The rise in dry toilets is remarkable. Those that live off-grid and the people who want a greener lifestyle are driving the popularity of composting toilets. Plus, there is a significant fan club of composting toilet users in the RV and boating community.
We rundown the 7 best composting toilets to show you an alternative to the conventional toilet.
What Is a Composting Toilet?
A composting toilet is a waterless toilet that treats human waste by allowing it to decompose biologically. This process breaks down the organic matter and turns the waste into a compost-like material that can be disposed of or sprinkled on your plants.
Unlike flushing toilets, a composting toilet relies on aerobic bacteria to break the waste matter down into a soil-like material. To help this process, carbon-rich sources like wood chips, sawdust and coffee grinds are added.
Benefits of a Composting Toilet
Contrary to what you might think, composting toilets are clean and relatively odorless. There are many benefits to owning a composting toilet.
What could be kinder to the planet than a composting toilet? All the waste matter can be recycled and spread onto your non-edible plants.
Uses Less Water
Unlike a flush toilet that uses liters of water, a composting toilet is a dry system. It uses aerobic bacteria to decompose the waste matter slowly, enabling the material to break down naturally.
Recycle Your Waste
Properly composted human waste is as nutritious to plant life as any other form of compost. You are saving the planet in baby steps, but you are also enhancing your plants in the garden. It’s a win-win!
Ideal for Remote Areas
If you have a remote cabin, or live an off-grid lifestyle, a composting toilet is the answer to your dreams. You can install them anywhere.
Ideal for Boats and RVs
Rather than filling a black waste tank on your boat or RV, why not install a composting toilet. You’ll save dollars in the long run when you no longer need to pump out the waste tanks.
Disadvantages of a Composting Toilet
For every advantage, there are disadvantages.
Not as Convenient
Nothing quite beats the convenience of going to the toilet and flushing the waste matter away. You don’t smell it, and you don’t see it once flushed.
Not only do most composting toilets cost more, but they also come with ongoing maintenance considerations. You need to add carbon-matter like sawdust and wood chips.
Requires Discipline to Use
Unlike a flushing toilet, composting toilets require discipline and constant monitoring to ensure that the composting process is working and there is no cross-contamination.
Can Be Unhealthy
An improperly installed toilet can lead to smells and insect infestation, which is a matter that is difficult to dispose of.
How to Choose a Composting Toilet
Many factors make up the ideal composting toilet. For some, it is the look of the toilet in that it needs to look like a conventional version, and for others, it is the convenience and ease of maintenance.
The size and shape of your toilet space determines what type and model of composting toilet you can own. Some fit tight spaces and corners, while others can free stand anywhere.
Do you have access to an electrical supply, because, again, that would determine what type of toilet you can get? Think about standing and sitting on the toilet to visualize whether it feels claustrophobic or cramped.
Portable Vs. Composting
Any toilet that doesn’t use chemicals is essentially a composting toilet. While some separate the wet from the dry, others allow the two waste products to mix in the same container. If you want to use your waste as a fertilizer, you will need to keep the solids separate from the liquids.
If all you want is an off-grid alternative to a flush toilet, a portable version will suffice. Also, portable toilets are frequently found in RVs and boats, thanks to their small dimensions.
The right tank capacity comes down to how the toilet is used and how many people use it. It is no good getting a composting toilet with a tiny capacity if the entire family wants to use it.
Likewise, why spend big bucks on a toilet with the maximum capacity you can get when you are rarely going to reach the tank’s capacity. Shopping for a toilet for your RV or boat, the tank capacity is likely to be less than if you were installing it in a house.
Connected to the Utilities
Some toilets use a small amount of water to flush, but nowhere near the amount used on a conventional toilet. Others have tiny fans that require electricity to power them. These fans help to dry out the solid matter and to disperse any odors that might exist.
Many composting toilets use a trap system to separate the waste and contain the smells. This means that the male members of the household will need to pee sitting down. Check that they are happy to do this.
Check with the Government
Some local laws dictate that to install a composting toilet requires a permit. Check with the seller before buying to see what the options are. You could always seek advice from your local government office.
