Humanure Dry Toilet Made From a Milk Crate

Modern toilets take two valuable resources, water and nitrogen rich human waste, and combine the two to create a problem: sewage. In a dry or “humanure” toilet, you cover your deposits with a layer of non-toxic sawdust. Once the toilet is full you dump the contents into your outdoor humanure pile and compost the waste at high temperatures for at least a year. You can then use that compost as fertilizer for plants. The ubiquitous five gallon bucket is the most commonly used humanure receptacle. Most humanure toilet designs I’ve seen such as the ones on Joseph Jenkin’s website make use of wood which I’m not crazy about in the wet environment of a bathroom. Even with a coat of paint wood gets grungy. Alternatively, you can buy plastic camping toilet seats that will clamp on to a five gallon bucket but they have, in my opinion, an unacceptable wobble when you sit on them. For these reasons I designed a sturdy dry toilet making use of a scavenged milk crate. Even if the idea of humanure grosses you out (and it’s definitely the most controversial subject in our book), our milk crate toilet would be great for camping, emergencies or your remote cabin.

Putting this toilet together takes just a few minutes. First, find a milk or beer crate and a five gallon bucket. Make sure that the crate you use is large enough to accommodate the bucket. And note, I know of someone arrested for scavenging beer crates behind a strip club, of all places, so be discreet or ask for permission. Incidentally, when the police finished booking the beer crate scavenger the officer placed the paperwork in . . . a scavenged beer crate doubling as an in box!

Attaching the Toilet Seat to the Crate

Next, find a toilet seat. Forage one or pick up a cheap seat at your local hardware store. In an emergency situation, you could also use the one on your regular toilet and simply bolt it back on when the zombie threat has passed and the sewage pipes are flowing again. To attach the seat to the milk crate simply position the plastic bolts and nuts that come with the lid in the center and on the short end of the bottom of the crate. Don’t over tighten.

Cutting Out a Hole in the Crate

Place the bucket so that it will be appropriately positioned under the seat. Mark the outline of the bucket on the crate with a knife and cut out a circle with a jigsaw or keyhole saw so that the bucket will fit through the former bottom of the crate.

Attaching Legs to the Crate with Cable Ties

Cut four pieces of scrap wood (we found some old table legs for a more finished look), and attach them to each corner of the crate so that the bucket projects about a 1/2-inch above the level of the crate. The legs will be approximately 13 1/2-inches. Make sure that the toilet seat will fit snugly against the top of the bucket. We attached the legs with cable ties, but you could also use screws or bolts.

Moving the Spacer

The last step is to move the spacer on the bottom of the lid, so that it does not hit the top of the bucket. Pop it out with a knife or chisel, drill another hole, and reposition.

Your humanure toilet is now done and ready for use. Simply lift the crate off the bucket when it comes time to empty the contents. Follow the detailed instructions on Joseph Jenkin’s website to learn how to properly compost human waste.

This toilet is simple to make, easy to clean, and is made of readily available materials. I think this particular design will be useful in emergencies and, when combined with Jenkin’s excellent humanure methods, would prevent the dangerous raw sewage nightmares of the sort we saw in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. There is a creative commons licence on all the text and photos on this website so feel free to translate and disseminate this post widely. We’re “open source” here at Root Simple. If you make an improvement in the design please let us know.

Leave a comment


  1. Looks easy. ha ha. Does the Homegrown household recycle all your human waste? I don’t recall reading about your personal experiences with that, and would love to.

  2. Here in Chicago, scavenged milk crates are often used as basketball hoops. So you’re effectively putting Poop in a Hoop. Thanks, Erik, for this inspirational post.

  3. @anoymous:

    Mrs. Homegrown here on that kinda nasty last photo. I just have to say that splatter you see up the side is not what you might think it would be but rather a permanent stain leftover from the bucket’s former (and rather mysterious) incarnation.

    I’ve complained about this bucket to Mr. Homegrown in the past, my argument being that if we must poop in a bucket, let it at least be a nice bucket.

    But in his flush of triumph following the milk crate epiphany, no funky stain would stand in the way of his posting this project ASAP.

    We’re getting a new bucket. A black one, I think.

    • To avoid staining the buckets and to make waste disposal easy, try using heavy-duty garbage bags as liners.

    • I’ve used and emptied a number of composting bucket toilets. They’re pretty nice. . . . One way to make sure the contents empty cleanly is to line all inside surfaces —of a slightly-wet bucket— with newspaper.

