Homeowners with septic systems are accustomed to being cautious about what goes down their toilets. These folks know that you don't want things like sanitary napkins, harsh chemicals, or an excessive amount of toilet paper going into a septic tank. Along those same lines, homeowners with composting toilets must also be careful about what goes their toilet, too. In this article, we'll cover some basic do's and don'ts when it comes to what goes in your compost toilet.
To premise this discussion, we'll begin with a brief explanation of what a composting toilet is and how it works. These eco friendly fixtures are a water-saving alternative to a traditional toilet. Rather than being hooked up to a sewer and flushing waste away with water, they are designed with a composting drum where waste is broken down by tiny microbes and oxygen. Special venting systems ensure that compost toilets operate 100% odorlessly, and after several months, you are left with ordinary compost, a non-offensive substance that looks and smells just like garden soil.
One of the first and most important considerations with a composting toilet is not to add anything that might affect the microbes' ability to do their job of breaking down the waste. This means no harsh chemicals or cleaning agents such as bleach or ammonia products, as these will kill the beneficial bacteria. A good alternative cleaning solution is a mixture of baking soda and water.
Another potentially harmful substance is antibiotic medicine. Some people like to dispose of old medications by flushing them down their toilets. This is not a good idea with a composting toilet, because any medicines designed to kill bacteria will harm the microbes in your compost. Furthermore, if you or someone in your home has a chronic illness for which they must take antibiotics over an extended period of time (for example, 6 months at a time, or longer), it might be a good idea for that person not to use the composting system, because that antibiotic medicine will be present in their waste.
It's also important to understand that composting toilets vary in size based on the number of people who will be using the fixture on a daily basis. For example, a single adult would not require nearly as large a unit as would a family of six people. The capacity of the toilet, based on the number of people using it, takes into account waste and toilet paper. It does not factor in additional capacity or space for things like feminine sanitary products, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers, or facial tissue. Adding these items not only affects the capacity of your system, but many of these items will also be slow to biodegrade, meaning you may end up with finished compost that still contains part of a sanitary napkin in it-not something you want to deal with. Educate all members of the family that the only items to go in the composting toilet are waste and toilet paper; everything else belongs in the garbage can.
When it comes to composting toilets, a little common sense and thoroughly reading the manufacturer's instructions will go a long way toward protecting your investment and keeping the unit working properly. Just as with a septic system, taking good care of your composting toilet and keeping certain items out that don't belong will ensure that it performs as it should and lasts as long as possible.