The Best Composting Toilets of 2020
Scouring the internet looking for composting toilets is no easy thing. There are so many variations, styles and models that boiling it down to the best 7 was tricky.
1. Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet
This is a popular choice among compost toilet fans. It is pretty much the same as a toilet with a spider handle. The only difference being that this has an agitator with a crank handle. It may not sound like a significant difference, but the agitator handle adds 2 inches to the overall width.
What this means is you need to factor in the extra width when sizing it up before installation. What makes this the ideal compost toilet for odors is the option of a ventilator hose and a 12-volt fan. The fan aerates the chamber containing the solid matter to remove smells and quickly dry it out as the composting process takes place.
It is robust, easy to install, and is adaptable to almost any location, so if you want a full-size toilet for your log cabin or RV, this could be a great choice.
- Easy to install.
- Option of a 12-volt fan.
- Robust materials.
- Agitator handle adds 2 inches to the width.
|Dimensions (inches)||17.75 x 20.75 x 21.5|
2. Camco 41541 Portable Travel Toilet
If you are looking for a compact toilet, then this Camco travel toilet is the ideal choice. Space onboard an RV is limited, so you will want something that fits into a cramped space but makes the toilet experience still feel like home.
The bin holds 5.3 gallons and is detachable to make it easier to dispose of the contents. The flush tank is 2.5 liters, and it has a sliding lid to seal the container. Since this is a travel toilet, it doesn’t separate the solids from the liquids, but it is an ideal choice for an RV. This toilet delivers everything in one compact package. It even has a bellows-type flush pump.
- Easy to use.
- Easy to empty.
- Great for RVs.
- Lacks separate bins.
- More bucket-and-chuck-it.
- Odors occur over time.
|Dimensions (inches)||14 x 16 x 15.5|
|Bin capacity||20 liters|
3. Reliance Products Luggable Loo
Okay, with a little imagination, you could elevate this from a bucket with a lid to a portable toilet that is the ideal choice for campers. When you are roughing it in the great wilderness, a Luggable Loo can seem like a luxury.
It has a snap-on seat cover and lid, a metal handle, and you can use it in conjunction with biodegradable portable toilet bags. It really is the simplest toilet. And best of all, it won’t break the bank like some of the top-end models.
The chamber has a 20-liter capacity, so it should last a couple of days, but if you want to avoid odors, it might be wise to empty it daily.
- Simplicity personified.
- Snap-on seat and lid.
- 20-liter capacity.
- One step up from a bucket.
- Creates odors.
|Dimensions (inches)||34 x 37 x 32.5|
|Bin capacity||20 liters|
4. Porta Potti White by Thetford
This Porta Potti is at the other end of the spectrum when you compare it to the Luggable Loo. This is more refined, designed to be as similar to a conventional toilet as possible. It has a tank level indicator, a 50 plus flushes water tank, and the container holds 21 liters.
It has a battery-powered flush, as well as a rotating mess-free spout for minimal splashback when tipping out the contents. There is also an airtight valve to prevent leaks. It is built for comfort, with a comfortable seat height that is similar to your toilet at home. It even has a hide-away toilet roll holder for added convenience.
Odors are kept at bay thanks to the sliding lid that snaps shut to seal away any bad smells, and the waste compartment easily detaches when you need to empty the contents.
- Battery-operated flush.
- 21-liter capacity.
- Tank level indicator.
- Rotating spout.
- Sealed lid.
- Solids and liquids are not separated.
- Holding tank is heavy when full.
- Prone to smells.
|Dimensions (inches)||18.39 x 15.75 x 17.83|
|Bin capacity||21 liters|
5. Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
Unlike the other Nature’s Head toilet featured, this one has a spider handle design for the agitator. It saves you inches in the overall width, making this toilet more adaptable to small spaces.
Nature’s Head doesn’t publish the actual capacity of their solids bin, but they claim that 2 people using it full-time will get 4 to 6 weeks use before it needs to be emptied. The liquids container holds 2.2 gallons.
