I live in the country and have space on the north-side of my house where it doesn't get too hot in the summer. I think this could be a good place to implant a water-less or dry toilet.

I read here and there of guys who work with electricity to dry the manure. But do I really need to use electricity to dry the stuff? Because I heard it was possible for it to self compost, e.g. with large collecting volume or with worms?

I would like to avoid using electricity for drying. I'm thinking of doing it myself, but I'm not sure where to start.

What do you think of this project? I'm looking for experience feedback here. How much could this cost? How much time should I plan for it to make it run and compost fine?

  • 3
    Check out The Humanure Handbook: humanurehandbook.com/manual.html This uses sawdust for drying. Supposedly it doesn't smell, but you have to empty it every few days (depending on usage, of course).
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 20:45
  • What's the climate at your place?
    – user2451
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 8:31
  • Climate is between continental and oceanic (East France). Never too dry, never too cold.
    – J. Chomel
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 8:34
  • The Warmer the climate you have the greater the efficacy of composting your waste. If you live in a cold climate its' better off with conventional septic/sewer systems.
    – LazyReader
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 2:33

2 Answers 2


I've lived in a house with a DIY composting toilet, and we've since purchased one that's Australian certified(called EcoFlo) to be the toilet in the house. It looks prettier, but it seems to work the same way as the DIY one (but it has the magic paperwork that makes the government happy). I've only done this in urban areas (minimum 200m² of garden space on a 400-600m² block of land).

The DIY one was literally just some buckets and a frame to hold a toilet seat over the current bucket. We kept it outside so it got solar heating during the day and the small stink didn't matter (we also had chickens, which is a slightly different but generally stronger smell). We followed the Humanure Handbook, more or less, using straw and sawdust mulch that we purchased as bulking agent/cellulose. With sawdust you have to be sure it's not too fresh, or a species where the sawdust has antimicrobial properties (in Australia that includes all eucalypt species and many other native trees and shrubs).

What we found with the DIY one was that having a tight lid so we could shake the bucket up a couple of times a week helped distribute the poo and fill better, and it composted faster. But leaving the lid slightly ajar worked better to make it actually compost (a vent would work, or as we used, two lids). With the EcoFlo I ended up with a "shit stick" to stir the pot a couple of times a week and help distribute the poo, because their setup has vent pipes and drains in the chamber. I'm not convinced that that is the best arrangement, but it makes for a very pretty, self-contained unit.

Having external heat seems to be essential. Putting our EcoFlo commercial one in a small, cold toilet room seemed to stop it composting properly and we got vinegar flies and bad smells. Shifting it outside and putting it in the sun stopped the smell very quickly (one day) and the flies died off after a couple of days. Other brands have electric heaters which I expect do the same thing, but I would be tempted to make a passive thermosyphon solar setup if I was making a DIY one and had a two storey house (we hope to build a two storey, ~60m² flat in the back yard with a double garage underneath, so that plan will probably work for me).

The EcoFlo one has seals under the toilet seat and lid, so when the lid is down it forms a reasonable seal, and the fan built in to the vent pipe means that smells get sucked out the vent (and exhaust up on the roof where they disperse). The DIY one was outside.

Finally, the compost takes quite a while, in Australia they say at least 3 months sitting outside in the sun but preferably 6 months. With 4 containers (about 40-50 litres) two of us took about 3 months to fill one, so we possibly only need 3, but it's better to have extra if it's your only toilet :)

Also, urine is separate. With the DIY one we just peed on the garden, but that requires a bit of privacy and healthy people. Since we had a flush toilet inside we used that, and some housemates never used the outside toilet. The EcoFlo one has a urine catch basin built in that you have to connect to hoses that take the pee outside, and you need to dig a pit and fill it with gravel to absorb the pee. In the new house with the EcoFlo, our soil is clay and does not drain well, so that wouldn't have worked. Instead I dug a larger pit than suggested, and filled it with woodchip mulch, then put soil over the top (proper soil, not clay). The pee makes the woodchips rot quite fast, so after 3 months there was a visible dip over the trench and well broken down woodchips underneath. I re-buried those in the garden and put more in. But I don't mind digging, and we have a lot of cheap woodchips available. I'm sure there are other ways to do this.

My time estimates:

  • 2-4 days to set it all up, including the pee pit and several shopping trips to buy bits you only realise you need after you get home.
  • an hour a week cleaning, stirring, checking the toilet
  • 2-4 hours every three months burying the poo compost
  • 2 hours every 3-6 months reburying the pee woodchips
  • a day every year finding, taking delivery of, and moving 10m³ of woodchips (cost us about $AUS200 including delivery but are chipped that day by the tree surgeon we buy them from, so they need time to rot or they will kill anything you put them in or on)

I am about to start the project. Here are the charges I plan:

  • 4h - build an extra composter, in order to have 3 composters like advised here, where A minimum three bin system is recommended.
  • 12h - build a small cabin for privacy
  • 4h - build two big containers. So when one is full, the other can be used

In my view it should take about 1 hour / month to handle the manure. I also account to about 5-10 hours per year for total cleaning.

  • 20h / year - handle the thing.


Now I know what it takes

I moved on on the project, and changed my mind a little:

  • I postponed the idea to build a small cabin.
  • I'm now using big square flower pots in place of "the big containers" I wanted to build.
  • It took me 2 hours to install a toilet seat on top of a big square flower pot:

dry, self-composting toilet do-it-yourself dry, self-composting toilet do-it-yourself dry, self-composting toilet do-it-yourself

Edit1 So here is my conclusion for now:

  • Cost of 1 flower pot + toilet seat is about 70$
  • Time spent for a very minimal thing : 2h
  • Expected time to be spent : more than expected - but it will include the new composting pile I planned to do : 4h / month => 50h / year (of hazardous material handling :s )


After a while using the thing, I may add comments from experience:

  • Mixing urine with the rest in the bin is a real bad idea, because you have to use extreme precautions when emptying the thing to avoid (deadly) leaks on your shoes or anything. It might have seemed obvious not to put the urine in there to other, but I had to come to this conclusion myself... So I found some other place far back in the yard to empty my bladder beforehand. The mix is also less smelly with this process. Plus, there is no need to complete cleaning is you avoid putting the pee in there: Time saved!

  • Having access to a nearby forest, I rake some decaying leaves in a container. This makes for the material I can use to cover the excrements. It also is better than pure sawdust for the compost I think.

  • 5
    +1 Let us know how it's going (e.g. by updating this post).
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 10:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.