• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Dave Burton
  • Dan Boone
gardeners:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
  • Mike Barkley

Sawdust toilet issues

 
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think it's normal I think it's the sawdust but I'd like to hear from others.

I've got 5 buckets that I have to empty every week which seems like a lot compared to others. To keep the smell down we have to add alot of sawdust which allows 3 maybe 4, #2's. It's a cedar sawdust and not very fine.

Only two adults use this bucket, we don't go #1 in bucket unless it happens during #2 and we aren't big people either. She's 110lb and 5'3", I'm 180lb and 6'.

Any help would be great
 
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
182
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Josh! So in reading your post I'm a little unclear on what your question is. Is it smell? Quantity of poop produced? Something else?
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Mostly how quick the bucket fills up. I can fix the smell part with more sawdust but I want to empty buckets less. So if I use less sawdust then it always smells like crap! Lol
Thanks
 
Posts: 6950
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
967
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Josh Hatton wrote:I don't think it's normal I think it's the sawdust but I'd like to hear from others.

I've got 5 buckets that I have to empty every week which seems like a lot compared to others. To keep the smell down we have to add alot of sawdust which allows 3 maybe 4, #2's. It's a cedar sawdust and not very fine.

Only two adults use this bucket, we don't go #1 in bucket unless it happens during #2 and we aren't big people either. She's 110lb and 5'3", I'm 180lb and 6'.

Any help would be great


It's the sawdust We have the same issue, but not as many buckets a week. We definitely put more sawdust on the house bucket. It helped that I also made it as a 'step up' so that we could fill to the top....a little heavier but not bad. I made an extension out of a 12" planting pot with the bottom cut out. It fits the hole in the platform perfectly and overlaps a couple inches into the bucket so there is no gap for leakage. the rim of the planter keeps it in place and it doesn't interfere with a normal toliet seat. It is easy to remove and clean separately when the bucket is full.
We do use more sawdust but we also don't worry about any pee in the mix...I try to add dryer sawdust to absorb. We have another sawdust toilet/bucket in the outhouse where we are able to use much less sawdust because there is plenty of ventilation. I make plans (in my head) for various venting for the house one but haven't come up with the ideal yet. We have the indoor bucket behind a screen by the back door so that we can open up the door for a bit of fresh breeze.
I love having shower/bathrooms with no toilets....now they are all about getting clean.

we also don't put the tp in the bucket............it goes in a separate sack and when all is dumped to compost it is added all at once......works fine for us....two people.
When there is company we make them use the hole at the outhouse unless we know them well or they are unable to walk down the path to get there....it is just easier than asking adults if they need to poop or pee and explain the buckets. Most folks have some idea of what an outhouse is.
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the tips. I ordered a urine diverter so winter is easier on my wife and I. I'm building a new toilet part because it has to be a little higher for the diverter and while I'm doing that I'm putting in a fan. I was looking at the Natures Head toilets and that's part of their secret. Little peat moss (or coco coir), separate urine out, constant fan running. I've got several computer fans and some small batteries that could run it for a week or so between charges (or wire in a small DC transformer, takes milliamps a day.)

I'm hoping these additions change it considerably. The Natures Head and other toilets like it actually start to compost before you take out the bucket. I met a guy that used a Natures Head and he said he empties the pee every 5-10 days and the bucket once every 2-3 months! If I could get it to one bucket a week I'd be ecstatic!

 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6950
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
967
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think I would want to keep a bucket of pee for that many days because it would develop a strong odor....we empty our separate pee bucket daily and switch out the buckets so that there is no odor buildup. It helps to start a fresh pee bucket with a gallon of water. I don't know where diverters take the pee...outside?
 
Posts: 65
Location: Big Bay, U.P. of Michigan
chicken wood heat homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Josh, I really think your problem is the sawdust ... it sounds as if you're actually using wood-chips. The sawdust needs to be fine to fill all the space around the "deposit" and to provide for good absorption. With fine sawdust, the covering need only be enough to cover the new "deposit". After 4 years using this system, my experience is one bucket (3/4 full) per healthy adult per week. No urine diversion (other than water the outdoor plants whenever possible) and no TP diversion. If you're doing more than this, or there's a serious odor problem, maybe check your diet
I have never experienced an odor problem and have always used this system indoors. We used to use multiple buckets and store one full bucket in the pole barn so we could empty two ay a time in the compost bin, but I find it just as easy to empty one when it gets full. By planning to empty at 3/4 full, this gives a little leeway. It's always a good idea to have a spare bucket available when emptying the one is not convenient (snow storm, middle-of-the-night emergencies,etc.) Hope this helps.
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Judith, the diverter will go into a jug until spring then it will divert outside. Unless it's not much trouble to keep doing the jug.

