Troubleshooting a composting toilet

Composting toilets are a great alternative to the traditional toilets, although that doesn’t mean that they are problem and stress-free for life. They have some issues like any other appliance, but these issues are really simple to solve and today I’ll help you out troubleshooting your composting toilet.

How do I stop my compost toilet from smelling?

If your composting toilet is giving you headaches by smelling bad, don’t worry about it, it has a simple fix. Just turn your compost pile so it can release all the sulfur and other gases that cause a bad smell.

By rotating your pile you are forcing it to release the bad smell and it allows oxygen to enter deep in the compost so the organic matter you have there will compost faster and the smell will go away in no time! For a quick fix, you can add two or three squirts of water mixed with vinegar at a 1 to 1 ratio.

If the compost is too dry add some water, only enough to moist the pile, don’t add too much water or you can have problems with mold and is way worse than having a smelly toilet.

If the compost is too wet, add newspaper paper, cardboard, or sawdust to soak the excess water present in your compost. After this, rotate your compost to let air circulate.

If the reservoir is too small it can also be a problem as the compost hasn’t enough space to breathe. A quick and cheap fix to this is to add a fan to help ventilate your compost. Also, don’t forget to turn the compost at least once a day.

Causes: Usually this happens when there is no oxygen in the compost so bacteria will release gases like Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) instead of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that has no smell.  Another common cause is when the compost is too dry. It is fixed by adding just enough water to moist the compost. The reservoir can also be too small, thus not allowing the pile to breathe so well.

Prevention: It is important to rotate your compost every time you use your toilet, this way you will keep the compost pile fresh and without smell. Keep the lid down. If the problem persists, you can add coffee grinds to it and now you’ll have a toilet that has a nice smell and is good for the environment at the same time. When buying a compost toilet try to buy one with a big as possible tank. The bigger the tank, the fewer times you’ll need to empty it.

Why does my composting toilet not smell?

Well, that’s good! That’s a sign that you are doing good work and the toilet is doing its job that is to compost your waste! Just remember that your compost needs to be moist, not wet, not dry. If dry will not compost, if wet will smell bad and will hamper the composting process.

If you want it with a good smell, add coffee grinds, coconut, or sawdust in pieces, and rotate well your pile, it will add a nice and natural smell to your bathroom. It is great to those times you may forget to close down the lid.

Do I have to empty a composting toilet?

It was my first post on this site!!! In that post, I show some tricks and tips about composting toilet maintenance. But usually, for two people, full-time usage, you may need to empty the tank about every 3 weeks. The urine bottle every 2 to 3 days. If you have a portable solution.

Some home solutions have big tanks and I know some cases that they didn’t have to empty the tank in years!!! They DIY’d their composting toilet and the tank was huge and had an electric motor to rotate the compost and it also had fans to facilitate air exchange with outside. It was really something high-tech and very specific but it works great!

Can you throw up in a composting toilet?

Well, accidents happen and you may eat something that wasn’t in the best condition, it happens to everyone! I personally don’t recommend throwing up in a composting toilet, not because it’s bad for the compost, but it isn’t pleasant to be sick and still have to look at the waste dumped some weeks or even months ago. Maybe it’s better to have a bucket for this effect and then dispose of the vomit in a proper and more pleasant way.

If you’re in a hurry, sure, it won’t affect negatively the compost, just the experience won’t be nice for you. Just that.

How do I store and hydrate my Compost Medium?

Buy some buckets that have a lid you can close and put the composting medium in the bucket. Put the bucket in a dry and dark place so it won’t get too dry by the heat of the sun nor moist by the air’s humidity. Even if isn’t raining air contains water and it can mess up with your compost medium. So keep it safe.

Why is the compost chamber filling too quickly?

If you think your compost chamber is filling too quickly check if there’s any water leakage, if it is too wet or if the drainage is clogged. Try to unblock the drainage as soon as possible and rotate immediately your heap to facilitate the composting process and to try to save that pile.

Time is crucial in this situation, the faster you solve this problem, the faster it goes away and the fix is so simple, but it requires time to be completely away.  If you weren’t able to fix this on time, you need to empty the tank and to try again. Next time be aware of the liquids on the compost and act in advance. It needs to be moist, not wet.

How to deal with insects attracted to the compost pile?

Pests are a great pain in the back when they start to appear. Remember to turn the pile after every use. Aerating the pile will reduce the odors that attract those insects and you’ll be happy because it will have no smell at all if you do that simple trick. If the problem is persistent or if you’re in a hurry, clean the toilet with water mixed with white vinegar at a 1 to 1 ratio. 2 or 3 squirts are enough to clean and remove those stinky odors in a hurry.

Add coffee grinds to have a nicer smell when in the bathroom. That’s a trick you need to try for sure! You and your visits will love to have a pleasant smell when doing business.


As you can see, there is no complexity in composting toilets. They have a simple mechanism and a process that is fail-proof. All the problems have the solution of rotating the composting heap and/or cleaning the toilet with water and vinegar. Only in extreme cases, you’ll need to empty the tank and start over again.

It is really easy and almost maintenance-free to have a composting toilet. And it has so many advantages when comparing to a traditional toilet, starting with the water you save every year and you’re also reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.


Hi, I'm Sérgio and I'm passionate about saving the environment reducing my carbon footprint and making better choices. Here I will share some tips that I'm learning on my journey of having a way of live that is more sustainable.

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