Table of Contents
StartWhenever it is not possible to install a conventional toilet, such as when you are camping or have an off-grid property, dry composting toilets are a modern, sustainable, and mobile solution! The most important aspect is already in the name: a dry toilet works without water. A special insert in the toilet bowl separates the waste into two separate containers.The urine flows into its own canister, while the solids end up in a container lined with a bag. A dry composting toilet also does not need chemical additives for sanitation or covering smell. The use of an organic litter ensures that no unpleasant odors develop while also preventing that chemical, porta-potty smell typically associated with mobile toilets.
Why is it worth using a dry composting toilet?
A dry, composting toilet offers a number of advantages:
- They do not require water, which means they do not need to be connected to a water supply or sewage system. This makes them a more environmentally friendly option that reduces water consumption and any impact on sewage systems.
- Dry composting toilets are very easy to install and clean as they do not require a fresh water or waste holding/emptying hook up.
- They are very versatile. Without the need to be connected to power or sewage, they can be taken anywhere! They can be used as a mobile toilet on the road, as a permanently installed option, or you can even carry them up to the top of a mountain and go! This connection-free aspect makes them the perfect sanitation solution in areas without infrastructure.
The advantages of a dry composting toilet at a glance
Dry composting toilets do not rely on chemical additives and instead use only sustainable litter and cleaning materials. This makes them a contemporary and more eco-friendly alternative to the conventional camping toilet. Their disposal process is also environmentally friendly. The waste can be placed directly in the normal household waste or in compost piles.
Since a dry composting toilet does not require water, you save that valuable resource while on the road. If you do choose to explore a remote area, this toilet is actually recommended as it adds to the longevity of your trip by reserving water for your own consumption.
Independent and mobile
Dry composting toilets do not require a connection to a sewage system. This gives you the freedom to enjoy the comfort of your own toilet in places where the installation of a conventional toilet is impossible. Additionally, their compact sizes make them very easy to carry and transport. With a dry composting toilet you no longer need to plan your trip around waste disposal station stops. Without that vacation-interrupting errand you can stay in your favorite place for longer.
With a dry composting toilet, you will never again have to smell the oh-so-familiar chemical toilet smell when emptying and cleaning. These toilets do not need artificial chemicals to attempt to mask smells. Instead, their functionality alone is able to stop smells from forming in the first place. As long as you are using an effective and absorbing organic litter material, poop smells will be avoided in the solids area. Then with proper maintenance, fresh urine on its own will not create any smell. You can read more on how odor is avoided here: Does a Composting Toilet Really Not Smell?
Easy to handle
Keep it simple, keep it convenient. Dry composting toilets are made only of essential components and are therefore super easy to use and clean. There are no unnecessary frills, connections or tubes to clean out and around. Due to their simplicity, they can be easily carried and brought with you, providing the comfort of your own private toilet with you wherever you go.
One disadvantage of using a dry toilet with a separation system is that special accessories such as waste bags or litter are required. However, when using a conventional chemical toilet, you also need chemicals and water to use it which can be heavy additions to your travels.
Which materials can a dry composting toilet be made of?
Dry composting toilets can be made from a variety of materials, such as plastic, stainless steel or wood. Each material brings its own advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic is a very popular and frequently used material for dry composting toilets because it is light and easy to clean, making it a more hygienic option. One disadvantage is that it can become brittle over time.
Stainless steel is more resistant to decomposition than plastic and offers a longer lifespan. However, it is also more expensive and heavy, which can make transport and installation more difficult. When any amount of added weight matters in your van, stainless steel can become a drag.
Wood is also a very popular material for dry composting toilets. It is natural and aesthetically pleasing. The downside is that as a natural material, it is more susceptible to moisture and mold meaning it could require more maintenance. So it makes sense to oil or lacquer toilets made of untreated wood every now and then to protect them from moisture. Similar to stainless steel, wood is also much heavier than plastic.
