to be aerated or ventilated because it’s a short term collection unit only, the actual composting occurs in a separate location. I drink an awful lot of tea and never have odor problems with my simple bucket and sawdust cover material. A pee diverter is too much fuss and expense for me compared to the really basic system. I can see it working with a toilet that does the composting right in it though.

      RosaMN - August 28, 2011 Reply

      Peeing elsewhere sure makes the bucket lighter & less smelly to lug to the composting site, though. And for folks without a woodpile, you require a lot less carbon material for a poop-only potty.

    Phil Taccetta - August 20, 2011 Reply

    We used an outhouse for many years.I never minded the short walk, but my wife was much happier when we purchased a Sun Mar composting toilet. No matter hard we tried, in 6 weeks or so, we had tiny flies. At that point the only fix was to empty the whole thing and start over. This went on for several years. We purchased a urine diverting toilet from Ecovita and love it! The vent pipe has the .3amp 12volt fan from the composter and it is totally odor free! Bio-degradable plastic liner makes emptying easy. I believe they have a urine diverting lid that would make the bucket work much better as the earlier post mentioned.

Carlos in ATx - August 19, 2011 Reply

Ventilation for composting toilets is a must! I would have added a service door that allows outside access. Better yet, a simple lean to on the south facing wall if possible. You can get pretty fancy with composting toilets these days. I’ve seen one that uses a humidity sensor to control the ventilation fan. It also had a passive solar heat collector that provided dry warm/hot air to dry the manure. It’s own rainwater collector for hand washing and low water use flushing of urine separately.

Zolo - August 19, 2011 Reply

Every time I see one of these I’m reminded of Napoleon’s field commode from an episode of Lovejoy.

MBee - August 19, 2011 Reply

How are people in tiny houses out there accessing a steady supply of sawdust and finding storage for it in their homes?

Thanks for this great post!

Leonie - August 19, 2011 Reply

I have been using a humanure loo for 11 months now – so next month the compost heap will be put to rest for a year and another started.
I use sawdust animal bedding bought feed store for $1,50 a bag and lasts a month. A 20L paint bucket is the receptacle and one lasts a week or more. I fill 3 before emptying them all into the compost heap.
I have not come across anyone else using a humanure loo in South Africa.

Mitch - August 19, 2011 Reply

I’m sorry, but taking a dump in the kitchen is just disgusting! Composting toilets are great; I’ve lived with many. All have been in (odorless) outhouses where they belong. This is a throwback to medieval times; not even a dog would crap that close to where he eats. Even if you use all that spray, the feng shuie of having a bucket of feacies next to a food prep area puts you in a lowly position.

lawrenanne - August 19, 2011 Reply

I’ve been using this type of toilet for 9 years now, and toilet-trained my 2 young children on it as well. The biggest improvement I made to the original design was to remove the plywood box & just attach the seat and lid to the wall with a plank on the wall. Totally changes the “indoor outhouse” look into a normal bathroom. (Assuming it’s in the bathroom, of course!) When I had access to birch sawdust for cover, the contents composted in 6 weeks; now I have to use chipped brush, mostly conifers, and it takes 2 years. Cedar & pine have anti-bacterial properties and will slow the compost process considerably; avoid them if at all possible.

    lindy - August 23, 2011 Reply

    Well, that’s the missing piece of the puzzle for me! I have either used fir sawdust, pine or cedar shavings and it takes far to long to compost. Thank you! I’ll see about changing cover materials!

SteveR - August 20, 2011 Reply

Also check out http://www.composttoilets.co.nz/
In Christchurch, NZ, after the recent earthquakes everyone had to take care of their own waste as the sewage infrastructure was destroyed for several weeks. Composting toilets were not just a good idea but a necessity as there were no other options in the short term.

Josh - August 20, 2011 Reply

Putting the toilet in the kitchen is definitely a big FAIL. According to the article, a husband and wife and their two kids live here together. So, if mom is making dinner and dad or one of the kids has to make a fudgy, they just saddle up five feet from the kitchen area and do their business? That’s disgusting. I’d like a little privacy when I’m doing that, and if I’m preparing something in the kitchen, I don’t want to be subjected to someone dropping a deuce nearly within arms reach from me.

    Schneb - August 21, 2011 Reply

    Love the ‘phraseology’ of “dropping a deuce”.

    Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 21, 2011 Reply

    Josh, as I have now clarified on the blog itself, where else should we have put the toilet? We only just recently got the outhouse and between trying to get a water line to the cabin and chasing two rugrats, we have not had time to attach the outhouse to the cabin yet. And again, it’s 12×20 which is the size of my city kitchen! This is not a luxurious vacation rental with much elbow room. It’s a tiny house that is in progress and takes a lot of work and updates every time we’re there. Plus, as a mother, I’m used to my littluns “dropping deuces” as you not-so-eloquently stated. It’s part of being a mom. We’re a family!!! I’ve delivered these babies, nursed them, changed their bums, and made love to bring them into the world… what about any of that is private? Nonetheless, I still wouldn’t mind a curtain 🙂

      Josh - August 21, 2011 Reply

      Josh…where else should we have put the toilet?

