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Using a Sawdust Toilet

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posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 06:35 PM
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In discussions of off-grid living a frequent suggestion is to use a sawdust toilet. I've been using one daily for about two-and-a-half years now. In this post I want to focus on day-to-day aspects of using a sawdust toilet. But first, a brief description of what a sawdust toilet system is about.

At its most basic, a sawdust toilet is simply a bucket that you use as a toilet. Instead of water that gets flushed away, sawdust or some other covering material covers up the bucket contents until the bucket gets full. As part of a composting system, you can dump the bucket contents into a compost pile.

There are all kinds of plans online for constructing an attractive sawdust toilet. These enclosures are primarily for aesthetics although you can also build an enclosure that provides storage space for essentials such as toilet paper or cloths and sawdust. A bucket (usually a 5 gallon bucket) is the primary "working part" of the sawdust toilet. A snap on lid is a good idea for when you are hauling out a full bucket to be emptied outside. A toilet seat is optional but for more than emergency use you'll want one unless you want to use your bucket exclusively as a squat toilet. You don't even have to have one of those special seats that snap onto a 5 gallon bucket. A regular toilet seat works fine. You can remove the little spacers on the bottom of the seat and the lid in order to get a better seal and eliminate gaps.

Detailed information on styles of sawdust toilets and how to compost human waste are easily found online and in the Humanure Handbook.

Even if you don't plan to use a sawdust toilet fulltime until you get off-grid or are forced into it due to some kind of SHTF situation, it could be a good idea to set aside a few days now and then to practice the art of pooping in a bucket -- if it is feasible where you live. You may find that for some family members it's not as simple as it sounds at first.

MENTAL BLOCKS ("Fecal Phobia"): A lot of people have issues with anything other than a standard flushing toilet. They may not even realize they have those issues until faced with not having a "real" toilet. (A good reason for some practice runs.) That has been the case with 2 of our farm residents. One eventually made peace with the bucket. The other hasn't. He pees outside. For anything else, he "holds it" until he's somewhere with a flushing toilet. Perhaps he'll come around in time. My daughter and I, on the other hand, have embraced the bucket. No clogged toilets. No sewage backups. And yes, sometimes we do feel a little smug about not wasting perfectly good water by flushing it into a sewer or septic tank. The compost we're creating hasn't even come into play for us yet but that's another plus if we ever need more than our animals supply.

Should you discover that some members of your family have difficulty with the sawdust toilet, it can help to provide them with their own private bucket. Some people may have trouble "doing their business" in a bucket that they know already contains deposits from others. Or, they may be uncomfortable leaving their own deposits that others might see. It's a mental image thing. If a separate bucket is not feasible, good covering practices can help. Emphasize the need to put a good layer of cover material over everything when you use the toilet. Seeing an uncovered pile of poo -- especially if it's not your own -- can turn off some folks. And it's not just poo. If you don't use enough cover material and the bucket fills up with pee, the "splashback" could make some people squeamish. Plus the smell isn't pleasant -- day-old pee stinks.

ODOR ISSUES: Speaking of smells. Until they've used one on a regular basis, some people assume that the bucket is going to stink all the time. It doesn't have to. These aren't like a port-a-potty. If you use an adequate layer of cover material it suppresses the odor just fine. You could even leave the toilet lid up and not be overwhelmed by stink. But if you don't use enough cover material then, yes, a little odor can build up and it just looks a bit nasty. Don't want to smell it (or look at it)? Cover it up.

EMPTYING THE BUCKET: When it comes time to empty the bucket (I call it "flushing the toilet") there can be a few minutes of unpleasantness. After the first time or two you get used to it and it really is no big deal. Honest. A full 5 gallon bucket gets heavy so you may want to empty it when it gets no more than about 3/4 full. Plus, if the bucket is almost full to the brim you can't sit down or else you end up with sawdust in your butt. Not cool. Before you traipse through the house with a full bucket, put a lid on it. You do not want to accidently spill your bucket in the house.