How a dry composting toilet works
A dry composting toilet consists of an exterior, a toilet seat and a lid that closes the toilet.
The interior is made up of three main components:
- separator: usually made of plastic or stainless steel and is inserted into the toilet tank or is permanently integrated into the toilet seat.
- urine canister: typically is made of plastic. Made to be lifted out of the toilet to be emptied.
- solids container: can be its own separate container where you would want to line it. This can also be its own section if there is an agitator attachment with the toilet.
With its sloping shape on both of the two openings, the separation insert ensures that the solids and liquids are collected separately. Through the simple principle of gravity, solid waste falls into its designated container, while urine is funneled into the canister. This prevents the two wastes from being mixed together, which can lead to unpleasant odors.
To avoid any smell, cover the solids with litter at the end of the session. The litter initiates the drying process and also binds odors. The whole setup works according to the "dog poop principle": a fresh dog poop can be pungent and smelled even at a distance. Once it has dried, however, you could even "safely" sniff the sole of your shoe without that odor wafting towards you.
Use of a dry composting toilet
Using a dry composting toilet is so easy that even a child could do it (and they really can!): Lift the lid, take a seat and do your business. To make emptying the container as easy as possible with these steps:
- Line the solids container with a bag liner. Before you use it, put a scoop of litter in the bag. You can then simply throw the toilet paper into the solids container.
- After your “go”, sprinkle your solid waste with two more scoops of litter to speed up the drying process.
- When the solid waste bin is full, remove the bag liner, tie it tightly and dispose of it according to your local or campsite guidelines. It is also possible to compost the solids under certain conditions.
You can empty the urine canister in any toilet that is connected to the sewage system, regardless of whether it is at a campsite or rest stop with a toilet. If you have a spare canister with you, you can take the liquid with you and empty it in the toilet at home if your journey is not too long. Diluted, you can also use your urine as fertilizer. This option is particularly useful for those who have their own garden.
The easiest way to dispose of the solids is in the residual waste. Dog poop bags or diapers are also disposed of in household waste. As long as it is tied up tightly in a reliable, no-rip bag, this isn't an issue. However, at parks and BLM lands, the regulations will differ. It is best to find out about this before you start your trip on their websites or by getting in contact with a park representative.
By composting human feces you produce valuable fertilizers for gardening. To ensure safe and hygienic composting, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- To avoid contamination with harmful substance, collect the feces separately from other waste.
- Use untreated, unbleached, environmentally friendly toilet paper that is suitable for composting. Alternatively, you can collect the TP separately.
Important: Compost only the feces of healthy people without contagious diseases. This minimizes the risk of transmitting pathogens. You should also refrain from composting if you take medication that is stored in the excrement. Otherwise, antibiotics and the like will end up in your home-grown veggies or fruits when you fertilize them.
Where to Let it Flow
One of the advantages of not having any chemicals or additives in your toilet is that is opens the possibilities for where you can toss out your urine. If you are off grid and have no access to a toilet or dumping station, all you need to do is sprinkle your urine around in nature. Urine on its own can be a good fertilizer, so you can feel free to sprinkle it around.
Alternatively, you can dump your canister into a public toilet and just flush! It is really that easy and mess free.
Urine as fertilizer
Urine can also be used as a high-quality fertilizer for plants, as it is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Many vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins react particularly well to urine fertilization. Fruit trees, berry bushes and ornamental plants such as roses can also benefit from urine as a fertilizer.
Due to the high concentration of substances, urine should not be applied pure to plants. Instead, dilute it with water in a ratio of 1:10 so as not to burn fruit and vegetables and avoid overfertilisation.
Some plants are sensitive to urine and cannot tolerate it. These include potatoes, strawberries, and radishes. Urine should also be used sparingly and diluted on lettuce and leafy vegetables to avoid burning the leaves.
When used correctly, urine can be an effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional fertilizers. However, it is important to be aware of the specific requirements of the plants before use.
