Composting Toilets: What They Are + The Best Composting Toilets of 2023
Composting toilets are an amazing, eco-friendly way to enjoy the outdoors without suffering through a visit to an outhouse. These off-grid thrones break down human waste into compost, which can later be used as fertilizer for your garden. How cool is that?
They are a dream come true for those who live off-grid, in tiny homes or cabins, or as a boat or rv toilet where plumbing and electricity may not be easily accessible. So, if you're looking to go green and save on water bills while still having a stink-free bathroom, composting toilets are definitely worth considering. But with so many options, deciding which one to choose can be overwhelming.
That's why we've compiled a list of the best composting toilets for 2023, plus all the information you need to be an educated consumer.
How Does a Composting Toilet Work?
Take a seat. We're going to drop some toilet knowledge bombs! You might think, "Ew, gross!" but stay with us here. These toilets break down human waste and toilet paper into usable compost you can use in your garden or landscaping. This bypasses any need for a sewer hookup or septic tank system.
Here's how it works:
Instead of flushing everything away with water, a composting toilet separates the liquid and solid waste. This process can happen in a few different ways depending on the type of composting toilet. Some toilets separate the urine from the solid waste before mixing, while some separate inside the storage container and evaporate the remaining liquids.
The composting process is all about bacteria.
Solids in the tank break down because the aerobic bacteria thrive in an oxygen-rich environment. Adding a compost medium to the solid waste helps to balance the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, which is crucial for healthy composting. Don't worry - compost mediums are widely available, such as peat moss, sawdust, or coconut fibers (also called "coco coir" - our recommended favorite).
As the composting process happens, the compost chamber naturally heats up due to decomposition. This helps break down the waste further and kill off harmful pathogens. After a few months, the compost is fully broken down and safe to handle.
All the pathogens and viruses you would normally find are killed off by the decomposition process, converting the human waste into compost-like material. This nutrient-rich compost can be used in your landscaping garden or around the base of trees to help aid their growth. Most composting toilet manufacturers (and your future dinner party guests) do not recommend putting compost toilet waste into a vegetable garden.
Do compost toilets release any odor? Are they smelly?
We get it. Smell is always a big concern. After all, we're talking about #2 here. But fear not! Our recommended composting toilets are odorless. The composting process actually neutralizes any unpleasant odors. Maintaining the proper balance between moisture, oxygen, and carbon-rich materials in the compost pile is key. This can be achieved through regular maintenance and proper use of the toilet.
Composting toilets can have an earthy odor, especially if not emptied frequently. This is because they're producing compost, which creates a natural topsoil-like aroma that smells nothing like sewage. Some people find this smell pleasant, while others may need time to adjust. Proper ventilation will help a lot.
Is it hard to use a composting toilet?
After the initial adjustment, using a composting toilet is not hard at all. There are composting toilets that use a simple button push to flush and contain the waste. Others require you to lightly turn the handle crank on the side of the solid waste chamber. Each brand offers something a little different, but none are difficult to use.
If you have guests, some systems provide a laminated placard you can stick to the wall or door. The card explains exactly how the guest should use the toilet so no one feels awkward when they need to go.
How do you empty a composting toilet?
Maintaining a composting toilet might sound like a dirty job, but it doesn't require that much effort. You'll have to empty it occasionally, but that's about it. You don't need any special tools or expertise to empty composting toilets. That's welcome news to anyone who had to empty the dreaded black tank on their RV or boat!
All of the toilets we recommend have easy-to-empty composting systems. Some toilets keep the solid and liquid waste separate which lets you quickly dump the liquids bottle when full. Then, when it's time to dump the solid waste container, removal is fast because it was not connected to a septic system nor a water supply.
Compared to a traditional flush toilet, a composting toilet is easier to maintain as it doesn't require water, chemicals, or plumbing.
How often do composting toilets need to be emptied?
The answer depends on several factors. Frequency of usage, the capacity of the toilet, and the type of composting system all play a role.
