Ultimate Guide to Composting Toilet Maintenance

composting toilet maintenance

Composting toilet maintenance might sound like a handful, but trust me, it’s simpler than you think. Imagine your composting toilet as a car. You wouldn’t drive thousands of miles without an oil change, right? 

Similarly, these toilets, a true boon for off-grid living, need a bit of love and attention to run smoothly. They save precious water, eliminate the need for sewers, and reward you with healthy compost. Unlike a septic tank or a portable toilet, there are no harsh chemical cleaners involved.

Setting up a compost toilet correctly is winning half the battle. The rest is about understanding its little quirks and giving it the care it needs, especially when it comes to managing the liquids tank.

In this guide, I’ll go through the ins and outs of composting toilet maintenance. From keeping that compost pile happy with the addition of kitchen scraps to the nuances of the solids bin, I’ve got you covered. Oh, and I’ve slipped in a bonus tip at the end – but you’ll have to stick around to see what it is.

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Keeping Your Compost Pile Happy and Healthy

Taking care of your compost pile is kind of like looking after a garden. Give it the right love and attention, and it’ll reward you by turning waste into healthy compost. Let’s get right into it.

What is a compost pile?

A compost pile is nature’s recycling system, turning organic materials, especially human waste, into nutrient-rich compost. It takes advantage of natural processes to break things down.

For those using a urine diverter, it simplifies the composting part. For a more pleasant setup, and to sidestep any run-ins with flies and pests, it’s a smart move to set the compost pile a bit away from the composting toilet. That way, everything stays tidy and user-friendly.

What does a Good Compost Mix look like?

Ever wonder what’s in that good compost mix? It’s pretty simple. Imagine a recipe where every bit plays its role. The main ingredient is the bulking agent like wood shavings or coco peat moss. They help break waste down fast and efficiently.

And it’s a good idea to keep out stuff that doesn’t belong – like kitchen scraps. Oh, and just like you wouldn’t wash your hands with something super harsh, it’s best not to use harsh chemical cleaners on your composting toilet.

5 Signs That Your Compost Pile is Thriving

So how do you know your compost pile is taking off?

  • No Bad Odors – If everything is going well, there shouldn’t be any foul smells. On the flip side, a nasty scent might hint that something’s amiss.
  • Consistent Moisture – Keep an eye on the wetness of your pile. It may be time to sprinkle in some water if it’s starting to dry out, especially in the heat.
  • Warmth in Cold Weather – Living in a chilly spot? A compost pile needs warmth. If the temperature drops too much, consider incorporating a waterproof and durable heating pad. Make sure it’s spread evenly and always keep those cords safe.
  • Beneficial Bugs – Don’t fret if you see worms, beetles, or soldier flies. These little helpers mean your pile is healthy and they’re breaking down the waste efficiently.
  • Maintained Temperature – A warm (but not scorching) compost pile indicates those tiny microbes are hard at work. You can use a compost thermometer to check if it’s between ~80°F and 140°F, which is the sweet spot.

Tips to Keep it in Top Shape – Easy Checks

Here are a few things you can do to keep your compost at its best. 

  1. Add Bulking Agents – Every so often, toss in some carbon-based materials like wood shavings or coconut coir. It helps the composting process immensely.
  2. Exhaust Fan Check – This might sound minor, but it’s crucial. Make sure your exhaust fan is whirring away, keeping the air circulation on point.
  3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals – Resist the urge to use strong soaps or cleaners. Stick to eco-friendly ones instead. They’re kinder to your compost and the environment.
  4. No Foreign Objects – It might sound obvious, but only human waste and toilet paper should go in. Keep out those trash bags or any other material non-compostables.
  5. Monitor Temperature – Too cold or too hot can affect the composting process. You want it just right, like a cozy bed on a chilly night.

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dig into some more ways to care for your composting toilet. Trust me, a happy compost means a smooth-running toilet!

Composting Toilet Maintenance – Cleaning Different Types of Composting Toilets

Different composting toilets require different care routines. Let’s explore how to maintain each type.

Self-Contained Composting Toilet Units

These units are all-inclusive, making their cleaning routine pretty simple. Some popular self-contained composting toilets include the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet, OGO Composting Toilet, AirHead Composting Toilet, Laveo Dry Flush portable toilet, and Sun-Mar GTG Portable Electric Waterless Toilet.

  • Keeping Them Clean

For these units, you’ll want to clean the pedestal weekly, which includes the seat, the lid, the solids bin, and the inside bowl. Harsh chemicals? Not here! Instead, let’s whip up an eco-friendly cleaning solution, ensuring there’s no build-up that might require frequent emptying.

