One of the most common questions about composting toilets we get, besides “What about the smell?”, is how composting toilets deal with periods.
It's a topic that comes up regularly for almost half the population but is still not being talked about openly everywhere, and involves a certain amount of research to find reliable information.
So we created this handy guide on how to deal with menstruation products and period blood if you’re using a composting toilet.
Period products can be divided in two categories: One-time use products and multi-use products.
One time products don’t generally go into the compost. Pads especially, but also tampons, contain materials that don’t compost in the humanure pile like regular 100% cotton toilet paper does. Most tampons and pads contain plastic fibers (even the ones that don’t look like it). Many tampons have a thin plastic layer, or a reinforced string. These belong in the trash!
All-cotton or 100% cotton tampons can be composted, but make sure they’re really all cotton! Most brands using 100% cotton will note this on their label.
It goes without saying (we hope) that the plastic applicator does not belong into your composting toilet. Nowadays, there are options for cardboard applicators that offer a great alternative.
If you are using a composting toilet with an agitator, tampons and pads can cause issues even if they’re 100% compostable. Since they most likely won’t break down before you’ll empty your toilet, they might cause issues with the agitator mechanism. Removing a tangled tampon string from your agitator rotor does not seem like a fun experience, so for agitator-equipped composting toilets you'll want to throw any one-time period products in the trash.
Tampons containing rayon can theoretically compost, but they might cause a toxic residue in your humanure pile. Keep that in mind if you’re planning on using your compost soil.
Multi-use period products are easier on the environment and, some brands claim, more convenient to use as well. Periods cups and menstrual discs merely collect the period and can be emptied into the urine department of the toilet setup.
Period blood isn’t an issue for humanure composting, or adding to the urine compartment if you’re using the urine for plant fertilization. The added nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are actually good for plants!
You can also dispose of the blood in the solids department, just make sure to add some more covering material to manage the added moisture if needed.
Another multi-use product is reusable period underwear. With those you don’t have to think about how to discard the period blood in your composting toilet at all, though they can be inconvenient for off-grid users without access to an on-premise washing machine.
Added tip: It’s handy to have a spray bottle with some vinegar-water-mix to clean the bowl if needed, which goes for all days of the month.
The bottom line is that you can use your composting toilet during your period just like you normally would. Only discard of 100% cotton one-use products, or empty your multi-use product directly into the toilet. The solids department might need some additional dry covering material during that time, but the added nutrients in both the solids and the liquids departments are great for plants if you are using a humanure setup!