Do you have any solutions for a smelly outhouse?

By Jackie DavisJackie Davis


Photo by Lincon Rogers/Shutterstock.com


The Question

Do you have any solutions for a smelly outhouse?
—Dave and Kate, via e-mail

The Answer

Well, there are odour-eating products (for example, lime) that you can add to the pit, but some experts don’t recommend this. For one thing, they may just mask the smell, not get rid of it. Plus, dumping anything in the pit—especially strong chemicals—could mess with the natural balance of oxygen and good bacteria, leading to a poorly functioning privy (that might start to smell even worse). Instead, consider adding more fresh air to the equation by putting vent pipes in the corners of the outhouse (make sure they extend above the top of the outhouse roof, down through the bench, and into the pit), and inserting screened windows at the top and bottom of the outhouse. Seal any cracks or openings around the pit hole; this will encourage stinky air to exit through the vent pipes, instead of wafting up into the outhouse (and your nostrils).

Unfortunately, increasing ventilation may not make a big difference if your privy is tucked in a spot where it doesn’t get much airflow to begin with (say, behind a stand of trees), and it sure won’t do any good if the pit is too full. In that case, the outhouse needs to be relocated or pumped out.


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Sep. 15, 2013

8:42 am

All the outhouses I build have a vent pipe which runs from the below the seat line up past the roof peak. It helps a bit to have a soffit under the seat line to establish an air flow or chimney effect to draw those gases up. Also screened opposing vents near the inside roof line helps keep stray odors away but these won't do you any good without a tight lid. Here in Connecticut, state law requires sprinkling lime or wood ashes into the pit after use. Limestone and carbon are natural around these parts so I don't see much harm in it. If you don't think much of these words I can tell you about some foolish campers at scout camp who dumped a fire cracker down a hole next to their buddy. The explosion sent the buddy to the hospital. After he healed, was unable to procreate. Don't happen very often and you need the right percentage of gases, but don't forget to vent.


Sep. 12, 2013

9:06 pm

My husband read about this solution somewhere. He mounted a chimney on the side of the outhouse that enters the pit under the seat. It has an access at the base. He bought an oil lamp and lights it. He then sets it in the access and closes it up. The heat from the lamp draws the smell up and away. You know when you need to fill the lamp and relight it because the stink comes back. Try it. You'll be amazed.


Sep. 12, 2013

11:29 am

We have always used lime.....A year ago we decided that the outhouse pit needed to be cleaned out (after 52 years in the same spot) or a new one dug.... Being on an island, it would have been difficult to have it pumped out.... First thing in the spring we rented a Johnny on the Spot and brought it over by pontoon, carried it up to the cottage and placed it on the deck. to be used instead of the outhouse. The next day we had all the young people with shovels and a wheel barrow start digging out the hole. Over the winter the contents had deteriorated and the soil underneath was a wonderful TOPSOIL>.... The hole is now much bigger and we are more careful about what goes down.... toilet paper etc. Hopefully this will last another 52 years. and will be the kids problem.....We then built a new outhouse over the original hole and it is such a pleasure to do business!!!


Sep. 12, 2013

6:19 am

A year or two ago we constructed a new out house using the Privy500 kit. LIquids are drained into a gravel filled pit beneath the outhouse and solids are collected in a biodegradeable bag. Keeping solids and liquids separate reduces the odour, in fact it seems to eliminate it unless the feces is fresh. We were symied for males though with their notoriously poor aims and we hunted in vain for a urinal. We finally solved that problem with a large water bottle cut to provide both a backsplash and a urine collection basin and drained it into the pit using a 2 1/2 inch plastic pipe and fittings.


Aug. 16, 2013

8:49 am

We use lime in our outhouse at the hunt camp. Each year it is shovelled out, this is a must. Suggest dabbing metholatum under your nose and wear a mask. We have never had a problem using the lime inbetween clean outs. It is important to put enough in the hole. Be sure to cover all the poop.

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