The Perfect Tiny House Composting Toilet

Four years ago, before going tiny, I never thought I’d write a blog post about a toilet – let alone a composting toilet. Yet now I’m so comfortable discussing compost, toilets, and human waste… it’s a little scary! So, here we go. I’m going to tell you why my toilet is the best tiny house composting toilet, with all the dirty details.

Tiny House Composting ToiletMy Tiny House Composting Toilet

My tiny house is outfitted with a Nature’s Head composting toilet. I read the Humanure Handbook by Joseph C. Jenkins and watched dozens of online videos reviewing different composting options. I ended up choosing the Nature’s Head because it’s: 1). Self-contained, 2). Compact, and 3). Proven to be odor free.

How Does it Work?

Video Credit: Gone with the Wynns

Nature’s Head has two chambers – one for solid waste, and one for liquid waste. When urinating, you simply sit down on the toilet and do your business (fellas, you must sit as well). All liquids are directed into the two holes leading to the liquid waste chamber.

THGJ Nature's Head Top

When…. ahem, making a solid waste deposit, you open a trap door via a lever on the side of the toilet which allows you to go #2 into the solids chamber. Toilet paper goes into this chamber as well. I use RV one-ply toilet paper because it breaks down faster than regular toilet paper. After making a solid waste deposit, close the chamber and stir the waste using the hand crank on the side of the toilet.

What keeps it odor free?

By keeping the solid waste separate from the liquid waste, the solids remain dry and less smelly.  Nature’s Head has a 12 volt fan constantly aerating the solid waste chamber, and this little fan helps to further dry out the contents of this chamber. By stirring the solids chamber daily with the hand crank, the solid waste mixes with dehydrated peat moss, which you place inside the toilet before first use.

The liquid waste, or urine, can become smelly if not emptied every few days. You can dilute the liquid waste chamber by adding water, but this will cause you to empty this chamber more often.

How often do you have to empty it?

Video Credit: Tiny SIP House

Watch the above video for full details on emptying and refilling the Nature’s Head.

With one person using the Nature’s Head full time, I empty the liquid waste every 3-4 days and the solid waste every 12-16 weeks. The solid waste chamber is rated for approximately 90 uses, so you can do the math for your particular family/situation.

And no, when you empty the solid’s chamber, it doesn’t smell or look nasty. It looks like dirt!

Where do you empty it?

I use one of two options for emptying the solid waste chamber:

1). Bag the contents in a biodegradable trash bag and toss it in the dumpster. This is no different than tossing a diaper in the trash. In fact, it’s less wasteful because my biodegradable trash bag will decompose MUCH faster than a diaper.

2). Empty the contents into a compost tumbler. I also toss food scraps, paper scraps, dried leaves, cardboard, and peat moss in my compost tumbler and turn it once a day. So far the contents are decomposing nicely – no odors or infestations. One day, I plan on reusing the fully composted contents in a flower bed or lawn.

For the liquid waste, I either dilute it enough so that it is safe to pour on vegetation (the nitrogen is actually good for your lawn when diluted), or I flush it down the toilet at a rest stop or campground.

Art Cormier parks his tiny house on a piece of land. He empties his solids chamber into a DIY backyard compost tumbler. More info in the video below:

Water Conservation

“With the average person flushing five times a day, toilets make up about 31% of overall household water consumption.” – Home Water Works

One of the major advantages to using a compost toilet over a flush toilet is water conservation. The average low-flush toilet uses 1.6 gallons of water for every flush. If you take this statistic into consideration, we save 16 gallons of water a day (5,840 gallons a year) by using a compost toilet! With my 46 gallon fresh water tank, that’s a substantial amount of water savings.

Of course, RV flush toilets use less water than household toilets, but they also come with the task of emptying the dreaded black water tank. Through my discussions with RV owners – and, yes, we talk about toilets – I’m told a 40-gallon black water tank will last two people about 8-10 days. Compared to my tiny house composting toilet, that sounds like a lot of dumping! Not to mention two other downfalls of black water systems: extra water weight and the need for toxic chemicals (required to flush out the system). Also, black water reeks!

A Silent Advantage

Aside from the positives I’ve already talked about (less maintenance, less smell, easy installation, and water savings) my tiny house composting toilet has one other advantage over the RV flush toilet – it’s virtually silent! Without water, there are no revealing tinkling, splashing or flushing sounds!

Maybe this is something only tiny housers will understand, but in less that 200 square feet, a silent toilet is a luxurious form of privacy.

Guess what? This tiny house composting toilet won’t wake up your partner if you need to go in the middle of the night! Something I never considered before going tiny, but now, I’m thankful for my quiet toilet.

tiny house composting toiletAfter Two and a Half Years of Use

After 2+ years of using the Nature’s Head composting toilet, I have no complaints. In fact, is it weird to say we’ve actually become good at using it? I’ve perfected my ratio (amount of peat moss versus the amount of stirring), so that the solids chamber is in top notch condition. It took a few months to get used to the system, but now, I’m a professional.

Other Tiny Housers Using the Nature’s Head:

Purchase the Nature’s Head Composting Toilet!!

tiny house composting toilet

Full disclosure: If you purchase a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet through my links, I will get a small percentage, with no extra cost to you. I do really believe in this product, and I would promote it with or without an incentive. That being said, having partnerships with products I love helps me keep this blog going. Thank you for understanding.

