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