What is a composting toilet?

Now wash your hands!!

Does a red flag go up when a composting toilet is mentioned on a campsite’s web page? Is it a deal breaker? Perhaps it is just the unknown that puts you off. Well, I am here to demystify the ‘composting toilet’.

A composting toilet is a toilet that does not use water to take the waste ‘away’.  There is a drop into some kind of container or chamber, where things start to naturally break down.  To be honest I’m not too sure about the technical stuff, I am mostly interested as a user!

On a campsite they are usually built in a little wooden hut of some kind.  Sometimes a hut by itself with a stand pipe nearby, like this one:

Composting toilet

A lovely composting toilet hut in the woods.

or in a ‘block’ with sinks and showers like this one at the very lovely Thistledown Farm:

Thisltedown Farm toilets

Nicely hidden behind some bushes.

Thistledown sinks

Lovely sinks carved out of wood.

They are built either on stilts, or on a bank, or over a deep hole, in order to accommodate the ‘long drop’.

Inside you will find some kind of wooden structure with a proper toilet seat on it.


Looks alright doesn’t it!

When you done what you came to do, you can use toilet roll as usual, this can be dropped into the toilet too.  (Of course sanitary items, nappies etc cannot be put down) Then if you’ve just had a wee, that’s it – just leave and find whatever has been provided for hand washing!

If you done a poo – grab a handful of sawdust and chuck it down after. This is to help to eliminate odour and is surprisingly effective.  Because these cabins are usually made basically out of wood and often have a ‘window’ with no glass, letting in lots of fresh air,  there is surprisingly little odour.  Much less offensive than a busy ‘normal’ campsite toilet can become by late in the day!

Now wash your hands!!

So if you see a site with a composting toilet don’t be put off, it’s really quite a pleasant experience.  Bush showers on the other hand – well I’m open to trying new things but I’d have to be pretty desperate before I go that far!

5 thoughts on “What is a composting toilet?

  1. emilymv says:

    Thanks for the clarification about composting toilets, I’ve never used one before in a campsite but from your description- they don’t sound or look too bad! What is a bush shower??

    • Hazel says:

      Well, a bush shower is basically where water is poured over you in one way or another, usually behind some kind of makeshift screen. Sometimes there is somekind of foot pump to pump it to the shower head, if you want warm water you have to warm it over a fire first. Fortunately they aren’t as popular as composting toilets!

  2. Michelle says:

    Hello. I’ve used a few compost loos – festivals and campsites and they are very ‘fresh’ well ok ‘fresh’ might be a bit overly enthusiastic but not as whiffy as portaloos plus environmentally sound.
    At the IOW fest last weekend they had a portaloo that said ‘Cos Shit Happens!’ Yes it does! Michelle

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