Scrubbing the Bucket

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Scrubbing the Bucket
Author: Liat Perlmutter (Liat)
Tuesday, March 04, 2008 - 4:05 pm
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We bought a house not long ago and we want to start using bucket toilet, I think the best solution for me is the one from 'Anonymous' on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 7:46 am below, it seems to me that stainless steel buckets are a great advise since there will be no smell that clings into the plastic.
Also I want to say that your book 'Humanure Handbook' (the Hebrew translation) inspired us to do that, and we thank you for that.

Author: Joe Jenkins (Joe)
Friday, February 01, 2008 - 2:45 pm
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Catherine - The vinegar idea is great. I recently read that 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water makes the best solution for cleaning bacteria and chemicals from veggies, so it would make sense that it would be a great cleaning solution for toilet containers.

Author: Catherine Grace, CHS (Cgrace)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 2:11 pm
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After reading all the postings here I had an idea and tried it out today. I took the bucket that had been airing outside all last week, "spritzed" some white vinegar on the bottom and crunched up about 3" of dried leaves for the beginning bio-sponge. Voila, iffy odor completely gone.

Author: Catherine Grace, CHS (Cgrace)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 11:16 am
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Update on BioBag usage: fabulously useful for dumping and cleaning, but when using them the bathroom took on a definite outhouse smell. Once I stopped using the bags, the odor disappeared. I continue to use and love BioBags in the kitchen, but prefer "naked" collection buckets in the loo.

I continue to have difficulty finding raw sawdust (or even the kiln-dried stuff), but still find the peat-with-pine-shavings rather messy. I'm also discovering that, especially during the winter, there isn't enough sun to adequately de-odorize the buckets. I leave the most recently emptied bucket outside (turned over on an empty chimnea so it won't blow away but still gets aired out), and always wash with hot water and a bit of biodegradable dish soap.

Any suggestions out there for:
(1) source of raw sawdust in the Brewter (NY) or Danbury (CT) area?
(2) ways to deordorize the plastic buckets periodically?

Author: david (Whistlepigwnc)
Sunday, December 23, 2007 - 7:41 pm
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howzit,I've only been doing this for a short while,but "Seventh Generation"products seem to work quite well for cleaning and odours,sunlight and air help too.Here in Taos, we've got lot's of sunlight and air.I'm absolutely thrilled to find this messageboard.We live in an earthship on twenty acres,about eight miles from the Rio Grande Gorge.Being on catchement and off-grid ,the humanure system saves us between twenty and forty thousand gallons of water a year(industry estimates).With severe droughts in the southeast and several states competing for dwindeling sources of water,it seems tragic that people poop in it.More later,thanx...D

Author: TCLynx (Tclynx)
Monday, December 03, 2007 - 9:13 pm
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When I first started with the humanure composting system, I did notice that a plastic bucket can really take on an odor if not allowed to air out enough. (then our compost bins were on my 9' by 9' apartment patio which didn't get enough sun to dry out the buckets very well.)

Our system now (that we have full size bins and a back yard with sun) we have 6 buckets that get used for the toilet.
A bucket's trip through the system.
1-a cleaned and sun dried bucket gets a couple inches of cover materials in the bottom and comes into the kitchen where kitchen scraps get tossed until a new bucket is needed in the toilet.
2-that kitchen bucket with some cover in the bottom and kitchen scraps moves to the toilet where we use shredded paper and sawdust as cover material. Usually sawdust for #2 and shredded paper for #1.
3-when the toilet bucket is full it goes out by the bin with a lid on it.
4-when there are 4 buckets to empty they get dumped into the bin, cleaned with dish soap and a toilet brush an left in the sun to dry.

I have six buckets so that one can be in the toilet and another in the kitchen even when 4 are drying in the sun. I only have three lids so once the 4th bucket is full, it is time to empty within the day or so.

Now days the only time I notice a smell from the buckets is when they are still wet.

