Our Blog
Help your community become healthy, happy and eco-friendly

Sawdust Toilets - The ultimate guideWe’re often contacted by customers who are interested in finding out more about sawdust toilets – how they work, if they’re safe for their families, if they can build one themselves and most commonly, what to do if a sawdust toilet starts to smell.

Before we dive into answering these questions it’s worth noting that there’s a few different types of sawdust toilets available. We’re going to separate these variances so you know what type of toilet we’re talking about in the article.

Types of Sawdust Toilets

The 5 gallon Sawdust Toilet

This is probably the simplest format of this type of sawdust toilet and as the name suggests it’s simply a 5 gallon bucket (or 20 litre bucket if you’re using metric) that is used as the receptacle for your toilet.

There’s a few variations of these sawdust toilets ranging from a simple toilet seat on a bucket (we’ve even seen one with a pool noodle around the top of the bucket to act as the seat!), through to elaborate setups that include a surrounding box and seat.

Below are some images to give you a few ideas:-

DIY Sawdust Toilet

Now if you’re like many of us in the Ecoflo office you like to give things a shot to ‘see if you can do it’. If you’re one of these types of people there’s a good chance that you may like to try making your own sawdust toilet from materials you have lying around or cheap / recycled material you can pick up from garage sales, yard sales, second hand stores or recycling centres.

If you’re the type of person that likes webpages with images and how to's or downloadable plans, here’s a few to at least get you started.

Great websites with instructions and resources

Humanure’s - Humanure Toilet

Appropedia’s - How to make and use a sawdust toilet

The Permaculture Research Institute’s - Building a basic Composting Toilet

Compost Junkie’s - Composting Toilet Plans

Downloadable PDFs

An Unsolicited Design Review of Composting Toilets & Composting Methods

Composting and Sawdust Toilets

Build your own waterless composting toilet

Design Examples Of Waterless Composting Toilets

Self Build Compost Toilet In A Few Easy Steps

And if you really want to check out all the different types and plans for the different toilet systems, there’s always the amazing ‘A Collection of Contemporary Toilet Designs’.

Ready-made sawdust toilets or composting toilets

For those of us who can’t or aren’t very good at DIY you might need to purchase a ready to use composting toilet system. These have many advantages as they can be easily installed, delivered to your door and won’t have you cursing and swearing when you cut the wood to the wrong length or nail your finger to the lid (if you’re anything like me).

Ecoflo has a range of products available on our website so feel free to look around at our sawdust toilets and contact us if you're interested.

How they’re used

Sawdust toilets are used like any other toilet, but the real difference is in the process that takes place underneath. From the outside they can look like a conventional toilet but in essence they are a composting toilet underneath.

The big difference with the sawdust toilet is that you don't flush away any of the waste. It sits in a receptacle underneath the seat and you add sawdust (and other organic material, but we will get to that later in the article) to the pile to assist with the composting process. Finally when the compost is broken down enough it turns into a usable product that resembles a rich topsoil.

How they work

A sawdust toilet or composting toilet works similar to an ordinary compost bin you may find in a garden. Waste is put into the receptacle and other elements are added (such as wood shavings, sawdust, grass clippings, etc) and a composting process takes place to break down waste and other materials to create a rich humus like topsoil that can be used in your garden.

The three elements of a compost toilet

There are three main elements that help to break down the waste and garden material that you add to the chamber:-

  1. There's bacteria which can be broken into mesophilic bacteria and thermophilic bacteria.
  2. Then there's actinobacteria. These guys help to regulate the overall health of your compost pile.
  3. The third elements are fungi and moulds that help to ramp up the compost process and really start breaking things down.

The four stages of a compost toilet

All these elements combine together to create a compost pile that will go through four different stages:-

  1. The first is the mesophilic phase where microorganisms will break down the compost and start to reproduce and spread across the compost pile.
  2. Second is a thermophilic phase. This is where the compost pile start to heat up another complex elements from garden waste, sawdust, newspaper, leaves, etc will help to keep the pile going.
  3. Third is the cooling phase. This is where some of the fungi and moulds will start to break everything down into a finer richer topsoil like product.
  4. The fourth and final stage is the curing. Like a good wine or cheese you need to sit back and let the composting process take it's course. Allow the compost to reach its full maturity before you put it on any of your gardens.

How you can buy a sawdust toilet

There are many different ways to buy sawdust toilets but by far the easiest way is to make an enquiry through our website. We would be more than happy to chat with you via phone or email about the composting toilet requirements for your home, village or community.

What type of sawdust can be used

Technically you can use pretty much any type of sawdust organic material on your composting toilet but you want to be careful in avoiding woods that may have pesticides or chemicals added to them. If you use a sawdust that has been treated, this may impact on the usability of the compost on your garden down the track.

In saying that, any fine organic material for work incredibly well. We have customers that use coffee grinds, rice hulls, leaves from the gardens, straw, hay, grass clippings and all manner of vegetation from around their properties and homes.

The real trick is finding the balance between a wet and dry pile. Too much organic material can turn your pile into a sloppy mess. Too little and you may find that the composting process isn't working as well as it should.

What to do if they smell or there’s an odour

There’s a wide range of advice and processes you can use to eliminate smells in your sawdust toilet. Here’s a few our customers have said worked for them:-

  • make sure your sawdust is slightly moist so it creates a layer on the top of your waste
  • using a semi dry clay like soil to cover the waste
  • adding ash from your fireplace to the sawdust
  • lining the bucket with newspaper every time you use the bathroom
  • simply empty the bucket more often
  • adding a layer of peat after using the bathroom
  • adding a small amount of livestock manure to help with the composting process
  • adding a light spray of water to the sawdust each time you use the bathroom
  • using a separate bucket for urine

So that’s our ultimate guide to sawdust and composting toilets. Would you like to contact us? We’re happy to help where we can. You can get a hold of us via our contact form on our website or through Facebook.