  4. haha you two are wonderful! love the milk crate design. have to say our wooden box frame is still looking sweet after 9 years, but we have gone through 4-5 buckets… they just don’t age gracefully. merde

  5. Funny, I have been mulling this over in my head for a while. I need to just break down and buy the book. I had one crazy idea but nobody to bounce it off of:

    The waste is supposed to be composted for a year – could this theoretically be sped up by increasing the heat? I’ve been half-heartedly dabbling with solar ovens lately; could a solar composter work to speed the process? If it’s just a a matter of reaching a certain temperature… but I’m probably missing something. We have a local equestrian center that cooks the stable muckings up to 150 degrees and then sells it as compost. They do this to kill any weed seeds that might slip through, but could human poo be “cooked” too? yum.

  6. Good job, people! My only addition would be a toilet paper holder attached to one side.

  7. This would be better still with a urine-separating seat (check out; it’s the urine that causes strong latrine odors, and the urine is useful fertilizer (nitrogen, phospohorous) immediately (some counties in Sweden actually require urine-separating toilets). Also check out, to see how Wendell Berry’s “elegant solution” is being put to use in Haiti, to rebuild the soil.

  8. We picked up a bucket with toilet seat lid sold as a camping port-a-loo for emergencies. The nice thing about it is the color: it’s black. No stains, no muss. 🙂

  9. this is such a great idea!!! the only thing that would make it better was if the crate were an oval or circle too (i have had the misfortune of using a thunder box) and it would make it much more comfortable!
    once i get my own place, i am going to give this a full hearted test run!!!

  10. Beautiful! This totally could be viewed as art with multiple messages and ideas coming off from it! ie. Recycling, anti-plastic, water conservation, anti-industrial, anti-consumerism, etc. Good job!

  11. hmmmm, I’ve moved to using a cheap crumbled poultry food for my cat litter – works fine. Wonder if I could compost the cat litter, too, or use the (unused :)) poultry food as the covering material in a toilet – not as cheap as dirt and plant material from the yard, but at $10 for 50 lbs, it’s not outrageous, and for the cats a lot cheaper than regular litter.

    • Since even the cheap bulk cat litter is mostly clay, baking soda, and some kind of fragrance you would be just adding clay to your compost plus the deodorizing effect of the fragrance, you should be good.

    • I use chicken feed for my cat litter as well, then I just spread it where the chickens can get it, they clean it up wonderfully! Have been doing this for two years now, but recently discovered that the pellets work better for me because they don’t track like the crumbles

    • I wouldn’t give chicken cat litter and feces to eat – some cats are contaminated with toxoplasmosis and it causes blindness in humans.

  12. @catlover – I use wood pellets for my cat litter, and when they turn to sawdust after the urine hits them, I store it in buckets outside and let the ammonia release, then use it for the compost. It works very well as a cover for the loo, as well as cover for kitchen scraps. Your poultry food may work in a similar way.

  13. @Anonymous w/ Urine Separation comment:
    After reading the Humanure Handbook, my understanding is that it’s best to leave it in. It adds moisture, and does some other sciency stuff I can’t remember the specifics on, making it better for the garden and compost in the long run.

  14. Hi
    We installed our dry toilet about two months ago. We went for a wooden seat and surround for more comfort! Nice and warm in the winter. We are currently using a standard bucket destined for adults to use as a ‘nightjar’. It holds 5 gallons but with five of us using the toilet I end up making two trips to the compost heap per day! I am looking out for a bigger container…..

  15. I hope my husband makes one of those toilette for out side for the grand kids so they don’t pee in my pool.

    • When my dad had an inground pool he would tell all the kids who got in the pool he put tablets in the pool water so if anyone peed in his pool the water would turn RED! Worked like a charm. No one wanted to take a chance to try it out. LOL

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  18. I live on a farm, I have a garden with a ‘double hole’ outhouse, so no mad dash’s back to the house! I keep a bag of lime in the outhouse with a one cup scoop in it. After a ‘heavy’ deposit,..a sprinkle of lime on top keeps away odors and flies. Also helps with decomposition. Try it! you’ll like it!

    • We used to do that at my Grandparents “primitive” cottage when I was a boy. It worked very well. The cottage had electricity but no plumbing or running water. I spent some of the best summers of my life out there.

    • Thanks for the tip anonymous. I assume you are somewhere back east? Out west we can’t use lime as it will raise the pH of our soil.

