Composting Toilet Pros and Cons of Off-Grid Toilet Systems

Composting Toilet: Pros and Cons of Using Off-Grid Toilet Systems

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

In recent years, more people have chosen to become self-sufficient and transition off-grid. And as a result of this, more people have been switching to composting toilets as a way to reduce their water bill, electric bill, and environmental impact.

Unlike regular toilets, a composting toilet does not need to be connected to a sewer system or a septic tank. Most composting toilets are self-contained toilets that require very little water and electricity to function properly. Some do not even need water or electricity.

These toilets are designed to use the natural composting process to break down your waste into compost, which you can then be used as fertilizer. But, like any other system, composting toilets have their benefits and disadvantages.

We have previously discussed the 6 best off-grid toilets, but in this article, we will learn more about composting toilets and whether you need one, continue reading below.

What Is a Composting Toilet?

As mentioned earlier, a composting toilet is a toilet that breaks down human waste into compost. People typically use these toilets in places where traditional flush toilets aren’t available or where there’s no access to a sewer system. For example, composting toilets work great in off-grid homes, cabins, and other remote places.

There are many kinds of composting toilets. Common types include self-contained units, centralized systems, and portable units. While some operate entirely without electricity, others will need electricity to power ventilation systems and heaters.

out house toilet

What Are the Pros and Cons of Composting Toilets?

A residential composting toilet is very different from traditional toilets, and switching to a composting toilet system can be a major decision. When deciding if a composting toilet is right for you, consider the advantages and disadvantages listed below.

Advantages of Composting Toilets

Environmentally Friendly

Composting toilets are an environmentally friendly option for those looking to cut their water usage, electrical consumption, and waste. Moreover, you can replace your chemical fertilizers with compost from your toilet.

Low Maintenance

cartridge composting toiletComposting toilets need less maintenance than traditional flush toilets. Plus, they don’t have any moving parts, so there’s no need for costly repairs. Additionally, some toilets require electricity, but the maintenance cost is much lower than a regular toilet. The only maintenance needed is for adding composting materials as needed and emptying the compost bin.


A composting toilet is a cost-effective option if you’re living off-grid or in a remote area. It’s cost-effective because it doesn’t need a connection to a septic system, sewage system, nor does it need any water. Buying a self-contained composting toilet may be expensive at first, but it will save you money in the long run.


Well-maintained composting toilets won’t produce any unpleasant smells. Moreover, most modern composting toilets come with ventilation systems that get rid of bad scents by removing moisture. However, make sure to sanitize the toilet after each use with organic vinegar to maintain odor control.


Because composting toilets come in a variety of sizes and styles, they’re suitable for homes, RVs, cabins, and even boats.

Water Conservation

biogas toiletYou don’t need any water to get your composting toilet to work properly. This is great if you’re in an area that experiences droughts, has limited access to water, or just want to reduce your water usage. But you can pick from waterless toilets or low-flush composting toilets. Low-flush toilet systems require much less water than traditional toilets and can help keep your toilet bowl clean.

Composting Benefits

Composting toilets offer the unique benefit of creating organic fertilizer. You can use the fertilizer to improve soil quality and promote non-edible plant growth. This can be especially beneficial if you dabble in small-scale agriculture.

Disadvantages of Composting Toilets

Initial Cost

The upfront cost of buying and installing a composting toilet can be high. Compared to traditional flush toilets, composting toilets can be expensive and can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.


If you are used to traditional toilets, capacity is not something you would have to consider. Composting toilets have limited capacity, which means you’ll need to empty them out regularly. Depending on how big your toilet is and how many people use it, you may need to empty it out quite often.


Separating Compost ToiletIf you care about aesthetics, a composting toilet may not be right for you. After all, composting toilets may sometimes look large and bulky and may not fit well with the aesthetic of your home. What’s more, you may not like the idea of having a composting toilet in your home. If you live on a homestead, consider having an outhouse for your off-grid toilet.


Composting toilets may not be legal in some areas. Even if they are legal, you may need a special permit to install one. So, you’ll need to check with local regulations before installing a composting toilet.

Learning Curve

If it’s your first time hearing about composting toilets, you may experience a learning curve when it comes to understanding how they work and the steps you’ll need to take to maintain yours properly. We suggest learning the basics of off-grid toilet systems before getting one.

Moisture Levels

Composting toilets need a certain level of moisture to compost waste properly. If your toilet is too dry, your toilet may not break down waste effectively. If it’s too wet, your toilet may start smelling bad, and the composting process also won’t move forward smoothly.