When you first empty the bucket there's going to be some odor but if you're doing your compost properly (covering fresh deposits with hay or other material) that won't last long. Rinse out the bucket before returning it to the house. The cleaning station near our compost pile includes a drum of rainwater and a toilet bowl brush. Just pour the rinse water back over the compost pile.

Who empties the bucket could become an issue if you don't plan ahead. If you make it one person's regular chore or use the task as punishment, resentment builds up. In retaliation you may find that the bucket is always full every time you really, really, really need to go. Unless someone is physically unable to tote a full bucket, rotate the task among everyone who uses the sawdust toilet. After a while it becomes not such a big deal. There are far worse jobs -- such as cleaning up after a regular flush toilet gets clogged and overflows. EWWWWWWWW

BACKUP BUCKETS: It's good to have 2 or 3 buckets to rotate. If the weather is bad you can sit a full bucket (with lid) on the back porch to empty it later and use a different bucket in the bathroom. Also, if you really gotta go and your first bucket is full, you'll be grateful that backup bucket is close at hand. Letting one bucket sit outside to air out for a day or so while another is in use is also a good practice.

COVER UPS: Although sawdust is the commonly recommended cover material, you can use other things. We currently use the same wood chips that we use as small animal bedding. I used shredded leaves for a week or so when I ran out of other material. Whatever you use, provide a scoop of some kind (such as a bowl or cup). It will keep your bathroom cleaner. I've just grabbed a few handfuls of cover material at times but even the short distance from the container to the toilet results in spills on the floor and all over the seat. A scoop keeps things neat. When you start a new bucket, add some fresh cover material to the bottom of the bucket. This provides a nice landing pad for the first deposit in the empty toilet. How much you use each time varies depending on how much you need to cover up. If there is already a fairly thick layer you can often run in to pee and skip the cover material that time. Of course if you live alone and don't have to worry about the sensitivities of others, you can use as little or as much as you want.

GUESTS: Help make guests who may not use a sawdust toilet more comfortable. Put in a fresh bucket before they arrive. Post a set of clear instructions that describe how to use your fancy toilet.

Everybody poops somewhere. We use a bucket. Hope these tips help some of you considering a sawdust toilet setup.




posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 06:44 PM
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Seems like a lot of effort to poop in a litter box.

I dunno, I grew up in Northern Quebec on a Farm. I'd probably build an outhouse before I'd do my business in a bucket. Just my opinion tho'.

S & F



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 06:46 PM
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Why crap in a bucket unless you have to do it?

I get using something like this in an emergency but not by choice. Kind of like drinking water purified by chlorine / iodine tablets.... good to know how to do it but not using it until I really must. kind of like eating bugs or other less than desirable things. Sure you can do it when you must but you don't have to do it now or frequently!

Watched a show on HGTV with some greenie guy who wanted one of these in his house instead of a normal toilet and the wife was not having it.

Don't blame her.

Same with compost. Not using human crap as compost.
edit on 22-1-2015 by infolurker because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:20 PM
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a reply to: infolurker


Why crap into a bucket unless you have to do it?

Well, here's the deal. Water is an *expensive* resource. And, it's going to be blood that will be spilling for water sooner, far sooner, than later.

Then, there's wanting to get the hell off of the "social grid". Paying for sewage removal? Paying for the cleaning of the water that was used to flush it away instead of getting your delicate tootsies dirty?

I tell you what, when I was a teen I did EVERYTHING there was to do in kitchens. Ever cleaned dishes for a few forty hour weeks? How about kids? Ever changed a diaper when they had so much gas it forced the diarrhea up the back of the diaper and straight up the spine? My daughter had to have her hair washed after one such event.

It is STUFF. Disengage your mind with the social training (gee, thanks folks) that something as basic as feces is icky and nasty. I mean, come on, sure...scat from a sexual standpoint IS downright disgusting. But, we all create it.


Deal with it.