What accessories do you need?
Which toilet paper is suitable?
There are different types of toilet paper, which differ in their material and decomposition process. The one that would be best suited to your dry composting toilet depends on how you dispose of it. If the solids end up in the residual waste bin, you can choose whichever paper you would like.
Conventional TP is made from cellulose and decomposes slowly compared to other types of toilet paper. However, it can be used in dry composting toilets without any issues if you dispose of the solid waste regularly.
Organic or biodegradable toilet paper is ideal for dry composting toilets. This TP is usually made of recycled paper or bamboo fibers and disintegrates faster than conventional toilet paper.
For environmentally friendly disposal, it is important that the toilet paper you use is not treated with chemicals or synthetic materials that can slow down decomposition or leave harmful residues. Therefore, for the sake of the environment, you should avoid toilet paper that has been treated with fragrances, bleach or other chemicals. For the composting option, a non-treated, organic paper is essential. Otherwise, dyes and bleaches will find their way into your compost.
Which litter should I use?
You need a litter material to use your dry composting toilet. You sprinkle this on the solid waste after going to the toilet. To ensure that waste can dry well, it is important to use materials that both absorb moisture and bind odors. A few good options are:
- Small animal litter
- Wood shavings
- Coconut coir
- Dried coffee grounds (mixed in with another medium)
You can read about the advantages of the different litter options in our article "Consider Your Litter: Cover Materials for Composting Toilets".
Note: We advise you not to use regular cat litter. Firstly, it is often chemically treated and can create an unpleasant smell even before use, and secondly, the material easily forms lumps that become heavy and can cause the bag to tear when cleaning.
Do I have to use special bag liners?
The same choice you have for your toilet paper also applies to your trash bags: Whichever is best for you! Since the dry separation toilet is an environmentally friendly product, plastic bags do not really fit the principle - but they can of course be used. Alternatively, biodegradable bags like these can be used for an easy, compost friendly disposal.
Quick tips for liners
Compostable bags do what they were designed to do, after a while they
decompose. To avoid unpleasant "Oops!" experiences, we recommend lining your solids container with an additional "safety bag." A good option for this would be tear-resistant bags made from recycled materials or reusable polypropylene.
If you decide to compost, it makes sense to do without bags altogether and put the waste directly in the composter or on the compost heap.
Places of use
Due to their independence from water supplies, sewage systems and disposal stations, dry composting toilets can be used in many different locations or occasions. The most common areas of application for dry composting toilets are camping or use on off grid cabins.
On small campsites where there are no emptying facilities or restrooms, dry composting toilets can be used to create a self-sufficient camping solution! They can be used anywhere there is no running water available or no disposal stations for dumping black water. Enhance your van, RV or over-lander with a toilet made to be taken on the road with you.
We have compiled a small overview of the possible uses and advantages of using a dry composting toilet in each of these options for you.
|Area of Application||Features||Our Recommendation|
Overlander, campervan, RV
Small, compact, self-sufficient: This is how you discover remote places without reliance on public sanitary facilities.
|Evo M or Origin M|
Trailer hitch, camper
Easy disposal: You are finally independent from disposal stations.
|Origin S, Evo M, or Origin M|
Space-saving miracle: Suitable as an emergency toilet or to take along for outdoor hobbies, fits in the trunk.
Easy handling, chemical-free: No cumbersome pumping, no environmental pollution.
|Evo M, Origin M, Evo L, or Origin L|
Cabin, Tiny House, Off Grid Property
Usable without connection to the sewage system: Easy installation, allows use with the comfort of a conventional toilet and an at-home feeling.
|Evo L or Origin L|
Cleaning a dry composting toilet is as easy as using it. With well-known natural household cleaners such as citric acid or vinegar, the separator, solids container and urine canister can be cleaned hygienically and kept fresh. You can use the vinegar as well as the citric acid (at about 10% acidity) pure or diluted.