Tom, I think it's the sawdust as well. I've been doing it this way for 2 years and I'm exhausted. It's not wood chips but it's the coarsest stuff I've seen. It's definitely not dust. I've attached a picture of the stuff i use. I end up using 2 pickup truck loads a year.

Thanks
1110141517.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1110141517.jpg]
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6950
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
967
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have been getting our sawdust for years from a local sawmill (circular saw) and it is mostly oak and finer than what you have pictured. Lately we have been using sawdust from our son's bandsaw mill that is even better...all green oak and much, much finer.
We also notice that super dry sawdust doesn't provide the same odor barrier that slightly moist sawdust does.
Besides the size particle I wonder if cedar isn't as odor absorbing as oak or even pine? Is your cedar from a mill? or maybe a planer?
We also, like Tom, use a bucket a piece a week.
bandsaw-mill-sawdust.JPG
[Thumbnail for bandsaw-mill-sawdust.JPG]
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's from a mill, live trees, circular saw not a bandsaw. It's eastern red cedar (technically a juniper, Juniperous virginiana.) I'm going to try new sawdust and go from there. I thought slightly moist wouldn't be as good so that's actually good news. The guy down the road with the bandsaw operation doesn't cover his sawdust.

Thanks everybody for the input! Here's to a bucket a week!!
 
Posts: 317
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would be interested in a couple of numbers from you Josh, how large are your buckets, how full do you make them and what does a full bucket weigh. I am using 5 gallon buckets and now that we are used to the system we are letting the buckets get 3/4 full or so and each one would weigh about 30 lbs when full. We produce on average three buckets per week from two adults. We are using ours according to the Humanure handbook and it is working well for us. All feces and urine as well as toilet paper goes in. It may be possible that the lack of urine in the mix is causing you trouble. Your sawdust looks fairly normal to me but is a bit coarse. Very similar to what we are trying this week which comes from a local trim manufacturer so it is a mixture of fine planer shavings as well as ripping saw dust and cross cut saw dust. We have also used band saw, table saw and rotary saw mill dust. The band saw dust seemed to work the best but everything else will do the job. I personally would not go the diverter route unless I wanted the urine for a particular use. Too much extra trouble and the humanure system works very well while being very simple. Any chance you are overcompensating for instantaneous odour at the time of use? Maybe you should experiment with the cup of cover at use method and check the room for odour after a few minutes. Reflect on the amount of odour that sometimes hangs in a flush toilet bathroom when there is no longer any feces or urine left in the room. Good luck and keep trying.
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been doing it 2 years so I've tried the one cup, two cups, etc. No its not just the initial smell. We used to go number one but it got very nasty to empty and stunk. Its 5gal, just like humanure. I'll get new dust and get back to you
 
Posts: 76
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Josh,

I used a composting bucket system that worked well in an outbuilding. Eventually I used two buckets; one for #1, one for #2. the first got emptied much more often, but still smelled horrid. I think every day for that would be a good way.
But there's one thing I was shown that I didn't read of you doing. My friend showed me this. After a #2, I would sprinkle a little dirt on, to provide microbes to start decomposition. Then a small handfull of sawdust. Then the lid with the screen, so that moisture could leave and air could get in, but not flies. The lid was a plastic bucket lid with a 4x6inch cut-out, that had a screen glued over the cut-out.
Another thing is that Cedar/Juniper sawdust may be killing microbes that you really want there. Cedar has insect repeling qualities; perhaps it's also antimicrobial. I wonder if your new sawdust source will help on that. Juniper might kill odor-eliminating bacteria, yet not stop smell-producing ones.



 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6950
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
967
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

But there's one thing I was shown that I didn't read of you doing. My friend showed me this. After a #2, I would sprinkle a little dirt on, to provide microbes to start decomposition. Then a small handfull of sawdust. Then the lid with the screen, so that moisture could leave and air could get in, but not flies. The lid was a plastic bucket lid with a 4x6inch cut-out, that had a screen glued over the cut-out.



Brian, that sounds like great advice........I'm going to go find a bucket of soil to keep next to the sawdust for the house bucket....as soon as the ground thaws a little
Our second sawdust 'toilet' is located at our outhouse and could use the lid with a screen that you mention. thanks.
 
Tom Gauthier
Posts: 65
Location: Big Bay, U.P. of Michigan
chicken wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just like Judith, our source is a circular sawmill, usually oak but occasionally there will be some pine depending on the mill. It's not dry, but green or slightly aged doesn't seem to matter. In fact, if the sawdust was aged, it would be closer to dirt and might work better. Again, I've never noticed an odor problem except during operation

I like the idea of a screen cover because we have had fly problems, usually only in late summer.

I have tried a separate urine bucket filled with sawdust an don't recall an odor problem there. The odor comes from the urea and the carbon in the sawdust should suck that up and neutralize it pretty quickly. The weight of the bucket was the problem there.

