Cleaning the buckets

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Composting Around the World: Cleaning the buckets
Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Saturday, January 01, 2011 - 2:21 pm
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1) I've been experiencing some hygene anxiety around how to dump and clean the buckets (and figuring out better strategies). I don't have a sweet Humanure Hacienda (HH) set-up. Can non-HH forum participants comment on their own process of cleaning the buckets?

I rarely do more than rinse the buckets with just water. I dribble water down the sides of the buckets to wash the sawdust remnants down to the bottom. Then I consolidate the water in the buckets together and dump it on the pile. The empty buckets get put upside down to drain near the compost bins. After a day or so I put them right side up and let them get some sun. It is generally at least a week before I fill them with sawdust and bring them back in the house. I don't know why this seems important to me but it does. This period of being dry and in the sun will kill most bacteria attached to the plastic of the bucket. I have been using the same buckets for 3-5 years and I do not detect any odor on them. I consider the interior of the buckets more micro-biologically live than the exterior. If I handle the inside of the buckets then I would wash my hands afterward.

Why do I not scrub the buckets? As we all know, poop is sticky. I generally can keep the poop from touching the sides of the bucket. I do this by making sure that I am pooping onto a flat surface, rather than onto a cone. I do this by shaking the bucket down periodically as it fills.

What can I say- it works!
Nancy

Author: Nancybeetoo (Nancybeetoo)
Saturday, January 01, 2011 - 2:05 pm
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4) Is the smell of ammonia common when dumping material? Also, I'm observing a carrot-orange color to the material upon dumping on the pile. I'm wondering if it's the urine breaking down the sawdust + color of the urine + bilirubin in the stool? It looks like carrot pulp one would get from juicing a carrot.

My urine soaked buckets are orange when I empty too. I think it's probably the high pH of week old pee.
Nancy

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Friday, December 31, 2010 - 4:01 am
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oops meant to say I use 3 to 4 gallons of water to clean 2 to 3 buckets.

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 11:39 pm
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1) So, how much water is too much water on the pile?

Want pile to be like a damp sponge. If it gets too wet may drive out oxygen or cause leaching or cool down pile. Even if it gets too wet no big deal - it will drain recreating air space. Its unlikely you will dump too much water on it just by cleaning buckets.

I do not worry about it in the midwest USA.

2) How many buckets do you use in the process of cleaning?

I probably use more water than some others. About 3/4 to 1 gallon water per 2 or 3 buckets of humanmanure. (I use grey water from 7th generation dish soap - its excellent dish soap and actually cleans better or as good as standard soaps).Use some water and soap wash bucket and dump on pile. Then repeat till all water is gone.

3) What is the length of time a bucket full of material can be kept full? When does it become a bio-hazard?

My guess is the "bio-hazard" nature (if any) does not increase over time. In fact it may decrease since composting begins in the 5 gall bucket itself. Composting tends to reduce "bio-hazards" even if its not thermophilic.

I have kept full buckets even 2 months till I got them to the pile. No big deal. I guess it may lose some nitrogen over time.

I think I have read on this blog people keeping full containers (drums) over a year and then composting them in a pile.

4) Is the smell of ammonia common when dumping material? Also, I'm observing a carrot-orange color to the material upon dumping on the pile.

I use paper and coffee grounds mainly, and do not see orange colors. Yep, when I dump it smells until I get a good cover over it. I probably should use drier grounds.

Not sure about why the orange color - but make sure the sawdust is non toxic. Any idea what kind of tree is the sawdust from ?

Anybody else heard of orange in the buckets ?

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 2:58 pm
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Hi folks.
This matter of cleaning the bucket is one that often comes up and understandably people are cautious about the hygiene aspects handling humanure. I will copy an earlier post of mine and then add a little more explanation:
"Try using only sawdust to clean the bucket:
Wearing rubber gloves, and having emptied the bucket onto the compost heap, take a big handful of sawdust. Clean around the inside of the bucket with this sawdust, then empty that sawdust onto the compost heap.
Do the same thing again, it might take maybe 3 handfuls of sawdust to get the inside of the bucket clean and dry.
Finally, use a soft brush to sweep out any remaining sawdust.
NO WATER ! NO DETERGENT ! NO DISINFECTANT ! NO RESIDUAL SMELL !"
I have since taken to rinsing out the bucket first, with no more than about a couple of pints of fresh, non-soapy water. This goes onto the compost pile.
NEVER use any disinfectant for this purpose. Expecially chlorine-based products - it's so unnatural and can destroy the good micro-organisms which will be doing the composting for you.
By using the dry material to clean around the inside (and outside if needed) of the bucket, you encourage the growth of aerobic bacteria. These are the sort which don't induce the buildup of bad smells. I have even used hay and shredded newspaper for this job, they do just as good a job of cleaning the bucket surface. Experiment for youself and see what works best for you.
The manufacturers of soaps, detergents and disinfectants have, by their massive advertising campaigns, caused us to believe that these products are the CLEANER. In fact they are not... the water is the cleaner, every time! The products simply assist the cleaning, mostly by their wetting agent effect. If you really need to use some, then only the bare minimum amount that will do the job. This will help us to protect the natural environment.

Author: Danilo (Danilo)
Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 2:12 pm
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For cleaning receptacles I use 10 liters (2,6 gallons) container with tap , which I fill with water. So both of my hands are free for cleaning like in Joe video (procedure is the same ).

With this 10 liters (2,6 gallons) water I clean 3 receptacles with humanure and 3 receptacles with kitchen scrap.

In winter, is hot water in container with tap and I carry to the compost and clean receptacles. Hot water at -20 deg.C (-4 deg. F) is very handy.