    • Growing up on the farm we had no running water or sewer until we moved to a house in town when I was about 12 years old. So we of course had an outhouse and a “water closet” that was essentially a small room with a pail inside a wooden box in the house. My father and us kids hated emptying and cleaning the pail so we opted for the outhouse and mom was the only one who used the water closet and then only at night. For odor control the outhouse had a lid and a vent to let gasses out from the underneith. We never needed lime and every couple of years my dad would move the outhouse, cover the hole with plywood and then next time it was due to be moved he would just clean out the previously used hole as it would be composted and could be used as fertilizer. I hope this gives others who use outhouses some tips.

  19. Many bakeries and other stores get products in square buckets. They are more stable and don’t require a milk crate.
    BTW when I worked in the bush we used these type of toilets a lot. More comfortable than squatting and with the bottom cut out could be used anywhere in the bush (just dig a cat hole).

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  27. I suppose you could mount a toilet paper holder on one side of the crate as well. If you really want to get fancy, a deodorizer on the other side. 🙂

    Awesome idea. We have a shell cabin up in the hills without plumbing and only an old out house. This shows some promise. Thanks!

  28. Don’t get grossed out but we use a large coffee can with a lid and put our “used” toilet paper in that and then bag it when full and toss out with garbage. Got the idea in Mexico where due to poor sewer systems most people put theirs in baskets next to the toilet. Doesn’t fill up the 5 gal. bucket so fast and produces a better compost

    • Buy septic safe toilet paper and it will compost fast. Living in the country you learn what can and what cannot compost easily.

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  37. I love to camp but hate walking to the potty in the middle of the night. This is an awesome idea.

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  39. I made one on Sunday; I used a rectangular crate & secured legs with screws. Since I raise earthworms & sell their castings & make apartment-sized vermicomposting kits, making this toilet made sense.

    • I will & when it’s all set, I’ll take a photo. I still have assemble the carbon. I began diverting coffee grounds & tea bags from the earthworms. I have plenty of shredded paper (earthworm bedding) & once the snow melts, I’ll have plenty of white pine needles. I plan on placing a layer of carbon down prior to initial use. After the initial emptying, I may line the container.

    • A few weeks ago, I began using the toilet, which is housed in the back of my garage. I use it sporadically, while doing yard work or hanging laundry on the clothes line. This portion of the garage is shaded by a deciduous tree. In addition to shredded newspaper, coffee grounds & tea bags, I include the carbon pellets found inside the Brita filters. Every once in a while, I make a fire in my portable grill using newspaper, dried leaves & grass & twigs & branches. The ashes are added to the the cover materials. Recently, I showed 2 friends & they couldn’t believe it’s been used because there was no odor.

    • A note on ashes–if you live in a place where it rains they are a good thing. If, however, you are in a dry climate like ours here in Los Angeles, ashes are not good to add to compost. The reason is that they raise the pH of your soil, which is already very high in dry places. Just wanted to point this out to our dry climate readers.

  40. We have been using the humanure system for 21 years now, living off-grid and in our hand-made straw bale house, and we love it. Sawdust is easy to obtain, and it is a much more sustainable resource than peat moss (which is used with the expensive store-bought composting toilets). Jenkins’ book The Humanure Handbook, is really great – loaded with information and answers to every question one might have. Re: some of the comments in this thread: It is extra work lining the interior of the bucket with newspaper, paper sacks are an unnecessary waste of a reusable resource that is not very renewable, and plastic bags would be a mess to clean out. This system works perfectly as is. Our toilet boxes are wooden and not gross at all. I do like your milk crate idea, though!

    • I agree with not using grocery or garbage bags as liners. I lined mine with newspaper, though. When the container is filled & ready to be emptied, I’ll decide whether or not the liner makes a difference.

  41. You should line your Bucket with old plastic grocery store bags….So everyone can empty there own bag and its never smelly or dirty this way!

    • You’ll soon learn that the plastic bag liner, even if it’s a “compostable” variety, will leak. This means the bucket will require a thorough washing the same way it would if you hadn’t used the plastic bag liner.

      If you use the usually grocery story plastic bags, they likely will still be plastic bags when it comes time to use your compost in the garden. Lots of fun picking out the plastic pieces!

      If you use the compostable bags, they’ll cost you up to 50 cents each more or less. And for no reason.