Central Composting Toilet Systems

Central systems link multiple toilets to a single liquids tank or composting chamber, making their cleaning procedures slightly more detailed. This is different from a septic tank, which would require entirely different care.

A prominent example of this type of system is the Centrex 3000 Non-Electric Waterless Central Composting Toilet System available at Menards.

5 Cleaning Tips for Central Composting Toilets

  1. Weekly Wipe Down: Every week, give the pedestal (that’s the part you sit on) a good clean. Focus on the seat, lid, outer parts, and inside of the bowl. It’ll feel fresh every time you use it.
  2. Natural Cleaners Are Best: Ditch those strong chemicals and fancy cleaners. Stick to our secret pine needle and vinegar potion for cleaning (more on this at the end). It’s kind to your compost and gets the job done.
  3. Yearly Maintenance: Just like you’d service your car, your black tank, composting chambers, and trays need some love too. Set a date once a year to give them a thorough cleaning. It’ll keep things running smoothly.
  4. Rinse with Care: After using our secret cleaning potion, gently rinse off the chambers with a hose. Make sure the water flows into a gray tank or a small depression in the ground. This prevents any potential mess.
  5. Special Treatment for Double-Walled Chambers: If you’ve got a toilet with a double-walled chamber, simply run some water through the urine diverter after cleaning. This helps in flushing out any residues. As always, let everything dry properly before you start using it again.

Bucket System

The simplicity of the bucket system has its charm because it is as simple as it sounds. 

Step by Step on Cleaning

  1. Empty the bucket when it’s about two-thirds full.
  2. Spray the inside of the bucket with your homemade cleaning solution or other natural material suited for cleaning.
  3. Let it sit for a few moments, then rinse the bucket out.
  4. Make sure it dries well before you use it again.

Things to Keep in Mind

When rinsing out, especially if you’re using a hose, guide the runoff into a specific spot in the ground. For cleaning any composting toilet system, our homemade cleaning solution or a green multipurpose spray from the store are both fantastic choices.

Try to avoid harsh soaps, such as Dawn, and steer clear of common kitchen cleaners.

Tips for Taking Care of the Fan

Think of your composting toilet fan as the heartbeat of the system – keeping everything fresh and flowing. Just like you’d pay attention to the gray tank or the black tank in other systems, the fan in a compost toilet deserves your care. In this section, we’ll explore its purpose and how to maintain it.

Why Do We Even Have a Fan?

Have you ever wondered why there’s a fan in composting toilets, similar to wondering about the role of toilet paper in traditional systems?

Well, it’s there for a good reason. The fan pulls air through the system. This air helps mix up the compost, speeds up the drying out of liquids in the liquids tank, and whisks away any unwelcome smells. It’s like giving your compost a breath of fresh air, which helps everything work better.

Cleaning the Fan Correctly

When it comes to keeping that fan in top-notch shape, it’s simpler than you might think. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:

  • Yearly Task: Think of cleaning the fan as a yearly birthday celebration for it, just as you would periodically check on your septic tank.
  • Clean Blades: Every year, give those fan blades a gentle wipe with toilet paper or a soft cloth to shake off any dust and build-up. If you neglect this, it could hinder the fan’s efficiency in circulating air.
  • Watch for Overwork: If the blades are bogged down by too much gunk, it could make the fan work harder than it should.
  • Low Maintenance Parts: The fan’s bearings and seals are pretty sturdy. You won’t need to fuss over them much, they’re designed to last.

By giving a little attention to these areas, your fan will stay breezy and efficient for a long time. No heavy lifting is required!

Pro Tip: It’s best to make this cleaning a routine monthly. Your composting toilet and its fan will thank you for lasting much longer.

Mixing the Compost In the Toilet

Mixing the compost in your toilet is more than just a task; it’s akin to finding the balance between the liquids tank and the black tank in other systems. It is a step that makes a big difference.

In this section, we’ll cover why mixing matters and how to do it right with the proper tools, making sure you don’t treat it like mere toilet paper thrown into the mix.

Why We Should Mix Regularly?

When it comes to composting toilets, mixing isn’t just a random act—it’s a strategy! Giving your compost a good mix boosts the breakdown process, ensuring that the black tank of compost materials is doing its job, making your toilet’s chamber a lot roomier.

Think of it as giving your compost a pep talk to do its best work, similar to ensuring your gray tank is properly managed. Some toilets come with their own mixing instructions, so it’s always a good idea to have a look at that manual.