I don't wear gloves, and I do wash my hands afterwards, of course.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 9:01 pm
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I thought we were trying to save water here!
I use about 8 ounces total of soapy water to clean a 3 gallon bucket. The water is in a plastic wash bottle. After dumping the bucket into the hole created for it, I squirt a little wash water into the bucket and use a trowel to scrape whatever is sticking to the sides and bottom. Dump the contents on the pile. Squirt again, use the brush, dump. Squirt again, slosh, dump. Squirt again if needed. By this time the bucket is usually pretty clean-- "clean enough." I set it in the sun for a couple of days to dry.
I don't wear gloves, but I do wash my hands afterwards.

Author: Compost_d (Compost_d)
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 7:13 am
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@Test2

Thank you for the reply. I feel a little more settled after reading your post. I've exposed myself to most of the info out there (books, clips, sheets) but haven't fully been met by their answers, therefore I'm asking for direct help.

Some further questions:

1) So, how much water is too much water on the pile? (pile is 1 standard pallet length/width/depth) right now there is about 10" worth of material

2) How many buckets do you use in the process of cleaning? (excluding the Humanure buckets)

3) What is the length of time a bucket full of material can be kept full? (so far I have tested up to 3 weeks.) When does it become a bio-hazard?

4) Is the smell of ammonia common when dumping material? Also, I'm observing a carrot-orange color to the material upon dumping on the pile. I'm wondering if it's the urine breaking down the sawdust + color of the urine + bilirubin in the stool? It looks like carrot pulp one would get from juicing a carrot.

Thanks again!

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Wednesday, December 29, 2010 - 1:30 am
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May I suggest useing Biobags - they work very well to contain the bucket material when its dumped on the pile - makes for easier bucket cleaning. The bags are safe to use in compost and I use them now.

Best not to dump bleach in compost pile.

Another option to clean outside of bucket is use soapy paper towels to wipe the outside of bucket, then sprinkle water on the outside of bucket letting water trickle into the compost heap. Put the towels in the heap.

Author: Test2 (Test2)
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - 11:34 pm
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You are doing fine. For extra tips check out the book, videos and instruction sheet all free online.

My procedure is very similar to yours.

You are not using too much water. If you want go ahead and use more water and soap. Maybe get 2 scrub brushs - one initialy used then a follow up once the buckets are cleaner. Place and keep the brushes in a separate bucket

I don't change shoes, but dont have a chicken coop either. Our humanure is not from a diseased population and very little if any will get on you or your shoes. If you are concerned why not bring an extra pair of shoes to change into. If you are really concerned you can have a designated set of cloths for the procedure, then change, but I suspect very very few composters do that.

I used to wear rubber gloves, but no longer do. I don't think you need them. Afterall, do you wear gloves when you defecate and wipe up ? You can just wash your hands with soap and water.

Any tool i.e shovel, rake.. used for humanure compost should not be used elsewhere.

There is no reason why you can not use a hose if you had one nearby. Or use 2.5 gallon size buckets full of water makes it easier to pour. Also, cleaning out the buckets before they are full will also make it easier to clean them.

Clean enough - well are peoples toilets sterile ? Of course not, so the buckets do not have to be sterile. Basicly if they look clean they are ok. Sometimes they look clean but still can smell - try airing them out a few days, spraying with vinegar, baking soda, washing soda and as a last resort a dilute solution of bleach.

Sometimes I splash the outside of the bucket - then I got a dilema - the simplest approach is bring the bucket in the house, don some gloves and clean the bucket in the bathtub.

Once you have been doing it a while and realize nothing adverse happens composting humanmanure, your fears will subside.

Author: Compost_d (Compost_d)
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 - 9:31 am
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So... Austin, TX. USA humanure pilot project is underway now for about a month. I've made 2 compost heap trips. Dumped: 2 buckets the first time, 3 the most recent. So here are questions that have come up for me:

1) I've been experiencing some hygene anxiety around how to dump and clean the buckets (and figuring out better strategies). I don't have a sweet Humanure Hacienda (HH) set-up. Can non-HH forum participants comment on their own process of cleaning the buckets?

2) I'm experiencing a fear around dilluting or over-moistening the pile with too much water from the cleaning process. (Right now, I use 3-4 gallons of water to clean 2-3 buckets.) Am I OK doing that much water on the pile?

3) Do you wear specific shoes/boots when dumping the material? For example, would you use the same boots to go in to your chicken coop after the fact?

4) What does 'clean enough' look and feel like?


What I'm doing is: taking the buckets to the pile. Filling and lugging out an extra 5G bucket of water. Dumping the Humanure buckets. Dumping water into the first bucket. Swishing it around to remove any leftover material (this can get a little messy), and empty it out in to the next bucket. Repeat. Dump the water in to the pile.

Then I get some Dr. Bronner's soap, and use a toilet brush and just scrub the bucket. The brush picks up any leftover material. Snag is that it spreads the small particles around the whole bucket (I realized though it doesn't have to be perfect... but I experience anxiety around "has it been cleaned enough"). I do this for all the buckets. Then dump water in to the first one, swish around empty in to the next bucket. Repeat. Dump on pile.

All this time.. I'm wearing dish gloves. Sometimes the soapy humanure material splash on my gloves and on my shoes. Obviously, I'm then touching the bucket handles and the shovel etc... I'm feeling some germ anxiety around that as well. "I guess this shovel is the shit shovel, and that's that from now on."

It would be way easier to use a hose or gravity (like in the HH) to direct the water to go where you want. Pouring from clean water bucket in to other bucket is challenging and also adulterates the clean water bucket.

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