Insects and Pests

Since composting toilets use organic matter, they can attract insects and pests. These insects and pests include ants, flies, and even rodents. But it’s important to note that this is a rare occurrence and only happens if you don’t seal or maintain the compost bin properly.

outdoor toilet paper

Is a Composting Toilet Right for You?

If you’re considering whether a composting toilet is right for you, there are several things you should consider in addition to the pros and cons. Here are some more details to think about:


The location of your home or property can play a big role in deciding whether a composting toilet is appropriate for you. If you live in an urban or suburban area with steady access to traditional plumbing systems, you may not need a composting toilet.

On the other hand, if you live in a remote or off-grid location without access to traditional plumbing systems, a composting toilet may be the most practical choice.

Additionally, there are boat, camper, and RV composting toilets specifically designed for their unique purpose. So when making a purchase consider where you will be using one to determine if it is right for you.


As mentioned earlier, the upfront cost of a composting toilet can be high, with some models costing thousands of dollars. Aside from the cost of the toilet itself, you’ll need to factor in the cost of installation. Still, you will save money in the long run since you’ll lower your electricity and water bill.


Composting toilets can be a significant change compared to traditional flush toilets in terms of design and features. So, you may find them less comfortable or less familiar than regular toilets, especially if you’ve never used a composting toilet before.

Ultimately, deciding whether a composting toilet is appropriate for you and your home requires careful consideration of your lifestyle, personal preferences, and circumstances.

If you’re passionate about reducing your environmental impact and living off-grid, a composting toilet may be perfect for you. But if you prioritize comfort and convenience above all else, buying a normal flush toilet may be the way to go.

By weighing the pros and cons and considering all the relevant factors, you can make a smart decision about whether a composting toilet is something you need.

off grid toilet

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to use an off-grid toilet or not depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you’re living off-grid or want to reduce your environmental impact, a composting toilet may be appropriate for you. But if you’re not comfortable with the challenges of using an off-grid toilet, a traditional toilet may be better.

A traditional toilet reduces the burden of cleaning, maintaining, and are odor free, freeing up your time and stress. But you will likely have a higher maintenance cost from using a traditional toilet. Still, if you want a sustainable lifestyle, switching to an off-grid toilet is an important step in your transition and can improve your life in many ways.

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should get a composting toilet, check out the other articles on our blog.

Frequently Asked Questions about Composting Toilets

Below are some answers to common questions we get about composting toilets.

Are Composting Toilets Smelly?

If you're using your composting toilet properly, it shouldn't be smelly. The decomposition process should neutralize any foul odors. But if you're not maintaining your toilet properly or if your toilet has a ventilation problem, it could start smelling bad. We suggest keeping a spray bottle of organic vinegar near the toilet to sanitize it after each use. This will help kill the odor-causing bacteria.

Do Composting Toilets Attract Insects and Pests?

Composting toilets may attract insects and pests if you aren't maintaining and cleaning your toilet properly. So, you'll need to keep the toilet clean and make sure you cover the compost properly. Some composting toilets are designed with a gasket around the toilet seat to prevent pests from entering the toilet.

How Often Do You Have to Empty a Composting Toilet?

How often you'll need to empty your composting toilet depends on how big your toilet is and how many people use it. Generally, you'll need to empty smaller composting toilets more frequently than bigger ones. You can expect to empty most composting toilets every few months.

Can You Use Toilet Paper In a Composting Toilet

You can throw toilet paper in a composting toilet, but it's essential to ensure you're using biodegradable toilet paper that'll break down easily in the compost.

Can You Use a Composting Toilet in the Winter?

Yes, you can use your composting toilet in the winter. But it's important to note that in colder climates, the decomposition process may slow down or even stop if the temperature drops too low.

How Much Does a Composting Toilet Cost?

The cost of a composting toilet can vary greatly depending on which brand, size, and features you choose. But you can generally expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Can You Install a Composting Toilet Yourself

Yes, you can install a composting toilet yourself. But if you choose to do so, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and make sure you have all the needed tools and equipment before you start. By not following the proper installation guidance, it may result in a foul odor emitting from the toilet.

How Do You Maintain a Composting Toilet?

To maintain a composting toilet, it's important that you keep it clean and dry, add a compost starter, and turn the compost as needed. You should also make sure the toilet is properly ventilated to prevent moisture and odor buildup.

Can You Use Composting Toilets in RVs and Boats?

Yes, you can use composting toilets in RVs and boats. They're a great option if you're living off-grid and need a self-contained waste management system.

How Long Does It Take for Compost to Be Ready?

The time it takes for compost to be ready depends on several factors, such as temperature and moisture level. As a rule of thumb, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year for your compost to fully decompose and be ready for use. 

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