Composting toilets have become a thing of interest but how do composting toilets work and what are they anyways? Maybe you've heard of the Nature's Head composting toilet and want to build one yourself.
So who are we and what authority do we have to advise you on how to make a composting toilet? Actually, we're just a couple of people like you that love the environment and decided to track down some experts to find out for ourselves and share what we found. Thus, the DIY composting toilet guide came to fruition.
If you keep reading, you'll be all set up to assemble your own DIY composting toilet in style so you don't have to figure it out for yourself the next time you're acting like Emile Hirsche playing “into the wild”.
You can get ahead of things and master the art of making your own DIY composting toilet so you can plan for your next camping, RVing, or a friend's come-together event.
Let's jump right into the best DIY composting toilets tips so you can start composting like a pro.
What is a Composting Toilet?
As the name suggests, a composting toilet is a dry toilet that turns human waste, both solid and liquid waste, into fertilizer through a composting process.
The organic matter in human waste is turned into a manure-like matter through the composting process that's readily usable as manure.
Most composting toilets have designs that incorporate carbon additives such as peat moss, damp sawdust, wood ash, and coconut coir.
These additives help to create air pockets in human waste that promote aerobic decomposition. They also boost the carbon to nitrogen ratio in your toilet to help reduce foul odors.
The composting and decomposing process occurs in the toilet's composting chamber, where you add all the carbon additives. You can then take the decomposing toilet waste and deposit it in an outdoor compost bin to get rid of the lingering odors and to complete the breakdown of the dry materials.
There is also a compact composting toilet and some have a composting toilet system with a urine separator attached to the unit for collecting urine separately from the solid waste.
This makes it easier to manage human waste from the toilet and reduces the spread of foul odor into your house or RV.
A composting toilet is popular for its simple installation nature as it doesn't need to be connected to the septic tank or a sewer system.
Once you have the compost chamber in place, you can always manage your waste as effectively and swiftly as possible.
Common Types of DIY Composting Toilets
The idea to make a composting toilet comes with the need to research the available composting toilet options.
Once you grasp what options exist, it becomes easier to work on the toilet construction of your choice.
More often, the type of composting toilet you choose to construct depends on the urgency of construction, the materials available, and your level of preparedness.
So, what option are you going for?
You can make that decision after reading this list of the available DIY composting toilet options.
a) Self-Contained DIY Composting Toilets
If you’re considering a self-contained composting toilet, you’re probably thinking of maximum comfort and a hygienic toilet with separate chambers for liquid and solid waste.
A self-contained toilet has its composting chamber situated right beneath the toilet bowl to collect the solid waste when they drop easily.
The urine is drained into a separate container or liquid bottle, which you can frequently take out when full.
Depending on the space available and the style of the toilet, you may choose to direct the urine chamber down a drain or evaporate it.
The mixture of solid waste and the carbon additives like peat moss and wood ash in the composting chamber is broken down with the help of aerobic bacteria.
However, you need to regularly turn over the dry materials from one bucket to another for optimal aeration. You can use a crank or handle for the turning-over process.
After the waste has been processed in the composting toilet, you can empty the waste into a waiting finishing drawer. It is the drawer that you eventually empty for use in the garden.
Since electric versions are more complicated to build, you can only settle for the non-electric ones if you want to go the DIY path.
Just so you know, the electric versions are fancier as they incorporate the heating element, which allows you to enjoy a warm toilet seat and evaporate your liquid waste.
b) Bucket DIY composting toilet
This is probably the simplest composting toilet option you can make for yourself. these come in really handy whether it's at your home or you're traveling and want to have an RV toilet.
All you need is a bucket and a sizeable heap of absorbent materials like hardwood sawdust, crushed leaves, and other fine organic matter to absorb excess moisture and cover up the waste.
However, maintaining this kind of lifestyle can be overwhelming, a situation that has seen many users install a plywood box and cover it with a toilet seat instead.
In a bucket system, you’ll wait for the bucket to get filled, then take it out and empty it into an outdoor composting heap.
