Toilet Talk

It’s important to practice water conservation even when you live in the City, but living in the country and having a well brings the issue right to the forefront. I’m much more aware of water usage here and our habits have changed in order to avoid wasting water. Summers are supposed to be dry here and we don’t know how our well will hold up once the wet season is over. One set of changed habits concerns using the toilet, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

We have old toilets with big tanks. Instead of replacing perfectly good toilets we’ve taken some steps to reduce our water usage considerably. I’ve adjusted the float balls to cut off the refill supply sooner. And as soon as I get my hand on a couple of bricks I’ll be placing them inside the toilet tanks to reduce the amount even further . But what really cuts down on water use for the toilets is sticking to the following guideline: If it’s Yellow, Let it Mellow; If it’s Brown, Flush it Down

We do flush in the morning after everyone has had their first pee of the day; it’s concentrated stuff then and has a strong odor. But for the rest of the day we do not flush if there is just urine in the bowl. None of us have noticed an unpleasant smell from doing this and it saves countless litres of water every day.

Of course, if you are going to follow this adage you need to do something about the toilet paper. After several people have peed and dropped paper in the toilet you may end up clogging the pipes when you finally go to flush. So, to aid us in our water saving efforts we have become fastidious about using our cloth wipes (we started using cloth wipes a while ago, but until we moved here it was a now-and-then thing).

This photo is the View From the Throne. Wipes are right in front of you, and the wet bag is hanging right above them. It’s hard to miss, and serves as a reminder to everybody in the family what we’re doing. So with no toilet paper in the bowl we can “let it mellow” for as long as need be without worrying about clogs when the time comes to flush.

Now some of you may be wondering about the how we handle “#2” (and some of you might be screaming “TMI!!!” right about now, too). We don’t use cloth wipes for that (after almost 5 years of rinsing cloth diapers in the toilet I am so done with that job!). Hubby uses good ol’ fashioned toilet paper; that’s his preference. And since we “flush it down when it’s brown” there’s no issue there. But the kids and I use flushable wipes. Except we don’t flush them…

I know, they are far more costly than toilet paper and really aren’t the least bit “green”. They are my guilty pleasure and I fully confess to this environmental Sin. Not only do they ensure that the kids do a proper job of wiping, but I personally find they do a better job and leave me feeling much cleaner than the dry stuff. I’m kind of addicted…to the point where, on the rare occasion when I travel without kids, I bring some along anyway.

But I can now argue that they are actually saving our septic system. Because we don’t flush them. We are not convinced that they are safe for septic tanks, even though the packaging says so (the first summer we had our trailer they clogged up the blackwater holding tank pretty bad and clearing that out was lesson enough for us!) so we put used ones in the waste bin. At first I thought this would make things rather smelly but after using them in our trailer this way I found that they actually didn’t smell the place up at all and the same has held true in our new place.

So, between using cloth wipes for pee and using wet wipes that go in the garbage we are putting very little toilet paper into our septic tank. And because we follow the advice to “Let it Mellow when Yellow” we are using far less water. They say that flushing the toilet uses more water than any other household use, so it’s an important area to begin thinking about water conservation.


13 responses to this post.

  1. Good tips. We also let it mellow. Freaks houseguests out some, but as long as we warn them, it’s not as bad.

    One thing I would be careful of is bricks in your toilet tank. They can start to break down while in there, and do some damage to the system. I recommend using a plastic drink bottle with water (or rocks or something heavy enough) in it. The bonus of using a bottle is you get to reuse plastic packaging, and you know exactly how many mL you are displacing!


  2. Posted by ruralaspirations on March 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Thank you, Kirsten! Hadn’t thought of that issue with the bricks. Now that I think about it, a rock would probably work well and wouldn’t break down. I’ve got lots of rocks around here!


  3. I was having similiar thoughts as I read your post and then saw that Kirsten had already advised you about the brick.

    Some years ago when I was still in rented accommodation I used a large glass mayonnaise jar to displace the water however anything at all will work so let us know how you go with the rock ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Have you looked into Humanure? Joseph Jenkins wrote the book and it’s available online for free. You could spare your septic system entirely and get great compost for the garden, if done correctly.

    Another alternative for urine is peeing in the garden on heavily mulched beds. (There’s a book on that, too, called “Liquid Gold”…) Urine is high in nitrogen so it makes a great fertilizer. You can also collect it each time and pour it on your garden beds after diluting it 10 parts water to 1 part urine.

    Some families keep their compost piles moist by having the male folk pee directly into it.

    Just some more … radical … ideas for saving water. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  5. Posted by ruralaspirations on March 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I have, actually Chile. It is something I am interested in doing some day. Will you be giving it a go on your new property? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  6. A lot depends on budget as a composting toilet for ‘official’ approval does cost a little dough. Will I pee outside if desperate and no time to get inside? That depends entirely on what kind of privacy fencing we put up. LOL


  7. We pee outside all the time here, great privacy and rarely any traffic – which can be heard long before it gets here anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

    We also use a compost toilet which works really well for us. It’s a sawdust box system from the Humanure book and we have been using this system for years now and intent to apply it in our new house too.


  8. I was going to suggest humanure too, it’s a neat book. My partner and I are a few steps away from pooping in a bucket, but once you get going down that road you’d be surprised at how quickly you get over things.

    I also highly reccomend the pstyle – a pee trough for women so you can go on the go, outside, no privacy, whatever. I love mine for use in public toilets so I don’t have to hover, but when you use them at home it eliminates the need for toilet paper for #1. And it makes peeing much faster since you don’t have to take your pants off, just open the fly.

    And while we’re tip-toeing on the tmi path, I’ll see your composting poop and raise you a menstrual cup. I’ve been a complete convert of menstrual cups for a few years now and in that time I haven’t purchased a single pad or tampon – or thrown one away!

    I find the north american “diva cup” to be too long for me, so I ordered a shorter mooncup from the UK. You only have to empty the cup once every 12 hours (your results may vary) I could go on and on about how great they are.

    Pretty much anything you’d ever need to know about every menstrual cup on earth can be found on the menstrual cup livejournal:

    If you decide to consider the cup route give yourself a six month learning curve – it took me that long to master it.

    My sweetie has since moved away from cups and on to sea sponges, but I personally find them uncomfortable.

    And guess what you can do with this woman-specific “waste” you’re suddenly accessing? Fertilize your plants with the water you rinse your cup/sponge/pads in. They love it. I had a peace lilly that bloomed like crazy every month after I gave it my “gift”.


  9. Posted by ruralaspirations on March 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    ukeedog: big fan of Lunapads here. Been using the Diva for going on 2 years now and would never go back to tampons. I hear ya on the “slippery slope” to pooping in a bucket, lol. Not quite there yet! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And you’re the first I’ve heard from who has used the P-style. Still trying to wrap my head around that one (I pee in the woods often while hiking after my morning cup of tea!).


  10. Thanks for posting about that pstyle. I bought a different product that is much bulkier and have not really used it because of the inconvenience of hauling it around. The pstyle looks like a much better option!


  11. K & I have 2 pstyles – we keep on in the car for roadside pit stops, and one in the backpack we take on hikes.

    They’re quite handy.

    While we were in the city, I kept one in my purse so I would not have to hover over questionable public toilets… although I wondered if anyone else noticed that my feet were facing the toilet.

    Once the women’s room had a big line so I just used my pstyle to use a urinal in the men’s room!


  12. […] and cooking now, but not for flushing the toilet – now who’s crazy for stocking up on family cloth, […]


  13. Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him.
    Fairly certain he’ll have a great read. Many thanks for


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