Whether you are setting up your tiny home, live on a rural homestead, or are just looking for an alternative to the traditional toilet, a composting toilet is a great option. Before installing one in your home, you’ll want to learn about how to use a composting toilet the right way. This is not only to help you get the hang of it, but it’s also to ensure that you are okay with the process.
Why do people decide to opt for composting toilets in the first place?
The resulting compost from these toilets is beneficial for the earth’s soil, being a big reason people choose to use them. No sewage system or water connection is required either, making it a great toilet option for off-grid homes.
If you’re new to composting toilets or find yourself considering one, you came to the right place.
We’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to use these toilets, the solutions to potential problems you may encounter, as well as what to do with the resulting compost.
What You’ll Need
Before understanding how to use your composting toilet, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need. Preparing everything you’re going to need will save time and hassle, as well as spare you stress. The following is a list of what is required to properly use a composting toilet.
- The best composting toilet on the market
- One of the Following Bulking Materials: Sawdust, Coconut Coir, Peat Moss, Wood Chips
- Composting Chamber (if not self-contained)
- Biodegradable Toilet Paper
- Spray Bottle with 1:1 Ratio of Water and Vinegar
- Bag or Container to Place/Dispose of Composting Material
- Separate Container for Compost to Further Break Down (if needed)
Which Bulking Material is Best?
You might be wondering why you need bulking material in the first place. The bulking material helps with the composting conditions by improving aeration, enhancing the carbon/nitrogen ratio, preventing insect infestation, and controlling odor.
With several choices for your bulking material, you might find yourself a bit stuck on which one is the best. It all depends on what you prefer.
If you decide to use peat moss, try to use a brand that isn’t finely ground and has larger pieces. This is because the fine ground material is not as effective at composting human waste. If you want to use something a bit more eco-friendly, then the coconut coir is a great choice.
Overall, you should be fine with whatever bulking material you choose. Try a few out and see what works best for you and the people in your home.
How to Use a Composting Toilet
Setting up your composting toilet mainly depends on what type of composting toilet you choose. Of course, once the initial installation is complete, you will need to prepare your toilet for its first use.
Surprisingly enough, the prepping process is easy to do and should take no more than 15 minutes. The same process will also go for each time the compost is emptied out of the compost chamber.
1. Line the Bottom
The bottom of the container needs to be lined with your bulking material. How much you need is going to depend on how big your composting chamber is. This is done in order to soak up the liquids that seep to the bottom and to also give the compost a carbon base.
2. Add the Water
Add water to the bulk material to moisten and help begin the composting process.
3. Clean as Necessary
Clean up any messes or spills if necessary.
4. Cover it Up
Place the lid or cover back on the toilet and your toilet is now ready for its first use!
Using Your Toilet
After prepping your toilet, you can finally get started using it. There is a specific process that you’ll need to go through and it also varies depending on the type of toilet you have.
We will go into this furthermore as we introduce the steps.
1. Go to the Bathroom, Like Usual!
Using your composting toilet is going to work very similarly to the modern toilet that you’re used to. You can sit on it normally, and it’s ok to put your toilet paper into the toilet as well.
If you’re using a urine diverter, then the best way to go to the bathroom is seated. This is to ensure that the solids and liquids are kept separate. If you aren’t interested in changing your routine to sitting down, then you can stand up, but the toilet’s trapdoor needs to stay closed.
2. Cover Up with Bulking Material
After every bowel movement, you are going to need to anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of your bulking material into the toilet. This will not only absorb any excess liquids, but it will also maintain an ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
If you are using a centralized composting toilet, you won’t need to add the material after every bowel movement. Instead, you will add it during rotations. This will typically be about 3 times per week when being used on a daily basis.
3. Rotate the Handle
This step is only applicable if your composting toilet features a rotating drum. The rotation is done with a handle and should be rotated about three times weekly when used on a daily basis. Every time a rotation is performed, the handle should be turned at least 4 times, and up to 6 times.
In cases where the toilet is used less than daily, the handle will need to be turned less. For example, a cottage that is reserved for weekend use will only need to be rotated before leaving for the weekdays. It’s important to do this step so the compost mixes and oxygenates properly.
4. Clean Up as Needed
It would be beneficial to keep a spray bottle containing water and vinegar in the bathroom. This is to spray the bowl and keep it cleaner. You can use the spray after every use, or whenever there is a noticeable need to clean up. Just like with anything else, it’s easier to clean a small mess then wait to clean it once it’s big.