      Well, I think it’s been established that the general consensus is – Anywhere but the kitchen.

      …as a mother, I’m used to my littluns “dropping deuces” as you not-so-eloquently stated… We’re a family!!! I’ve delivered these babies, nursed them, changed their bums, and made love to bring them into the world… what about any of that is private?

      Well, I’m not married, but I can tell you that if I were, I wouldn’t be comfortable taking a crap out in the open in front of my wife, nor would I want her doing the same. Some things just deserve a little privacy, regardless of how close you are.

        Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 22, 2011 Reply

        Josh, I think you are still missing the main fact about our particular living arrangement: It is a ONE-ROOM CABIN. There is no dividing walls between any “room.” There is no “kitchen” or “bedroom.” And we are not going to waste precious money or resources on adding extra walls just for a little privacy. Once you are married and have children and you see your babies born, perhaps you’ll be a bit less prissy? It’s no big deal for us. We’ve been through a lot together: surgeries, births, LIFE!!! We are far past the privacy issues 🙂

Wendy - August 20, 2011 Reply

I envy anyone that can do toilet activity in something like that. However I’d need sewer system & be able to shower indoors. A 300#+ woman showering outside is not ideal. I’d scare wildlife!

Someone - August 20, 2011 Reply

Putting the toilet in the kitchen!!! I think a big “FAIL”.

When they cooking food and someone need to toilet.

won’t imaging !!!

fatin khawarizmi - August 20, 2011 Reply

I can see some little mistakes but in general it can help temporary till to fix the toilet problem because it is so important and we can not avoid it, I am also against to put the toilet in the Kitchen even if no smells come out, it is a question of hygienic 😉

Maenwyn Rati - August 20, 2011 Reply

I have to agree about location. I’d want a small room on south side of building with a home-made solar collecter for heat. Or, put up trellis from house to composting out house for a wind-shield and install solar heat.

Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 20, 2011 Reply

Okay, I’ve now left several replies about the hygienics of the situation. May I please stress that we are not LIVING here. We have a home in the city with the luxury of a kitchen the size of the cabin. In one reply I stated quite clearly why this corner was chosen. And let me assure all of you, that I probably keep the cabin over clean while we are there for a few weeks out of every year. We hope to continue to improve what we have, but my goal was merely to share what we’ve built. It’s not a high standard of living, because it’s a RUSTIC cabin in the wilds of Montana. And any mother knows that just because it’s dinner time, that doesn’t mean a kid won’t have to go poo. My potty training kids have had accidents less than five feet from food in my city kitchen. I handle it the same way as I do in our cabin: wipe them, wash them, clean up and move on with life.

Walt Barrett - August 21, 2011 Reply

We believe that a composting toilet should be a simply designed urine separating unit like the one that we designed and build. See the photos here.
http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house/composting-toilet/#comments

Schneb - August 21, 2011 Reply

Great to have this topic discussed. I’m interested as a maybe-someday camper and/or Tiny House-er, but also, I teach in a high school and oversee a Teen CERT club (Community Emergency Response Team–see: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/certinaction/index.shtm ) and the info and resources for how a bucket toilet might/should be used for an emergency situation will help with planning and training.

Ray A - August 21, 2011 Reply

If I remember correctly, the key to low-odor is seperation of pee from poo; both are good to return to the soil, but mixing them together can be toxic.

Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 21, 2011 Reply

My husband is digging the idea of separating the deposits. When the weather is nice, the boys just “water the earth” anyway, which leaves us girls, and I’m sure we could figure something out 🙂

Beverly - August 21, 2011 Reply

I am such a city girl & don’t have a clue about composting. I am converting my 12′ x 24′ workshed into a guest house for occassional use. I have very little money so it makes sense to use a composting toilet in there. This would not be for long term use. In fact, after reading these posts it makes sense to have something for use in an emergency. I have an outdoor water faucet for watering the lawn that is attached to the shed. So, the question I have is how do I dispose of the feces, urine, & sawdust (or shredded paper) in the city? Also, I guess it could be dumped into the toilet in my house the next morning instead of using sawdust (or shredded paper). Any advise for how I should do this? Thank you.

Homer Wells - August 22, 2011 Reply

Great article! I’ve always wanted to do a composting toilet in my shed, and your version is inspiring me to do it. Sometimes, you just have to get the job done dispite the imperfections. You can move it or curtain it or perfect it, but only after you build it and see how it works.

