Table of Contents
You have already read up on composting toilets and are now looking for the right solution for your leisure adventures, your vehicle, your garden shed or your Tiny House? Then you've come to the right place! In this article you will learn everything you need to know before buying a composting toilet, which criteria to consider when making your decision and why a composting toilet simply makes you happier. ;)
Oops! That's too fast for you and you want to know what exactly the composting toilet is all about? Then take a look at our ultimate guide to composting toilets. Here you will find a large collection of helpful information on function, use, emptying and cleaning, accessories, differentiation from other camping toilets as well as tips and tricks for everyday use.
Worth knowing information about the dry composting toilet
Composting toilets are the sustainable siblings of conventional camping toilets. In contrast to the classic chemical toilet, they do not contain any chemical additives and do not require water for flushing. This makes composting toilets suitable as a sanitary solution in all places where there is no connection to the sewage system.
With regard to their mode of operation, the good old saying "nomen est omen" applies: the dry composting toilets not only function without water, they also separate urine and solids from each other. This means that they do not produce wastewater that has to be treated for disposal. The environmental impact is thus reduced.
The structure of a composting toilet
Dry composting toilets consist of a body and a toilet seat with a loose or hinged lid. Underneath the toilet seat is a separating insert that separates the small from the large business. The excrements are collected in two different containers. The urine flows into a canister, the solids are collected in a bucket that is lined with a waste bag for easier emptying.
Use of the composting toilet
Depending on the design, sitting on a composting toilet is just as comfortable as sitting on a toilet at home. The use is just as simple as the functional principle of the toilet itself.
The urine drains into the canister through the recess of the separation insert. Gravity ensures that the solids end up in their own container. Toilet paper may also be placed in this.
To prevent the formation of odours and bacteria, the big business is covered with some litter after going to the toilet. Natural materials that absorb moisture well are suitable for this: Sawdust, fine bark mulch, Terra Preta, agents with activated carbon, coconut fibres or dried coffee grounds.
Disposal of the leftovers
The urine canister should be emptied every two to three days. Emptying can be done in any toilet connected to the sewage system. If the composting toilet is used in the summerhouse or Tiny House, it is also possible to collect the "liquid gold" in a larger tank via an external urine drain.
Diluted with water, the urine can also be used as fertiliser in the home garden. The solids are disposed of in the residual waste - similar to dog waste bags - with the help of the waste bag.
Cleaning the toilet
Tried and tested household remedies such as diluted vinegar or citric acid or remedies with effective microorganisms are suitable for cleaning the separator insert and the containers. Do not use harsh, chemical cleaning agents or abrasive sponges with scratchy surfaces, as these can damage the separator insert or the containers.
A soft cloth is perfectly suitable for keeping the separator clean. The urine canister is simply rinsed with the solution and is then ready for use again. Attention! Never use only pure water for this purpose, as this can promote the formation of urine scale and thus the development of odours!
Why buying a composting toilet is a good decision
There are several reasons why you are right to buy a composting toilet:
A composting toilet gives you the freedom to be independent of disposal stations on the road. Whereas with a chemical toilet on board you have to consider the possibilities of emptying and cleaning the cassette, with a composting toilet you need nothing more than a rest area toilet and a residual waste bin for disposal now and then.
Since you do not produce waste water, you are not dependent on connections to the sewage system. This is a great advantage if you want to use your composting toilet in an allotment or Tiny House.
Composting toilets significantly reduce water consumption. On average, you use 4 liters of fresh water per person per day in your motorhome for flushing the chemical toilet. Conventional toilet flushes in the household even use an average of 50 liters per day and butt. You can find out more about reducing water consumption in our blog article "Save water with the separation toilet".
Thanks to their simple functionality, composting toilets can be used almost anywhere. Whether in the car on the way to weekend camping, on a summer holiday in a camper, on a yacht trip, night fishing, waiting in a raised hide, barbecuing in a garden shed, in a container outdoor office or in a Tiny House, they can be used anywhere.
Comfort & Safety
Having your own private toilet on board is a luxury not to be underestimated. A composting toilet offers you the possibility to go to the toilet whenever you need to. This is not only a great advantage for families with children, but also for people with irritable bowel syndrome or chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
If you opt for a compact version, you can easily stow the toilet in the trunk or footwell of your car. You can find detailed information on how a composting toilet can help you travel more freely and relaxed in our article on traveling with irritable bowel syndrome.
Composting toilets deliberately do without unnecessary bells and whistles. After all, when you use your toilet at home, you don't want to have to press three buttons and operate two levers before you've done your business. Where you flush with water at home, elsewhere you just flush. Pow! You're done!
You're not quite convinced yet? Here we have collected more advantages for you, which make a composting toilet lovable and worth buying.
Decisive criteria when buying a composting toilet
Size, capacity, material... there are many criteria to consider when buying a composting toilet. The choice of models is correspondingly large. We will help you with your decision.
Before buying a composting toilet, you should answer the following questions:
- Do I want to buy a ready-made composting toilet or build one myself?