5. Ensure the Compost isn’t too Wet or too Dry
It’s important to make sure the compost is always damp, but not too wet or too dry. In cases where urine is being diverted, it may be necessary to add a bit of water every once in a while whenever the compost seems a little dry. Compost that is too dry won’t break down properly.
On the other hand, when compost is too wet, it may give off unwanted odors and become contaminated. The best way to correct this is by adding some additional bulk material to soak up excess liquid.
6. Unplug when Leaving for a Couple Days
When you are going to be leaving your electrical composting toilet for any more than 2-3 days, then it is important to unplug it. Doing so will save energy, but it will also prevent the compost from becoming too dry while you are away. Alternatively, It’s also possible to install a timer to turn off after 48 hours.
Disposing of the Compost
With a composting toilet, there will come a time for you to empty out the chamber.
How long it will take for the compost to build up enough will mainly depend on the size of the chamber, how often the toilet is used, and how many people are using it.
To give you a better idea, composting toilets advertised for use up to 90 uses will take anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to be “full” when used by 1-2 people.
When urine diverting methods are being used, it is essential to empty out the liquid container at least every 2-6 days.
Just like the composting chamber, this will depend on the size of the container, how often it’s being used, and how many people are using it.
In some cases, the urine is already diverted and drained into the soil. In that case, the emptying of a liquid container is not necessary.
The following are the required steps to take when emptying the compost chamber and disposing of the compost:
1. Determine if it’s Time
Before starting the process, you will want to make sure the chamber is “full”, or ready to be emptied. It’s important that it’s been at least 8 hours since the last time someone has used the toilet. This is to ensure that the waste has initially begun the composting process.
One way to tell if the chamber is ready to be emptied is if the handle is hard to rotate. If your unit doesn’t use a rotating arm to stir the compost, then you should take note of how many uses your toilet’s capacity is. Based on this, keep track of daily usage, and empty out accordingly.
2. Remove the Compost from the Chamber
Removing the compost itself is usually done entirely, but sometimes partially as well. It’s highly recommended to wear a pair of gloves during the process.
Some toilets allow you to remove the toilet seat and simply dump the contents into a container. This can go into a bag, a wheelbarrow, or into a larger container to break down more.
Alternatively, you can do some maintenance work that doesn’t require you to empty out the entire chamber every time.
You can do this by scooping out anywhere from 25%-35% of the compost and placing it into a different container to break down further. What’s taken out of the composting chamber is then replaced with some bulk material.
3. Properly Dispose or Store the Compost
It’s time to determine what to do with the compost. The most environmentally friendly solution for disposing toilet compost is to use it as fertilizer for non-edible plants and gardens.
You are legally allowed to throw out fully composted waste into industrial trash cans. However, both of these methods can prove to be a bit difficult if you use the composting toilet full time.
In order to use the compost properly as a fertilizer or throw it away in the trash, it will be necessary to keep a separate bin for everything to further compost.
Compost needs to break down for at least 1 year. Keeping a few outdoor composting bins or tubs is a sure way to provide a place for your unfinished compost to complete its process. Not only can this hold your toilet compost, but your food scraps as well.
4. Clean the Composting Container (optional)
Once the disposal or further storage of compost is finished, the composting chamber may be cleaned (though this is optional) and then placed back where it came from.
You will need to go through the steps for prepping before using your toilet once again. If you decide to clean it, make sure to not use any harsh chemicals, as it can keep the good composting bacteria from forming.
5. Dispose of Urine
If it’s necessary to dispose of liquid waste separately, it’s extremely easy to do so. The easiest thing you can do is flush it down a normal toilet. You can dilute the urine with water, or gray water, then use it to water grass and plants.
It’s recommended that cleansing with a vinegar and water solution is done before placing the container back into the toilet.
After reading through the process, do you think you can handle a composting toilet? Just like with anything in life, it takes a bit of time to get used to a new routine.
Using a composting toilet is really easy when you get the hang of it. You just might feel proud that your waste isn’t being wasted if you plan on putting it back in the earth.
Making a change for the better should make you feel good about yourself. The choice to waste less water and sewage is honorable, and people will praise you for it. Don’t forget to help your visitors get the hang of your toilet too!
Before making your final decision on composting toilets, try it out for a year. You’ll see that it’s easier than you thought.