One contribution: For a green clean, try a spray bottle of pure white vinegar (5% acidity) instead of Lysol for cleaning. The vinegar will do everything the Lysol does for mice, bugs, bacteria, mold, etc. Actually, vinegar is more effective than bleach for cleaning. And, you can’t get more non-toxic! You can drink your cleaner!

moontree ranch - August 22, 2011 Reply

Wow …good spread of comments here. Our cabin is about the same size 11 x 20 and we set a side a small closet area for the sawdust toilet use…it is on the opposite side of the cabin from the kitchen and the closet walls provide privacy…we hung a blanket over the front of the closet “opening”. This was the norm until we used of some more wood from our wood shed Last spring I moved the sawduster there…inside the woodshed. This freed up some space inside.

With me the only male watering the sagebrush and my partner doing her Pee’s outside as well just he children pee was going in the sawduster…this cuts back on the how often it needs to be dumped…we can go about 4-5 days.

    Bethany - Fit2B Studio - August 22, 2011 Reply

    Yeah, we’ve had quite the range of input. I actually had to revise the captions on my pics to further explain our situation. People are so judgey until they’ve walked a mile in another’s shoes. I wish our cabin had a closet area like yours. It didn’t come with one. It was literally a four-wall shed. We hope to adjoin the outhouse to the cabin eventually, but that will take time and our main focus right now is getting running water from the well to the cabin so I don’t have to keep schlepping water from the neighbors. We dump about every 4-5 days, too 🙂

Hill Billy - August 23, 2011 Reply

Boy, when you said “people are so judgey…”, you hit the nail right on the head! The wife and I have raised 3 little ones in a 4’X 8′ shed and have never noticed one problem with our humanure set-up. Our solution was to just let nature take it’s course. Human waste isn’t radioactive fallout, it’s simply the byproduct of a beautiful and natural bodily function. We let the little ones just do their business whenever and wherever they happen to be “when nature calls”, we see no reason to try and make passing waste into a privacy issue. Not only does this help keep prying salesmen away, it also keeps the Mother-In-Law visits way down as well! Our little guys will scoop up the fudgy mess and express their artistic talents with sculptures, finger painting, and foul smelling paper-mache projects. I still have and enjoy the poop ashtray little Clevis made for me 2 years ago!

    Bucephelus - August 23, 2011 Reply

    Billy, a 4′ x 8′ shed ?! — why, that’s a palace in our neck of the woods

    Me and the missus brought up seven children and four grand children on a 3’x6′ trailer with NO walls…

    People were extremely “judgey”.. particularly our next door neighbors. Procreation and pooping are natural and beautiful things.. but try telling them that

    We encouraged our little ones to just poop out the sides of the trailer… like eagles.

    Eventually we HAD walls

      Hill Billy - August 24, 2011 Reply

      Howdy Cousin Bucy! That’s just what I love about this Blog, it’s always flush with great ideas passed along by folks of strong moral fiber! Why, you’d have to search through the very bowels of most other sites to squeeze out even a pellet of the information that we’re up to our ankles in here!

      Now I hope y’all didn’t think I was bragging about my shed, I recognize that most folks can’t afford the luxuries that the wife and I have come to take for granted. I often forget that many people still have to settle for wiping with corn cobs whilst the Billy family abounds in stacks of old newspaper, and the possum pie we feast on once a week? Well, don’t get me started…anyway, enjoy those new walls Cousin Bucy!

        Bucephelus - August 24, 2011 Reply

        Cuz
        I could only dream of such an effluent lifestyle as yours. You have it all, Billy
        Still…. my dearest Ecoli and I have been blessed with many happy memories – we were like pigs in mud, Billy
        Aaah… if only these walls could talk!

        Well, enjoy your possum pie, cousin Billy… and if you’re in this neck of the woods, don’t hesitate to drop in for a spell. The last wall of our guest room should be up in another fortnight

Terrylee - August 24, 2011 Reply

If you don’t want your out house to stink, don’t pee in. I used an outhouse for 13 years. And only company peed in the outhouse and it never smelled bad and 4of us used it everyday.

Rae Crowley - August 26, 2011 Reply

Question: Could you use newspapers instead of shavings as cover?

    Bethany Learn - May 4, 2012 Reply

    Well, they don’t exactly deliver the newspaper up where our cabin is… and I dont’ think would work anyway. I’m not sure, but I think a lot of the breakdown and odor control happens because of the wood shavings. It’s as if as soon as the shavings cover the deposits, the smell is instantly gone. I don’t think newspaper would be as effective.

      alice h - June 4, 2012 Reply

      I’ve used a sawdust toilet for several years and paper just doesn’t work the same as sawdust for odour control. Adding a bit of paper can help absorb moisture if you don’t separate urine and adds to the carbon bulk for composting but is pretty much useless for covering odour. I buy a tightly compressed big bag of pine shavings at the pet store for around $20 and it lasts quite a long time. I know the Humanure Handbook calls for rotted sawdust but the dry stuff seems to work. The rotted stuff is probably better for the composting process afterwards though.

