Composting Toilet Review: Turning Human Waste Into Something Beautiful

Compost toilet with two seatsThe majority of tiny home dwellers on wheels are environmentalist. They care about the impact they leave on the Earth.  This is why they will add solar panels to their roofs.  They wish to acquire electric power not only for a low price but by causing little disturbance to the surroundings as much as possible.  Their respect also extends to how they deal with human waste.

Most of them will choose to have a composting toilet over a traditional one running with water.  They see no point in wasting drinking water for flushing human urine and manure.  There are a few types of composting toilets in existence, but which one is the best?  Let us compare two types on the market,  Nature’s Head and Sun-Mar-excel.

What Should You Expect From A Composting Toilet?

First, your compost toilet should separate urine from manure because they both need to be dealt with differently.  Then you need a stirring method to mix the manure into coco fiber and cedar chips to prevent smells from developing and to help it decompose.  You also need a ventilation system, like a small fan to air out moisture that can cause odors.

A very simple compost toilet looks like this picture.

Compost toilet that is very simplistic

There is a bucket for peeing and one for pooing.  I don’t know what is used for stirring, but I will assume there is a stick somewhere for that task.  For ventilation, the toilet box is likely left open.  You might think that would smell but when coco fiber and cedar chips are mixed with manure, it odors are killed.

Once the manure mix bucket is full, its contents can be dropped off as fertilizer for non-edible plants or it can be dropped off at a compost pile for human waste.  You must never use human compost for vegetables. The urine can be used in any type of garden edge as it is sterile, or dumped in a sewage system.  The urine container can then be rinsed or cleaned out for future use.

What About A More Sophisticated Type Of Composting Toilet?

One type of popular composting toilet with international success is called Nature’s Head.  The toilets were originally used on boats.  The word “head” meant Toilet.  It is appreciated for its small size, being lightweight and durability.

Composting toilet nature's head

It has three parts, the seat, the urine container and the manure container.  On one of its sides, it has a crank to stir the manure into the coco fiber and cedar chips.  It also possesses a small twelve-volt electric fan to create air circulation and a vent hose.  Here is a youtube video link on how it functions.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=_YPO9Elmlsg

Nature’s Head comes with a five-year warranty and can take up sixty to eighty number two uses.  It does not use up any water.

Some of the cons of this brand are that the simplicity of its structure may require more work and involvement from the purchaser compared to other expensive brands of compost toilets.  If you are uncomfortable dealing with your own waste, you may not like this toilet.

It does not necessarily work well in cold weather.  Some people don’t think it has enough ventilation and needs a better computer fan to pull out smells.  The trap door for manure gets filthy.  Some people use vinegar and water to clean it but not everyone likes to do that or finds it does not work very well.  They use an alternative cleaning product.

Here is a youtube video on how to use some tricks in dealing with Nature’s Head.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwWjYJ9PJU8

Here is another review on Nature’s Head on Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjbiQnFbMwE

Another Type Of Composting Toilet Is The Sun-Mar-Excel

Sun-composting-toilet

Like Nature’s Head, the Sun-Mar-Excel does not use up any water.  Unlike Nature’s Head, it does have models that do not use up any electricity for a fan.  It uses a variable diameter bio-drum and a recessed handle to make compost.  No odors, should be created as it turns human waste into compost. It about the price of a flush toilet.

It is made to be used as a principal toilet for residential purposes and it can handle the waste of three people during normal weekdays.  When having a party in the woods, it can handle the waste of a crowd of people for two to three days.  The only thing you have to do is provide it with is a drain hole.  Everything else you need to make it function will be provided for when you buy the compost toilet.  This will include a venting kit.

One plus factor with Sun-Mar-Excel is that you don’t have to deal with any urine, as it evaporates inside the diameter Bio-drum.

Reported problems with this composting toilet are that it is not well made and smells during hot weather.  Composting toilets are not supposed to smell.  There have been complaints that not all of the waste will go down into the tank like it should.  It causes a mess when you empty it.  Some people say it is not always an easy composting toilet to figure out how to work, but when you do you will have a great working toilet.

Some people think it best to drain the waste into a cedar filled hole beneath the toilet because it takes longer for it to break down in the tank.  There are owners who have used these composting toilets for years and are very happy with it.  They do advise you to buy a vent fan to keep smells and flies away.

Chemicals are sometimes used to keep smells away during hot weather. One of the points of having a compost toilet is to live in a natural way without chemicals.  There is a  contradiction here. Other drawbacks are that not everyone thinks it is a very sturdy toilet and some people find the front step annoying.  It is there because the toilet seat is higher than normal.

A metal stool would have been a better pick, especially for big people.  To be fair though, not all models have this step.  Here is a youtube video on the Sun-Mar-Excel composting toilet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AV1BnTmmUs

Here is a negative report on the Sun-Mar-Excel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AV1BnTmmUs

My Personal Choice Between The Two Composting Toilets.

I prefer the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet.  It does need a bit of electricity to run it, but there have been no reports of chemical use to combat odors with it.  With a tiny home on wheels, the small amount of electricity needed to operate the fan could be created with solar panels.  Most tiny home on wheel dwellers view solar panels as a necessity they should have.

It seems to me Nature’s Head Composting Toilet would be easier for a woman to transport as it comes in three easy detachable parts.  They can be carried and dealt with one at a time.  Both Nature’s head and Sun-Mar-Excel seem easy to empty but the latter seems bulkier to have around.