We suggest you consider how many people will be using the toilet. If it's 1-3 people with regular use, any of the toilet units we recommend will work well. If 4+ adults or a family will be using the toilet on a full-time basis, some of the higher capacity models we recommend will work best.
As a general rule, most composting toilets must be emptied every few months. However, different types of composting toilets only need emptying once every two to three years. This is due to their large size and high capacity. Note that our composting toilets come with emptying systems that do not require much hands-on work.
Most customers compare emptying their toilet to taking out the kitchen trash - it's not really "fun," but it's NBD.
How do you install a composting toilet?
Each brand is a little different. Some composting toilets require floor mounting to prevent the toilet from moving. Others only require mounting if you are using it in a moving unit such as a boat or RV. Some even offer additional lift kits or specialty options to customize for your needs.
The toilets that we recommend all include their own mounting hardware and kits. Each has instructional guides and additional resources to help you install the toilet and any venting, if it is required for use. For some models, such as the Laveo Dry Flush, additional lift kit options are available separately as well.
Do composting toilets work in the winter?
If you're wondering if these toilets can handle the chill of winter, the answer is a resounding yes! Keep your pants on, though... there are a few things to remember.
If you install a composting toilet in an icy locale where the temperature doesn't even hit 50° F / 15° C, the compost inside the drum could become a poopsicle instead of compost. If you plan on using the john during the frosty months, you'll need to do some extra work to ensure it doesn't poop out on you. You'll need to insulate some parts, set up a heat source close to the composter, and regularly remove compost to make room for fresh material.
What are the drawbacks of a composting toilet?
One of the only drawbacks to waterless toilet systems is emptying them periodically. Since cleaning your traditional toilet is likely your least favorite chore, you may already be turned off by emptying a composting toilet. Compare that to DIY composting toilets - they might save you money, but emptying them can be an unpleasant and odorous experience.
Fortunately, manufacturers have devised clever, stink-free, and easy-to-use systems for emptying toilets. You can keep emptying to a minimum by selecting the right toilet. Take our 60 second quiz to get personalized recommendations.
The second most common complaint about composting toilets is aesthetics. The toilet seats and the shape of the toilet base are different from traditional toilets.
Why are compost toilets good for the environment?
Compost toilets are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional flushing toilets. These toilets use a natural process to turn human waste into compost, reducing the need for harmful chemicals and eliminating the risk of raw sewage polluting the environment.
Plus, compost toilets conserve water, as they don't require gallons of fresh water to flush the waste away. Your water per flush is reduced dramatically, or is non existent in some cases. This is particularly important in areas where clean water is scarce.
Composting toilets also cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. When organic waste (including human waste) is sent to landfills, it can decompose and produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. But using compost toilets eliminates that waste from the landfill and transforms it into a valuable soil amendment. Composting toilets also keep the natural nutrient cycle going, returning nutrients to the soil to grow more plants, which sequesters carbon.
Best Composting Toilet of 2023
Overall Best Composting Toilet: Nature's Head Composting Toilet
Nature's Head is the perfect option for just about every situation. This composting toilet is a waterless system that eliminates the need for plumbing, making it an ideal choice for boats, RVs, cabins, tiny homes and other off-grid scenarios. The user-friendly design makes it easy to use and maintain while separating urine and solids ensures no unpleasant odors.
Nature's Head is one of the easiest composting toilets to install.
The vent fan is electric 12 volts (or 120 volts with optional transformer for in-home use). The compact design is also a game-changer, taking up much less space than traditional marine or RV toilets, which is especially crucial where space is at a premium. The toilet is also made of high-quality materials, including stainless steel hardware, ensuring it will be durable enough to last for years.
OGO Self-Contained Toilet System: The Ideal RV Composting Toilet
Many composting toilets have limits on where they can be used. However, the OGO composting toilets can be used in RVs, boats, tiny homes, and off-grid cabins. OGO composting toilets are designed to function effectively in almost any setting, regardless of whether or not there is a reliable water source. They are the most compact composting toilet on the market, while still offering a full-size toilet seat.
