How to use a composting toilet – the no-nonsense guide
This is a detailed guide on the day-to-day practicalities of how to use a composting toilet. If you’re looking for more detail on the actual processes and components involved, you might want to check out this article on how a composting toilet works.
We’ve mostly referred to the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet as this is the model that we recommend, however the basic principles of how to use the Nature’s Head are in line with other composting toilets, so there should be something for everyone.
For any other details, click here to read our overview guide to the best composting toilet.
How to use a composting toilet – day-to-day use
When thinking about how to use a composting toilet, its the small practical details that don’t make it to the instruction manuals which people really care about. Ever wondered what it will be like actually using a composting toilet in your home every day? Let’s dive into the nitty gritty.
Can I pee in it?
Of course you can pee in a composting toilet! One small potential drawback is that guys will need to adjust to sitting down to pee so as to prevent the dreaded splash-back!
One key aspect of composting toilets like the Nature’s Head, is that liquids and solids get separated. This allows for proper composting action, and also reduces the risk of the nasty smells.
Can I use toilet paper?
YES!! Toilet paper can be used with a composting toilet. Toilet paper can be thrown directly into the solid waste chamber of a composting toilet. It will break down in there along with the poop, but avoid using too much.
Pro Tip: Avoid tearing off long strips of toilet paper as these can get wrapped around the crank.
What toilet paper should I use?
We recommend 1-ply RV paper in a composting toilet because it breaks down faster. There’s no real loss of “wiping ability” when using RV paper, and you can give yourself a pat on the back for helping the environment. After you have washed your hands.
Use a base material
Before it sees any real action, you should add some compost material to the base of the unit. Pre-moistened coconut fiber or sphagnum peat moss are an excellent choice for this, and you should fill it up to the centerline of the agitator crank. You’re aiming for a material that is slightly damp yet a little crumbly.
Composting toilets and menstruation
Don’t worry, a composting toilet definitely IS compatible with your period. Exactly how to use a composting toilet at that time of the month will depend on what options you choose for sanitation.
A cup is a reusable device which you insert to collect the blood. When you visit the bathroom you can simply empty it out. Brownie points for using these as there’s no environmental impact.
With a compostable toilet you could pour the blood into either the liquid or solid chamber, we suggest using the liquid one as you don’t want to mess with the composting going on next door. You may want to treat the liquid differently if it’s been mixed with blood.
If you make your own or buy reusable pads (well done you!), you’re clearly not going to be throwing them down the toilet in any case.
Firstly, you shouldn’t be throwing these down a normal toilet as they create problems further down the line. While technically, most brands can compose, with a composting toilet such as the Nature’s Head, tampons can get stuck in the mechanism and cause issues for you.
What about diarrhea?
However nasty it might be, diarrhea is still just essentially poop and water. It’s fine to send it down into the solids chamber, however you may need to add a little more compost material like coconut fiber to dry out the mix a bit.
Keeping out insects
Keep the lid down when not in use to avoid any insects getting in, while also allowing for proper ventilation.
If you do encounter flies or gnats, add a few cups of natural Diatomaceous Earth to the compost.
Cleaning a composting toilet
As there’s no wet flush, we suggest keeping a spray bottle with diluted vinegar near to the toilet – this helps remove any stuck-on matter effectively.
You should avoid using bleach and other chemicals as they will interfere with the natural decomposition process.
The Nature’s Head does a good job of sealing off the smell of urine. In fact you pretty much only get a whiff of it when you need to change the container. If you do get odors then consider adding a little sugar to the tank. After emptying the urine tank, just give it a quick rinse and you’re good to go.
Dealing with waste
One of the beauties of using a composting toilet is that it brings you closer to your link with nature. Your compost is a living thing, and you’ll come to love it! You can even throw in the odd slice of bread as an offering to the compost gods!
Do I have to empty it?
Oh yes. You have to empty a composting toilet.
On the side of the Nature’s Head is a crank – this should be used daily to mix up the solid waste. After mixing you can add a little more coconut fiber. The solid contents should be kept a little moist, and when healthy, should emit a slight soil-like odor (which you should only really smell when changing the containers over).
A trick which perhaps is for the more adventurous of compost lovers, is to add earth worms to your mix. They love to munch on your dark matter, and you’ll never know they are down there helping your waste to compost faster. If you do use worms, don’t let them get too warm or too wet.
Composting solid human waste
When thinking about how to use a composting toilet, one of the most common questions is about dealing with human waste. Solid human waste should be removed when the tank is about ¾ full. It’s rated for about 90 uses, which is around 3-4 months per adult. The best way to remove it is to take out the bowl, put a large bag over the top, then flip the whole thing upside down. You shouldn’t really need to clean out the container between uses, in fact this may be detrimental to the composting process.
There are two ways to compost solid human waste:
- After removing the container, the remains can be added to a larger composting bin. They should be left for at least a year to fully decompose, and should be kept separately from normal compost as it should not be used on edible plants in the future.
- If you’re unable to maintain a full compost bin, you can add the remains to a compostable bin bag and throw it out with the trash.
How do you dispose of liquid waste?
The vessel holds around 2.2 gallons, which for a single adult is around 3-4 days of use. It can be easily thrown down the shower, however, this is tragic waste of human nutrients, as urine is really good for compost. As long as it is separated from the poop, urine can be safely reused. Simply dilute it in water (1:4), then use on plants or compost it!
The fan isn’t working
Check the usual electric issues, battery voltage, fuses, wire connections etc. This has never happened to us.
My compost isn’t the right texture
Add a little peat moss and give it a good stir if it’s too wet, or simply add a little water if it’s too dry.
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OK! I know how to use a composting toilet. Which one do you recommend?
Thanks for making it to the end! We hope you learned a lot about how to use a composting toilet. Our favorite composting toilet is the Nature’s Head. See here to read our full review.