But here’s a tip: if you’ve got the typical setup, a once or twice-a-week mix is what you’re aiming for. And if you’re rocking a continuous composting system? A gentle rake once a month will do the trick.

Best Tools and How to Use Them

What are the best tools for compost mixing? We wouldn’t use a fork to eat soup, right? Similarly, we wouldn’t use toilet paper to mix the compost. The same logic applies here. Every composting toilet type needs its special tool.

  • Rotational Chamber or Mechanism: For our friends with a continuous composting system, this is your go-to. Gentle rakes on the top, once a month, to keep things in check, ensuring a good balance similar to maintaining the right water level in a gray tank.
  • Rake: For our friends with a continuous composting system, this is your go-to. Gentle rakes on the top, once a month, to keep things in check.
  • Automatic Mechanism: If your toilet is fancy enough to mix on its own, sit back and relax! No manual effort is needed.

A quick heads-up, if your toilet doesn’t come with any of these tools, resist the urge to mix by hand. Trust me on this one, because it really comes down to sanitation and safety. 

A Quick Chat on Disposing of Compost

I’ve outlined a simple guide for you below. But for a more comprehensive understanding, you can explore the ways to dispose of composting toilet waste in my thorough article. 

Knowing how to do it right is one of the best lessons to learn about.  

A Simple Guide to Getting Rid of It

  • Know Your Compost: Before disposing, understand if your compost is “finished” or “unfinished.” Finished compost looks and smells like soil, while unfinished still has some recognizable waste materials.
  • Local Guidelines: Always check local guidelines on compost disposal. Some places might have specific places for you to drop off your compost.
  • Use in Non-edible Gardens: Finished compost can be spread in flower gardens or under shrubs. However, avoid using it for edible plants.
  • Bag It: If you’re unsure about the compost’s status or if local guidelines mandate it, place it in a biodegradable bag and dispose of it as you would regular waste.

Bonus: Crafting Your Own Nature-Infused Cleaner Spray

DIY Pine Needles, Vinegar, Cinnamon, and Lavender Cleaning Spray:

  1. Start by gathering fresh pine needles and a few sticks of cinnamon.
  2. Fill a jar with the pine needles and add the cinnamon sticks.
  3. Pour in white vinegar, ensuring the pine needles and cinnamon are fully submerged.
  4. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil for an added calming aroma.
  5. Seal the jar tightly and place it next to a sunny window for 2-3 weeks.
  6. After the waiting period, strain the liquid into a spray bottle.
  7. When cleaning, spray it on the desired areas, then either wipe it away or rinse it off.

This homemade concoction not only cleans but leaves behind a delightful blend of forest and calming scents. Of course, if DIY isn’t your style, there’s always the option to pick up an eco-friendly cleaner from the store.

Wrapping it Up

We’ve covered the ins and outs of composting toilet maintenance, discussing the nuances of product selection to mastering the art of mixing compost. With some care and the right techniques, your composting toilet is set for smooth sailing. 

If you found this helpful, there’s plenty more to discover on my blog!

FAQs About Composting Toilet Maintenance

How often should I clean my composting toilet? 

For regular use, it’s a good practice to clean the pedestal or seat area weekly. However, the actual composting chamber only needs a thorough cleaning about once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Can I use regular household cleaners on my composting toilet? 

It’s best to avoid harsh chemicals or soaps that might harm the composting process. Stick to natural cleaners or those specially formulated for composting toilets.

Is there a bad smell when cleaning the compost? 

If your composting toilet is functioning properly, the compost should have an earthy smell, similar to soil. If there’s a foul odor, it might indicate an imbalance in the composting process.

How do I know when to empty the composting chamber? 

Most systems come with indicators or guidelines. But a general rule is when it’s about two-thirds full. Be sure to consult your unit’s instructions.

What should I do with the compost once it’s removed? 

Mature compost can be used as a soil additive in non-food gardens. If you’re unsure about its maturity, it’s best to bury it or dispose of it according to local regulations. A lot of people utilize creating a compost pile. 

My compost seems too wet/dry. What should I do? 

Balance is key. If it’s too wet, add more carbon-rich materials like sawdust. If it’s too dry, sprinkle some water to achieve the consistency of a wrung-out sponge.

Can I add worms to my composting toilet to speed up the process? 

While worms are great for regular compost piles, they’re not ideal for composting toilets due to the high temperature and moisture conditions. Stick to the natural microbial action for best results. However, using them in your compost pile would be a smart move.

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