- Where do I use the composting toilet?
- Will the toilet get wet there?
- Are there any space restrictions?
- Does the weight matter?
- Do I want to be mobile when using the toilet or should it be permanently installed?
- How many people will use the dry composting toilet and how often?
- How often can/do I want to empty the toilet?
- Which design and style suits me?
- What is my budget?
- With regard to accessories: Do I suffer from allergies?
Based on these questions, you can derive the criteria that are relevant for your purchase decision.
Finished model or DIY
The all-round carefree package or do-it-yourself brand? With regard to a composting toilet, there is nothing that is impossible. If you decide to buy a ready-made composting toilet, you can (theoretically) use it immediately after purchase. If you are using it in a van or camper van, you should of course securely fasten your toilet beforehand.
If all the models on the market won't fit in your vehicle, garden shed, boat, etc., that's no reason to do without a dry composting toilet. In this case, you have to get creative yourself. It's up to you whether you decide to build your own or use ready-made separator inserts or complete do-it-yourself kits.
Depending on how much space you have available, the size of the composting toilet plays a decisive role. If you are looking for a quiet toilet for camping weekends that you can easily place in the boot, you need a model that is as compact as possible.
If, on the other hand, the composting toilet is to be placed in the camper, the model may well be a little larger. The space available in your vehicle determines whether there is still room for a crank handle.
If you are using it in a summerhouse or a Tiny House, you can confidently opt for a model that is as large as possible.
Since the dimensions are one of the most important criteria when buying a composting toilet, we have dedicated a separate article to this topic. Here you will learn everything you should consider regarding the size and weight.
The capacity of the composting toilet determines how often it has to be emptied. The decisive factor here is how many people use the toilet and how often you can or want to empty it.
If you are travelling alone and short emptying cycles are OK for you, volumes between 3.5l and 6l are perfectly sufficient. This will get you 7 - 10 small or 3 - 6 businesses in the toilet.
If you use the toilet as a member of a family of four or if ten guests use it at garden parties, we recommend that you keep an eye on the largest possible containers of 10 litres, have spare canisters on board or consider an external urine disposal system.
If you channel the "liquid gold" into a separate tank under your vehicle, you can travel several kilometres without having to empty the tank every time. At some point, of course, the tank will be full and emptying 30 or 50 litres of urine will be more difficult than emptying canisters with a volume of 10 litres. By the way, the external urine drainage is also well suited for using the toilet in a garden shed.
Material and position
The choice of location and also the question of weight influence the choice of material. Most composting toilets have a plastic body. However, there are also models made of stainless steel and wood. If your composting toilet is located in the shower of your vehicle, so that it can get wet from time to time, you are on the safe side with a plastic toilet.
Wood, as a natural material, has the property of swelling when continuously sprinkled, while stainless steel can develop unsightly rust spots. If every gram counts in the van, plastic is the material of choice because it is lighter. A stylish wooden toilet also cuts a good figure in the Tiny House. After all, you're unlikely to put the toilet in your shower here. ;)
The installation of a composting toilet is also influenced by its location. While mobile composting toilets do not need to be installed, fixed composting toilets need to take a few points into consideration. First of all, the toilet needs a firm base. In a garden shed or Tiny House, it is often sufficient to place the toilet on the ground; in a van or camper van, the body must be connected to the vehicle floor or the platform on which it stands.
Usually, camper already have a chemical toilet when they are purchased. This must be removed before installing the dry composting toilet. Installing a dry composting toilet is not rocket science. However, if you are unsure whether you can or want to do the installation on your own, you can call in an expert in the form of an installer. You will have to calculate the costs for this service.
If you often travel with the composting toilet in warm regions, it may make sense to install a fan. Warm temperatures lead to higher humidity inside the body, which can have a counterproductive effect on the drying process. This can lead to the formation of odours or, in the worst case, mould in wooden toilets. You can counteract such developments by installing and using a fan.
If you decide to use a fan, you will need a power supply, which can usually be easily established in the vehicle. It is important to know that the use of a fan is only possible with larger toilet models, as the body of compact versions is too small for faultless functioning. The good news for all those who are already on the road with a SOG system: our composting toilets are SOG-compatible and can therefore be easily connected to your existing ventilation system.
Handling and cleaning
Some composting toilets are easier to use than others, especially when it comes to emptying the containers or cleaning. If you want a solution that is as practical as possible, it is good to concentrate on the essentials: Body, lid, seat with integrated or separate separation insert, urine canister, solids container.
That's all a composting toilet needs for its function. If you don't mind more elaborate cleaning and want a good composting effect, models with a crank are also an option. It is important to make sure that the dry composting toilet of your choice does not have any hard-to-reach areas that are difficult to clean or require a toothbrush.
The comfort criterion depends on how you feel. How much of a home-from-home feeling do you want on your composting toilet? What do you expect in terms of seating comfort or use? There are composting toilets that focus more on practicality and others that have an ergonomic seat and/or an automatic lowering mechanism and thus come a step closer to the comfort of a conventional toilet.