As to what to use to clean the buckets that won't hurt the compost, a drop of dish soap works pretty well and is pretty safe for your compost, especially if you don't use antibacterial stuff.

crumbled up maple leaves should work quite well for compost cover material, that is what I use when up in Michigan. If there are still smells, then it just means you have to use more but if the leaves are abundant and free that should be ok, they will break down fast in the compost pile.

Author: Catherine Grace, CHS (Cgrace)
Monday, December 03, 2007 - 4:09 pm
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We are avid BioBag users -- for veggie storage in the fridge (excellent food preservation for produce right out of the garden), then they get a turn in the kitchen compost bucket before heading out to the garden compost (or humanure, depending on content) piles.

I'm just now trying out lining the humanure toilet collection bucket with a BioBag, and plan to use a combination of peat with fine pine shavings as the cover material.

I do know that BioBags begin self-composting (i.e., degrading) within about two weeks, so I'm sure it will be important to empty the buckets on a weekly schedule.

I have found peat to be rather dusty (a fine coating winds up on everything in the bathroom), and shavings not quite enough for certain deposits. I'm also concerned about the sustainability of using peat. But the combination works well. Will also try the shavings with a mixture of maple leaves (of which we have huge quantities).

I'll let you know how this works.

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Tuesday, July 10, 2001 - 12:20 pm
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I just returned from a trip to my compost pile.
I sat my freshly hosed bucket in my toilet, and breathed a sigh of relief that the job was completed. Unfortunately, along with that refreshing sigh there was that unrefreshing odor of a bucket that needs a scrub.
I am wondering what cleaners, if any, other people use when they scrub their buckets.
I can't remember any reference to it in "The Good Book"
I obviously will not use anything that will harm the composting process, or nature in general.
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Tuesday, July 10, 2001 - 8:51 pm
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A few drops of regular dish soap and a toilet brush should be used to scrub the bucket every time it is emptied.

Author: Rob Canning
Wednesday, July 11, 2001 - 9:28 am
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I use a drop of edible, biodegradable soap along with a capful of citric acid concentrate for about two liters of water for cleaning out my toilet and kitchen-scrap buckets after dumping them. The citric acid does a great job of eliminating the strong odor of the freshly-emptied buckets. I bought the citric acid cleaner (it's all natural) at a local organic food store (in Taiwan).

Author: Stephen Linebaugh
Wednesday, July 11, 2001 - 12:25 pm
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Yes, I thought about citric acid cleaners. I believe that might be about the best choice.
Thanks

Author: Rob Canning
Friday, July 13, 2001 - 10:22 am
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Citrus fruits in general seem to be great at dispatching unpleasant odors. I've found that grape fruit peels not only neutralize bad smells, but even leave things smelling better than they did to begin with. I also use lemon peels as air fresheners in my refrigerator. When they've completely dried out, I compost 'em.

Author: Vere Scott
Sunday, September 23, 2001 - 5:21 pm
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I use white 11L high density polyethylene (HDPE) pails with lids (originally bulk peanut butter pails). I prepare them for use by lining the sides with five or six layers of newspapers cut to fit; and lining the bottom with 6-7 newspaper sheets the paper cut in a circular shape to fit. I have found more sheets are needed to line the bottom than the sides. Otherwise, when it comes to removing the contents, fewer sheets of the wet newspaper stick tightly to the inside bottom of the pail and are difficult to remove. The circular bottom sheets help initially to hold the vertical newspaper lining in place. I then place one litre of dry finished compost in the bottom of the pail.

I have found no way to remove the unpleasant odour that adheres to or permeates the plastic. After emptying the pails into indoor vermicomposting Rough Totes or my outdoor New Zealand compost box I rinse them and leave them outdoors exposed to air and sunshine for a day or two. Subsequently I bring them indoors and finish cleaning the best I can. First I use damp, powdered laundry detergent (it's abrasive quality helps), then baking soda and then white vinegar. I've tried citric cleaners and although they initially mask the unpleasant odour, they provide no better (if any) odour removal than the detergent, baking soda and vinegar alone. The pails look clean but the odour persists.