There is a built-in 12-volt fan located in the head to help aerate the solids. This circulates the air, increasing the composting process, and it reduces odors, making this a great choice if you want a toilet with less bad smells.
The only downside to this model is the price. It costs almost double its nearest competitor!
- No odors.
- 4/6 week capacity.
- Spider handle agitator.
- 2.2-liter liquids bin.
- 12-volt fan.
|Dimensions (inches)||22 x 20.5 x 21.7|
|Agitator||Yes (spider handle)|
6. Separett Villa 9215 AC/DC
This toilet was released to the US market in 2018. It operates on both AC and DC currents, making it ideal for mains or solar/battery use. It is a one-piece toilet, so it requires no assembly, and because the company has a US base, you get excellent customer service.
The Swedish design is functional and minimalist, and the construction is robust. What sets this model apart from the competition is that it has no liquids tank. What you get instead is a 6-foot long pipe that connects to the toilet at one end while the other needs to be plumbed into a drain hole to allow the liquids to run into the mains sewer.
The solids tank holds almost 27.5 liters of waste product, so when you couple that with the fact that you never need to empty the liquids, it has the capacity to go for weeks on end without being emptied.
This is ideal for everyday home use but renders the toilet unusable if you install it on a boat or in a RV.
- Sturdy construction.
- One-piece design.
- AC or DC compatible.
- High capacity.
- Swedish design.
- Requires plumbing.
|Dimensions (inches)||26.5 x 18 x 21.3|
|Bin capacity||27.3 liters|
7. Sun-Mar Non-Electric Composting Toilet
This Sun-Mar needs no electrical connection to compost human waste successfully. Like most of the toilets featured, it has a solids and liquids container that keeps the two separate, and it is NSF certified. It means this toilet has been tested at capacity for 6 months to see if it produced safe and usable compost without any odors over that period.
Installation couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is hook up the ventilation vent and fix the toilet to the floor. Make sure the ventilation tube has no bends to ensure the odors escape freely.
Before using the toilet for the first time, a peat and microbe mix needs to be added to the compost bin to kickstart the decomposition process. Luckily, Sun-Mar provides you with a free sachet to get you started.
- No electricity needed.
- Ideal for RVs and boats.
- Low maintenance.
- Easy to use and install.
- Detachable footrest.
- Agitator handle.
- No fan.
|Dimensions (inches)||31.5 x 31.5 x 22.5|
|Bin capacity||Not stated. Rated for 5-7 people|
|Warranty||5-year tank and 3-year parts|
|Nature’s Head Dry Composting Toilet||Odor||28 lbs||17.75 x 20.75 x 21.5″||Yes||2.2-gal||5-year|
|Camco 41541 Portable Travel Toilet||RVs||10.8 lbs||14 x 16 x 15.5″||No||20 L||1-year|
|Reliance Products Luggable Loo||Camping||3 lbs||34 x 37 x 32.5″||No||20 L||5-year|
|Porta Potti White by Thetford||Portable||13 lbs||18.39 x 15.75 x 17.83″||No||21 L||3-year|
|Nature’s Head Composting Toilet||Self-Contained||28 lbs||22 x 20.5 x 21.7″||Yes||2.2-gal||5-year|
|Separett Villa 9215 AC/DC||High-Capacity||30 lbs||26.5 x 18 x 21.3″||No||27.3 L||5-year|
|Sun-Mar Non-Electric Composting Toilet||Non-Electric||47 lbs||31.5 x 31.5 x 22.5″||Yes||N/A||5-year|
Installation and Maintenance
The United States standard for composting toilets is the National Sanitation Foundation Standard 41, which states that the toilet is fit for purpose and has the capacity as advertised (1). Also, it must meet the designated bacterial levels.
To achieve this award, each composting toilet is rigorously tested over 6 months to see if it meets the requirements.
For this, we are using a Nature’s Head toilet and what it contains. Everything you need to install it is in the pack.
- 5 feet of hose with ends inside vent fans.
- 4 mounting bolts.
- 2 mounting brackets and knobs.
- 18-inch single pin cable for the 12-volt fan.
