Thursday, August 28, 2014

Urine Nation: Just Add Pineapple Juice

“The average person flushes the toilet five times a day, and four of those times are just for urine. This means that 80% of our flushwater—or over 4,000 gallons of clean water each year per person—is used just to get rid of urine! That is a lot of clean water used to transport ‘liquid gold’ into the sewer, where it becomes pollution. If we save it instead of flushing it, we can harvest a valuable resource that we can use in agriculture.” ** Rich Earth Institute, FAQ
A typical toilet flusher wastes “up to 22 liters of drinkable water every day, one three- to six-liter flush at a time. What follows…is the long and costly process of sanitizing the water that was clean before you answered nature’s call. Using so much water per flush unnecessarily increases the volume of our waste and the cost of its transportation and treatment, ecologists say…. The process also leaves a huge carbon footprint.” -Time Magazine


On my van camping trips, I hate to stop all the time to relieve myself often.  (Gas station and roadside restaurant bathrooms are typically quite disgusting.)  I had read about how truckers peed in bottles.  (Unfortunately, some bad truckers throw their full "pee bombs" out their windows on or near the interstate.  I've seen many of these full bottles on the sides of the roads.) 

At my local grocery store, I saw a Tropicana Farmstand bottle that looked perfect for use as a small "holding tank."  The bottle is great as it is well made and has a wide opening ;-)  (This blog pertains to guys specifically, we haven't figured out how this could work out for the ladies, YET!)

My urin collection bottle, Pineapple juice, and a lid for the Pineapple juice to store it.
The bottle has worked out great in the van.  I can go without stopping.  (My wife uses a Luggable Loo we have in the van.)  I dump the bottle when I get to a proper sanitary station.  If I am in the woods, I sometimes dump it in an area that looks like it could use moisture, far from surface water sources.

I've read that urine comes out sterile and is a fantastic fertilizer (when diluted) as it is full of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  Many folks use it in their gardens. It's used in many nations as fertilizer and has been for centuries. There is a project in Vermont by Rich Earth Institute to grow crops using it [learn more] rather than using expensive petrolium and/or animal waste based fertilizers.

It struck me that I could save a heck of a lot of water if I used a bottle during the day at home and did not flush the toilet as often.  My toilet at home uses 1.6 gallons per flush.  Holy Cow that is a heck of a lot of perfectly clean water just to flush down a couple ounces of urine every time! 

I decided to get another Tropicana bottle and use it during the day, saving hundreds of gallons of water and flushing it all down once a day (when I had number two business to attend to).  I clean the bottle out each day after it is dumped.

There was a big problem.  Urine really stinks after it sits around all day in the bottle.

I started researching how to get rid of the smell.  I stumbled upon "10 strange pineapple facts" that describes how pineapple is used by, well let's just say, very sexually active folks to eliminate odors and bad tastes.  It got me thinking, "What if I added a little pineapple juice to the bottom of my pee bottle after I cleaned it each day?"

I have discovered that pineapple juice* does a great job of eliminating the bad odor created by urine sitting around all day.   This was a fantastic discovery and very practical to me!  Big cans of pineapple juice are cheap in the generic brand at my local grocery store, under 3 bucks for big cans.

So I've been storing my urine during the day for a few weeks now.   I was flushing it three or four times a day before this.  That is 3.5 flushes a day average (or more).  That is at least 5.6 gallons of totally wasted clean water a day if you flush every time!!!!  I figure I am home about 300 days a year (I work from home).  I can save 300 days x 5.6 gallons = about 1,680 gallons a year. Probably more like 2,000!

We use about 1,700 gallons of water a month at our town home (2 people - no private lawn) according to our local public utility.  That is 20,400 gallons a year.  That's nearly a 10% household water savings by me from using the bottle. That's pretty significant.

Imagine how much water could be saved if all the guys in, say, dry dry California or Nevada did this. Lake Mead might survive a few more years before going dry!

My next experiment is to use some diluted urine as a fertilizer for my house plants.  I've read that it is much better than commercial house plant fertilizers.  I'm wondering if the pineapple juice in the mix will cause a problem.  I suspect not.  Will it smell?  I plan to find out.  Others are successfully doing it.

Here is something to try at your next smelly campground.  If you find a not so sweet smelling pit toilet, try pouring a big can of pineapple juice into the pit.  I suspect the pit will smell much better for a while after that.  I tried it out at a local pit toilet and my nose detected a big difference for about a week!  I plan to pack a couple cans of pineapple juice in the van just for this purpose.

See if it works for you and let us all know.

* Nov 2014 - Update: I recently discovered that White Distilled Vinegar is also good at keep the odor down.  It might be cheaper also.  It knocks out the bad urine smell, but you do smell a vinegary smell.  It's not bad.


  1. If it's yellow let in mellow, if its brown flush it down. A rhyme used by Californians during drought years.

  2. We've done that but it is pretty disgusting and stains the bowl to create a big cleaning job.

  3. One thing to consider in an RV is not to have too little water in your black tank. Too little liquid and you'll have yourself a whole other problem ;-)

  4. Ingrid - Our plan for full-timing is to convert to a composting toilet. BTW - your suggestion led us to re-explore our plans and we are a definite now for a C Class with a Jeep toad. Thank you for steering us in that direction!

  5. You should use a compositing toilet. Gone with the Wynns have a video. Way cool too!

    1. Our plan for our full-time vehicle in a few years is to install a composting toilet for sure!

    2. Our plan for our full-time vehicle in a few years is to install a composting toilet for sure!


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