There is obviously some chemical reaction going on. What characteristics of feces and HDPE cause this odour persistence? It seems to me that if some interested chemist were to apply his/her knowledge of feces and HDPE constituents to the odour persistence problem it could be at least explainable and at best neutralized or eliminated. Otherwise, one just has to live with the inconvenience of the persisting odour. HDPE plastic is so convenient a material I try not to think of other problems such as plasticizer (e.g. terephthalates) contamination of the finished compost.

To conclude, I'll finish explaining how I compost humanure. After each use I use up to 500-600 mL of dry finished compost to cover. (This compost comes from mature finished compost from the previous year's composted humanure. Thus the cycle is complete. Apart from the initial acquistion of the HDPE pails and their newspaper lining the system is relatively closed. Urine is collected separately and added (with dry autumn leaves as a carbon source) to my outdoor 1.8 cubic metre (64 cubic ft) New Zealand compost box throughout the year much as urine earth is prepared/used.

For one adult each 11L pail, when full, consists of 5L dry finished compost + 6L feces & toilet paper.

My records show that, per adult, it takes 11-15 days to fill one 11L pail. Therefore, I need an average of 29 (24-33) 11L pails for one year.

At a rate of 5L of dry finished compost (as cover) for each pail I have to manufacture and store an average of 142.5L (120-165L) of dry finished compost per year. Each 11L pail, full, weighs about 9.5 kg (21 lbs).

I welcome hearing of others' low tech composting toilet methods.

Author: Joe Jenkins
Thursday, November 01, 2001 - 10:33 am
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We also use HDPE 5 gallon buckets as compost containers. We collect both urine and fecal material at the same time and empty it all on the compost pile. We do not line the buckets, but do add a couple inches of sawdust to the bottom and dust the sides when the emptied and rinsed buckets are put back in the toilet. We use a drop of biodegradable dish soap and a toilet scrub brush and usually some rain water to clean the buckets each time they are emptied. The water is dumped on the compost pile. The buckets will last about 10 years before they acquire an odor that is too unpleassant to continue using the bucket. I think the sawdust lining on the bottom really helps as that's where the odor is worst - the sawdust smothers it immediately. We also, of course, use a standard toilet seat and lid, which is kept closed when not in use. We also use four buckets and fill them one at a time and then empty them all at once, once a week. We do nothing special to clean the buckets other than what's mentioned above. A week's worth of humanure compost material (4 buckets)can be emptied and the buckets cleaned in 20 minutes.

Author: shelly
Monday, November 05, 2001 - 12:17 pm
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I've found the best thing to do is to is once the bucket gets that "oder" that won't go away after washing the bucket is to set the bucket in the sun for a day or two. After that, it is as good as new again.

Author: Stephen
Monday, November 05, 2001 - 11:03 pm
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I have been scrubbing mine with a vinegar/water mix and let them sit out for a while, and it seems to be working pretty well.

Author: Stephen
Friday, June 07, 2002 - 1:21 am
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Ok I think I have found the greatest bucket cleanser around. I have been using it for about four months now. It is Enzymatic. It is sold at our local janitorial supply store.
My friend used it while working at the hospital cleaning the OR and the trauma room. Picture that.
It is a Cultured liquid bacteria that eliminates smells and stains (organic). It is reccomended for use in a septic tank. And it smell pretty nice too.

Author: DaronPage
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 - 5:09 pm
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I just scrub mine with some dry stuff (leaves or dry grass clippings) at the compost bin and then dust the sides and bottom while at the compost bin, put the lid back on and take it in the house. the dusting of dry stuff(leaves) seems to cover any oders.

Author: joe
Tuesday, June 11, 2002 - 9:47 pm
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Yes, and never put an empty bucket back into the toilet stand. Always place an inch or two of clean cover material in the bottom of the bucket (sawdust, leaves etc.) to prevent odors. The bottom of the bucket will smell bad unless you cover it up.