Nature’s Head has a good reputation for not causing any smells.  If there is any it is from the liquid and that can easily be gotten rid of.  Some people have a very sensitive sense of smell and claim it smells more than other people.  My sense of smell is not that sensitive so I think I will be all right with a certain degree of smells.  Nature’s Head does not get many negative reviews.

Whatever Type Of Composting Toilet You Choose To Use You Are Helping The Environment By Your Action.

Using composting toilets helps preserve drinking water.  Compost made from human waste can be used as a fertilizer as long as it is not thrown on edible plants.  Composting toilets that are working properly do not smell, unlike flush toilets.  It is another way it makes the environment a pleasant place to be in.

If you have any questions or want to discuss this topic please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Pictures are taken from across the net.

Information is taken for reviews under the search words Nature Head And Sun-Mar-Excel reviews and youtube documentaries.

The Youtube videos appearing in this blog are not my creation.

If you have any questions about this topic or would like to discuss it please leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Marina Tidbury

Marina one

marina@tinyhomesonwheelsfornorthamericans.com

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11 thoughts on “Composting Toilet Review: Turning Human Waste Into Something Beautiful”

  1. Thanks for the review! We are in the process of building a small cabin at the back of our property. We’ve just now started investigating different toilet options.

    A composting toilet is at the top of our list. Considering the cabin is mostly going to be used on the weekends….are there any issues with the toilet being left alone for a week before cleaning out? Our do you have to clean them before leaving for extended periods?

    Any plans on doing a post about gray water systems? I would love to learn more about that!

    1. As I understand it you only need to change it when it is full, unless there is a really bad heat wave involved.  The urine part might be good to change more often.  I expect your nose will guide you.  I don’t much on grey water at the moment but I can do some research on the subject.  It will give me something else to write about.

  2. This is something that I haven’t come across before. When I saw the beginning of your article I thought back to the days of the long drop toilets we used at the farms when we where kids.

    These newer models of compost toilets seem to be far more user-friendly and best of all you don’t get the smell the flies as you did with the long drops. This will more than likely be the toilet of the future as our water supplies start to dwindle away. This looks like the perfect answer to this problem.

  3. Hi Marina

    I have seen shows about  tiny houses on wheels and when they talk about composting toilet, I always said, no way! I think it is because no one really goes in details to explain that it does not smell, that you need to add something in there to mix up and turn it to manure, that pee and poo needed to be apart….. You have done me a big favor, I always wanted a tiny house on wheels but the toilets issue made me think twice, now I have two choices of composting toilet to examine and see if it suits my needs. A question, with nature’s head, do you need to empty your toilet? if yes, which places are advisable?can you do that at a public toilet.

    Thanks

    1. You do need to empty a Nature Head’s toilet.  You could dump the urine at a public toilet if you could not find anywhere else to do so but not the human manure as it would be mixed with coconut hair and it would clog it all up I think.  The best place to dump urine is still a garden with edible or non-edible plants and human manure with non-edible plants.  Some city waste management services include the picking up of human manure though it is not a widespread service yet.  It should be as I think getting rid of compost toilet waste in the winter could be a challenge, particularly human manure.  I’m sure I will have better answers to give in the future as I continue doing my research on tiny homes on wheels.

  4. Hey there,

    So, having a composting toilet is good only if there is soil to be fertilized? I don’t see any other use or advantage of this, besides the environmental gains (less sewrage, and less power to process the sewerage). If someone doesn’t have a garden, or an orchard for plants, and also maybe not being able to sell the products of the composting toilets, there might not be a reason to buy or install this kind of toilet. Unless of course, you are leaning in an RV or a small home which is no connection to a sewerage system…

    What do you think?

    Marios

    1. You are right there are still problems concerning compost toilets in that they tend to be used just in R.V. and Tiny houses which can be designed to incorporate them.  As for not having a garden to put human waste in, there are municipalities that offer the service of picking it up and dumping it in a more appropriate place.  It is still not happening everywhere yet though.  It is just the beginning in helping the environment in wasting less water but even small steps can lead to bigger steps in the future.

  5. Hello Marina, i have heard of composting faeces before but didn’t know that there is a toilet for that purposes. I am really falling in love with this concept of a tiny house.  I would like to know if it is possible to make use of this in a house that is not a tiny one. It seems nice and i love that you could share here about two types of composting toilet. I will make some more research on them and get one for the purpose of helping the environment. 

    1. No compost toilets are not just for tiny houses but you may run into obstacles installing it from municipalities.  I wrote about that in my last blog concerning renovating an old house that never had any toilet facilities in Gaspe Quebec.

  6. Wow, this is my first time coming across something like this, and its usefulness to the environment is quite cool. So many people who have soil to fertilize needs to see this post and it could be a means to saving them quite a lot of money, rather than going to buy some expensive fertilizer, one can make use of this completing toilet. I must admit I’m indeed amazed by the working technique of this toilet.

  7. I have heard of these types of toilet before and how they are are a thing to those who are very environmentally conscious. I guess it is not just something that people build for just tiny houses. I think i saw an interview with some people who were asked if they used this and many people answered in the affirmative. I might get this too as long as my toilet will not be smelling the stink. Nice article here.

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