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Composting Toilets in El Salvador Countryside

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CINQUERA, El Salvador- The idea behind using a toilet is the same throughout the world, but the mechanics of using them often differ fundamentally from region to region, culture to culture. I have used dozens of varieties of squat toilets, holes in the floor, troths, sink looking things, and walls depending on the cultural climate I find myself in, and one time in the jungle of Peru a girl even told me that it was okay to pee on the dirt floor in the corner of her family’s home.

I did so, though must admit that I was hesitant. The rest of the family just sat back and watched, as if it were a normal thing for a white guy to pee upon the floor of their home.

Toilet in countryside of El Salvador

In the countryside of El Salvador, I came across an outhouse type of toilet that I am unsure if I have ever used before. It looked like a standard Western style toilet, but it had a separate troth for urine inside of the bowl. It basically followed the same idea as a standard, sit down style outhouse toilet, but this special section towards the front of the bowl made a much more skillful delivery of essence.

One foul plop and it’s all over for you bud, you will be going in there with your hand. I have heard of two stories of misses, both of which had to be remedied through manual means.

A deposit place for each

The front area of this toilet is for peeing. It is my impression that there is a tube that takes the liquid to a separate privy hole somewhere nearby. Which, I suppose is a very good idea, as the ammonia in urine can quickly turn an outhouse completely stale in a very short time — and these outhouses are more or less permanently positioned in the courtyards of homes. There truly needs to be an advanced strategy for covering up urine here.

Ash to cover up after using an outhouse toilet

These toilets are also accompanied by an ash bucket which should be sitting nearby. After use, it is customary to dip the accompanying scoop into the bucket of ash and then pour it over your droppings way down the shaft.

I am told that the ash eats the poop or something like that. I must admit, that I am a little unsure about this. I have encountered a similar process of ash dumping in the Tibetan areas of China, though I am in no position to judge what function the ash really has other than covering up sight and smell.

And I was of no mind to sit around and find out.

Though I must admit that there was very little smell in this outhouse.

More on bathrooms and toilets around the world

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Filed under: Central America, Culture and Society, El Salvador, Technology

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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