If you’ve been considering purchasing a composting toilet for a while there are probably many different questions you have about how they work, how they’re used and the hygiene of them. If you’re used to traditional flush toilets, it’s likely that in the past, you’ve not given much thought to your family’s waste and where it goes as it’s conveniently flushed away and you don’t really have to think about it any more.
By installing a composting toilet it not only changes your concept of waste, but it also makes you think about your footprint on the earth and how much you contribute to waste, the chemicals used to treat waste and grey water and the impact of this on the environment and our oceans.
Are composting toilets more hygienic than flush toilets?
This is a question we get asked a lot here at Nature-Loo as many customers are concerned about the perceived risks and hygiene implications of a composting toilet. Before we get into the different areas of hygiene and deal with these, it’s worth noting that for thousands of years humans have dealt with waste in a range of different ways. All of which end up with our waste going back into the earth to be part of the cycle we call life on planet Earth. By purchasing a composting toilet, you’re continuing this proud tradition of being closer to Mother Earth and turning what many people see as a useless by-product of the human condition into something that’s helping the environment and your gardens.
When you move to a composting toilet solution it’s important you move towards a more natural cleaning product made from natural enzymes as harsh, chemical-based cleaners will kill off all the good bacteria that are actually breaking down your compost pile. This means there are fewer chemicals like bleaches and acids making their way into our water systems and groundwater. By using a natural cleaning product you’re lessening your impact on the environment, but are they more hygienic, that’s the question?
Because of their unique design, composting toilets break down all the harmful pathogens within the compost pile, so if you’re concerned about that, following the appropriate instructions for your composting toilet will result in a top soil-like humus at the end of your curing period (curing is where you let the compost pile rest or ‘cure’ for a period of at least a month before use).
The cleaning products we sell at Nature-loo will help make sure your toilet is smelling fresh and is cleaned well without killing off the natural enzymes that help break down your composting pile. In terms of hygiene, this natural enzyme isn’t as effective at killing germs or bacteria as something like bleach is, but the thing to consider is that using a product like bleach will kill off EVERYTHING, including all the good bacteria that helps Mother Earth grow the plants we need for food and oxygen.
When it comes to flushing a traditional toilet, there are many different scientific exercises that definitively prove that flushing a toilet with the lid open (after doing a number two) does indeed throw fecal matter into the air which then makes its way around your bathroom, including… ew… your… ew… toothbrush!
Mythbusters have covered this in one of their experiments along with many other scientists conducting their own experiments. Since most models of composting toilets are what’s called a ‘dry toilet’ they don’t actually use any water so there’s no chance they’re going to throw fecal matter into the air (or what’s known as a Toilet Plume… yes, it even has a name). Given your average flush toilet bowl has 3.2 million bacteria/square inch (source) it’s little wonder it’s one of the dirtiest places in the home (followed by kitchen drains by a very far off second with 567,845 bacteria/square inch).
So if you don’t like the idea of your toothbrush having fecal matter on it, a composting toilet is a great solution that has multiple other benefits.
Toilet buttons and levers
The buttons or levers of a traditional flush toilet are an absolute playground for bacteria. The fact this is the first thing people touch after using the toilet and BEFORE they’ve washed their hands gives you a pretty good idea of just how likely it is there’s going to be a fair amount of transmission of bacteria on your flush buttons.
Interestingly, some studies show that toilet flush handles and seats were relatively enriched in Firmicutes (e.g. Clostridiales, Ruminococcaceae, Lachnospiraceae, etc.) and Bacteroidetes (e.g. Prevotellaceae and Bacteroidaceae). These taxa are generally associated with the human gut suggesting fecal contamination of these surfaces. Fecal contamination could occur either via direct contact (with feces or unclean hands) or indirectly as a toilet is flushed and water splashes or is aerosolized (source).
The fact that most composting toilets models don’t have buttons or require flushing means you don’t need to touch a button (along with the rest of your family and friends who use your bathroom) after using the toilet, therefore you reduce the chance of transmitting bacteria via the flush handle/button.
If these three areas aren’t enough to convince you to at least consider a composting toilet, then the water-saving alone might just be enough to persuade you. If you’re in the market for a composting toilet, we would love to chat with you. Feel free to call us on 1300 138 182 for a no-obligation chat about your waterless toilet needs.