      So… as others have mentioned, Joe Jenkins and many others have used the system for decades. It works perfectly as described. There are no improvements you’re likely to make that will make it better. Just follow the tried and true directions and save yourself a lot of trouble.

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  44. I agree its a handy gadget but I wouldnt put the waste even after being on the compost heap as there are heavy metals and toxing in human waste.
    There is an island of the west coast of Scotland that had the Islanders removed back onto the mainland because of mystery illness where the islanders were dying off one by one as they had no doctors or hospital on this island.
    Years later when it was being investigated it was found that human waste was being washed through the ground water into their vegetables.There cotages were higher up the hill and the vegetables were at the bottom.

    • Nonsense. There would only be “heavy metals and toxins” in human waste if the people creating that waste were already full of “heavy metals and toxins.”

      And your claims about the Scottish island simply cause the BS meter to peg all the way to the right. What island? When?

      Put up or shut up. Spreading stupid disinformation like you are doing does not help anyone.

  45. There is a reason there are many, many laws promulgated to avoid putting human waste on a garden’s soil, and it is called bacteria; nasty little buggers that will kill you if given the chance, which is much, much increased when putting sterilized or non-sterilized waste on the garden soil. For that matter, any kind of animal waste has to be treated with extreme care to avoid being killed. Just bury the waste in a place where food is not grown and use the nitrogenous fertilizer that man has successfully developed before someone gets hurt!

    • Barney… may I respectfully suggest you read the scientific literature – or at least read Jenkins’ “The Humanure Handbook” – and then repost your views.

      Those “many, many laws” you mentioned, along with laws on “many, many” other topics, are completely wrongheaded, incorrect, based on nonsense and harmfully broadcast erroneous information to an unsuspecting public.

      Yes, there are “nasty little buggers” in excrement – from all animals. Yes, it must be handled properly… and “just burying the waste” is NOT properly. Thankfully, it is a dead simple procedure to turn our feces and urine, along with kitchen waste, into wonderfully rich and completely safe HUMANURE.

      Just READ Jenkins’ book. After you do you will no longer publish your untested assumptions and glib opinions as some sort of “fact.”

      Thank you.

    • What laws are you referring too Barney? Canada, like most of the world, has none that I know of. In fact most municipal waste water treatment plants get rid of their solids by composting them and then the resulting product is used as fertilizer. Civilization has been using human waste as fertilizer since the dawn of history and yet in the last century many people have become so out of touch with their world they get squeamish at the thought of it. If it was as dangerous as you claim civilization would have died off a millennium or more ago.

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  51. Instead of cutting the milk crate to the size of the outside of the bucket, let it sit on top of the bucket while still being supported by the legs to prevent wobble.
    Also, a trash bag liner will make things a lot more sanitary,.. and if you would like, hang a toilet paper holder on the side of the milk crate.
    Great article…

    • I guess the milk crate does the job but the “Loveable Loo” design in “The Humanure Handbook” by Joe Jenkins not only is much better looking but is easy and economical to build. Jenkins provides complete plans in his book or will sell you one ready made.

      BTW, the ordinary trash bags I see around these parts probably won’t compost well – you’ll have to buy compostable bags. When we started using our sawdust toilet/compost bin system we thought using the compostable bags would be “neater.” After we discovered that the bags themselves leak a bit, necessitating a thorough cleaning of the bucket anyway, we don’t use the bags any longer. Besides the bags cost half a buck each!

  52. Folks, using fresh, potable water to flush a valuable resource down an expensive toilet, through expensive pipes to an expensive sewage “treatment” facility and then on back into the ground or river, lake or ocean, just makes NO SENSE either fiscally or environmentally.

    With much of the world ready to go to war for a supply of drinkable water, WE just flip the lever and not only waste the water but the feces & urine in it. What we call “waste” is NOT waste – it’s a valuable resource which can so easily and cheaply be recycled even in urban areas. I’ve read where enlightened communities actually PAY to pick up buckets of the stuff from households because it is all composted and sold at a great profit.

    We, in the “west,” will all be peeing and pooing in sawdust buckets whether we want to or not… pretty much the day AFTER we turn the tap and nothing comes out. And if we keep wasting water as we do today, this dry tap day isn’t that far in the future.

    BTW, the septic tank systems we pay many thousands to have installed and maintained in rural areas are really not much better for the water table quality than just the old stinking outhouse. No, to recycle pee and poo is the ONLY intelligent way to deal with it. And to collect it in a bucket and compost it in a small, enclosed odorless compost bin outside is such a simple, no-brainer to accomplish. I wonder how long it will take before this sinks into the mass consciousness?