OGO toilets are designed to be easy to clean and maintain, ensuring that users can enjoy hassle-free sanitation and waste management no matter where they are.
The OGO waste container has an electric agitator that speeds up the composting process without you having to use a hand crank or spider handle. Overall, the versatility and flexibility of OGO composting toilets make them a popular choice for a wide range of applications and environments.
Laveo by Dry Flush: The Ultimate Portable Toilet
The Dry Flush waterless toilet is a great solution for anyone without a water system or power. It's perfect for cabins, tiny homes, camping trips, boating, or RV enthusiasts who want to enjoy a hassle-free travel experience.
This toilet uses a unique "dry flush" system. It has a patented sealing technology to keep waste contained and odor-free, making it safer and cleaner than traditional waste disposal methods. With no tanks or chemicals to worry about, the Dry Flush is also incredibly easy to install and maintain, making it the perfect choice for busy travelers who want to spend more time exploring and less time managing waste.
Separett Villa 9215: Composting Toilet System for Tiny House or Cabin
The Separett Villa 9215 is a great composting toilet for those with a tiny home or off-grid cabin.
This self-contained composting toilet is designed to separate the urine and the solids, making it very efficient for breaking down waste. It also has an electric fan that helps ventilate and dry the compost, which provides additional odor control. The Separett Villa 9215 is also relatively easy to install and requires little maintenance.
Emptying is a breeze! The solid waste falls into a drum lined with a compostable waste bag, and there is no need to crank a handle to mix the compost! When you’re ready to remove the waste and take it to your compost pile, you won’t have to worry about handling as it uses biodegradable bags.
The small size of the toilet makes it perfect for tiny homes, but it is also great for cabins, boats, and other similar living spaces. The Separett Villa 9215 also has a stylish, sleek, modern design that won't look out of place in any home.
Overall, if you're looking for a composting toilet for your tiny home, the Separett Villa 9215 is a great choice. Its efficiency, ease of use, and stylish design make it a top pick for those wanting to live sustainably in small spaces.
Centrex Series: Sun-Mar Split System Composting Toilet for Off-Grid Living
The Sun-Mar Centrex Series is the ultimate solution for off-grid homes that require a reliable composting toilet.
These toilets offer a self-contained system that helps reduce the risk of pollution while providing an environmentally friendly way of disposing waste. The Sun-Mar Centrex Series uses little or no water and is perfect for off-grid homes that rely on alternative power sources. With this unit, you won't need to install a septic system, connect to a sewer system, or have access to municipal water to use it.
Sun-Mar Centrex units use a central composting toilet system, frequently called a split system. The Centrex 1000, 2000, and 3000 are largely the same system with the exception of capacity. Centrex 1000s are the smallest and Centrex 3000s are the largest.
Sun-Mar Centrex use a more traditional-looking toilet. These are dry toilets or ultra-low flush (such as RV and camper toilets). Waste is moved by small amounts of water and/or gravity to a larger, centralized compost system where it will have time to decompose before removal.
Sun-Mar composting toilets are incredibly easy to use and do not release any unpleasant odor into the air. They use a unique bio-drum process to break down organic material and convert it into a useful compost that you can use in your garden. These toilets have enabled many homeowners living off the grid to enjoy an affordable and simple way of disposing of human waste without harming the environment.
Laveo by Dry Flush: Best Dry Toilet for Convalescent Care
The Laveo by Dry Composting toilet is the perfect solution for convalescent care. The Laveo Dry flush can be placed on any even surface and does not require mounting, so you can place the toilet in a convenient spot for a sick or injured loved one.
Unlike traditional composting toilets, the Dry Flush cartridge system eliminates any need for manual handling; waste is enclosed in a double-sealed black cartridge bag. Once the cartridge is full, you lift the bag and throw it in the trash. No spilling, no smells.
The Dry Flush Convalescent Care package from ShopTinyHouses has a riser to accommodate individuals who have trouble lowering themselves onto a traditional toilet.