Here's to brown gold (and liquid gold) ... keep on returning it to your soil.

-Tom
 
Josh Hatton
Posts: 18
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sorry to drag old posts up but I wanted to update everyone on composting toilet issues. I had already ordered urine separator so I built a new toilet with it. I also added a small computer fan to the back so buckets last for days now and there never is any smell even during operation.
1228141710.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1228141710.jpg]
1227141012.jpg
[Thumbnail for 1227141012.jpg]
 
Wyatt Barnes
Posts: 317
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Glad you got your problem solved Josh and thanks for the update. Personally I like to see the solution to all problem threads, no matter the time frame. I like closure.
 
Posts: 24
Location: Daytona Beach FL
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Another note: In the Humanure Handbook, Joe Jenkins emphasizes the importance (if you're using sawdust) of using sawdust from a sawmill rather than from a lumber mill. I definitely found there was a great difference. There's a scientific reason why the sawmill-sawdust works much better. I don't remember the details but I did notice the difference!

As far as frequency of emptying ... I used a composting bucket-toilet for about 10 years. If I was careful to pee in jars and just put that on the land or into the compost bin rather than peeing in the bucket (unless it happened during #2 as someone else mentioned), I could often get away with just emptying the bucket once every 5 days or so (for a household of 1). The time & bother of emptying the bucket into my compost bin was less than I would have spent scrubbing a toilet-bowl of a flush toilet! And of course I was getting compost!

Another cover-material I often used is shredded newspaper and other paper (I'd shred it by hand in small batches, when I was tearing up things I would need to be shredding anyway, such as junk mail and old pages of journals and other writings I didn't want to keep around).

And, leaf-litter (from live-oak leaves -- the tannins helped make it an effective cover material, I think).
 
Posts: 12
Location: Kentucky - Zone 6
dog tiny house wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have used the Jenkins Humanure toilet with sawdust, and had only "some" odor indoors. It was perfect for summer outdoors.  Summers, we often found lots of grasshoppers/katydids collected in the bucket, and butterflies around it.   We never put TP in.

Variables- hybrid of Jenkins and Nature's Head methods:
=======================================
Divert Urine  - or otherwise separate it
Vent Hose and small fan
Sawdust versus sphagnum peat moss (or cocounut fiber)
In-bucket Paddles to aerate the mixture

Call it my laziness, or procrastinating, that lead me to invest in the Nature's Head.  They are both great methods, but I would say the Jenkins takes strict discipline.  Processing my buckets was put off until the absolute last thing I had to do. However, the Nature's Head works very well.  



 
Posts: 44
Location: North Texas plaines
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It would appear this thread is all but dead, but here goes anyway.

I use a composting toilet and love it.  I made a deal with a fellow, who owns a cabinet shop and builds everything out of oak.  I clean his shop for him a couple times a week in exchange for sawdust from his shop as well as strips of waste oak to use in my rocket stoves and mass heater.  It's a win-win.

I have found using VERY FINE sawdust from kiln-dried wood is the trick to no odor.  I also use chips out of the planer; they are a little larger in size, but smell great.

Also, I put ALL my vegetable-matter kitchen waste including egg shells, which have spun around in a bullet blender until they're almost dust, into my composting toilet.  It adds green stuff to the mix.  Using fine sawdust balances out the carbon content against the organic stuff and it all works great. The composting toilet receives both poop and pee.

I have 5 "designated" enclosed compost heaps outside to receive the toilet waste.  Each bin holds a year's worth of toilet compost material.  I let each bin compost for 2 years before turning it out onto my lawns and pastures.  At the end of the 5th year, the first bin is ready to be emptied and reused and, by the way, has reduced its volume to about 1/20th of what it was "full" when left to compost.  

I also use a composting thermometer to make sure the pile reaches and stays at between 130 to 160 degrees to insure all pathogens are killed.  There's a colored area on the thermometer, which tells you when it's in the "thermophilic" range, the range that kills pathogens.  I got it at Home Depot (online) for $20.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2224
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
155
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm going to offer a counter point to some of the comment above.

When we used compost toilets we encouraged everyone to do both number 1 and number 2s in the same bucket. We found that number ones actually helped compress the sawdust volume down (dry sawdust is quite fluffy) compared to only using it for number 2s. Key to preventing smells is to empty it regularly and to use plenty of cover material. A bucket that goes 2 weeks before being full is likely to be a little more pongy on emptying than one that was sitting around for a week. It is also likely to be cleaner and easier to empty than one that is totally full.

Furthermore, the combination of liquid and nitrogen from 1s  cranks the thermophilic composting into overdrive, in a way that we didn't see with just dry number 2s.