    • Give the hysterics a rest.

      We can thank flush toilets and sewage treatment plants for an end to cholera in the West.

      And we waste far, far more water on irrigating lawns than on toilets.

    • And your point is, Skeptical?

      Flush toilets, I’m sure, had a role to play in improving hygiene which, in turn, had a role to play in our incidence of disease. But a “role” is only a part… and you know it. So why imply that it is the whole story?

      And since when does how much water we waste, and by what method we waste it, become a pissing contest? Going “sawdust” certainly isn’t the answer for all 7+ billion people. I don’t know what is. So I’ll await your solution… unless you don’t have one except that we continue doing what we’re doing until there is not enough potable water left to meet our needs and then try to solve the problem.

    • Sorry Mr Sceptic but wile cholora is spread by poorly disposed human waste we are not proposing dumping it into rivers or other water bodies that could be used for drinking water. By composting human waste all the pathogens that may be in it is killed so it is not a problem. Besides you would need an infected person to bring cholora into the household and being that it is a particularly nasty desiase I would suspect the homeowner would be aware that the waste is contaminated and should be disposed of in a safe manner…ie incinerating

    • Skeptical Inquirer, just FYI, what really brought an end to cholera in the west was the re-naming game the government did both with that disease and Typhoid Fever into a whole lot of other little diseases as they further learned that different strains of harmful bacteria caused remarkably similar symptoms that were all originally under the generalized umbrella terms of cholera and typhoid.

  53. Our family has a remote cabin with no running water or eletricity. There is an out-house with a bucket of lime for odors. I, however dont like to treck out there, especialy at night. My parents happened to have a bedside potty chair they weren’t using,so voile! Instant indoor toilet. I have tried numerous methods of disposal, from kitty litter with and without bag, bag only, no bag (yuk), to my current solution. I use the grey water from our hand washing station to dilute #1 and #2 in the drywall bucket I use with the potty chair. Whenever the pan with the wash water gets too full, I just empty it in the bucket. The bucket gets emptied once or twice a day. Sometimes I add a drop or two of pine sol to the water for “freshness”. I feel this method makes a good use of the the grey wash water.

  54. You can also use plastic bags in the bucket.when done pull out bag and tie in a knot threw in trash.

    • Robert… I think you might be missing the main point of composting humanure which is to conserve and recycle a valuable resource while saving potable water, and helping to prevent pollution in the water table below us.

      Just throwing a bag full of poo into the trash isn’t accomplishing much other than to gross out the garbage people when/if it breaks. Besides, I don’t think it’s legal to dispose of human feces and urine in the household garbage. If it is, it shouldn’t be. Raw human feces is not something to be carelessly handled.

  55. This sounds like a good idea but I am puzzeled. Where do you get all the saw dust from?

    • Ask any saw mill or cabinet maker ang you will likely be able to get as much as you want.

    • I get ours free from a local sawmill. I also found a source from a facility that makes pallets. If you have neither of those close by, try looking in the Yellow Pages under Woodworking – phone those companies – if they don’t have any, they might know who does in your area.

      Sawdust, as with most everything else, can get complicated. For example, the sawdust from the pallet manufacturer is almost as powdery and dry as flour; the stuff from the sawmill is coarse and wet. The sawdust I produce in my shop falls somewhere inbetween. Too dry and you use a lot. Too wet and it doesn’t absorb much pee and you have a pail of slop. So I mix them. As Jenkins, I think, stated… it’s part science and part art.

      As for how much will you need? We find we use about 1/2 – 3/4 of a bucket of sawdust per bucket of “production.”

      Sawdust toilets & the composting are for sure a bit more trouble than the just “push the lever” systems. But for those who care about the environment, want to save a bundle of money and have the ability to physically move the buckets around, and a small area for the compost bins, it’s sure worth the effort. Guess it won’t work if you live on the 20th floor of a downtown highrise. I don’t know what those folk will do when the water runs out… as it is sure to do someday.

  56. milk crate toilet is a great idea, will try making one myself for our cabin at Mangawhai NZ.

  57. Yo, don’t do this in Pennsylvania. I got my kids taken away by cps for this and this alone.

    • Please provide more info because this is the very first instance I’ve ever seen or heard that “authorities” removed children from a home for the single reason that the home was using a properly set up and maintained “sawdust toilet” system as described by The Humanure Handbook.

