Bucket Composting Toilet -Our Two Week Experiment

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This is the story of how I convinced Joe to build a bucket composting toilet for the RV and actually use it for two weeks. Everyone thought we were crazy to use a composting bucket toilet in our brand new RV. Even Joe thought I had gone off the deep end when I suggested the idea, but after scanning through the Humanure Handbook, I was inspired to try it because why poop in drinking water when there’s an alternative.

Bucket Composting Toilet

How did we get here? Neither of us had RVed before we bought our 29′ Class A motorhome. We had no idea what dumping was like. After reading the countless horror stories on RV forums, we decided to research composting toilet options for RVs.

We seriously considered the Nature’s Head composting toilet and Joe even looked into installing the unit himself.

It required drilling a hole through the RV to route the vent and AC cord. Given the location of the bathroom, there didn’t appear to be any way to route the vent without drilling through the roof. Joe even contacted the RV manufacturer about this and they had no idea how it could be done. At this point Joe wanted to use the regular RV toilet, but I was determined to find another solution.

The 5 Gallon Bucket Toilet Solution

Imagine the look of shock on Joe’s face when I proposed pooping into a 5 gallon bucket toilet. When you’re used to flushing everything down the pipe never to be seen again, it’s hard to wrap your brain around going in a bucket and letting the waste collect.

By some phenomenon, Joe agreed to give it a shot. After all, it was the perfect solution to avoid drilling holes in the motorhome, avoid the awful black tank dumping experience, increase gray tank capacity and save on fresh water.

Composting bucket toilet rv 2

DIY Bucket Composting Toilet

Fourth of July weekend, Joe built a composting bucket toilet modeled after the Loveable Loo and it just so happens the toilet turned out to be red, white and blue. A quick trip to the local feed store and we were up and running with our plush fine pine shavings and our toilet fit for a king. 

Composting bucket toilet

Without getting into too much detail, the toilet works by adding organic material such as fine pine shaving or untreated saw dust to the base of the bucket and covering with more material after each use. Once the bucket is full, empty and start over.

Material for Composting Toilets

Does it smell? The key to a good working composting bucket toilet is using the right organic material. Pine shavings did not work for us and the smell will forever be ingrained in our memories.

I was able to hunt down a large bag of untreated saw dust, which worked really well until we ran out. Then the question became, where on earth are we going to find untreated sawdust while traveling around the country and how are we going to store it?

Final Thoughts on our Bucket Toilet Experiment

Unable to find a good solution to sourcing sawdust on the road we both agreed to re-install the original RV toilet and give it a go. How bad could dumping be anyway? As it turns out, dumping isn’t so bad after all.


We’ve dumped the black tank countless times and haven’t had a bad experience (knock on wood). Read our post RV Dumping Isn’t so Bad. Had we known then what we know now about dumping, we would not have considered other options. It was an interesting exercise to say the least and now we know we belong to the category of people who poop in drinking water.

“The world is divided into two categories of people: those who [s]hit in drinking water and those who don’t.” – Joseph Jenkins, The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure

Enjoyed this post? Read our Cassette Toilet Review.

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19 thoughts on “Bucket Composting Toilet -Our Two Week Experiment”

  1. Boondocking Bathroom – We have experimented with placing one or two 13 gallon trash bags in the RV built-in toilet. Then twist, tie, & transfer them after each use into the Gamma Lid bucket (best invention ever) which is then emptied at the next appropriate site. Best thing about this method – No water required, no need to clean a cassette. The inside of the gamma lid bucket can just be wiped with a Lysol wipe now and then. This process is actually cleaner than some public restrooms I have seen. When someone brings up the aspect of putting biological waste in a dumpster, I reply that if you’ve ever worked in a nursing home like I have, you know the dumpsters are full of it!

  2. Ha! Ha! Great thread/post. We successfully use a composting toilet with a ‘no poops’ rule. We use peat moss. It saved us with lots of little children who have tiny bladders. We have a too small regular RV with a typical dump requirement, an RV with a cassette toilet, it fits all of us but not good for bad weather. We have a composting toilet for emergencies as well as one of those mini toilet that you have to buy a bag with chemicals to use. All work similar for us, sometimes we camp with more than one option if with kids and friends in primitive situations

  3. I am not an RVer but pine shavings doesn’t seem like it would work because most pine (or conifer tree) products have antimicrobial properties. Basically, it doesn’t help the composting process. Green sawdust works and is available or free at almost any sawmill.

    That being said, it’s whatever works best for you. Just wanted to let you know why the pine shavings don’t work.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how wifes say things like I was inspired to try this and then has the husband do all the dirty work.

  5. This is hilarious, even more so because we got tthe know you a little bit. I love Joes face in the pictures! He is definitely more excited about the regular toilet going back in!

  6. I am in your category too. I have not had a bad experience yet. And I am so sorry I just wrap my head around the composting toilet. I am afraid I would never want to keep it up with worrying of finding the organic supplies needed.

    • Angela – Glad to hear you’ve also had good experiences so far. The other thing we don’t have to worry about is explaining to guests how to use the toilet (not sure we’d have any guests if we kept the toilet).

  7. Haha – this article is hilarious! I know a few people who use the composting toilet, and one night after too many drinks I did consider it for an hour or two. But when I was sober the next day I came to my senses. Shitting in drinking water FTW!


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