- Allen wrench to install the handle.
- Fuse holder and fuse.
- Spray bottle.
Luckily, composting toilets are fairly basic in design. This means they are pretty easy to install. Make sure there is enough space to locate the unit, remove the bins and turn the agitator handle.
Attach the toilet to the floor using the brackets and ensure the ventilator hose is long enough to reach outside. If not, you will need to install the 12-volt fan to enhance the ventilation process.
The first thing to remember is that you have to turn the agitator handle every time you add solid matter. This improves the composting procedure. The second thing is that you need to add a carbon-rich source like wood chips, sawdust, or even coffee grinds and peat moss.
You should monitor the liquids and solids containers regularly. You will have to empty the liquids bin more frequently. The solids container takes longer to fill, but once it is disposed of, you need to remember to include the dry additive to help with the composting process.
These procedures are the same with all composting toilets, with the only difference being how the containers remove and empty.
Prepping and Dumping the Bins
1. Prepping the Bins
Dumping the waste is a hotly debated topic. With flush toilets, the effort is removed, but with a dry toilet, it takes more planning.
Before using the toilet, you need to prep it. Add a layer of dry mixture like coconut coir, sawdust or wood shavings. You can add coffee grinds and peat moss too. Make sure the mixture level stays below the agitator and that it is hydrated and damp.
2. Dumping the Bins
Once the bins are full, it’s time to dump the contents. You will have two separate containers.
Solids – If the agitator handle proves difficult to turn, the bin is full and needs emptying. You should wait 6 to 12 hours after depositing the solids to allow the decomposing to begin.
Emptying the solids bin varies between models, but for Nature’s Head, tip the contents into a 13-gallon trash bag. You can buy biodegradable trash bags if you want to be super-eco. At this stage, the solids are not ready to sprinkle over your prize roses. Add the mixture to a compost bin in the garden and let it further decompose.
Liquids – Nature’s Head models hold around 2-gallons of liquid that needs to be emptied every 3 to 4 days. You can see when the tank is full because it is translucent. Always make sure the lid is secure, for obvious reasons.
The liquid is good for plants and can be deposited in the garden. Try and vary the spots where you dump it as it might start to smell. And always check local laws to see that you are obeying the rules.
Composting Toilet FAQs
Can You Pee in a Composting Toilet?
Yes, you can, but the pee needs to be kept separate from the solids. If cross-contamination occurs, it will stop the composting process and create lots of nasty odors.
Composting toilets have two bins, namely, one to catch liquids and the other for solids.
How Bad Do Composting Toilets Smell?
If it is properly installed and maintained correctly, a composting bin should produce no smell. Most have ventilator hoses, carbon filters and 12-volt fans to remove any bad odors.
If you cross-contaminate the solids with the urine, then you will get odors, which is why composting toilets separate the two.
Do You Have to Empty a Composting Toilet?
You do have to empty a composting toilet. Unlike flushing toilets, the waste doesn’t get removed. It sits in the bin, decomposing. At some point, the container will fill and the contents need to be removed.
What Can You Do With Composting Toilet Waste?
You can add it to your composting pile in the yard, and when it is suitably composted, you can sprinkle it around your flower beds as fertilizer. It is as nutritious to plants as animal manure.
Do You Need Plumbing for a Composting Toilet?
All you need to install a composting toilet is an outside vent. There is no other plumbing involved. It means that you can install a composting toilet almost anywhere and with minimum fuss.
How Much Does It Cost to Install a Composting Toilet?
It costs you nothing if you do it yourself. Even the most challenged DIY’er could fit a composting toilet. They require no plumbing and limited electrics if you use a 12-volt fan to aerate the solids.
If you employ someone to do the work, then you would need to source quotes.
Let’s Hear It for Composting Toilets
If you want to use less water, help the planet and reduce your carbon footprint, a composting toilet is a great way to start. By switching from a flushing toilet, you are making a real difference without too much inconvenience.
Okay, so composting toilets require a bit more thought and planning, and you still have to empty them, but that is a small price to pay if you want to do your bit for the environment.