“Composting toilets work by evaporation and natural decomposition. They are becoming more common to have at home due to their environmental benefits,” says Allison Harrison, co-owner of Goodbee Plumbing, serving the greater New Orleans area. While composting toilets are found commonly in off-grid locations, such as at national parks, golf courses, and music festivals, and on boats and cottages, they are now gaining popularity in cities.
To choose the best composting toilet for your family’s needs, we have shortlisted loos that are efficiently designed, durable for off-grid use, odor minimizing, and easy to install.
Ahead, the best composting toilets that are a breeze to use.
Nature's Head Composting Toilet with Spider Handle
Lightweight yet Durable
On the pricier side
Some reviews mention liquid diverting into the solid tank
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, self-contained composting toilet, then Nature Head’s lightweight toilet ticks the right boxes. Our pick of compostable toilets fits perfectly in tiny homes, RVs, campers, boats, and cabins, along with any other space that doesn’t have access to a sewer or a septic tank.
“This is a great option due to its stainless-steel hardware, built-in fan, and hose,” says Harrison. A waterless toilet, it diverts liquid waste into a separate vessel, which users recommend emptying daily or every other day. Rotate the spider handle slowly to crank the solid waste into the tank. The toilet can be used regularly by two adults, only needing to be emptied out after 4-6 weeks. You can safely dispose of toilet paper in it, too, though the company recommends using single-ply paper as it breaks down more easily.
For ventilation and speeding up the composting process, there is an electric fan that uses 12V power. It can also be connected to a solar vent, or you can buy a transformer from the company to connect it to a 110V household power outlet. At most, the toilet will have a mildly earthy whiff, which means it is composting properly.
Price at time of publish: $1,030
Dimensions: 22 x 20.5 x 21.7 in | Material: Plastic | Shape: Rectangular | Capacity: 26 Liters
Stansport Portable Toilet
Lightweight and Portable
Needs to be emptied frequently
Some reviewers find it small
If you want an affordable, sanitary, and convenient toilet on the go to use for a few days, then Stansport’s Camp Toilet is the perfect companion for your fishing, hiking, and camping trips. It’s a nifty short-term alternative to an expensive composting toilet and is more convenient than making a DIY composting toilet by repurposing a bucket. It also comes recommended by Harrison, who praises the low cost. “While it’s not the best option for a full-use composting toilet, if you need something for the short-term, like a weekend away, this is your best bet,” she says. Line the toilet with a biodegradable bin liner bag and empty it as needed.
What we like about this toilet is the sturdy construction and full-sized seat and lid. Made from heavy-duty plastic, it can support up to 350 lbs without tipping over, though a few reviewers found it a bit too compact for adult use. Some customers recommend adding some carbon-rich material at the bottom of the bin liner (and each time the toilet is used) to nix odor, but keep in mind it will add more weight and volume.
Price at time of publish: $65
Dimensions: 14 × 14 × 14 in | Material: Plastic | Shape: Square | Capacity: 1.3 gallon
Best for Odor
Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet
Thermostatically controlled heater
Certified by the National Sanitation Foundation
On the pricier side
More crevices to clean
For those concerned about odors wafting through their home, choose the waterless Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilet. Designed for odorless decomposition, this composting toilet has a bio-drum, an evaporating chamber, and a finishing drawer. It’s fitted with a thermostatically controlled heater that evaporates liquid waste rapidly and supported by a top-rear fan that sucks air into the evaporating chamber before pushing air outside the vent stack (along with any lingering odor). What’s more, this composting toilet has been certified in accordance with Standard 41 composting capability by the National Sanitation Foundation, meaning it has been verified to have passed the set standards—including no offensive odors.
This sturdy toilet has a capacity of three adults (or a family of five) for residential use and can be comfortably used in homes, barns, and cottages. Available in a white or beige color, it also comes with a detachable footrest for your comfort, behind which is the finishing drawer.
