Nature's Head Composting Toilet - Full Review
How have we lived in this Airstream for 3 years and not once have done a full review on our Nature’s Head Composting Toilet? I mean, it get used daily, we get questions about it every month, and yet…still no dedicated blog post? Well, here it is my friend. Today you get the full details on all this 💩.
What is a Composting Toilet?
Simple. It’s a toilet that keeps the solids separate from the liquids. If kept separate, human waste is not toxic. It’s not until they mix that it creates sewage and that nasty smell.
How does it work?
Nature’s Head Composting Toilet is actually quite simple. It looks similar to a regular toilet but does not necessarily require plumbing. However, the function is quite different. There are two main compartments for waste. Urine goes into a bucket via two little holes in the front. For solids, simply open the trap door and go about your business. In the solids bin, there has to be a medium. While it does say you can use Peat Moss, we don’t suggest it. We do however, highly recommend using Coco Coir. There is a handle on the side of the toilet that needs two easy turns to mix solids into the Coco Coir to coat it, break it down, and prevent odor. For liquids, aim accordingly, and yes men…sit down, please! Use a spray bottle filled with a vinegar and water solution to spray down the holes. This will keep the inside cleaner and the vinegar will help with any odor.
It’s important to mention that a composting toilet doesn’t fully compost anything. So the name might be a little misleading. You can’t go dump your solids bucket on your flowerbed. But it does start the composting process, and should continue to break down safely in a landfill. I highly suggest reading the Humanure Handbook if you’re interested in composting your waste!
Is it easy to install?
Yes! The toilet simply bolts down to the floor, and the only hole required is for the ventilation tube which runs to the outside of our Airstream. There is a fan that constantly runs pulling air and order through to the ventilation tube and to the outside of the trailer. The fan runs on 12 volt and doesn’t use much energy. If you don’t want to re-wire anything, they also sell a solar battery vent that powers the fan.
Does it smell?
Surprisingly, the only part that really smells is the urine bucket, but only when you're taking it out. Keeping the lid closed at all times allows the fan to pull any fumes outside. The solids should not smell, and if they do something is wrong. Perhaps someone accidentally left the trap door open while peeing and now you have a sewage smell. Simply clean it out and add new Coco Coir. We take apart the fan on the toilet and clean it every other time we empty the solids bin. This will help keep the fan running smoothly, keep moisture down, and allow any odor to be vented to the outside.
How often do you clean it?
Great question! This toilet is really meant for 1-2 people to be using it at a time. Not necessarily SIX! We know a few couples with this toilet and they don’t have to empty out the solids for about 2 months! We, however, have to dump the solids bin every 2 weeks if used exclusively, and the pee bucket gets dumped daily. When we’re at a campground, we take full advantage of their bathroom facilities.
This is probably the only real downside for us - as a large family, a single composting toilet is pushing it. We could really use another. Now that we're on our own land, we'll be building an outdoor bathroom soon :)
How do you clean it?
It’s not hard to clean, but it is a bit of a pain. Jonathan unscrews the bolts holding down the toilet and takes it all outside. Once it’s outside, remove the urine bucket and set it aside. The top of the toilet comes off via two clips on the side and slide of a pin in the back. Set the top of the toilet aside to clean later. We recommend using a compostable bag because if you’re just putting it in a plastic bag it kind of defeats the purpose of having a composting toilet, right? Put the compostable bag over the solids bin, make sure it’s on tight, and turn the whole thing over. Now bang on the outside of the toilet to release any clumps that could have developed, and carefully remove the compost bag from the bin. It’s important that you don’t use harsh cleaners in this bin unless absolutely necessary. Now it’s time to add the new coco coir. Turn the agitator bar so it’s parallel with the bottom of the bin. Fill with coco coir until the bars are just slightly covered. This will be about 2 gallon ziplock bags full for reference.
Now to clean the top of the toilet. We typically lay it on a plastic bag on the tailgate for easy cleaning. Give it a good spray down with your favorite cleaner. We prefer to use Thieves Cleaner from Young Living. Once it’s all been cleaned, just put it back together and you’re good to go.
For the times when the fan needs cleaning, just unscrew from the side of the toilet, separate plastic pieces that hold the filter and give it a good wash and make sure to allow it to dry before putting back in place. We’ve found that the fan can get dusty so we clean it every other time we clean out the toilet.
How do you prepare the Coco Coir?
We prefer to buy big blocks of Coco Coir and prepare it ourselves. We store it in a large heavy duty plastic bin in the bed of our truck. It’s a tricky balance of getting the block wet enough to break apart, but not so wet that when it’s in the solids bin it creates mold. For a big block, the best way to start is to just pour some water all over it and let it set for 30 minutes or so. This will soften it and loosen things up so it’s easier to break apart. Then we use a small ice pick to start peeling off layers, and our hands to break it down into the finer consistency you need. You may need more water during this process, but again don’t add too much. Keep it as dry as possible.
How do you dispose of the waste?
With the urine bucket, we do our best to dump directly at bathrooms or pit toilets. Otherwise, if we’re boondocking and not close to anything we will sprinkle it on plants. I know that sounds gross, but urine has actually been shown to be a safe and effective fertilizer for plants and gardens. So we’re just helping them out :)
For the solids, we recommend putting it in a compostable bag and leaving it in a dumpster. Remember, the solids are not fully composted yet, so allowing it to continue the process in a landfill is perfectly safe.
Any bad composting experiences?
There was one time that we had a bad experience. Someone gave us Peat Moss for the solids bin, and we got some kind of gross flies. They looked like large fruit flies. That was the one and only time we gave the bin a through cleaning. We emptied it as usual, but used a hose and lots of soap and vinegar to clean the inside with a brush. After that, we never used Peat Moss again.
Would we we recommend a composting toilet?
If you’re living in an RV, traveling full-time, and love to be off-grid…YES! I highly suggest it for those reasons. If you plan on being in campgrounds most of the time, probably not.
When we were renovating the Airstream, we knew we wanted to mainly be off-grid. Having a black tank would require us to go into town at least once a week to dump our tanks. We didn’t want to do that, so we converted our existing black tank into a gray tank (it was new) ,and went with the Nature's Head Composting Toilet.
If we were to do it again, the only thing we would do differently is plumb the urine diverter to go straight into the gray tank. This would save us from having to carry a bucket of our family’s urine to dump every day. Or as Jonathan likes to call it - the WALK OF SHAME!
As you can see, a composting toilet is a nuanced decision that has many pros and cons and tradeoffs. It’s great if you love to boondock for long periods, and enjoy the simplicity of a not having a black tank. But if you stay in RV parks all the time and have access to a sewer hookup it’s probably more trouble that it’s worth. Also keep in mind the size of your family - our family of 6 is pushing it for a single composting toilet, but they are very efficient for 2 people or less.
If you have any other questions about the Nature's Head Composting Toilet, leave them in the comments below and we'll do our best to answer them!
See you down the road!
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