The Tiny house Blog

The Dirty Truth: Overcoming Challenges When Using Composting Toilets

Updated on:
April 19, 2024
Challenges When Using Composting Toilets

Image Source: Canva

As increasing numbers of individuals and families seek to live a more sustainable lifestyle, composting toilets have gained popularity as an eco friendly alternative to traditional flushing toilets. 

Despite their benefits, composting toilets present unique challenges that can be difficult to navigate. This article will explore these challenges and provide a comprehensive guide to overcoming the hurdles associated with composting toilets.

Delving into the Challenges When Using Composting Toilets

Understanding the Complexities of Composting Toilets

Composting toilets rely on aerobic, bacteria driven processes to break down waste, a complex biological procedure that requires a firm grasp of composting basics. Gathering waste is the easy part, but managing the composting process might be unfamiliar to many users. 

It's not as simple as just letting nature take its course; composting toilets need the right balance of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and moisture to operate correctly.

Choosing the right composting toilet and setting it up properly involves attention to detail and a considerable amount of effort. Each design has its nuances, adjustment needs, and particular use instructions. 

Moreover, the installation process might require tools or techniques beyond a typical homeowner's capabilities, potentially necessitating professional assistance.

Mitigating Moisture Issues

Excess moisture is a common issue that can affect the composting process significantly. Too much moisture can cause composting material to turn anaerobic, leading to bad smells and inefficient composting. 

In addition, excess moisture can promote unwanted mold and mildew growth and even attract pests.

The key to avoiding excess moisture is careful monitoring and maintenance. Regular checking and adjusting of the moisture content in the composting toilet can help ensure optimal composting conditions. 

Various techniques like adding bulking agents such as straw, sawdust, or peat moss efficiently absorbs extra moisture, keeping the compost pile on the right moisture level.

Temperature Control in a Composting Toilet

Temperature plays a crucial role in composting toilets, affecting how efficiently waste can be composted. 

The composting process requires warmth to facilitate the proliferation of helpful bacteria that break down waste material; too little heat can slow down the waste decomposition process.

Regulating temperature can be particularly challenging in extreme climates. In hot weather, the compost pile might dry out too quickly, while in cold weather, the composting process could be prolonged or halted. 

Solutions include using automatic fans or heating elements to help maintain appropriate composting conditions according to weather variations or insulation where applicable.

Dealing with Unpleasant Odors

Causes of Bad Odors in Composting Toilets

Bad odors are often one of the major concerns when installing composting toilets. An unpleasant smell can occur from various factors such as an imbalance of carbon to nitrogen in the waste, excess moisture, insufficient ventilation, or inadequate sealing.

How to Prevent and Treat Toilet Odors

Preventing odors in composting toilets entails managing these parameters carefully. Adding more carbon rich material can assist in neutralizing the high level of nitrogen in the waste. 

Prioritizing ventilation prevents the buildup of unpleasant gases, and installing seals correctly ensures that the gases are properly redirected outdoors.

Sourcing and Storing Cover Material

Obtaining suitable cover material is another challenge. Options include sawdust, peat moss, or coconut coir which not only help manage odors but also contribute to the composting process. 

These materials need to be sourced in advance and stored in a dry, accessible place, which might not be easy for everyone.

Frequency in Emptying the Toilet

Emptying a composting toilet is not a task most people look forward to. The frequency of this task depends on the size of the unit, the number of users, and how well the composting process is working. 

Regular users need to understand that composting toilets aren't a 'set and forget' item– they require ongoing maintenance.

Hard to Turn Cranks

Over time, cranks used to turn the composting matter for adequate aeration may become more challenging to operate, especially when the unit is half full. This increased difficulty could discourage some users.

Too Heavy Jugs & Solid Bowls

Exchanging filled jugs and bowls could be a daunting task as well, especially for the elderly or people with limited physical capabilities. Plus, it's an additional thing to think about!

Overflowing Liquids

Another common problem with composting toilets is the risk of liquid waste overflow. Regular checking of waste liquid levels can prevent such messy and unpleasant incidents.

Some modern composting toilets come with an alarm system that alerts users when the levels are nearing the maximum capacity. This feature can be extra convenient for those who want to avoid possible overflow incidents.

Keeping it Clean

Duration and heavy use of composting toilets can lead to the buildup of urine scale which needs careful and regular cleaning.

Tackling Maintenance and Customization

Maintaining a composting toilet is important for its performance and longevity. Regular inspections can help prevent malfunctions and keep the unit working smoothly with minimal odor.

Customizing a composting toilet for optimal performance is another essential element in managing composting toilets. 

Upgrades and accessories can improve the toilet's functionality and convenience by helping regulate temperature, humidity, and odor.

Conclusion: Making the Most of Composting Toilets

Despite the challenges, the benefits of a composting toilet– its eco friendliness, water saving capabilities, and potential for waste reduction– are compelling reasons to consider the switch.

As awareness and demand grow, there is high potential for advancements in composting toilet technology. These improvements could make them an even more viable alternative for those seeking a more sustainable lifestyle.

Composting toilets are a paradigm shift from traditional sanitation systems, and like any change, they come with a learning curve. 

However, with a firm grasp of the challenges involved and a commitment to ongoing maintenance, users can reap the numerous environmental benefits they provide. A truly sustainable future may very well involve a lot more composting toilets than we see today.

Did you enjoy this post and find value in it? Share it with your friends with the links below!

Need more info? Get

By submitting your email, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms

Subscribe to get the latest news

This is a new way to communicate faster than any communication platforms

Thank you!
Your submission has been received! Check your inbox for an email from with more info!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again or email us at Thanks!
Want all the latest tiny house inspo and news?

Get free resources, updates, tips & tricks, and special offers by joining the Tiny House Plan Newsletter.

No items found.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers — straight from the author — for the most common questions about this article.

Don't see your question here? Contact us!
No items found.

Join The Tiny House Community

Occasionally: Community Events, DIY Tips and Tricks, Tiny House Guides
Never: Junk or Spam and we don't sell or misuse your email.
Welcome to the fam! We're excited to have you join the community.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again or use the form below.