      There’s a lot more to this story.

      PS I believe Joe Jenkins, the author of The Humanure Handbook, lives in Pennsylvania, raised his family there, and still operates his household on “sawdust toilets” after more than 35 years.

    • ok more info. I live in new castle pa. CPS was called by anonymous person to my home because I did not have a functioning (regular toilet). Cps came to my home unannounced and I let them in. they proceeded to take close up pictures of this toilet and showed them to a judge who ordered the kids be taken to a relatives house but I don’t have any willing or able relatives so they were taken to foster care. because of inadequate living conditions even though the rest of my house was normal in every way! I had to take parenting classes and counseling for 6 months. Don’t believe me? I DONT CARE!

    • because I am just warning people to be careful! Call your local CPS and ask them if using a bucket for a toilet will be ok with them. HAHAHA There is no way they will reply yes!

    • Replying to smith re local regulators denying permission to use a “bucket toilet.”

      There are many jurisdictions – Province of Nova Scotia, Canada as just one example – are really BIG on composting humanure. They realize how valuable a resource it is and how completely foolish the majority are for calling it “waste” and treating it as garbage. That said, I’m sure there some local “authorities” who would turn thumbs down on the idea. First, because they have NO understanding of the process, and second, because there’s absolutely NO PROFIT in it for their friends who retail high priced toilets, septic systems, plumbing, etc. ANY solution to a “problem” that can’t be maximized into a huge profit is automatically nixed by many ignornant “authorities.” (A very wise Minister of Health once said “You make a fundamental error to assume that those put in authority over us actually know what they hell they’re doing.” Just because an “authority” says “no” doesn’t mean that you must agree and fall in line like some zombie. Do your research. Learn the FACTS from reliable, knowledgeable sources who have NO PROFIT to gain from their conclusions, and THEN decide for yourself whether to use a “bucket toilet” makes sense, common and financial. If you conclude it’s much wiser to invest upwards of $10,000 on a septic system which essentially does the exactly same thing only wastes a huge amount of drinkable water in the process, and threatens to pollution the drinking water to boot, then YOU are part of the problem.

    • Second reply to smith after reading “CPS was called by anonymous person to my home because I did not have a functioning (regular toilet). Cps came to my home unannounced and I let them in. they proceeded to take close up pictures of this toilet and showed them to a judge who ordered the kids be taken to a relatives house…

      This is what I suspected happened. A flush toilet is something any simpleton and understand and operate. Poo and flush. And don’t give it another thought. To operate a “bucket toilet” is every bit as simple, but the “another thought” part of it requires some education and understanding. The “toilet” is just “Part One” of a two part system – like expoxy glue. One part alone simply won’t accomplish the job. Pooing into the bucket and covering with sawdust is just Part One. Part Two MUST include depositing the contents of that bucket into a COMPOST BIN of some sort, etc. Unless BOTH parts are taken into consideration, whatever conclusions are drawn by CPS (which I assume means “Child Protection Services” are completely erroneous. To repeat… just pooing into a bucket and then dumping the contents outside somewhere SHOULD BE OUTLAWED by “authorities.” It’s hazardous and just plain stupid. If you had a system in place where the contents of a properly maintained “bucket” were deposited into a properly maintained “compost” heap, then only an ignorant bureaucrat would deny this as a proper and safe disposition of humanure. If you allowed ignorant bureaucrats to photograph a bucket without any understanding of this process, then, of course, your children would have been apprehended (caused to move). As an MSW social worker, I Would have issued that order myself. There is a sensible and completely safe way to collect and compost humanure, and there are dozens of ways to screw it up. Offering a picture to a judge of poo in a bucket without any explanation of the process, is GUARANTEED to get your children apprehended. Do it right and there’s absolutely no problem (unless, of course, if you include that those selling high priced toilets and septic systems don’t get to pocket YOUR money.)

    • All those reasons are why I did it. But local CPS assumed it must be because I am a lazy neglectful parent! I cant help it that the gov doesn’t know what they are doing!

    • in reply to your second part… I live on a 9 acre farm and we had a compost bin in the center of the property… all proper!

