nature loo

If you’re thinking about installing a composting toilet or sawdust toilet, there’s a few things you should know about before you jump in. For example, you might be thinking to yourself, “Where do I start?” or “How much sawdust do I add?” and “What happens if it smells?”. Never fear my intrepid toilet tourists – we have the ultimate guide here for your journey.


What is a sawdust toilet?

Put simply, a sawdust toilet is a composting toilet of another name. The idea is the same – it’s usually the products that you put into the system to create the compost that can vary, and in this case, we’re talking about sawdust.

Now in saying that, sawdust toilets can come in many shapes and sizes ranging from a homemade sawdust toilets (which you can make from a simple bucket and a board with a hole in it) right through to major composting toilet systems like a Clivus Multrum (that can handle the needs of up to 30 people full time).

A sawdust toilet and a composting toilet are essentially the same thing, it’s just that some people look for information about sawdust toilets because they hear that sawdust is the best thing to add to a composting toilet. They are right in one sense that sawdust can certainly be used in a composting toilet, but there’s definitely other things that can be used effectively in a composting toilet.

How does a sawdust toilet work?

The process behind a composting toilet is very simple. Sawdust toilets work in the same way as your backyard composting toilet works. Matter goes into the bucket, sawdust and other organic matter are added to the pile and this helps microbes breakdown the waste into usable compost.

If you’re wanting to delve into the science behind how a composting toilet, or sawdust toilet works, take a look our article on the Clivus Multrum website called What actually happens when you poop in a composting toilet? as this article goes into how the composting process works, the differences between bacteria, actinobacteria and fungi and moulds you may find in the pile.

What can you put in a sawdust toilet?

This will really depend on the sawdust composting toilet you have installed. If you’re a DIY’er and you’ve gotten yourself a 25 gallon bucket with a seat, what you can put in this type of sawdust toilet will differ greatly to a more elegant setup like the Natureloo Classic 650.

If you have a simple DIY setup or a smaller bucket with no fan or urine diversion in place, then you may only want to ensure that number two’s are the only thing that go in there. Urine can quickly fill a small bucket to capacity meaning you will need empty it more often or buy more buckets. Having excess urine in your compost can also lead to your pile becoming too wet and that can lead to excess smells and your composting not working properly.

A compost pile really needs to be in the Goldilocks zone – not too cold, not too hot, not too dry and not too runny. If you find the ‘sweet spot’ then a composting toilet can be a welcome addition to any home.

If you’ve got a purpose built composting sawdust toilet like a Nature Loo, a Sun-Mar, Ecolet or Clivus Multrum, you won’t have issues with excess urine as many of these options have urine diversion built in along with fans to help keep your composting pile at the right temperature and level of dryness.

How do you install a sawdust toilet?

This will depend on the type of sawdust toilet design you go for. If you’re going down the DIY route, there’s many different types of sawdust toilets you can make. Take a look at some of the images below to give you an idea of what you can make.

What happens when a sawdust toilet starts to smell?

If there’s a smell emanating out of your composting toilet then it’s fair to say “you’re doing it wrong”. Too much of anything can have an effect on your composting pile and how it works – for example, too little sawdust in your toilet will give you an abundance of human waste when compared to sawdust.

If you’re not diverting urine, the pile can quickly turn into a sloppy mess that smells and gets full quickly.

Remember even though many people call these types of toilet systems ‘sawdust toilets’ they are in essence a composting toilet so you’re able to put a wide range of organic material in there, not just sawdust.

If you’re finding that your sawdust or composting toilet is starting to smell, why not try adding some of the following items to your pile to see if that makes a difference:-

  • Wood shavings
  • Food scraps
  • Garden clippings
  • Lawn clippings
  • Animal manures
  • Leaves and weeds
  • Hay
  • Coffee grinds
  • Straw
  • Leftovers from beer brewing or cider making
  • Shredded junk mail or newspaper
  • Rice hulls
  • Sugar cane bagasse
  • Peat moss

Are sawdust toilets safe?

Most definitely – as long as you follow instructions properly and keep your composting pile in working order, a composting toilet is very safe. The microbes and bacteria in the pile will break down any unwanted pathogens in the humus. This is why it’s sometimes a good idea to introduce a little dirt or other natural organic matter into your pile to help bump up the level of microbes all working to break down the pile into usable compost.

What’s the end product of a sawdust toilet?

Very simply you get what’s called humus. This is a top-soil like product that’s rich with organic materials and can be used on any garden where non edible plants are being grown. If done properly this soil won’t smell and is full of nutrients that plants just love.

Why install a sawdust toilet?

If you’re wondering why people go to the trouble of installing and maintaining a sawdust composting toilet, there’s a whole bunch of different answers you could get. Some people want to live off-the-grid and make as little impact as possible to their environment. Others want to simply save water. Some people don’t have the option of having water plumbed to their house from the mains, or rely on rainwater tanks for their drinking water, so reducing the amount of water you waste is essential.

That’s our ultimate guide to sawdust toilets. If you have any further questions or want some more information feel free to contact us or call us on (07) 3889 6144.


Nature Loo / Ecoflo was the first supplier of composting toilets to be certified to New Zealand and Australian Standard 1546.2

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