Composting toilets, vinegar flies and other fun things
Over the last few years we've had a steady stream of emails asking about our composting toilets. The subject is always "how do we get rid of vinegar flies?". I'm not a rep for Natureloo or anything but I do love the idea of having a waterless, no smelling, toilet. Especially when we are on a large enough property to be able to have space to bury the composted material (we are on 3 acres). Since I did a blog about our composting loo we've had a lot of hits on our website about this topic. Here's what we know and what we don't.
Our loo has a pedestal that looks much like a regular flushing toilet and since we are on stumps, we have our chambers under the house. They are the classic 750 type. We have two toilets. Even when we fix our problems with vinegar flies there's every chance of them returning. That's the risk of having composting loos. The main issues are about vulnerability, ie spots that the flies can get into the unit. Here are where I reckon the danger areas are, and some possible fixes:
- when the lid gets left open, usually thanks to guests who aren't familiar with a waterless toilet.
Put instructions next to the toilet and check the lid after kids who can't or won't read after they've been.
- if the lid and seat are not sitting on the pedestal properly then it doesn't take much for the vinegar flies to get in.
I'm unsure about this problem, our lid slides from side to side a bit and is not always sitting perfectly, which is great news for vinegar flies trying to get in. Just keep an eye on how it's sitting.
- if the the chute is not snugly connected, or if the chamber lid is not on tightly, they can get in there.
The makers say to try putting Vaseline around the outside of the chute so that the rubber seal can not be breached.
- the hoses and vents are not properly attached.
I have just recently tried putting the plumbers Teflon tape around the connection to make it a tight seal. Hopefully this will help.
If you are really committed to saving water then none of these things are a huge effort. Once the flies have infested they are a bugger to get rid of. We have tried the Tomato Dust powder that's recommended to eliminate them but this doesn't seem to get rid of them permanently although it can suppress them. Sometimes I find tipping hot water down the pedestal seems to stop them although I don't know what this does to the enzymes and the composting process. We have also heard that putting comfrey leaves into the toilet aids composting but I don't think this effects the fly infestations. We are just starting to do the comfrey now.
I am no expert but we are very proud of our water saving in this dry land so we are keen on perfecting our toilet operation. If anyone out there has any other tips on this subject I'd love to hear them and add them to a future blog. We've had enough correspondence on this issue to be motivated to write a new blog rather than replying individually to emails. Good luck water saving folks! You are awesome!