How to Make a Compost Toilet

Written by: Jamie

Updated on: June 18, 2019

Reduce your strain on the planet by making your very own composting toilet. In today’s article, we outline the steps you need to take to get started.


There are many things you can do to help protect the planet for future generations – some of them you probably do every day already. Reducing your energy usage, recycling and donating your money and time to environmental charities are all great; but have you heard of compost toilet systems?

If you’re picturing a compost heap, you’re not a million miles away, but a modern compost toilet looks like any other toilet – except it doesn’t have a flush, which significantly reduces your water usage. Best of all, with a little DIY knowledge and plenty of initiative you can make your own compost toilet.

Learn more about how a compost toilet works, how to install one yourself, plus its benefits and drawbacks, so you can make an informed decision about your own bathroom arrangement.

How Does it Work?

A compost toilet system works differently from a traditional toilet: there is no flush function. Rather than having water wash away your waste, a compost toilet, unsurprisingly, turns it to compost.

Human excrement has long been used as a fertilizer, and these modern-day compost toilets make the most out of something which would otherwise be disposed of, as well as being a great way to reduce your water consumption.

Much like the compost heap you might have in your garden, a compost toilet contains carbon-rich materials for helping the waste to break down. These materials include wood chippings, leaves, and other garden waste. There are two main types of compost toilet:

  • Continuous / single composters: these have a single compartment where the waste falls and is collected continuously.
  • Double / batch composters: these have 2+ compartments: one compartment receives the waste; the other stores the resulting compost for some time.

The composting works with the help of an electric heater or fan, an exhaust system, and an access door for removing the compost.

You can take a closer look at how it works in this guide.

So, what exactly are the benefits to having a compost toilet in your home, and are there any notable drawbacks?


  • Saves you significant money on your annual water bill
  • Reduces the amount of water you use is good for the planet
  • Has the option to use sustainable power sources, such as solar panels
  • Affordable installation – a compost toilet is much cheaper to install than a traditional toilet (but expensive to purchase)
  • Inexpensive to run – once installed, you won’t need to spend much more money
  • Hardly any smell – if used correctly (by separating liquids and solids) there is practically no smell from a compost toilet.
  • Spatially efficient – they’re built for use in tight spaces


  • They’re expensive
  • Needs to be emptied regularly
  • Requires a small amount of energy to run
  • Your home may not be viable for compost toilet installation
  • If you use it incorrectly, there might be a smell
  • They’re not always the best looking 

Make Your Own DIY Compost Toilet

If you’ve made the decision to install a compost toilet in your home, that’s great news. You can buy an industry-made compost toilet, or you can save yourself money and build one yourself!

Here’s everything you need to know about making a DIY compost toilet. If you’re just trying out a composting toilet for the first time, you might want to install one in an outhouse first and see how you do.

Do You Need Experience?

Installing a basic compost toilet is not a complicated or difficult process, and you don’t need to be a highly experienced DIY homeowner to give it a go.

What You’ll Need

All of these can be picked up from your local home store or bought online.

  • Plywood
  • Four 2-by-4 blocks of wood (for the stand)
  • Saw
  • Two gallon bucket or container with handles (approx 5 gallons each)
  • Toilet seat
  • Cover material (e.g. sawdust)
  • Eight Screws
  • Drill

Making the Compost Toilet

Step 1: Draw around one of the buckets on one piece of the plywood. Saw a circular hole the same size as the bucket.

Step 2: Place the toilet seat on top of the hole you’ve just made. Drill holes for where the toilet seat screws will go.

Step 3: Attach the four 2-by-4 blocks to each corner of the plywood, making legs that your toilet will stand on.

Step 4: Using the hardware that came with the toilet seat, affix it to the plywood.

Step 5: Put one of the buckets or containers under the toilet seat. Pour in 5 inches of the cover material and you’re ready to start using your compost toilet!

Note: Ideally, you want two separate bins for the solid and liquid waste. Keeping the solids relatively dry will help to limit the odor and allow the compost to form more easily.

How to Use Your Compost Toilet

You can use a compost toilet the same way you would a normal one – except you don’t flush. Every time you finish using the toilet, sprinkle over some of your composting material (usually sawdust, dried leaves or other garden waste).

Ideally, you want to keep solid and liquid waste separate. That means two different waste bins.

How Often Should You Empty the Compost?

This varies from one toilet to another, but generally, you can leave the compost compartment for 3-4 weeks before emptying.

The liquid bin can be emptied more regularly as it will fill quickly.

Doesn’t the Compost Smell?

If used the correct way, a compost loo should have little to no odor. It’s important that you learn to use your toilet properly in order to avoid an unpleasant smell. The easiest way to ensure this is to keep the liquids separate from the solids. This can be achieved by sitting down when urinating and, if necessary, installing a separate urinal for men.


Installing a compost toilet in your house, whether it’s readymade or you built it yourself, is a fantastic way to go the extra mile for our planet. As well as being easy on your conscience, it’s easy on your wallet, leaving you with more money to decorate the rest of your home.

About the Author Jamie

I'm an English teacher and writer. I'm passionate about the environment and love the tiny house movement!

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