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How To Make Your Own DIY Composting Toilet

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How To Make Your Own DIY Composting ToiletIf you are longing to get off grid, a DIY composting toilet is simple to construct and use.

I built an experimental humanure toilet and used for a year on a trial basis (my bathroom is too small for two toilets!).

I was pleased with the results, and will make a second bathroom with it one of these days.

Knowing how to properly build a compost toilet is great for potential survival situations.

If you choose to use one, you can save a little on the utility bills, and reduce your impact on the environment.

Knowing how to make a composting toilet can open up new living possibilities such as cheap land, or your own mortgage free tiny house.

Skills such as a homemade composting toilet, handwashing your laundry, or living without a fridge seem extreme to most people.

However, these are valuable skills to have at your disposal.

What is a Composting Toilet?

A composting toilet is NOT an outhouse!  It does not smell.  It does not create pollution.  Building a compost toilet is a good way to take refuse and turn it into a resource.

A DIY composting toilet takes human waste, and dry material such as sawdust, crushed leaves, or wood ash and composts it with straw at a high heat to kill potential pathogens.

At the end of the process you are left with sweet smelling, clean, and hygenic compost.

1 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

How to Build a Homemade Composting Toilet

Building a simple sawdust toilet can be as easy as balancing a toilet seat over the top of a five gallon bucket, or a gorgeous handcrafted wooden work of art.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to build a simple yet sturdy DIY composting toilet.

If you’d like a printable copy of these instructions to put in your emergency supplies, or to take to the store with you, you can purchase a downloadable PDF for 99 cents.

9 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Assemble your supplies.   You will need two five gallon buckets of the same height, four 2x4s the same height as the buckets, a toilet seat plus hardware, a piece of plywood larger than your toilet seat, and eight screws.

6 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Saw a hole that is the same size as the five gallon buckets into your piece of plywood.

5 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Line your toilet seat up centered over the hole you just cut.  Mark where to drill holes for the toilet seat hardware.  Drill those holes.

8 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Screw a 2×4 at each corner of your plywood to create four legs.

7 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Stand the frame up onto it’s legs.  It’s time to start putting it all together!

4 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Attach the toilet seat to the plywood.

3 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Place one bucket so it fits into the large hole in the plywood.  Add a few inches of your cover material (such as sawdust) and it’s ready to use!

How to Use Your DIY Composting Toilet

2 DIY Composting Toilet @ Farming My Backyard

Before using a bucket the first time make sure there is a few inches of cover material in the bucket.  Use as you would any toilet.

Instead of flushing, cover all the contents with a thick layer of cover material.  The cover material is the big key to making this system work.

Sawdust is ideal, because it is fine, and absorbent.  I know people have used peat moss and crushed dry leaves with good success.

I had none of those things available, and had good results using wood ash from our woodburning stove.  Completely cover all contents with the cover material.

When the bucket is full, put in an empty bucket and take the full bucket out to your outdoor compost bin.

A three bin system works best with compost toilets.  That way you have one to fill, one to cure for a year, and one to harvest finished compost.

To keep your carbon and nitrogen levels balanced make sure to add lots of dry material such as straw.  Use plenty of straw.

When your bin is full, let the compost cure for a year.

If you are planning to use the finished compost on edibles make sure that it reaches an internal temperature of 122 degrees for at least one week to destroy all potential pathogens.

For some reason, if it does not reach high temperatures it is safest to let it cure for second year.

If you don’t want to wait two years it’s still safe to use on non-food crops or orchards.  There are compost thermometers available to check temperatures.

If the idea of composting human waste is new, I suggest reading Holy Shit by Gene Logsdon.  It’s entertaining, yet informative.

If you want a more in depth look at composting toilets The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins is the way to go.   The Humanure Handbook can also be downloaded for free here.

If you want more homestead related books, feel free to check out our resource page!

To get the printable copy of these instructions to put in your emergency supplies, or to take to the store with you, purchase the downloadable PDF for 99 cents.

 

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Peter Dalby

Monday 16th of November 2020

constructed my first composting toilet about a year ago based on the design in the humanure book by Jo Jenkins. Really impressed with how it has worked. we prime the empty buckets with dry hay or straw then use sawdust as cover/soak after each use then when the bucket is full it is taken across to the compost heap and emptied in the centre of the pile. there is no smell or flies in the toilet shed and even when emptying no unpleasant smell. We have used whatever weeds and plant material is to hand to cover the deposit from the toilet to a depth of at least 9 to 12 inches or more and again have never had an odour issue.

Kathryn

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

That's awesome!

Claire

Wednesday 28th of October 2020

We recently bought a ready-made portable toilet for when we're away from home during the pandemic. It's just a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat that snaps on the top. Very simple and it will be a permanent part of our emergency supplies. The brand is Lugable Loo but I think there are others.

I've used a composting toilet like you describe when visiting friends. Glad to know I could use my little portable thing and create a compost pile in the back yard if there was a major water shortage or something.

Kathryn

Wednesday 28th of October 2020

It's great to have a just-in-case plan!

jenny martin

Wednesday 5th of August 2020

you can get compostible liners these days. Cornstarch bin liners are an example. I line my bucket with newspaper. Plenty of junk mail to go around. The shiny stuff may not be as good though. I save up about 5 buckets then pour them into a compost pile framed with old pallets. I then cover with woodchips - twigs/leaves/chips from olive tree prunings in my case but can be anything, the more easy it rots the better. Getting hot composting is a mystery to me so when it gets to the top, i extend with another 3 pallets and start a new pile. 2 years for edibles.

Kathryn

Monday 10th of August 2020

Thanks for sharing what's been working for you!

Hannah

Friday 31st of July 2020

Hi Kathryn, thanks for the info! 2 questions: 1) I was wondering if I could line the 5 gallon bucket with a liner or if that would interfere with the composting. 2) If there is no way for me to spread the compost (in an emergency situation) is burning the fresh or cured compost outside an option?

Kathryn

Monday 3rd of August 2020

No composting happens inside the bucket, so it would not change that. You would need to make sure to dispose of any liner in a safe way. I have no idea if burning the waste is safe, but I would imagine it would be very unpleasant and smelly.

Hazel

Sunday 19th of July 2020

Hi, love your article, thank you. Could we make our compost toilet moveable and instead of buckets just dig a hole underneath then bury it and move on when full enough? Obviously we wouldn't be able to use the compost. It's for our horse field/allotment so would only get limited use. The idea of regularly emptying small amounts or a bucket left for long periods isn't attractive but we'd like somewhere for doing the necessaries while we're at our field. Thank you.

Kathryn

Monday 20th of July 2020

That would essentially be an outhouse, so it would not have the odor and bacteria killing benefits of a composting toilet.

Hazel

Sunday 19th of July 2020

Plus we wouldn't have enough material to make a big enough compost heap/bin for effective composting.