Kirsi - August 29, 2011 Reply

Dry toilets have been in common use in Finland a long time, as many Finns have country houses with no electricity or running water. There’s even a Finnish organisation that promotes dry toilets and has a lot of information about best practices available in the net, also in English.

Please, go and check the site http://www.drytoilet.org/intro.html

treetings, Kirsi

Antibacterial Toilet Seats - Jon-e-Vac - September 4, 2011 Reply

Great article! got a huge information about make a composting toilet and save water.

Mabel - September 17, 2011 Reply

Wow, disgusting.

angiethecamper - October 9, 2011 Reply

I have a suggestion for privacy for your toilet-Install the sliding curtain holding racks from Ikea on the ceiling in an L pattern out long enough to cover knees and sew up whatever length privacy curtain you need and voila, you have a privacy curtain that takes up no space!

We used this incredibly inexpensive method to put up a twenty foot material divider in our cabins sleeping loft so guest could have their own area. These are found in the window treatment areas of Ikea- basically they screw to the ceiling and have little loops you place hooks on which hold the fabric- works like a charm!

    Bethany Learn - May 4, 2012 Reply

    I’ve considered that. We’re only there twice a year, and it’s just us as a family. I don’t really get privacy when we’re at home in the city, so I laugh at the notion of privacy being such a big concern in an 11×20 shed. We do need to move the lovey-loo though because some of our guests aren’t as “tiny” as we are, and their tushes don’t fit into the corner. Of course, we aren’t inside when people use it, and we were able to put the outhouse to use on a recent trip. However, the outhouse was full of rats and nastiness when we returned while our composting toilet was NOT. I despise our outhouse!

Hello from WWOOF-land! « out here in the fields - June 3, 2012 Reply

[…] pay her water bill, which was apparently only $6(!!!) She claims it’s because she mainly uses composting toilets, which don’t need water.  There is running water in the house for the shower, kitchen sink, […]

Rob Hack - July 13, 2012 Reply

Usually I just read online and rarely comment but for those people who keep whining about the location of the toilet get over it! Weather your 5 feet or five hundred feet from the kitchen makes no difference except in your running water-porcelain god,closed minds.These people would be dialing 911 if there toilet quit flushing.
If you don’t want your toilet in the kitchen then don’t but don’t judge other people for their choices especially with the limited space.You act like they are going to invite you over. lol
And as far as the kids go (pun intended) I’ll bet their kids grow up to be well round adults with this “open” family environment and back to nature attitude.Lastly,I hate to say it to a OSU grad but…..GO DUCKS!

alice h - July 14, 2012 Reply

Ha, made me laugh! After many years of outhouse use it always felt “wrong” and very weird to use a bathroom inside a house, even the fancy, private flush toilets. A person gets very used to their own type of “normal” and “not normal” can often equal “wrong” in your mind.

Mia - August 16, 2012 Reply

Thsnk you for this article! It’s perfect! My friend and I live in Oregon and are planning on converting cargo trailers into living spaces! This composting toilet will be perfect!

Jessica - September 9, 2012 Reply

Moms rule the world, and I think its admirable that your family is so close with one another.
Your cabin is precious, I love what you’ve done with it. Here’s a hug to make up for all the judgey people.

Sherry - November 16, 2012 Reply

Chemisan is a relatively new product that hastens the composting process and neutralizes both odors and unfriendly pathogens. It is supposed to make humanure in a matter of weeks. I’m getting some to try with the 5 gallon loo we use for camping. Hope it works as well as they say!

Ph?m Thu - November 29, 2012 Reply

Hi Kent Griswold!
I am supprised that you can made a composting toilet yourself. I am from Vietnam, here we use a normal toilet which use much water. So, can you let me know how to make a composting toilet. I would like to learn to make one. Hope you answer me through my email wearefamilymt@gmail.com.
Thanks!!

David - May 30, 2015 Reply

I started with this then modified it to make what I call the “Air Flush”. It’s the cleanest and most odor free toiliet I know of.. No cleaning. Nothing to add,. 1/3 of a grocery bag of dried poop a week to dispose of: Add a 12V computer fan through a hole in the back near the bottom. Use a paper grocery bag inside of a heavy plastic bag. Cut a hole where the fan is in both bags. Cover the fan with a piece of cardboard tapped over it to the paper bag to deflect the waste. Vent into an exsisting sewage vent pipe in an RV or use dryer hose or add verticle vent in a house. Urine goes in a separate container.,

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