Price at time of publish: $1,899
Dimensions: 22.5 × 33 × 32 in | Material: Fiberglass | Shape: Oblong | Capacity: Residential: 3 adults or families of 5/ Seasonal: 6 adults or families of 8
Best High Capacity, Non-Electric
Sun-Mar CENTREX 3000 NE (Non-Electric)
Certified by the National Sanitation Foundation
On the pricier side
Gravity-flush not included
An optional ventilation fan can be installed
If you live off-grid or in an area with a patchy power supply, then the high-capacity central composting system Sun-Mar Centrex 3000-NE is a great non-electric option that can handle heavy use. This is a continuous flow system where the rotation of the drum moves the waste along, converting it into fertilizer that’s then dropped into the collection chamber at the end.
It’s a fully assembled unit that needs to be connected to an ultra-low gravity-flush toilet that uses one-pint water for flushing or less. You also have the option of installing a 12V fan, recommended if you anticipate heavy use. It can be used smoothly by five adults or a family of seven in a residential unit, and eight adults and a family of 10 on the weekend, without clogging it up. And if one toilet isn’t sufficient, you can install more than one on this heavy-duty system.
Price at time of publish: $2,189
Dimensions: 71 × 27 ½ × 29 ¼ in | Material: Fiberglass | Shape: toilet not included | Capacity: Residential: 5 adults or families of 7/ Seasonal: 8 adults or families of 10
Sun-Mar GTG Portable Electric Waterless Toilet
Portable and can be mounted
Chambers need to be emptied regularly
The Sun-Mar GTG Portable Electric Waterless Toilet is an ultra-compact option that’s practical, portable, and low-maintenance. Easily installable, it’s an upgrade from portable camping toilets, though it comes without the composting chamber found in heavy-duty composting toilets. Instead, it operates more like a cassette toilet, with two chambers for solid and liquid waste. These units can be removed once full and then reattached after they’re emptied. The liquid waste can be simply poured out, while you can use a bag or a liner in the solid waste container. The company recommends adding carbon-rich material to the solid chamber after each use.
This toilet also features an integrated 12V fan to speed up evaporation and expel odors. The toilet can be pretty much placed anywhere, as long as you have easy access to the chambers tucked at the bottom—and it comes with mounting brackets, too.
Price at time of publish: $699
Dimensions: 24 x 15.75 x 19.8 in | Material: Plastic | Shape: Oblong | Capacity: liquid chamber: 2.6-gallon, solid chamber: 6 gallons
BioLet Composting Toilet 65
Fully automated with fan, thermostat, LED Indicator, mixer etc
Easy to clean
If getting your hands dirty has kept you from investing in a composting toilet, and budget isn’t an issue, then consider the fully automated BioLet 65a. This impressive toilet boasts an advanced liquid control sensor, thermostat, fan, and an automatic stainless-steel mixer doing all the heavy lifting for you. It’s designed smoothly without any hard-to-reach areas and is fitted with a removable toilet seat for easy cleaning.
If you’re using it seasonally, you just need to empty the humus tray, where the compost is deposited, once a year only. And if you’re traveling for more than two days, the company recommends that you turn off the BioLet 65A. What’s more, this Swedish-made biological toilet has been awarded The Nordic Swan Ecolabel, implying that it’s met strict environmental regulations.
Price at time of publish: $2,970
Dimensions: 32 x 25 ½ x 26 in (Needed floor space: 22” W x 54” D) | Material: Polystyrene ABS plastic | Shape: Oblong | Capacity: Residential: four people/ Seasonal: six people
Nature's Head Self-Contained Composting Toilet with Close Quarters Spider Handle Design is our pick of self-contained composting toilets for its simplicity of use and low maintenance operations. Our pick of odor-minimizing toilets is Sun-Mar Excel Electric Waterless Composting Toilet, a solid option that's fitted with a thermostatically controlled heater and supported by a top-rear fan to evaporate liquid waste rapidly
What to Look for in a Composting Toilet
The types of composting toilets available currently are split systems and self-contained systems. “When determining which composting toilet is best for you, be sure to determine the space you have and what type of flow you want,” says Allison Harrison, co-owner of Goodbee Plumbing, a company serving the greater New Orleans area.
