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Composting Toilets—How They Work & How To Install One

Dumping an RV's black tank is a pretty dirty job, and Mike Rowe doesn’t hang around campgrounds waiting to do it for you. What if we told you there was a way to eliminate the need for a black tank altogether? It's true! You can use a composting toilet instead that will actually eliminate the biohazard that results from waste and it's cleaner and easier to dump than a black tank! Here’s how composting toilets work and how to install one!

What Is a Composting Toilet and How Does It Work?

A composting toilet collects waste, separates the liquids from the solids, and stores them right there in small tanks that are connected to the toilet. By separating the liquids from the solids, the biohazard that’s created when they mix is eliminated. There’s no need for harsh chemicals and deodorizers either! The solid waste gets mixed up with sphagnum peat moss or coco coir, which then helps it break down the way nature intended. A composting toilet doesn't produce a smell, and you can use both tanks as fertilizer for plants!

Preparing the Toilet

When you receive your composting toilet, you’ll need to get your moss or coco coir ready first. They are initially dry and need to be turned into a soil-like state before they can go into the toilet. Otherwise they won’t work. To do this, simply put some in a bucket and gradually add water to it. Wearing gloves, mix the water into it until you have a soft, soil-like consistency. Then pour it into the back container of the toilet where the solids will go. Fill the tank to just below the agitator so there’s room for the solid waste.

Emptying the Toilet

Once the handle on the toilet starts to get hard to turn, you know it’s time to dump. Before you go to dump the solids, remove the liquid container. It’s best to have composting bags to put the waste in so that it can completely return to the earth. Pour the compost into the bag, tie it up, and put it in the dumpster!

When it comes to dumping the liquid tanks, you have a few options. Since it’s not mixed with the solids, it’s not toxic. You can either dump it into the gray tank or down into the sewer. It’s technically safe to dump right on the ground, however in some areas the laws still prohibit this so make sure you check before you do it.

Installing Your Composting Toilet

Installing a composting toilet is super easy, but if you’re not sure about doing it yourself, have an RV service center do it for you! These toilets don't use water, so there’s no plumbing involved. All you really have to do is set up the vent that helps keep the odors away. The vent will need power run to the fan on the toilet, and then the vent tube itself run to the outside of the RV. When you remove the current toilet, close up the water connections with drain and inlet plugs. If you want to install your composting toilet permanently, you can redo the flooring to cover the drain and place the toilet on top of it. If you think you may want to reinstall the original toilet at some point, say if you’re going to sell the RV some day, you can put a piece of wood where the original toilet was and set the composting toilet on top of it.

For a full tutorial, check out how Nikki and Jason from Gone With The Wynns did it!

Now that you have your toilet installed and you know how to set it up and dump it later, you can start saving water and enjoying not dumping a black tank! If you plan for a permanent installation, you can even convert your black tank to an extra gray tank so you can be out and about longer!

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