Design and style
Composting toilets are available in various designs and styles, from modern variants with a timeless clean look to elegant wooden toilets with furniture character to rustic-looking nostalgic toilets. It's up to you: what do you like best? What suits your needs and your intended use?
Price is an important factor when deciding on a composting toilet. There are different models, from cheap mobile versions to models for permanent outdoor use. The truth lies somewhere between €150 and €3000. Try to balance your requirements and your budget when making your decision.
A separation toilet is frugal. It requires few accessories to function effectively. This means that the running costs after purchase remain more than manageable. Must-haves include
- Litter and storage containers
- Trash bag
- Toilet paper
- Cleaner (diluted acetic acid is also sufficient here)
- Depending on the intensity of use: membrane caps for the urine canister
Additional or optional accessories beyond these basics are presented here in a separate article.
The different types of dry and composting toilets: advantages and disadvantages
Classic dry composting toilets
Dry composting toilets are available in a wide variety of designs. From small and compact to large and voluminous, from plastic to wood, from featherweight to heavyweight. The mode of operation is the same for all toilets: the separating insert ensures the separation of solids and liquids, and the separation and drying prevent the development of odours. Classic composting toilets thus only need litter (and a waste bag for easier disposal) to be functional.
There are also special variants of composting toilets, such as Eurobox toilets, toilets with agitators or those that do not separate at all but only dry. So that you can decide for yourself which variant suits you best, we present the different representatives of the silent toilets briefly, concisely and excitingly.
Eurobox toilets are, so to speak, the Tetris blocks among composting toilets. Euroboxes are stackable boxes that are suitable for a wide variety of uses. The body of the Eurobox toilet consists of this very box. The interior and the mode of operation are the same as for classic composting toilets. The silent toilets have a separating insert integrated into the seat, a lid and one container each for the large and the small business.
+ easy handling
|- Plastic ribs are more susceptible to dirt and dust
- no moulded seat, thus more uncomfortable
- very low seat height
- medium capacity
Composting toilets with manual crank
If a composting toilet has an agitator, this promotes the drying and composting process. By turning the crank on the outside of the body, the litter and solids are mixed together. With this type of composting toilet, you use a coconut brick dissolved in water as the litter material. This usually lasts until the toilet empties, so you don't have to litter every large transaction. To avoid paper shreds being twisted into the agitator, you should collect and dispose of the used toilet paper separately with this type of composting toilet.
|+ long emptying cycles
+ uniform drying
+ promotion of the composting effect
|- Space-saving due to crank handle
- Toilet paper must be disposed of separately
- Crank operation difficult when solids container is full
- Difficult to empty and clean
- Danger of mould and odour formation if not used for a long time and the container is full
Composting toilets with electric agitator
Composting toilets with an electric agitator work just like their manual siblings. However, due to the absence of the crank, they differ slightly in their advantages and disadvantages.
|+ long emptying cycles
+ uniform drying
+ promotion of the composting effect
+ no difficult manual cranking when solids bins are full
|- Connection to power supply necessary Toilet paper must be disposed of separately
- Difficult to empty and clean
- Risk of mould and odour formation if not used for a long time and the container is full
Probably the simplest chemical-free version of the quiet toilet for on the road is the dry toilet. Here, there is no separation, only sprinkling. The classic dry toilet is the good old outhouse, which can still be found in front of many a mountain hut. The mobile version consists of a frame with a bag that can be clamped in or a plastic container that resembles a bucket. This form of camping toilet puts practicality above comfort.
|+ only one container to be emptied/one bag to be disposed of
|- forms stronger odours
- more suitable for emergency use than for permanent use
FAQs on the subject of composting toilets
Are composting toilets more environmentally friendly than conventional toilets?
In terms of water savings, a resounding "yes!" After all, you don't need to flush and thus save valuable resources. Composting toilets are also a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional camping toilets, which require chemical additives. By separating solids from liquids, they do not require any inorganic decomposition materials.
Can I install a composting toilet myself?
With a little manual skill, the right tools and a helpful tutorial or two from those who have already successfully taken the plunge, removing your existing chemical toilet and installing a composting toilet is no problem. If you need support or prefer to have a dry separation toilet installed, we will be happy to provide you with contacts to installation partners in your area.
If you haven't had a camping toilet until now, you can save yourself the trouble of "tearing it out" and start installing or fixing it straight away. It is even easier if you use the toilet in your garden shed or (fixed) Tiny House. Then all you have to do is set up the toilet, put in the rubbish bag, have litter ready and off you go!
Conclusion: Is a composting toilet the right choice for me?
A composting toilet is the right choice if you want to go green or live sustainably. With a view to saving resources and dispensing with chemicals, they are the sanitary solution of the future that you can already get to know and love today.
What's more, they are child's play to use, so that even young family members can do their business without any problems. Cleaning is just as easy, and you can do it very well with natural household remedies such as diluted vinegar or citric acid. A toilet for you, for me and for everyone else.