Dry toilet or dry composting toilet: what is actually the difference?

Dry toilet or dry composting toilet: what is actually the difference?
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In the search for a sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to the chemical toilet, one keeps stumbling across the terms, dry toilet and dry composting toilet.

What exactly is the difference? After all, both types of toilet function without water and chemical decomposition agents. Or do they? Or do they? In this article, we shed some light on the subject.

The operation of a dry toilet

dry toilet

The history of the dry composting toilet goes back to antiquity. The Romans already built simple latrines according to the principle of "sit down, relax, plop and go!".

Commonly, the dry toilet is thus also known as the "outhouse". Small and large business are collected here together in one container. To reduce odors, the leftovers are covered with litter material such as sawdust or small animal litter after going to the toilet. Thus, the operation of a dry toilet is simple and practical.

The operation of a dry composting toilet

dry composting toilet

The dry composting toilet is the further development of the dry toilet. It separates urine from solids and collects the business in two separate containers. The composting takes place through the so-called separating insert or separator, which is located underneath the toilet seat.

While the urine remains untreated in the canister until emptied, the solids are covered with litter after toileting. The litter promotes the drying process of the large stores and thus avoids the formation of odors.

You can find a detailed description of how the dry composting toilet works, how to empty it and how to dispose of it in our big guide article.

What are the advantages of a dry composting toilet over a dry toilet?

advantages of dry composting toilet

The operation of the dry toilet is simple, but also brings some disadvantages. This is where the dry composting toilet scores.

  1. Better odor control: A dry toilet stinks. Unfortunately, there is no other way to put it. Why? For one thing, the urine is contaminated by the mixing of the business with bacteria from the solids and begins to smell. On the other hand, the large business can not really dry due to the soaking with urine despite litter. Thus, an undesirable odor remains continuously here as well, which is difficult to cover up. By separating solids and liquids and drying the large business, a dry composting toilet counteracts precisely this problem and thus remains scent-neutral.

  2. More efficient waste processing: if urine and solids are separated, can they be disposed of more specifically or processed further? You're thinking to yourself, "Excuse me?!" You read correctly! Diluted with water, urine becomes a high-quality plant fertilizer. You can find out how it works here. With a dry toilet, on the other hand, you unfortunately have to do without the fertilizer "liquid gold". Large stores can be composted into high-quality humus if composting rules are observed. We have also compiled some tips for you on this subject.

  3. Comfort: dry composting toilets are significantly more comfortable than dry toilets due to their odor neutrality. Especially when used in enclosed spaces such as vehicles or inside a building, this is an immense advantage that comes very close to the comfort of a conventional toilet.

Similarities and differences of a dry toilet and a dry composting toilet at a glance

Here we have compared the overlaps and differences in the operation of a dry toilet and a dry composting toilet:

 Dry toilet Dry composting toilet
  • Sustainable operation without water or chemical substances.
  • All droppings are collected in a large container.
  • Business collection is covered with litter to absorb moisture and reduce odors
  • Composting is possible
  • Sustainable operation without water or chemical substances.
  • Large and small stores are collected separately in two separate bins
  • Covering the large business with litter to promote the drying process and minimize odors
  • Urine can be used as fertilizer for plants, composting of solids is possible


Where is the dry toilet used?

Where is the dry toilet used?

Yes, we admit, the question is justified. At first glance, the "outhouse principle" seems a bit backwoods. In sanitation circles, however, it's an oldie but goldie! :) Due to its simple and self-sufficient mode of operation, the dry toilet is still often and gladly used today.

Especially in regions with limited access to water and sewer systems, a dry toilet is a practical and environmentally friendly solution. Therefore, governments, communities and environmental organizations in many countries have initiated and successfully implemented dry toilet projects.

Examples from countries such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada show how dry toilets are used in remote areas, huts and national parks.

Even in this country, there are situations or environments where you will encounter a dry toilet. Here are some examples:

  1. Mobile dry toilet: The "bucket-to-go" variant for on-the-go use is more of an emergency than a permanent solution. The mobile dry toilet usually consists of a plastic frame into which a garbage bag is hung. You do your business in this bag, then tie it up tightly and dispose of it in the trash. Here you do not litter, here you just throw away.

  2. Garden shed: In the garden, the dry toilet provides an easy way to visit the quiet place.

  3. Camping and hiking areas: In remote natural areas without sewerage connection, the dry toilet is used as a sanitary facility for campers and hikers.

  4. Mountain huts: Even in the Alps, you'll stumble across the dry toilet. Mostly the good old outhouse stands in front of alpine pastures or small alps far away from civilization.

  5. Emergency situations and humanitarian aid: In emergency situations such as natural disasters or humanitarian crises, where sanitation infrastructure is damaged or lacking, the dry toilet is used to improve hygiene conditions.

Attention! Here comes a "false friend"!

Hand on heart: When you first thought of application scenarios for the dry toilet, did you also think of a construction site or a festival toilet? Then you were unfortunately wrong. Here, everything plops into a bucket, but is then decomposed with chemicals.

The temporary toilets work without water, but have a solid tank that uses a formaldehyde solution to decompose the waste and reduce odors. Thus, these sanitary solutions do not belong to the dry toilet category, but to the chemical toilet genre.

To the point

business composting

Dry toilet and dry composting toilet both work without water and without chemicals, but only with the dry composting toilet there is a business composting. Actually quite simple, right? ;) Both silent toilets are also easy to use, but the dry composting toilet is clearly more comfortable and odorless.

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