PH-neutral cleaners or products with effective microorganisms are also very good for freshening up your dry composting toilet. Avoid aggressive cleaning agents such as bleaches, chlorine-based agents and alkaline, acidic or solvent-based cleaners. These can damage the material of your dry composting toilet. The same applies to the use of scouring pads. These scrape the surface of your dry composting toilet and its containers adding scratches on the material.
Cleaning the separator insert
A small spray bottle is suitable for applying the cleaning solution. Simply spray the solution onto the separator and then wipe with toilet paper or a washcloth. You can then throw the toilet paper into the solids container.
Cleaning the solids container
To prevent the plastic of the containers from taking on odors, we recommend regular cleaning with agents containing effective microorganisms or mild cleaning agents. The best way to keep this container clean is to use bag liners. However, if you did choose not to because you would want your waste to go into your compost pile, this is possible as well. As long as you are drying out the waste properly with an effective litter, you can leave it in the container and empty it as needed.
The longer the solids remain in the bin, the fewer odors will be produced because the drying and composting has already started. If you still want to clean the container, simply use pure water or pH-neutral cleaners or agents with effective microorganisms.
Cleaning the urine canister
Rinse the urine canister regularly with diluted citric acid or vinegar. Consistent cleaning will prevent the formation of urine scale and its odors, while also keeping your canister hygienic and fresh.
Attention! Never use straight water to clean your canister! The combination of residual urine droplets and water promotes the formation of urine scale. If that has happened, you can read how to get rid of it as well as some other cleaning tips in: How to Clean a Composting Toilet
After each use, you should spray your divider with diluted vinegar or citric acid and wipe it down. Cleaning is particularly recommended if there are any residuals from your “go” on any part of the seat/separator. The urine funnel can also be wiped down occasionally to prevent urine scale or smell build up.
Rinse the urine canister with diluted citric acid after emptying. To do this, pour a little acid into the canister, screw on the lid and shake it vigorously. Then it is ready for the next use. If you find yourself without any citric acid at hand, don't worry. Empty the canister, use it again and rinse it properly at the next opportunity.
What happens during diarrhea?
In general, diarrhea is not a problem when using a dry composting toilet. If your solid turns out to be more liquid, you simply use more litter to bind the moisture. However, if the waste is too liquid at a point, the best option is to apply some litter and then tie up and dispose of the bag.
Tips for women
Admittedly: Men have it a bit easier on the dry composting toilet. Where they can sit down and let themselves go, women have to slide back and forth slightly in order to specifically separate solid from liquid.
In addition to finding the right sitting position, many women also ask themselves, "What do I do when I have my period? Can I even use the dry composting toilet during this time?"
The good news: Sure you can! Some things you should consider when using the dry composting toilet during your period and how to find the best sitting position for you, we tell you in: Separating Toilet Tips for Women
Installation of a dry composting toilet
In general, the installation of a dry composting toilet always depends on your location. In a Tiny House or cabin, for example, you have enough space to install the toilet in the bathroom. If it's fixed, you don't even need to anchor the toilet down because your structure won’t move.
Of course, the set up will be completely different in a campervan or RV. In these mobile spaces, it is important that the dry composting toilet has a good, secure stand and is mounted in such a way that it does not sway or slide while driving.
Many models can either be connected directly to the floor through the bottom or can be firmly integrated into the vehicle via a mounting plate. In a car or overlander, the dry composting toilet should be positioned or strapped down so that it is not thrown through the vehicle during emergency braking. The trunk can be a good place for your toilet.
Important aspects when using a dry composting toilet
With proper use and care, a dry composting toilet is an absolutely clean, practical and simple solution for your “go” on the road or in any place where a conventional toilet cannot be installed or accessed. In order to enjoy the environmentally friendly toilet for as long as possible, you should follow these steps:
- Always use a dry composting toilet while sitting down. Urinating while standing can cause a mess around the toilet or even in or on the pants!
