Country Lore: A Sawdust Toilet for a Rainy Day

A sawdust toilet, such as this one made from recycled materials, can come in handy when the house toilet is out of order.
By Michelle Rufener
February/March 2008
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This sawdust toilet is great to use while camping or for emergencies.

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I have been looking at different ways to become more self sufficient. So, I’m doing all of the do-it-yourself projects I can, such as making this sawdust toilet, which cost me just $30 in materials.

I used an old garden hose box, a new toilet seat and a 5-gallon bucket with lid, which sits inside the hose box, plus sawdust. Successive layers of sawdust added after the “deposit” is made eliminate odor. The contents of the bucket can be safely composted, but not for use in vegetable gardens.

My family thought I was nuts, until the other day when our septic system lateral was drowning in rainwater and the toilet wouldn't flush. They sure appreciated the sawdust toilet then!

Michelle Rufener
Topeka, Kansas

Post a comment below.


1/6/2011 6:40:28 PM
That's a beauty. Great use for the hose box. I just finished reading Humanure and I found it to be quite interesting. I'm building one for emergencies, I had no idea that if we lost electricity for a while the sewer system might not work. This makes me feel better. As to the posting byWilson, I have to comment that I cook from scratch and garden organically so I don't have to eat chemicals, heavy metals or drug contaminates. Haven't seen any parasites or worms either. I think my poop is not all that dangerous. As someone else mentioned, you are supposed to compost it one year if heated (naturally), two if not. Plus, I would not use it for the lettuce, for that I have my composting worms, which eat as good as I do, except they are vegetarians and I'm not.

1/6/2011 12:15:08 PM
Parasites can live for months in damp soils. Viruses, bacteria and yeasts can live for varying amounts of times. Heavy metals, hormones and drugs also vary in the amount of time needed to either decay or just be washed away or eaten by something else. Composting might eventally get rid of parasites and some of the "germs", but anything that sporulated wil still be there, and withought testing, you won't know if there are any heavy metal or drug contaminates left in it, either. This is true of any manure, but how far do your chickens, ducks, cows, sheep, etc. travel? They don't usually get exposed to as many things as we do, so their manure needs less processing then ours. Plus, you cull the "unthrifty", so no vectors, either.

James Cox_4
1/5/2011 9:38:46 PM
You can absolutly use human waste on vegetable crops. Farmers and Vegetable gardeners did it for years, before the Big Goverment guys conveinced the modern man that waste must be treated and flushed into the rivers and streams or get this composted and sold back to you as sludge for your garden.. The problem with human waste and other waste is that it burns the vegetable crops if it is not composted over time.. the old timers did this by using an outhouse.. then moving the outhouse from time to time and digging out the waste matter and spreading it on the ground around crops.. Folks today get the hebe geebees just over the though of using human waste in the garden... Shame on Mother for reporting false information about the use of Human Waste.. John Seymour the homesteading guru from Great Britan wrote of the value of returning everything that came off the land back to the land through composting of vegetable matter as well as the manures of barnyard animals and humans as well back in the 1970's. His informaion came as does mine from first hand knowledge of the early practices of many "homestead" gardeners..

1/5/2011 5:09:32 PM
Michelle, judging by the work done by Joseph Jenkins for his book Humanure, poop composted for a year should be fine for vegetables too. And you might consider designs that separate urine, a high-nitrogen relatively sterile fertilizer, for direct use, diluted perhaps by kitchen washwater.

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