You will then clean and disinfect the bucket before returning it to the bathroom for a new cycle of use.
c) Central System Composting Toilets
These toilets are connected to a remote or central composting system through pipes in the same manner that traditional toilets are connected to a septic tank.
The collection unit or tank can be installed inside the house or outside, where you can easily empty it when full and prepare it for the next cycle.
You can choose to use a completely waterless system or a micro flush that uses minimum water quantities.
For ventilation and elimination of foul odor, you can install a vent hose that will improve airflow and make it almost impossible for your toilet to smell bad.
These toilets’ composting chambers employ the same working principles as self-contained toilets.
They receive solid and liquid wastes in separate chambers through diversion, drainage, or direction of the waste into a holding tank.
The holding tank is then emptied into a septic tank or sewer system.
If you have a tiny house, you might have to pass this option as they are always a perfect fit for larger households.
They boast larger storage capacities, and since many toilets can be linked up to the same system, they serve larger houses better than tiny ones.
Before We Make One: How Does a Composting Toilet Work?
It could be that you’re pushed by the necessity to make a composting toilet for use at home or in your recreational vehicles.
However, that push from necessity doesn’t come with a complete guide on how a composting toilet works or should work.
So, if you’re new to a composting toilet, you might be wondering; how does a composting toilet work?
Well, it’s a simple concept, as you can see below.
The Basics – The Breakdown of Liquid and Solid Wastes
Perhaps this is one of the major worries first-time users of composting toilets have – what happens to the waste once it’s down the bucket or holding tank?
A composting toilet has a self-breakdown system that works on all types of wastes, be it number 1 or 2, to ensure every waste is decomposed and no foul odors are left behind.
Of course, you’ll have a role to play in the decomposing process, but the toilet is created in such a way that it facilitates the faster decomposition of waste.
When you answer the long call of nature, the waste materials are collected in the compost chamber, where breakdown ensues.
The waste is mixed with absorbent materials like sawdust, dry grass clippings, and wood ash that absorb moisture from the waste to leave behind the dry matter.
The dry matter is easily turned into compost that you can treat and use as manure in your garden of vegetables and fruit trees.
If you want to use the manure before it’s treated, you can only do so in a garden with non-edible plants to avoid consuming harmful chemicals in human waste.
Composting Toilet Chambers – The Upper and Lowe Chambers
The upper and lower chambers of composting toilets give them the significant advantage of breaking down waste hygienically.
You always sit in the top chamber, made up of the toilet seat and the toilet lid, for comfort and increased hygiene.
The lower chamber is the section where all the waste is collected and broken down. When making your own DIY composting toilet, you should know exactly what is needed to build these two chambers.
A compost toilet lacking the proper formation of these two chambers is bound to fail or malfunction.
It’s easy to make a functional composting toilet when you know how one works and what parts to include in your structure.
Now that you understand the working of a composting toilet, you are ready to learn how to make one at home.
Components of a Composting Toilet
The components of a composting toilet vary with design and type. However, there are some basic parts of a composting toilet that you’ll find in each compost toilet out there.
Therefore, if you’re making a composting toilet, you should have the components below in your checklist.
- Compost chamber
- Flush handle and door
- Agitator bar
- Vent hose
- Liquid bottle
- Liquid drain
- Spider handle
- Mounting screw
- An exhaust system
Making a Composting Toilet in 7 Easy Steps – A Step By Step Guide
When finally making your own composting toilet, you might want to choose a toilet option that’s easier to make and optimally meets your personal specifications.
The options range from a simple plastic bucket to a complicated clay urn laid under the toilet.
If you’re on a long-distance journey traveling in your RV, a two-model chamber can be a great answer to your woes. You’ll use one bucket chamber until it's full, then replace it with the empty one. Then, you can empty the full one once you get to a disposal point and prepare it for future use.
What’s more, you can opt for a toilet that uses a urine separator to distinguish urine in a separate chamber, or you can go for the one that mixes everything in one chamber.
Whatever choice you go for is entirely upon you, and you’ll pick an option that you can easily make without struggle and manage to keep clean thereafter.