- Take a look into the urine canister between uses to check if there is enough space left for the next session. Otherwise, the canister can overflow.
- Do not dispose of wet wipes in the solids container. This makes the important process of drying out your solids more difficult. You can instead use foam products applied to the toilet paper so that it can be used like a wet wipe. Then be sure to add a sprinkle of litter on top of it.
- Empty the urine canister regularly to prevent the formation of bacteria, lime scale and odors.
- Children can use a dry composting toilet without any problems. However, small children should be held by adults when going to the toilet so that they do not slip off or into the toilet.
- Never use straight water to clean the urine canister! This can cause urine scale to form, which is difficult to remove from the canister and causes unpleasant odors.
Is there a difference from a dry toilet?
Yes, the main difference between dry composting toilets and dry toilets is that dry composting toilets separate #1 from #2, while dry toilets put all the waste together in one container. Dry toilets do not contain the separating insert needed to make this divide happen.
Therefore, dry toilets should be clearly distinguished from composting toilets or dry composting toilets. The biggest advantage to a dry composting toilet is that liquid and solids are not mixed. The fact that #1 and #2 mix together in dry toilets creates the unpleasant odor that is avoided by separating in dry composting toilets. Healthy urine that does not come into contact with water or waste does not usually develop an odor of its own. The solids are covered with special bedding after defecation. This removes the residual moisture, preventing the formation of odors.
What is the difference between a dry composting toilet and a cassette toilet?
The dry composting toilet, or simply composting toilet, has established itself as an alternative to the cassette toilet. The cassette toilet consists of a holding tank filled with a chemical solution. Alternatively, there are models that direct the chemical solution into the liquid and waste-filled container at the push of a button.
The solution within cassette toilets contains enzymes that decompose the excrement. After you flush, the chemical solution runs through the hole in the toilet and mixes to decompose the waste.
Dry composting toilets, on the other hand, separate waste mechanically without using chemicals. Cassette toilets contain strong chemical additives that have an antibacterial effect. However, these additives not only endanger people's health, but also can negatively impact the environment.
Disposing of the waste from a cassette toilet is also more complicated. Due to the chemicals in the waste, the holding tank may only be emptied in accordance with strict regulations. When traveling, for example in an RV, this can be difficult if there is no disposal station nearby.
Disposing of feces and urine from the dry composting toilet, on the other hand, is very simple. You can either dispose of the urine via a conventional toilet or use it in diluted form as fertilizer in your garden. Thanks to the waste bags, you can easily dispose of solids in your household waste. This is also uncomplicated when traveling. It is best to find out about the legal regulations of solid waste disposal in advance.
Outlook: Dry composting toilets, what next?
While the idea of a dry composting toilet has been around for many years in Scandinavian cottages, taking them on the road is relatively new! More and more people are discovering for themselves the advantages, positive environmental impact, and the freedom that a dry composting toilet brings.
A positive trend being met by the dry composting toilet is the move towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable versions of the camping toilet.
No chemicals, saving water, and keeping nature free from human waste: Dry composting toilets are part of a movement towards a more sustainable way to enjoy the outdoors! By making them a mobile option for your outdoor adventures, the possibilities are endless.
There are many different toilet systems now available for outdoor enthusiasts. They all have their individual advantages and disadvantages. The dry composting toilet is good for the environment because it does not use any chemicals or water.
The system is also very uncomplicated and clean. Before you decide on a particular system, you should compare the different options and adapt them to your needs. Up to now, dry toilets have gotten a bad wrap. The smell is too strong and the cleaning too messy. The dry toilet with a separation system now offers a solution. Self-sufficient without chemicals, you can easily dispose of both solids and urine and use it anywhere.
If you decide on a toilet with a separation system, all that remains is to choose the right model and size. You can currently find numerous dry composting toilets in different sizes and made of different materials. In any case, you are choosing an environmentally friendly, simple and hygienic solution.