    • Again a reply to smith – no, you can’t take responsibility for the fact that those in authority know what they’re doing. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to outsmart them, since they’re usually not that smart. They’re government bureaucrats, after all. As I said in an earlier post, DO NOT ASSUME THAT THOSE IN AUTHORITY KNOW WHAT THE HELL THEY’RE DOING… because they don’t. That leaves us with a bit of a problem – THEY have the guns, we don’t. So, we must arrange things so it looks to them that we’re playing the game, while doing our own thing. It’s a game. Learn the rules. Collecting humanure and composting is not only COMPLETELY SAFE it is environmentally responsible and a hell of a lot cheaper. Unless you live in a high rise in midtown, with no access to land or sawdust, then the sawdust toilet described in these postings is the sensible way to go. If you do live in a high rise, then I don’t know how to help you. You’re stuck… and god help you if the power ever goes out, permanently. (And it will.)

  58. have used a poo bucket for four years. We use poo bags bought from local sporting goods store and use multi-cat litter for control of wet and smell orders while camping. I also put 3 inches sakrete in the bottom of the bucket for wobble control. Milk Cret great idea for looks.

  59. OR save all that trouble and pick up an invalid toilet at a yard sale for 10 bucks! Wow! That was a lot of trouble for nothing! We have one in our storm shelter! And…um not sawdust! LIME! Lime will keep the odor down and speed the decay of the waste! It’s what we used “back in the day” when we had an actual “outhouse!”

    • Queena Knox… apologies if I’m sounding like a cheerleader but, in my view, you’re almost missing the entire point of using a sawdust toilet to produce humanure.

      1. What you call “waste” is anything but. It’s a valuable resource. A little patience and a very little effort, and you recycle stuff that most people use drinking water to flush into a sewer and then back into their drinking water. If this makes sense to you, then I’m wasting my time.

      2. Lime has no role to play in composting poo and pee into a rich fertilizer. The microbes are already in the excrement and ready to do the job for you. Why do you just want to kill them with lime?

      We humans cannot continue to WASTE valuable drinking water and valuable raw resources as we are doing. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    • Queena: you don’t need lime if you keep the pee out of the outhouse/ loo/ dry toilet. The poop dries out on its own, esp if covered in sawdust / wood shavings.

      And if you don’t feel like composting it, you don’t have to – just throw it in the dumpster. Or if your town has composting / green trash cans, use a biodegradable bag to line your sawdust toilet, and then the whole thing goes into the green bin. They normally compost it for a year anyway.

    • Julie, and others, you best check the regulations on your aria if your going to toss the waste into garbage or municiple recycling. Some jurisdictions may be fine with it but others are not. If you are not composting on your own make sure you are not violating any local regulations. For example were I live the disposal of human waste is regulated by the local health department and since we compost the sewage sludge from our waste water lagoon the sludge pile has to be a minimum of 200 ft from any body of water, river or stream, 200 ft from any dwelling and 100 ft from our property line. Our house is on a 5 acre yard and we own the property on three sides so we have no problem complying with this regulation.
      As for anyone wondering why I have an interest in this site it’s because our sewer lagoon froze to the bottom one year (combination of very dry summer and very cold winter) and we had to find an alternative. The Humanure toilet is a great thing to have in an emergency, it can be washed and put away when not needed and put into use in a matter of minutes when needed. Since the by products are completely compostable (and we are big fans of composting) it is a win/win solution.

    • They are talking about the camping bags Walmart and others sell for camping toilets that contain chemicals to “make the stuff safe to dispose” in the trash can. Without those chemicals, etc you will likely be exposing your trash collectors and communities unnecessarily to the little microbe vectors that Skeptical Inquirer was wring his/her hands about in other posts. Do read the book before you hurt someone.

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  61. I would also suggest two more things:

    1) Separating the wet from the dry(er) waste is key, esp re: smell. Pee should not go in the dry toilet. Use any other technique of your choosing – plenty of options/ ideas online.

    2)Line the toilet with a bag first, to make cleaning a lot easier and more pleasant. I suggest a biodegradable one (if composting) – or even a regular plastic bag (if throwing into a dumpster or trash can.) Easy-peasy.

    • I really don’t know what you’re talking about, Julie. In the first place, if you are composting, the pee, or at least some liquid, is REQUIRED. The microbes don’t “walk” around – they “swim.” Jenkins strongly suggests you poo and pee IN the toilet. We do. And have NO smell whatsoever, so, as I said, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

      Cleaning a bucket is a complete no brainer. We just dump the contents into the compost pile, spritz the inside of the tilted bucket with water from a garden hose to rinse away whatever has remained, add a drop or two of dish soap, add a little more water, another few swished with a toilet bowl brush or something similar, one more quick spritz of plain water, and it’s clean as a whistle ready for refilling.