This gentleman is simply choosing how to deal with it. And more likely than not, getting used to dealing with it now rather than being forced to deal with it later.


-NF



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:23 PM
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Ok, so considering I had to go to a food bank today I just don't have the $10 to spare for the ebook.

My question is, how is it that one is supposed to have such an abundant amount of sawdust just laying around? I, for one, am not a lumberjack



Are there any obvious alternatives? I mean...hell...dead leaves from the lawn? Cut grass ( a really fu%^$%ing silly premise to me, cutting grass that is) that's been collected?


-NF



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:25 PM
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a reply to: nullafides

"To each their own"

You can wipe your butt with your hand instead of using toilet paper as well but not doing it until I there is no other choice. If environmentally friendly is your motivation, get a gray water collection from your sinks and shower and use that to flush a real toilet.

How do the women in your life like this idea? I think they would like mine better.. LOL

edit on 22-1-2015 by infolurker because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:27 PM
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I have been using a sawdust compost toilet for a few years now at our camp ! I wish we could have one in the city but were in a condo and no place to compost ! It is so easy and convenient to use , no smell , there is a wood working shop near our camp who builds cedar sheds and furniture , we stop once in a while and get a few garbage bags full of cedar sawdust and it smells great !! When you think of the time and effort and water that goes into getting rid of our crap , all the plumbing, wasted space it's mind boggling !!!



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:36 PM
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I wouldn't be opposed to this if it weren't for guests. I'm not sure id want to explain it to them. We're building a house out on 10 acres, though and I have to say, skipping a septic tank sounds tempting.
I wonder what cps would think if they stopped by for some reason. It doesn't take much to get a visit from them.
I'm sure we'll go with a conventional toilet but that's good info. Thanks!
edit on 22-1-2015 by JessicaRabbitTx because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:38 PM
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This was my first toilet!
I grew up out in the sticks with no electricity and no running water readily available. Worked from "can 'til can't", got water for our garden and livestock from a nearby pond. We would bathe with the pondwater also, filling up a bucket to do so. Cooking/drinking water got trucked in by the barrel.

We were finally able to get a well drilled in '78, got electricity in '80 when enough neighbors moved in the area to help defray the cost of installation.
edit on 22-1-2015 by occrest because: added info



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:40 PM
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a reply to: TheMainEvent

We want to build an outhouse too. Planning to put it out near our barn and work area to save trekking back up to the house when we're out there.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:44 PM
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a reply to: infolurker

If you genuinely think this is an idea that falls down gender lines...

Well, discussion over.

If you enjoy wasting things that are perfectly natural, or generally being wasteful, great. I for one have been slowly more and more aware of such things as I get older.

Knowledge, common sense, and experience will win.


-NF



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:48 PM
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I've actually just been reading over the website that the OP gave. Fascinating stuff.


What I have yet to come across though (I'm sure it's spelled out in bold letters within the $10 e-book
is how to go about introducing the natural organisms (worms, bacteria, etc) that are necessary to kickstart the overall process.



I've long been curious about why we don't do more to work with the VAST amount of human waste rather than simply dump it.


-NF



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:51 PM
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originally posted by: infolurker

I get using something like this in an emergency but not by choice.


For us it was the simplest, most cost-effective option (we be poor folks). Can't afford to install a septic tank. Don't have municipal water or wastewater out here. Water cost isn't a particular issue because we're on well water (although it takes electricity to run the pump... we're not off the electrical grid yet).

It's really no big deal, at least not for us ladies and the kids. Our guys are the squeamish ones. But at least if it ever becomes a necessity for every one, it's one less adjustment we'll have to make. No doubt we'll have plenty of other challenges to deal with.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 07:54 PM
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originally posted by: infolurker


Same with compost. Not using human crap as compost.


Using human waste as compost with no form of treatment / sterilization is a dangerous path to go down. Many diseases breed in human waste.

