How Does A Composting Toilet Work?

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Last Updated on January 2, 2023 by acechapman

Composting toilets are a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional flush toilets. But how do they work? In this article, we will explain the basic principles behind composting toilets and how they turn human waste into compost. Whether you are considering installing a composting toilet or simply curious about how they work, this article will provide a helpful overview of the process.

What Is A Composting Toilet And How Does It Work?

You may know what a toilet looks like. But, what does composting mean? Composting is an organic process that recycles organic material into fertilizer or soil conditioner. We think of composting grass clippings and leftovers. As the name suggests, a composting toilet composts human waste. It works in the same way as a fertilizer, by collecting solid waste and then incorporating it into a carbon-rich material.

Here’s how it works:

  • Waste is deposited into the toilet bowl as usual.
  • A small amount of composting material, such as peat moss or sawdust, is added to the bowl after each use. This helps to absorb moisture and odors and promotes the composting process.
  • The waste and composting material mix together and begin to decompose over time.
  • The composting process is aided by the presence of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms, which help to break down the organic matter.
  • As the waste decomposes, it becomes compost, which is safe to use as fertilizer for plants.
  • The composting chamber will need to be emptied periodically, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The compost should be fully decomposed and ready to use after several months.

Why consider a composting toilet?

It is possible to wonder why composting toilets would be ideal for some people. You already have sewers, septic systems, and fertilizer for your plants.

Traditional toilets use water to flush human waste into our sewer systems. Composting toilets, on the other hand, require very little or no water at all. Additionally, composting toilets are able to transform waste into valuable material.

Many locations, including RVs, boats, and remote houses, lack septic systems or plumbing. When there are no other options, you can use composting toilets to dispose of your waste.

how does a composting toilet work

Types Of Composting Toilets

There are many types of composting toilets, but the main difference lies in the location where composting takes place.


Self-contained toilets are those that contain compostable waste. These toilets do not require a connection to a septic system or plumbing. Thus, making them a good option for off-grid living, tiny homes, or other situations where traditional plumbing is not available.

Self-contained composting toilets typically consist of a toilet bowl as well as a composting chamber located underneath the bowl. The composting chamber is where it collects and composts the waste. Some self-contained composting toilets also have a built-in ventilation system to help control odors.

Split Or Central System

Split or central system composting toilets are a type of composting toilet that uses a separate composting unit located outside the bathroom.

Moreover, split or central system composting toilets consist of a toilet bowl located in the bathroom and a composting unit located in a separate area, such as a basement or utility room. The waste is collected in the toilet bowl and then transported to the composting unit via a pipe or chute.

how does composting toilet work

Composting Toilet Features

Self-contained toilets are a little cheaper compared to Split Systems. Both options can run on electricity. This fan helps dry materials and vent gases. Many models can also run on solar energy. Vacuum flush models are available for advanced models. The temperature at which composting takes place naturally is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Other models might also include sensors or heating elements that allow for the process to continue in cooler climates.

Composting Toilet Misconceptions 

Many people use composting toilets for environmental and economic benefits. There are a few things you might not know about composting toilets.


No. By keeping liquids and solids separated and drying solid waste, composting reduces the risk of harmful bacteria.

Foul Odor

Does it really smell? No, it doesn’t smell. Many people say that traditional toilets are worse than composting ones. Separating liquids from solids, carbon-rich materials, and a venting system that vents gasses out of the system are key to reducing odors.

Using Toilet Paper

Some people think that toilet paper is off-limits in these facilities. However, it can usually compost with all other items.

Bugs and Insects

If there are any, it’s likely that there is a problem in the overall system.

Wrapping Up

There are many reasons why homeowners decide to install a composting bathroom. Normally, it’s often cheaper than digging septic tanks or hooking up to the sewer. Others might be passionate about conserving water or living an eco-friendly life. Hopefully, it does explain some of the queries longing to be answered about “how does a composting toilet work?”.

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