What Is A Waterless Toilet? | Everything Explained

Were you out hiking and stopped to use the loo on the trail? It wasn’t a pit latrine with a nasty smelling black hole, but the toilet also didn’t use any water. It was…a waterless toilet. How does it work?

In this post, I’ll explain what a waterless toilet is, how it works, if you can install one in your home as well as its pros and cons and other information around the topic.

Let’s take a look!

What Is A Waterless Toilet?

A waterless toilet works to remove waste from your cabin, tiny house, or remote site without the need for a water supply, sewer system, or even electricity and are often called composting toilets. The eco-friendly option is a fabulous upgrade for allotments, construction sites, or hiking trails. If you are looking to drastically reduce water usage in your home, opting for a waterless toilet can save up to eight litres per flush! If you have a family of four, that can be 100 or more litres per day.

What Is A Waterless Toilet?

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How Do Waterless Toilets Work?

The visible part of a waterless toilet looks much like your current toilet, except it does not have a cistern or a flush knob. With the lid down, a seal slides into place that creates separation between the bowl and the hidden composting tank.

When you use the toilet, waste drops into a separation and composting chamber located under the toilet. The liquids drip down into a separate part of the tank, leaving less fluid in the solid waste. Air is constantly circulated through the chamber. This promotes evaporation of the liquids, dries out the solids, and promotes the growth of aerobic bacteria that will kill the nasty smelling bacteria.

The composting tank is directly connected to a ventilation pipe and a hatch outside. You use the outside door to empty the waste after it is ready to be used in the garden, buried, or collected by a vendor.

Do waterless toilets smell?

When your waterless toilet is properly maintained, it does not smell any more than a traditional bathroom. Maintenance includes adding wood shavings or other compostable materials to the chamber to keep a proper ratio of air, solids, and biodegradable elements.

Some toilets feature two chambers–one that collects waste and another that actively composts it. You may need to switch chambers when one gets full.

When the solid waste is completely composted, it is only 5% of its original size. 

Once your compost is ready for use, you will have to empty out the chamber on a regular schedule. Depending on the amount of use that the toilet gets, this may be every few days, once a week, or once a month.

Can I Add a Waterless Toilet to My House?

If you are committed to living an eco-friendly life, switching to a waterless toilet is the one household item that will make a positive impact on our environment. It does not use water that must be pumped or treated. Non-electric versions use negative air pressure to create airflow instead of fans. Finally, since you add no chemicals to the waste, the compost is the perfect addition to your garden’s health.

But can you add one to a house in the suburbs? New regulations were introduced in 2010 allowing for the installation of waterless toilets if the homeowner provides a plan for proper disposal of the composted waste. Your neighbour will also need to give their consent. Other than working with the council, the answer is yes!

What is the Cost and Procedure for Installing a Waterless Toilet?

A waterless toilet designed for a tiny house or caravan will run around £500 – £1,000 for just the unit. Expect to spend another £200 to £300 for labour. The compact all-in-one unit fits into a closet.

When adding one to your house, it will need to be located on the ground floor or basement. Also, it should be mounted against an exterior wall with space in the garden available for the collection hatch (depending on the model you choose). You probably don’t want the hatch to be in your front garden. You may need to have excavation work done to accommodate the composting chamber. Expect to spend up to £2,000 to £3,000 for the additional labour. 

Are Waterless Toilets Safe?

While it is true that you will be handling compost, maintaining a waterless toilet poses no significant safety or health hazard to you or your family. Just like a regular toilet, you never touch the waste as it goes down. You wear gloves when cleaning or collecting waste. Finally, once the waste is composted, it is just as safe to handle as the dirt in your back garden. Any noxious smells are carried out of the toilet and away from your home via the vent stack.

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Advantages Of A Waterless Toilet

  • Eco-friendly option for dramatically reducing water usage
  • Requires no electricity or connections to your plumbing
  • Can be placed in remote locations that have no access to power or water
  • Provides beneficial compost for your garden or farm
  • Can be installed in a traditional home

Disadvantages Of A Waterless Toilet

  • The unit is expensive compared to a traditional toilet
  • Must be located on the ground floor on an exterior wall
  • You may have to hire a company to regularly empty the compost chamber (depending on model)
  • Requires regular maintenance to eliminate odours
  • Lacks the convenience of standard plumbing and sewer systems

How do you clean a waterless toilet?

The toilet portion is constructed out of acrylic or porcelain, just like your old toilet. Wash it down with a mop or mild cleaner and sponge. If you clean the toilet as often as your old bathroom, you will not notice any new odours associated with the waterless toilet.

You should not use an antibacterial cleaner or bleach in the toilet as these chemicals can kill the composting process. It is also smart to avoid flushing large quantities of water down the tank as that slows the evaporation process.

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Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about waterless toilets.

While they may not be as practical and easy to use for most, having a waterless toilet could well be the solution for some. Off-grid homes, portable homes or tiny houses are all prime candidates to benefit from a waterless toilet system.

Would you consider a waterless toilet for any of your bathroom renovation projects?


Michael R

Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.