The 7 Easy Steps: Make a DIY Composting Toilet like a Pro
Nothing makes you happier and prouder than using a tool you’ve made from scratch with your own hands.
Here’s how o make a modern DIY compost toilet without struggle.
1. Collect All Your Standard House Tools/ Materials
Regardless of the type of composting toilet you want to make, the first step should always assemble your working tools.
Be that as it may, for this simple plastic bucket toilet option, you’ll need the following standard house tools to be ready:
- A large plywood
- A toilet seat hardware
- Two equal height five-gallon buckets
- 4 pieces of (2 x 4) wood planks measuring the same height as the buckets
- 8 nails or screws
- A hammer
- A Chisel
- Strong screwdriver
If possible, get new materials instead of recycled or second-hand goods. This is to ensure you acquire the best quality materials for the work for durable performance.
2. Create a Uniform Circular Hole in the Plywood
With the help of a hammer and a chisel, chisel out the shape of the bucket into the plywood.
Doing this successfully requires that you follow some easy mathematics basics.
Put the bucket’s opening on the plywood and use the pencil to draw a line along its circumference on the plywood before removing it.
Follow up with a chisel and a hammer as you dig along the line to put a hole in the middle of the plywood.
After you’ve removed the central plywood box loose, insert the bucket to check if it fits perfectly before you get to the next step.
The hole is perfect if it fits your bucket head snuggly. This way, you will also have a comfortable experience when using your toilet.
3. Create the Toilet Seat Hole
Bring on the toilet seat hardware and gently place it into the hole you already prepared above.
Again, use your pencil to create a mark where you’ll be drilling the hole for the toilet seat.
With the help of a strong screwdriver, you can drill a sizeable hole in the toilet seat hardware. The hole shouldn’t exceed by a wide margin, only exceed the size by a few inches to allow the screw to easily fit in to hold the toilet seat firmly in place.
4. Make Legs for the Plywood Box
The plywood is basically what makes up for your bucket toilet. When creating legs to support it, you’re getting over and done with the entire toilet’s stands.
Therefore, the legs have to be strong enough to support significant human weights sitting on the toilet seat.
Take the four 2 x 4 wood plank pieces and place them under the plywood and screw them firmly, each in the four corners of the plywood.
This way, you’ll have your toilet’s four legs standing firmly; you should try and see if the stands are strong enough to support your weight before giving them the green light.
5. Create some Frames for the Legs of your Compost Toilet
Whether the legs look firm or worryingly unstable, adding frames will help erase any doubts about the toilet crumbling when you’re sitting on it.
This is the time to fix any leg that’s wobbling anytime you sit on the toilet.
You can check the screws holding the legs together to see if they hold the plywood and the legs firmly.
If you notice any gaps or spaces, use a tiny piece of wood to conceal the space and absorb the shock.
Then, add the frames joining one leg to the other for firm, unshaken pairs of legs.
6. Install Your Toilet Seat
Drill holes on top of the plywood to make about four holes that are the size of the screws you intend to use for fastening the seat.
Now bring on the toilet seat and attach it using screws to the holes you just drilled.
If you don’t have a drilling machine, you can use sizeable nails to hold the seat in position. Only be careful not to break the seat or the plywood when hitting the nails.
7. Add the Absorbent Carbon Materials to the Actual Bucket
With everything now set, the least important thing to do is add the carbon additives to the bucket of your latest DIY toilet.
Only add a few inches of the carbon materials in the bucket and save the rest for future use when you empty the first compost pile.
You can now position your new composting toilet in the most favorable position in your RV or at home.
The toilet is ready for use, and you can use it for both long and short calls; remember to bring your toilet paper along. They are totally acceptable in there!
Safe Ideas for using the Compost from Your DIY Composting Toilet
While it’s true that the dry waste from your composting toilet is beneficial for farming, it’s not always as straightforward as it looks.
Unlike the composting pile you make in your kitchen, a compost pile from a composting toilet must be cured before it’s safe for use with edible plants.