Our sawdust source is a local lumber mill that makes things like fence posts from green sweet chestnut poles. We fill up a cubic meter bag for free from them which domestically lasts us about a year. The dust is fine and absorbent - I imagine more absorbent that some pine types would be. In our hot compost it breaks down in about 2 weeks, but we let the whole pile mature for 3 to 6 months after it has stopped being hot.
 
Al Freeman
Posts: 44
Location: North Texas plaines
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Michael Cox makes a good point way down at the bottom of this post.  That point being, you gotta pee in a composting toilet to make it work.  Absolutely!

The truth of the matter is, urine contains urea, which is a nitrogen-based product.  Adding this to the mix provides moisture, which facilitates thermophilic action.  That's where it gets hot, if you don't want to look up the $5 word.  

Secondly, it makes the pile 'fluid' more or less.  A dry turd standing alone will eventually turn to soil, but if it's bathed in a solution of urine, the reaction goes probably a hundred times faster.

I know it smells, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.  Use more cover (sawdust or crushed, dry leaves), if it's teasing at your nostrils.  When you dump your bucket out, it should "slosh" into the compost pile and require only a slight water rinse to "clean" the bucket.  Personally, I swish out the bucket with a squirt of hose water, then let it dry and reuse it right away.  Of course, I have a few extra buckets on hand in case I wake up to snow or ice and don't want to fool with it.  I empty my thunder mug (toilet) about every 4 days; hey at my age, I can use the exercise.

Bottom line here:  Pee in your composting toilet!
 
Posts: 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Al Freeman wrote:Michael Cox makes a good point way down at the bottom of this post.  That point being, you gotta pee in a composting toilet to make it work.  Absolutely!

The truth of the matter is, urine contains urea, which is a nitrogen-based product.  Adding this to the mix provides moisture, which facilitates thermophilic action.  That's where it gets hot, if you don't want to look up the $5 word.  

Secondly, it makes the pile 'fluid' more or less.  A dry turd standing alone will eventually turn to soil, but if it's bathed in a solution of urine, the reaction goes probably a hundred times faster.

I know it smells, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.  Use more cover (sawdust or crushed, dry leaves), if it's teasing at your nostrils.  When you dump your bucket out, it should "slosh" into the compost pile and require only a slight water rinse to "clean" the bucket.  Personally, I swish out the bucket with a squirt of hose water, then let it dry and reuse it right away.  Of course, I have a few extra buckets on hand in case I wake up to snow or ice and don't want to fool with it.  I empty my thunder mug (toilet) about every 4 days; hey at my age, I can use the exercise.

Bottom line here:  Pee in your composting toilet!



That all depends on what type of toilet you have and what your goal is. We have an Air Head composting toilet and since it is indoors, our goal is less odor. Therefore, we try to keep ALL urine out of the "solids" container, which the Air Head facilitates with its design. We have a stirrer to keep air flow going and we have an exhaust fan that draws very little (we live on solar only). With our unit, the point is to encourage aerobic bacteria to grow in the presence of LOTS of oxygen, rather than the anaerobic kind which grow in wet, stagnant situations like what you're describing. Which is why it smells so horrible. Our toilet does not smell at all because aerobic activity has no smell. The contents have to be removed to an area where they can finish composting (like all units that have "fresh deposits" in them), but it doesn't take long. I know there are different systems, and I'm not doubting what you say is true for yours, I just wanted to point out that not all composting toilets require that you pee in them and not all of them smell. We also only empty ours every 4-6 weeks which is my favorite feature! Have a good day.
 
Al Freeman
Posts: 44
Location: North Texas plaines
4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@ Connie McBride:

I stand corrected.  I thought everyone made their own, like I did years back.  I didn't know there were store-bought versions.  
Different strokes for different folks and all.  

What I do, works for me as well as friends' installations.  Mine is nothing fancy.  I built a wooden enclosure out of plywood and pine trim, which fits nicely over a standard 5-gallon plastic paint bucket.  The toilet seat is mounted on the top lid of the enclosure, such that when the enclosure's lid is closed, its bottom rests on the top rim of the plastic bucket, just outside the hole cut in the lid.  Make sense?    

Friends have tried "depositing" only poop without any pee and have had poor results.  I have found. with the way I do it, the "mix" needs that punch of ammonia or whatever it is in pee that drives the thermophilic reaction.
 
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why not a fan??? I have used a bucket toilet for 8 years, everything goes in the bucket, #1,#2, toilet paper... any compostables. I use an axial fan (computer fan) a 10w solar panel, 1 marine battery, and an 1 1/2" pvc pipe for a vent. Its great.
I also have a SunMar XL NE in another house also great.
Bucket toilet = $50
SunMar         = $1,200
One is code approved, one is not.
 
It's a pleasure to see superheros taking such an interest in science. And this tiny ad:
Binge on 17 Seasons of Permaculture Design Monkeys!
http://permaculture-design-course.com
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!