40 thoughts on “The Perfect Tiny House Composting Toilet”

  1. Wonder if someone sells a urinal similiar to the ones in a rental outhouse. I wouldn’t think they’d take much room. Might want to have a way to rinse afterward, maybe plumb in a water line or use a squeeze bottle of water. Guys would appreciate it.

  2. You mention that there is a constant fan running — I assume this is an electric fan? Would it still be “not smelly” in a home without power — meaning, without a fan? Thanks!

    1. The fan runs on a 12 volt battery. As long as you have some power – a small battery bank from solar or similar, you shouldn’t have any trouble running this fan. Otherwise, it can get stinky if not stirred daily.

  3. Would you ever alter your toilet?
    Like instead of the pee bucket, connect a pipe from the liquid opening directly to your grey water system?

  4. Where do you purchase biodegradable bags/liners? we have no running water so we use the lovable loo, but the bags we have bought seem to be 100 year biodegradable :/

  5. Jenna, thank you so much for the videos and continued chronicling of your Tiny House Giant Journey!! Your guidance is extremely helpful. My wife and I recently joined the Tiny House movement and are basically just fumbling our way through it all. Due to some health issues with my parents, we decided to move a small cabin into their backyard to be closer to them. We bought one of those ready-made cabins / portable sheds popular in many south eastern states. Ours is a 10’x18′ (4′ front porch) with two lofts. It was unfinished inside with just framing when we bought it. We’ve run power and water to it, and now I’m trying to figure out getting the water inside and how to handle gray / black water removal. Again, your videos are so helpful with all of this. On the Nature’s Head composting toilet…are there different models, or do I just search for Nature’s Head? I saw one on Amazon for around $960. Just wondering which one ya’ll went with and if there are any better prices out there. Thank you again for helping us newbies through the (tiny) process!!! Take care…

  6. Sherry, I have severe stomach issues and IBS and this Nature’s Head toilet works fine for us.We do better changing it one a week, or every two weeks at the most for two people(that is using peat moss).We just started using coconut coir this week, ,so I will let you know how that goes(and I have no control over the liquids sometimes being mixed in with the solids at times when I can barely make it to the bathroom).

  7. This may be too personal, but it seems no tiny houses who use compost toilets ever mention it…how does the toilet handle when a woman is on her monthly cycle? And are there special precautions or procedures to take that’s diff then normal use during these times?

  8. OK…this is really gross, but here goes. I have Crohn’s disease. Most BM’s are diarrhea. Would this be a feasible toilet? (You said you’ve gotten comfortable taking about poo…LOL)

    1. Ha, we are comfortable indeed and I’m sorry to hear about your situation. To be perfectly honest, if I remember well in the “instructions,” there is a section about diarrhea (and vomiting). Basically, the toilet is capable of handling some amount of those conditions, but if I remember well, there was something written along the lines of “if your condition continues, you should see a doctor before worrying about the toilet.”
      I think your best bet would be to contact Nature’s Head directly to ask about this.
      Best of luck.

  9. Met you guys in SF last year and enjoy following you on Instagram. I am renovating a 28 ft Streamline trailer to live in for awhile and have been procrastinating on the black water tank. It’s just nasty in every way. Since I need to buy a new toilet anyway, I had been considering a composting. I am so glad I read this! I’m sold. I’ve used them several times on airbnb farms and was impressed. Is it weird I am so excited about a toilet? I am just happy to have a better solution than a tank. Thanks so much! 🙂

  10. This feels very indelicate to ask but is there any other necessary cleaning of the bowl after a messy…deposit? If so, how do you handle that?

    1. Ha, honestly you get good at “hole in one”… But if it does get messy, the material the bowl is made of is pretty slippery, usually some little waters squirts will do the trick or a little bit of extra toilet paper. It barely ever happens though…

  11. How does it compare to a flush toilet when you’re sticking your head into it during flu season or after a night of heavy drinking?

    1. Legit question. We haven’t had that many issues of the kind but basically it should be able to handle a “standard flu attack”. If the issue is persistent, you should probably worry more about seeing a doctor than how the toilet will handle it 😉

    2. There really are barf bags available for that kind of emergency. Or keep a few gallon sized zip lock bags in the bathroom and by the bed. You don’t have to handle every situation the way you would if you were in a house with a flush toilet.

    1. That’s a great question! We had originally plumbed our house for a flush toilet, just in case we don’t like compost. Well, turns out we’ve loved composting every since we’ve tried it… So now the piece of wood and plug you see is just decorative!

  12. Thank you! This is exactly the information I’ve been looking for and was actually going to write and ask you about. Not about the benefits of using a composting toilet or even how they work, but what to do with the waste when you’re on the road. I knew that you could dilute urine to a usable consistency for watering plants but I kept wondering about the solids. I never thought of equating it to a dirty baby diaper. But I do like the idea of a small compost tumbler. I’ve been wanting one for my balcony garden anyway. So again, that you very much for your very helpful and extremely entertaining blog. I enjoy it so much and have learned a great deal about going tiny and traveling.

  13. I love following the three of you as you share your adventures with us, thank you. After the toilet blog I was wondering how large your grey water tank is and how often do you have to empty it?

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