Off-The-Grid Bathroom Solutions

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Waste disposal when living outside of the mainstream can be easy with the proper preparation. There are several sanitary and practical approaches to human waste management off the grid. It becomes second nature it is once set up and maintained.

Toilet paper wasn’t commonly available in the U.S. until the late 1800s.  Splinter-free toilet paper didn’t come out until the 1940s. Yes, splinter free—the early process of production often left tiny pieces of wood. So think about what people over thousands of years did without modern toilets and splinter-free toilet paper.

Makeshift Toilets

A five-gallon bucket with a heavy-duty bag in it will work in a pinch. Double or triple-line the bags, and replace a new bag each time it gets used about three to five times; also, use an unopened bag over the top and under the lid to seal in the smells until you are ready to use the toilet each time.  Toilet seat tops exist and aren’t particularly expensive, which may make an excellent second “bathroom” or one for indoor usage. Remember to use caution when burying the contents of the bags/bags.

The Outhouse

The most common plan is to build an old-fashioned outhouse. With a little planning, you don’t have to worry about wild animals or nesting birds. There are a few considerations to decide before grabbing a shovel and digging.

Consider that you will be visiting this place day and night, in good weather and bad. It shouldn’t be so close to the sleeping quarters as to allow odors to permeate the cabin, but not so far away that you might get lost on a dark night. Down wind is probably a good choice.

After a rain, bacteria can travel underground. Your privy needs to be at least 150 feet away from any water source or well with no connecting water potential (i.e. flooding, etc.).

The hole will need to be six to eight feet deep. There is no absolute, but the shallower it is, the faster and more often it will need to be moved and the hole remade. If possible, select a location without a lot of rock.

Consider choice of materials. What creates persistent odor is the excrement saturating wood over time. Any other available material that can be used may be able to be cleaned better and smell less and is generally preferable. If possible pour a concrete floor around the hole or use block, shale, or other stone. For the seat, there’s no reason not to use plastic (if available) or metal sheeting. If not, try to line a wooden seat with something that can be scrubbed.

An outhouse needs fresh air, so try not to build a tightly closed box.

Some light source will be necessary. Plan for a skylight or some permanent battery-operated lamp.

Keep out of the direct sun unless you find that odor appealing.

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