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How to Care for your Composting Toilet – Maintenance, Cleaning, and Emptying
Composting toilets can seem intimidating at first. We are used to closing the lid, flushing, and never having to think about what’s in that bowl ever again. Knowing your waste is just hanging out in your home seems odd… and gross.
But don’t worry, caring for your composting toilet is simple, easy, and only nasty if you’re using off-the-shelf composting toilets.
Use natural cleaners to make sure the good composting bacteria get to work their magic. Harsh chemical cleaners can disrupt the composting process by killing the aerobic bacteria, and it goes without saying that bleach and urine don’t mix (they create the harmful chemicals like trichloramine).
A great cleaner for composting toilets is pure vinegar for the urine diverter, the urine bottle, and seat, and an environmentally safe soap mixed with water for the rest. You can also mix water and baking soda as cleaner alternative that is microbe safe.
If you end up with deposits in your pee jug, just use warm water and vinegar to clean. Alternatively, you can add some small pebbles, gravel, or even ice, and vinegar to the jug, close it and shake it like you mean it. Other options include bottle cleaners or a trusty scrub sponge. It goes without saying, you’ll want to keep your composting toilet cleaners separate from your kitchen cleaners.
When deciding on an urine diverter, make sure you choose a material that doesn’t stain after a couple of weeks. The THRONE urine diverter is made out of LLDPE, and after years of R&D we can proudly say: we can vouch for no stains.
A composting toilet should have the least amount of nooks, crannies, and hard-to-reach spots possible. That does sound intuitive, but experience shows: it’s not. Please don’t ask us how we know, we don’t want to relive it. With a DIY composting toilet (and the THRONE DIY toilet plans) you can build a sleek and easy to clean toilet, and eliminate all nasty-crevices before you ever have to try cleaning them.
It’s as easy as emptying the container before it overflows. We all know this can be an…issue (we’ll just pretend we didn’t just walk outside in the rain in our PJs because the kid just yelled “pee overfloooowed” loud enough for the neighbors to hear). Check out our THRONE urine jug with level alarm to make sure this doesn’t happen to you! This is perfect tool to prevent overflowing pee jugs and having to hold it in until you find a place to dump that filled-to-the-brim jug.
How often the solids are disposed of depends on a number of factors. These include how many people are using the toilet, how big the bucket is (check out our premium oversized bucket for extra time between emptying), if you allow toilet paper in the bucket (totally fine for composting but it does fill up the bucket faster), or if you plan on using the solids for humanure or if you’re just disposing of it in the regular trash.
Generally speaking, you can expect to have to dump the solids anywhere between 5 days (with 4 people, 2.5 gallon solids capacity, and with toilet paper allowed) to a couple of weeks with fewer people and/or bigger capacities.
Lining the bucket with trash bags makes it easier to clean the toilet, as does a mechanism that allows you to lift up the seat to access the bucket and pee jug. We recommend using compostable bags, as long as you’ll be removing the solids semi-frequently. When you build your own DIY composting toilet (for example using our free DIY plans), this is an easy to implement feature with a big impact (believe it or not, this is not what you can expect with off-the-shelf toilets).
A well designed and built composting toilet will need little to no maintenance. Here are some tips to help maintain your composting toilet, preventing issues before they arise and allowing you to happily offer (slightly mortified) guests to use the toilet.
Vent for condensation and humidity control
Contrary to popular belief, a vent does not transport bad smells outside on the patio for your BBQ guests to enjoy. It serves mainly as a humidity control by transporting moist air outside, preventing condensation and a humid (read: smelly) compost.
Adequate covering material
We recommend moisture wicking covering materials like coconut coir, sawdust, or peat moss.
And, if you want to add a little magic to prevent smells from the get go: cold ash (maybe from your tiny wood stove) and coffee grounds added to the compost eliminate any smells right away.