Author: JOE FIKE
Thursday, August 15, 2002 - 8:34 am
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HOW ABOUT USING A FIVE GALLON BUCKET FOR THE TOILET AND ADDING THE STRAW, SAWDUST, ETC, BUT NOT EMTYING IT. JUST LET THE COMPOSTING TAKE PLACE IN EACH BUCKET. USE A NEW BUCKET EACH TIME. PUT A DATE ON EACH BUCKET. USE IT AT THE PROPER TIME AS A PLANTER(CONTAINER GARDENING)

Author: Joe
Thursday, August 15, 2002 - 12:29 pm
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It won't compost in the bucket - too little mass and not enough oxygen.

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, August 22, 2002 - 8:36 am
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I wondered if it would heat with rye straw. Once I discarded some rye flour in my garbage pail(a gallon ice cream pail) & when I dumped it when it was full the pail felt hot.The flour was in the bottom of the pail. I have read that rye straw is good to put over vegetables to keep them from freezing over the winter.

Author: JOHN WARD
Thursday, October 31, 2002 - 2:49 pm
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THE BEST!!20 mule team borax. let sit overnight.
no smell,no stain,and 100% organic.cheap!cheap!

Author: Larry Warnberg
Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 11:19 am
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John Ward's suggestion to use borax for bucket odor control caught my eye. I would avoid using borax because boron is a powerful biocide. While it is an essential trace element for plant growth, a little goes a long way, and toxic levels are very small.
We use several buckets on rotation to control odor, leaving empty buckets on the deck in the sun between uses. A layer of absorbent carbonaceous material in the bottom of a new bucket, as Joe recommends, is also helpful.
Fragrantly, Larry

Author: Herb_WI
Thursday, August 07, 2003 - 12:15 pm
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This may not be a popular solution but I like it.

I use 13 gal. white plastic bags instead of buckets. With a bit of stretching around the open end, they fit perfectly under the toilet seat and are held in place. Then I use them with peat or sawdust flush until they start to fill up (winter) or when the smell starts bothering me (summer). Then I haul them up to my humanure composting bins and dump them out.

The "used" plastic bags then go into my other plastic trash/garbage to the landfill. I have very little trash that I haul to the landfull and these "used" plastic bags are a minor part of that. I know it is not totally "earth friendly" doing this, but it beats messing with the bucket "thang" (which I did for YEARS).

What we need is a TRUE biodegradable "plastic" bag, or a special biodegradable paper bag that would be leakproof just long enough to fill up.

Author: Kirk
Saturday, September 27, 2003 - 10:08 pm
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Well up here in Whitehorse, Yukon Canada we have a municipal composting program that collects all organic material except human feces. The bags we currently use are called bio-solo and they are biodegradable and may be a good alternative to using a plastic bag.
The company link is http://www.biosolo.com There are several other bags on the market just do a search. I have thought of using these bags when camping in sensitive areas but have not yet tried them. These bags break down by exposure to oxygen and heat and break down into carbon and calcium carbonate with supposedly no toxins or contaminants. The bags are only collected every two weeks and I have seen quite a bit of liquid build up at the bottom of the bags and they have held up. Of course due to their nature they have a shelf life so you would not want to keep a large stock on hand.

A Kraft paper bag that you could go with is the Bags to Earth brand made by Prescott Paper, they have bags for kitchen use that have liners to prevent liquid soaking though. The link is http://www.ppaper.com Other manufactures are coming out with similar products. Just do a search under compostable bags.

The bio-solo bags work just fine up here. The Bags to Earth bags would work also but for our use we needed a bag that was see though to spot contamination. So I would see no problem in using either product for collection of humanure.

I have no interest in getting into the argument over what a true biodegradable plastic bags is. I am just glad someone is making the attempt at finding an alternative and I have no problems supporting their efforts. Of course there are always bugs and problems with a new technology, thatís why we need to buy these products so they can improve them.

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, February 05, 2004 - 4:48 pm
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I have been using a few drops Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap and rain water to rinse out my bucket and that seems to be working just fine. I hang a toilet brush on a nail on the side of the compost bin and use that to scrub with. After rinsing, I line the bucket either with straw or a few sheet of newspaper. It has been well below 0 degrees F up here in NH this winter, so I have had to tap the ol' bucket with a hammer a few times in order to coax the contents out (we have an outdoor toilet), but other than that minor hassle, our first few months of using humanure methods has been a success!

