Do Portable Composting Toilets Stink?


Going out into the great outdoors to get some nice clean fresh air can be one of the most refreshing things to do. Until – well – it comes to fecal finagling. What really help alleviate this matter is to have a composting toilet.

But wait, wouldn’t a composting toilet stink? There’s no getting around it, this is one issue that is really hard to solve. While there are always going to be some sneaky smells that escape while and during the delivery process, with a properly working toilet, good ventilation, and a proper set up of the material inside, there should not be much odor, especially because most toilet manufacturers do their best to design the toilet to minimize the amount of odor that leak.

What Are Some Reasons Why My Composting Toilet Might Stink?

  • If there isn’t good ventilation.
  • If urine is in the compost mix.
  • There is too much or not enough moisture for it to compost properly.
  • If there is not enough air flow for it to compost properly.
  • If the toilet doesn’t have a great seal. This is really only relevant soon after the doodoo deed.
  • If the toilet is too full and needs to be emptied.
  • If a non-ideal filler mix to waste ratio is not met.

Can I Use Any Portable Toilet as a Composting Toilet?

The truth is, most toilets made for composting aren’t particularly car portable, as they are meant to be used in an RV, or camping-van or, of course a house. Most portable toilets aren’t specifically made for composting, some using flush tanks, and others even using chemicals to mitigate the smell. They also don’t have a mechanism for stirring the solid waste with the bulk material, which is needed for proper airflow. So while, it may be possible to use a normal portable toilet as a composting toilet, it would require significantly more work than using the toilet as recommended.

That said, this is a situation where the more simple the portable toilet is, the easier it would be to use as a composting toilet. That means no chemicals or flush tanks, and with easy access to the waste tank.

That means that with just a bucket and a seat, you can make a composting toilet with a composting bag and then first adding either sawdust, sphagnum peat moss, coconut coir, or whatever other preferred materials, second adding the recommended amount of initial water to the material, and third to then stir as needed. Of course this isn’t an extensive guide on how to compost, just how it would be possible to use a portable toilet as a composting toilet.

Can I Put Toilet Paper in a Composting Toilet?

Yes, you can put your toilet paper into the composting toilet. While the paper will take a little longer to compost, the soiling on the toilet paper will compost as usual. Also the type of toilet paper makes a difference in how fast it can be composted. The less substantial the toilet paper, the less time it will take. Unfortunately, there’s a correlation between how substantial toilet paper is and how fun that toilet paper is to use. The less substantial toilet paper is, the more the frustration goes up.

Can I Urinate Into a Composting Toilet?

Even though this is what many people are used to in flush toilets, it’s actually not a good idea to pee directly into the composting bin. While composting toilets do actually need some moisture, and adding a little bit of water to the bulk material to begin with is important, but adding urine into the composting toilet usually throws off the moisture balance and makes the process of composting take longer.

The best thing to do is to separate the urine from the solid waste. Many composting toilets actually have a urine diverter for this purpose, but it does depend on the toilet, so make sure you do your research first.

How Often Does a Composting toilet Need To Be Emptied?

For some, with only two users, about every 3-4 weeks. Others, and perhaps with a different size of tank, every 6-8 weeks. Obviously this depends on how many of users there are, and how often you are doing the doo-doo, and lastly the size of your tank. The bottom line is that this is something that you do have to pay attention to, and leaving it too long can cause unwanted headaches and, perhaps, unpleasant smells.

Are composting toilets any good?

Short answer, yes. Longer, more adequate, answer? While it seems like the answer to this question would be completely subjective, the real question is how much of a bias does a person have towards using a composting toilets, since most people who have used composting toilets seem prefer them to the normal magical disappearing act of pushing/pulling that flushing lever. So while most people do prefer the out of sight out of mind, it’s more out of ‘it’s what we’re used to’ more than it is a conscious decision in our life. While you can check our other post to know if composting is safe and some precautions you should take, for the most part it’s just a different mindset.

While the goal for many of us is to try and make the bathroom smell as least like the waste as possible, composting toilets do have what is described as an earthy smell to them. Most people who use a composting toilet don’t mind. But that doesn’t mean everyone.

Obviously, the most important factor is that composting toilets require a lot more involvement with them, and as mentioned, proper handling. This is something that most people with a flush toilet don’t think much about, other than making sure the toilet and the surrounding area are nice and clean.

Where Can I Dump My Composting?

Not just any old place. As we talked about in our last composting post, fecal waste must be handled properly and carefully, and the best way to dispose of it is to dump in places designated for it, which may require a bit of research into where you are planning on camping. If there is no designated area, or one can’t be found, then the best thing to do is to put it in a bag and take it home to properly dispose of it, because it’s usually not acceptable to dump it in a public place. While it may be acceptable to bury it, the hole you must dig must be adequate for the amount of solid waste you have.

If there isn’t a known designated area, then check out this blog post from livesmallridefree.com about where to empty your composting toilet. They conclude that the solid waste can be disposed of, in small quantities (less than 5 gallons worth) in their normal trash, but only in a compostable trash bag. That said, they did some research to make sure that was acceptable with local trash management. In other words, it depends on local policies.

Can I Use My Composted Material in a Garden?

This is a bit of a tricky issue because, as we discussed in our previous article, there is actually quite a process in determining if all of the material is properly and completely composted. It’s probably smart to err on the side of caution and not use your composted material on plants that you intend to eat. But if you do not plan to eat the plant, like flowers or decorative bushes, then it should be okay, but you should still make sure the waste is properly composted.

What Exactly is Composting?

Composting is the decomposition of waste using bacteria, and some form of organic carbon (i.e. the bulk material, like coconut coir, sawdust, etc…). When done properly, with the right balance of oxygen, heat, moisture and bulk material, the result is fertilized soil, free of harmful elements, like viruses.

What is the Best Composting Toilet on the Market?

It’s actually impossible to know what the best toilet is for everyone since everyone has different priorities. Like how convenient it is, how simple it is to use, the price, how well it seals in those odious odors, and so on and so forth. With that in mind, here are some well rated ones on Amazon.

Some other nice to haves on the subject:

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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