- The split system: Similar to traditional toilets, this type has two sections: a pedestal, and the central tank or drum that it’s connected to. This type of toilet is often best reserved for high-traffic use cases, as they have a larger capacity and require less maintenance. The waste is flushed into a tank, hopper or bio-drum where the composting takes place. These are generally more expensive than self-contained toilets.
- Self-contained system: Ideal for small homes or areas that don’t have much space, this is a relatively affordable option. This compostable toilet has a pedestal, a removable tank, and a liquid drain, and the composting process takes place in the toilet. A few self-contained systems can also have a water tank or a water line to flush waste, as well as a ventilation fan to keep the oxygen flowing. Some compact self-contained composting toilets are portable and can be fitted in an RV, a boat or a cabin.
Composting toilets can be larger than a conventional toilet, and there are several different systems used in composting toilet—for instance, a unit can be fitted with a ventilation fan, or have a larger tank to contain waste. Take these factors into consideration, especially if you have limited space for installation.
Before you invest in a composting toilet, consider how many people will be using it, and how regularly. “On average, a composting toilet will hold approximately 60 to 80 uses,” says Harrison. Invariably, a larger tank means lesser cleaning and more time for waste to be broken down.
Electricity and Water Requirements
A few composting toilet models need an electricity connection or a water supply to function. For instance, some composting toilets require a 110V electric connection or even a solar-powered system to operate a ventilation fan in the toilet, thus increasing the oxygen flow to feed the aerobic bacteria. Some composting toilets also have a water storage tank or a connection with a water line to expel waste.
It’s a valid concern whether or not a composting toilet will cause a big stink. But the chances of odors are negligible in a properly functioning composting toilet because of the way it is constructed and the way it is designed to work. Ventilation is key to nix odors and gases that are created by the process of composting. Some composting toilets are fitted with a fan to help circulate oxygen into the tank and push out the stale air. This jumpstarts the composting process, as aerobic bacteria need oxygen to convert the waste into organic matter.
Another handy tip is to add carbon-rich material regularly. “The best way to manage odor with your composting toilet is to be diligent about putting the carbon-rich material over the waste after every use,” says Harrison. “These materials eliminate odors and allow the composting process to move faster, making it a win-win situation.”
What is a composting toilet?
A composting toilet is similar to a traditional toilet in its function. However, unlike traditional toilets, these toilets do not use water, and thus don’t need to have a water line or be connected to a septic tank or wastewater system. Instead, aerobic bacteria turn human waste into compost-like material, which can then be used as fertilizer if permitted by local laws.
How does a composting toilet work?
There are different types of composting toilets, but generally speaking, each has a tank or container that holds waste, which is eventually broken down. After using the composting toilet, the next step is to add carbon-rich materials to break down the waste—Harris recommends sawdust, peat moss, or coconut coir. “These toilets do not flush, so after use, you must sprinkle the material to reduce odor and create space for oxygen to get to the waste to begin the composting process,” she says.
Some compost toilets separate the solid and liquid matter to speed up the composting process. “You do have to empty the toilet,” says Harrison, “[but] the frequency depends on the toilet’s capacity and usage.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
Neeti Mehra is a researcher and consultant and is committed to living mindfully. She has edited three magazines during her career, covering a broad range of topics. She writes on sustainability for The Spruce.
For this article, Neeti researched a wide variety of composting toilets and delved into customer feedback. To gain insight on the best composting toilets, she spoke to Allison Harrison, co-owner of Goodbee Plumbing, serving the greater New Orleans area and Kelsey McWilliams the CEO of Point of Shift, a company scaling technologies and designing systems for circular sanitation solutions.