How to Build a Dry Toilet

Complete a switch to a zero-waste life style by constructing a dry toilet with this guide providing insight on how.

| March 2013

  • Dry toilet diagram
    A dry toilet uses no water, power, or chemicals, and it doesn’t require plumbing lines or septic tanks. This makes it perfect for off-grid living as well as situations where plumbing is not available.
    Illustration By Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
  • Making It by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, published by Rodale
    “Making It” provides all the tools you need to build a self-sustaining and productive household. Projects are divided into five categories based on the amount of time they take: day to day, weekly, monthly, season to season and big projects you’ll need to do only once. You’ll build all the skills you need to do everything from making your own laundry soap to becoming a beekeeper in your backyard.
    Cover Courtesy Rodale
  • Pile of sawdust
    You’ll need a constant supply of sawdust to use as cover material. Ask around at wood shops and lumberyards for sawdust. Don’t use sawdust from chemically treated lumber, fiberboard or plywood.
    Photo By Fotolia/steheap

  • Dry toilet diagram
  • Making It by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, published by Rodale
  • Pile of sawdust

For a new generation of canners, composters, homebrewers and knitters comes Making It (Rodale, 2010), the ultimate guidebook for living a homemade life. Frugal, do-it-yourself living is becoming a practical solution in an unsustainable world. Authors Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen help you navigate modern homesteading with easy, step-by-step instructions and projects ranging from the simple, such as making olive oil lamps, to the ambitious, such as developing a drip irrigation system for vegetables. Don’t waste your waste! Learn how to build a dry toilet and reuse the compost to nourish decorative plants or fruit trees. 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Making It.

Building a Dry Toilet

Preparation: 1 hour
Waiting: 1-2 years

Flush toilets take two valuable resources, clean water and nitrogen-rich human waste, and combine them to create a problem: sewage. Dry or “humanure” toilets combine sawdust and human waste, which is then composted to make soil. It’s a simple, elegant system that follows nature’s dictate that there is no such thing as waste.



A dry toilet uses no water, power, or chemicals, and it doesn’t require plumbing lines or septic tanks. This makes it perfect for off-grid living as well as situations where plumbing is not available. It's a convenient way to add an extra toilet to any house.

We’d be lying if we said it does not seem strange at first to use a toilet with no water, but you do get used to it quickly. If you’ve been raised with flush toilets, your most basic impulse is to make your waste vanish. Pronto. However, once you grasp the indisputable logic of the system, know firsthand that it does not smell, and have seen the contents transformed into sweet-smelling, clean soil through the power of composting, you'll never look at flush toilets the same way again.

ArcLight33
12/27/2018 7:08:17 PM

This is a great article, but it needs to be made more quantitative. Someone who thoroughly understands the chemistry of composting should be able to tell the reader how much sawdust (in grams or ounces) is necessary to properly balance how much human feces (in grams or ounces). - If different types of sawdust make a difference, then a table should be included to show how to account for the differences. - If different types of diets make a difference [vegans, egg & diary vegetarians, light meat-eaters, and heavy meat-eaters], then a table should be included to account for the differences. - If different climates make a difference, then a table should be included to account for the differences. Then the compost-manager is far less likely to be faced with the unfortunate need for "remedial action" because the proportions were incorrect.


MVT
5/11/2016 10:02:36 AM

Does no one at Mother Earth News (or it's contributors) own a camera? Almost all the 'how-to' articles are seriously lacking in pictures. (The things that are supposed to be worth 1000 words). A recent article on a bicycle powered band saw had one single picture. And it wasn't even a picture of the completed product, but rather, a bicycle wheel. I got a lot out of that picture. This article also would be 100 times better with some pictures to go along with the steps. That way the reader wouldn't be left trying to figure out exactly what the writer is trying to convey. It's not that hard to take or post digital pictures. Due to the lack of pictures, I'd have to rate most MEN's 'how-to' articles as POOR. Sorry to leave such a negative response, but it's very frustrating for a 'newbie' to try and figure out what a 'pro' is putting in writing some times.







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