Composting Toilet – Lessons Learned
We are coming up on one year of full timing and owning and using the Nature’s Head Composting toilet. Several things have been learned so I thought I would do another write up. I will start by saying we still love it. It’s not for everybody, but it works very well for the two of us. The only negatives are emptying the pee jug every three days and the main compartment about every month. It’s not that it smells bad or anything like that, it’s just an extra step you’ve never had to do before. When I talk about smells in the text below, please keep in mind this is only when you are emptying it. It does not have any odor of any kind while in normal use. Ok, on to what we’ve learned.
Pee, which we all know what pee smells like, really smells when it’s over a gallon of it and has been sitting for a few days. I’m not sure what happens in that time, but the smell would be unbearable for most people. We have noticed that the more color your pee has in it, the more the jug smells when you empty it. I know that sounds like common sense, but it’s definitely something we’ve observed. So the first simple solution to prevent the pee smell is to drink more liquids. We are pretty good about that, but sometimes it just happens that you haven’t had that much to drink during the day. The downside to this is that you will have to empty the jug a little more frequently.
Another way to reduce the pee smell is to add vinegar to the jug. I had read about this occasionally, but it was never expressed what a huge difference it would make. I don’t measure the amount, I keep a one gallon jug under the bathroom sink. After I have emptied and returned the pee jug, I make sure the poop door is closed and I pour about two cups in the toilet bowl, which then works its way into the pee jug. Not only does this put vinegar in the pee jug, it also gives the bowl a nice cleaning rinse in the process. With the vinegar added, the next time will smell dramtically less. It will still smell like pee, but it will be a normal smell, if that makes sense.
As for the poop bowl part, there are a few things we have learned there as well. Even if you go way (and I mean wayyyyy) longer than you should have before emptying it, it still doesn’t smell. You will know when it’s time to empty it when the churning handle becomes hard to turn. The emptying process is easy, especially now that we’ve done it many times. I used to carry it outside to empty it. It is a bit awkward to carry, weighing about 30 pounds, but I wasn’t confident enough to do it indoors. We now empty it in the bathroom, and have had great success with that.
Over a few months, little gnats will eventually find your toilet bowl. Even though they are in the poop/dirt tank, they will make themselves seen by there being a few of them in the bowl. This is unacceptable, who the heck wants bugs in their toilet. The first time it happened, we had read that diametacous earth was the solution. I can officially tell you, no matter how much you put in the tank, this will not solve the problem once it has occured. It may make it better for a short time, but it’s not a long term solution. Once the gnats show up, the only true solution is to do a full cleaning. We empty the tank into a garbage bag (as normally done), then we clean each half in the shower. I remove the shower drain, because some pieces of peet moss are too large to fit down the little holes. Give the top and the bottom a good spraying with the shower head, it will basically look like new inside when done. After we reassemble and put the peet moss back in, we do add a couple of cups of diatemacous earth as a preventative measure. It’s about $15 for a bag that will last you for over a year.
The final thing we learned is in regards to the vent hose. The Nature’s Head Composting Toilet has a small fan the expels the bowl’s air. It is connect to a hose, something similar to the hose on your vacuum cleaner, but it is opaque. Everyone’s installation will be a bit different, but our hose goes through the floor, and connects to the roof vent for the vent for the gray tank. The unforseen problem was with condensation. Poop has moisture in it, which eventually gets drawn out through the fan and tube. Over time, this moisture will uncondense (think of a cold soda can on a hot/humid day) in the tube. No big deal, unless you route your hose wrong. Our hose runs from near the top of the toilet, along the floor, then up a few inches to secure to the fitting I installed in the floor to attach the hose to. This creates a low point between the toilet and where the hose goes through the floor. Eventually, our hose filled with water, and it was enough to block the airflow of the fan that vents the toilet. All we have to do is lift the hose when we change the poop tank, and whatever moisture that is in there will run into our gray tank. When I first discovered this problem, it had seen about six months of use, so it’s not like the tube fills up really fast or anything, but it is something to be aware of.
That’s all we can think of for now. If you have anything to add or have any questions, just leave a message below and we will respond to it.