Author: Anonymous
Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 7:24 pm
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At scuncisteamer.com they sell a household product that cleans & deodorizes with steam.

Author: Rod
Monday, October 18, 2004 - 8:30 am
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I haven't started this yet, but I was wondering what thin ceramic containers would be like (apart from being heavy). I have a vision of something elaborate - a ceramic pot mounted on a trolley on rails that slides out from the back of the bothy with a counterweighted jack to lift up and tip the thing into the compost. A bit impractical maybe, but I'm guessing that ceramic would be nicer to use in some ways than plastic.

Herb-WI, I just did a Google search for "biodegradable plastic bag" and among a whole lot of other things, came up with this link; http://www.biogroupusa.com/biotoi.htm

Author: Anonymous
Friday, January 28, 2005 - 11:17 am
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White vinegar neutralizes urine smell.

Author: Anonymous
Thursday, September 01, 2005 - 10:59 am
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But be extremelY careful when you buy white vinegar. Much of it is toxic and chemically derived, like HEINZ. In Canada you can buy the old-fashioned kind that is derived from grains at Superstore, President's Choice brand. It's not that expensive.

Author: Anonymous
Monday, January 30, 2006 - 7:46 am
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We used to use plastic buckets and know what you are all talking about re the smells/discolouration. Now we use stainless steel pots as our containers (about 10 -15 litres - actually intended for catering for large crowds - cost about $10 each and last forever). There is absolutely no odour and they are great to clean.

Author: jockey23kids
Friday, March 10, 2006 - 8:30 pm
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I have found that coffee grounds GREATLY reduce the odor in my bucket. Left a bucket unattended for a week and added used coffee grounds and the ammonia smell was gone, only a coffee and woodsy smell left. Starbucks has been wonderful in giving away all the coffee grounds I can carry.

Author: Anonymous
Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 4:33 pm
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Brilliant. So much helpful information in one thread. We are planning to build a humanure outhouse for our market garden and one-tent tourist campsite and this has been a big help. Our municipality has started collecting compostables and so now 'green bags' made of cornstarch are available in the stores, so I'm thinking of using those as bucket liners as an emergency back-up, if we get disgusted with washing and deodorizing buckets in summer time.

Author: TCLynx
Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 8:01 pm
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Coffee grounds are great at absorbing odor. So long as you don't mind the smell of coffee. I like when airlines put the coffee pouch in the lavatories to help against the chemical toilet smell. The chemical toilet smell is far worse than the smells they are trying to cover up.
Do the cornstarch bags break down? I wonder how long it takes?

Author: Anonymous
Saturday, April 08, 2006 - 8:19 pm
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I found that smells tend to cling to plastic. To deal with this we use the buckets in a rotation. The freshly dumped and cleaned bucket gets filled with cover material to go in and sit next to the toilet. Since it is filled with cover material, no smell problem and generally once it is down to only a few inches of cover, it gets put into the toilet and the cycle continues.

Author: Stephen
Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 10:21 am
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I have found by leaving the buckets outdoors and empty for about a week that the smell dissipates.
I sort of rotate my buckets in that fashion.

Author: Rangdrol
Sunday, April 09, 2006 - 2:06 pm
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We just dug our canoe bucket out from under the snow a couple days ago. It still has a little odor. Our sun-dried bucket has a lot less - but discernable odor. So it seems to be the heat that is important. Since most odors are volitiles this makes some horse sense. To test it we need to sun dry one at the same time as we dry one in the shade. We are only using one so some of you multi bucket folks need to do the test.

The catch is our sun eats plastic buckets really fast. That might be because we are up on the mountain. They get brittle and crack and the risk of handle fail/spills is not a nice thought. None of them seem to last outside for more than a few months.

Author: Stephen
Monday, April 10, 2006 - 11:41 pm
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I don't know...? I'm pretty thick in the woods, not much sun here. But hey, let me know.

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