      If you use a bag, you’ll find you have to do everything above anyway because whatever bag you use will inevitably leak a bit making it necessary to wash the bucket.

      We CANNOT continue to “throw it in the dumpster.” Have you ever been to a garbage dump? As far as eye can see are mountains of garbage from humans who just throw everything “in the dumpster.” This is the real WASTE of valuable resources and those who think we can just carry on as we have been doing are fooling themselves… and are trying to fool everyone else.
      We all will either voluntarily find alternatives to this utter and foolish waste of non-renewable resources or we will be forced to. Your choice.

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  64. I have 58 acres off grid. Sawdust toilets are approved by the state as well as encouraged. I found an old bedside commode chair that I painted, added the 5 gallon bucket (slides right in) and replaced the seat. WORKS WONDERFULLY, without smell, and teaches everyone to put the lid back down when you’re done.

    The best bet is to have three buckets with lids. Fill the first two 1/2 to 3/4 full, place the third bucket in place, then haul the two out to your compost (away from camp, cabin) dig a hole, hold your breath, dump, cover, breathe.

    We also don’t put TP into this system, rather it goes in a trash bag located next to the sawdust toilet, then burned or buried later. Great idea using the crate, but as you said, they’re someone else’s property.

    • The only odor I can smell from our compost bin resembles new mown hay. There’s really no reason other than esthetic to place it “away from camp, cabin.” The further from the sawdust toilet the further you have to haul the heavy buckets. We must have heavy gravity around our place – each bucket weights around 40lbs – and carrying 80lbs more than a few feet is more than my rickety frame can safely handle.

      The toilet paper, BTW, just disappears. No need in our place for separation.

      Update on the sawdust we use. The local sawmill produces coarse, wet sawdust which is actually too wet to use. I mean, part of the purpose of the sawdust is to absorb some of the liquid. When it’s already soaking wet there’s not much absorbing being done. Fortunately, also nearby, is a pallet-making operation and they have lots of extremely fine and dry sawdust. I just get equal amounts from each location and mix them. Absolutely perfect for cover. And free. And clean. And smells great.

    • My place is in the backwoods of the mountains of NW New Mexico, Cibola County, along the chain of craters. I travel often, so have become used to NOT putting TP into my blackwater tank, so it continues at the ranch as well.

      Also, if you know of any wood shops (cabinet makers) they’re always willing to donate their sawdust. I’ll be collecting a few barrels when I get back home as I’m planning on building a Hogan in Cordwood Construction (stackwood) and the ‘insulation’ is made up of lime and sawdust.

    • I figured you were in New Mexico. It’s the best place for experimental architecture/living arrangements! Also beautiful. I once took the train to Chicago–the stretch through New Mexico was really amazing. I saw a lot of interesting houses out the window.

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  70. I have used a “bucket port-a-potty” in my van for many, many years. When I travel, I “van camp” with my dogs. I do not count on having “facilities” available where I need to stop and rest. If you are traveling, and are not composting, here is a tip for you, my additions have *’s in front of them:

    Moving the Spacer

    The last step is to move the spacer on the bottom of the lid, so that it does not hit the top of the bucket. Pop it out with a knife or chisel, drill another hole, and reposition.

    *Pour a box of baking soda into the bottom of the bucket.

    *Line the bucket with a double-layer of garbage bags. Put the crate with the toilet lid on top of the bucket.

    Your humanure toilet is now done and ready for use. Simply lift the crate off the bucket when it comes time to empty the contents. Follow the detailed instructions on Joseph Jenkin’s website to learn how to properly compost human waste.

    This way, heat/condensation is no longer a problem between the bags and the bucket, and you don’t have to figure out how to clean the bucket. I’ve been known to dispose of the double-bags, each tightly closed, then taped shut, in dumpsters at Rest Areas. This way, no human hands will touch the bags, nor the contents.

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  77. One way to kill pathogens and doesn’t take 2 years. Pee in one bucket, poop in another. Pee can be diluted, then used immediately. Ferment poop using bokashi (bokashi means “fermented organic waste”). It will be ready to spread in a matter of weeks. How many weeks depends on the weather.

    • I’m not sure if this is wise. Composting is not just to remove pathogens and turn waste into mulch but also to break down drugs and hormones that people tend to overuse these days.

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