Therefore, it is not advisable to use the compost heap from your toilet in your vegetable patch before treating it.
However, you can consider the following safe ideas for using your compost if you can’t treat it before use.
a) Sprinkle the Compost around Fruit Trees
Spread the compost extensively around the fruit tree’s base to absorb and use the nutrients from the roots.
The nutrients absorbed from the compost are used to help the tree grow and produce healthy fruit.
Since the plant is not directly edible, you won’t be worried about consuming the harmful chemicals from the compost.
b) Add the Compost to Your Kitchen Compost Pile
If you already have a compost pile from your kitchen waste and grass clippings, you may want to add the compost from your toilet to continue the decomposition process.
You should set the entire pile in an area safe from high heat effects and provides wiggle room for your compost to break down completely at its natural pace.
You’ll know your compost is now ready and safe for use once it turns to resemble the look and feel of topsoil. Read more on buying soil in bulk on our site.
c) Spread the Compost on Your Grass Lawn and Non-Edible Plants
One of the perfect spots to use this decomposing waste gainfully is on your lawns. The grass will use the additional nutrients to sparkle and give your entire lawn an admirable look you yearn for.
If you have a live fence and other non-edible trees or plants, you’re keeping, and it’s best if you used this manure to improve their nutrient supply in the soil.
Mistakes You Should Avoid When Making a DIY Composting Toilet
Making a composting toilet at home is never void of mistakes, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.
It is also true that you can do everything perfectly without missing out on anything.
But, you have to learn from the mistakes others made before you.
Here are some of the common mistakes you should avoid when making your own composting toilet.
Using a Bucket that’s too small and Cumbersome to Empty
The bucket you choose from the onset determines how easy a time you’ll have in your daily endeavors with the toilet you’re making.
A small bucket can be a burden in the long run as they fill faster and demand you keep taking out the waste more often.
The small size also compromises your comfort as you’ll have to sit so low to fit on the bucket’s height.
Using the Wrong Composting Materials
Since the invention of compost toilets, the recommended composting materials have always been biodegradable carbon materials.
More often, sawdust is used for this purpose because of its light nature, less offensive smell, and cheap availability.
Some users modify or mix composting materials to cut costs or depending on what’s available for use at the moment.
The problem comes when you use a combination that makes things worse in your toilet. You may end up with more cleaning work to do or a foul smell that you can’t withstand.
Benefits of Making Composting Toilets
If you’re still in doubt about the stability of composting toilets, you need to clear off any doubts.
Sooner, composting toilets will be the in thing as they are quickly gaining foot across the globe.
So if you were wondering whether learning how to build a composting toilet is worth the trouble, then you’ll find your answers in the following benefits.
a) Composting Toilets Minimizes Water Usage
If you’re residing in a region struggling with water scarcity, you will always embrace any idea that promotes minimal water usage.
A composting toilet’s main advantage is that it uses the least possible amount of water, which helps with the water scarcity situation and reduces utility bills.
Since they don’t need to be flushed electrically, you can also use them off-grid and save on electricity costs as you enjoy admirable toilet services.
b) They Are Cheaper Alternative to Septic Tank Systems
Building and structuring septic tanks into your home is expensive, not to mention it is almost impossible to craft for an RV.
DIY composting toilets offer a better alternative to the traditional septic system.
You can now enjoy using your comfortable toilet while on the go in your RV or a tiny house near the lake, without worrying much about dealing with the waste.
c) No Plumbing for a Composting Toilet
Since plumbing works well for specific topographies, there are places you can’t carry out plumbing work.
This limitation, therefore, demands that you use alternative toilets that don’t need plumbing. And what better option to settle for than composting toilets?
What’s more, you can build a central system of composting toilets to meet the needs of a larger household.
Before You Go: When are You Making Your Next DIY Composting Toilet?
After learning how to make a composting toilet, it’s only fair that you try out making one as soon as possible.
Remember, practice makes perfect, and you don’t want to lose grip of the new information you just gained.
As soon as you finish reading this piece, get your tools and supplies ready and swing into action.