As for the bucket idea - the good old kiwi long drop toilet with proper ventilation and the proverbial handful of grass chucked down at the end is a far more sound idea. (Make sure the shaft you dig is not into the water table though as once again diseases can be spread)



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 08:09 PM
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originally posted by: nullafides
My question is, how is it that one is supposed to have such an abundant amount of sawdust just laying around? I, for one, am not a lumberjack


Are there any obvious alternatives? I mean...hell...dead leaves from the lawn? Cut grass ( a really fu%^$%ing silly premise to me, cutting grass that is) that's been collected?


I'm still looking for a good local source of sawdust in large quantities (and cheap!). Leaves do work but if all you have are large leaves I'd suggest shredding them first. I've read comments that wood chips are not the best option simply because they decompose more slowly but since our humanure compost piles will probably sit for another couple of years that's not a big issue for us. We get big compressed bales of wood chip/animal bedding for about $4 each and it lasts a pretty long time (and smells better than dead leaves). We also have a wood chipper that we could probably use if we wanted to make our own cover material. Haven't tried that though.

I so agree on the cutting grass/lawn thing. And bagging up clippings and leaves to send to the landfill or wherever? Never got that either. Although that would make a good free source of cover material I suppose if there are neighbors who do that. My daughter prefers to lets the goats be her lawnmower. I'll have to dig out my copy of the Humanure Handbook and get a refresher then maybe I can suggest some other alternatives. BTW, you didn't hear it from me, but if you poke around online you can find a free download of the book. That's what I had originally but I did end up buying a legitimate hard copy later on. It's a good read. Goes into a lot more detail on the whole composting aspects.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 08:19 PM
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a reply to: AhsoVaniva

Well, I did read on the humanure website lots of information and ideas on contacting your local government after leaf collecting season...when they gather up weeds, etc...and that you can get these things from them pretty easily and or cheap.


What kills me is how the average person thinks about things with emotion first, rather than knowledge and common sense. A few posts back someone goes "well, human feces can pass on bad thingies" (heavily paraphrasing)...well, no feces....yes, there ARE precautions that need to be taken. But the point is that once you PROPERLY compost the material it IS safe to use for soil and planting....

Again, some of us will disengage the silly childish "eww" factor in our minds...some, well, just won't.



-NF



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 08:37 PM
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Ingenious, thanks a lot for the info.

I'd been wondering about that for the remote property I'm looking at.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 08:49 PM
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originally posted by: nullafides
a reply to: AhsoVaniva

What kills me is how the average person thinks about things with emotion first, rather than knowledge and common sense. ...

Again, some of us will disengage the silly childish "eww" factor in our minds...some, well, just won't.


Agree agree agree! I still fight the "eww" on some things (such as eating rat meat stew and other things my son-in-law dreams up) but I'm coming around and at least trying some new things. On a subject touched on by another reply in this thread -- intellectually I know there are plenty of other viable (and perhaps better?) options beyond toilet paper for taking care of business but I still prefer to stock up on tp every chance I get. At least for now.

As to humanure... it's just dirt (eventually... and as you said, properly composted) and a whole lot better than the pesticides that so many don't bat an eye about being dumped all over the food they eat.

Oh, speaking of pesticides. I have read that there is some concern about using cover material from unknown sources that may have been treated with pesticides (such as grass clippings) when it will end up in your compost and then possibly your garden. If you use sawdust it should be from untreated wood too. I meant to mention that in my previous reply.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 08:52 PM
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a reply to: AhsoVaniva

You have my attention. Please elaborate on the rat meat stew.



posted on Jan, 22 2015 @ 09:24 PM
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These things are gaining popularity in the live-aboard boating world. Most say to use peat moss. Apparently if used correctly there is no odor.

They are also popular because the laws about dumping sewage near the coast, inter-coastal waterways, lakes and river are strict and all vessels are subject to inspection, random boardings are allowed...

Composting head is what their called in the nautical world and there are several websites that sale them.

www.natureshead.net...
www.compostinghead.com...
c-head.com...
www.airheadtoilet.com...



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