by Collyn Rivers
Choosing the right RV toilet chemicals.
Many RV owners ask is Napisan a safe toilet chemical? Safely disposing of toilet waste is a major problem when free camping. Safe chemicals are essential as faecal matter endangers humans. Many toilet chemicals, however, contain non-biodegradable content. Worse, they kill essentially needed bacteria in ‘long drop’ and septic systems. This article explains all.
Safe Toilet Chemicals
Adding oxidising agents (or enzymes), speeds up nature’s breakdown of faecal matter. It also reduces smells. You can empty safely treated sewage into septic and sewage treatment plants, but not some so-called environmental systems. Further environmentally safe toilet chemicals are oxygen-loving bio-stimulants. These include live bacteria and yeasts.
Those known to be safe include Bio-Pack, Odour-B-Gone, Aqua Kem Green and Aqua Kem Rinse (but not necessarily related products), and BioMagic. Their makers claim Envir-Chem, Reliance Bio-Blue, Century Blue Clean N Fresh, and Chempace bioFORCE to be safe.
Bacteria in septic tanks can be killed if the wrong chemicals are used. Pic: courtesy orionproducts.com.au
Unsafe toilet chemicals
There are two major risks, the foremost formaldehyde. The US Department of Toxic Substances Control states:
‘Chemical toilet additives include chemicals that are known to cause septic tank failures by killing the bacteria essential to the treatment process in the septic tank. Formaldehyde can thus cause these to die in holding tanks as it controls odour by killing bacteria. When a septic system fails, sewage waste does not break down. It can cause an increased risk to people in contact with raw sewage.’
The Department also warns against deodorisers such as Bronopol, Dowicil and Glutaraldehyde.
Check the declared content of any product. One, promoted as ‘environmentally safe’, has the (obligatory) Material Safety Data Sheet. That data-sheet reveals it contains Bronopol. Chemtech’s Portasol claims to be environmentally friendly. Its data-sheet states it contains 10 g/L Glutaraldehyde.
Be wary of home-made chemicals. Most contain bleach or Pine-O-Clean. Such material is cheap and effective but kills bacteria: a problem if you use it in town sewerage systems. Do not, however, empty it into environmental or septic systems as that bacteria is essentially needed for their operation.
The second and related move (in Europe) is to using dry toilets. As no water is used for flushing, however, their surfaces are prone to dangerous microbial growth. To protect against this the add a biocide.
Biocides, however, kill all bacteria indiscriminately. This is a major issue if so-treated sewage is disposed of in septic tanks. Such tanks rely on ‘good’ bacteria for their operation.
Is Napisan a Safe Toilet Chemical in Septic Tanks?
Many RV owners suggest using Napisan (or similar) products. These, contain sodium percarbonate, a chemical that (in water), breaks down to soda ash and hydrogen peroxide. An additive makes the faecal matter smell less bad.
Napisan (brand) works well from an RV user viewpoint. Content information about other products, however, is hard to obtain. This concerns. Some may include chemicals poisonous to marine life.
Some products claim to be bio-degradable to Australian Standard 4351. But that Standard relates only to ‘surfactants’ – a detergent ‘wetting’ effect. It is not relevant. These products are cheap but not that effective in breaking down faecal matter. Nor reducing smells. Using them may damage the environment.
You can avoid these issues making your own 100% safe, ultra-cheap ‘Napisan’ equivalent. How to do so is explained in Professor Ian Jenkins’ associated article. See below.
Safe Toilet Chemicals – Napisan – a Professional View
Emeritus Professor Ian Jenkins (previously Professor of Chemistry at Griffith University) has kindly provided his independent professional opinion.
The authoritative article explains the active ingredient (in Napisan and associated products) is 25%-35% sodium percarbonate. You can buy sodium carbonate (100%) in bulk. Brewing supply companies sell it for about $5.50 a kilo. Emeritus Professor Jenkins explains how to use it. Click here to access it.
In essence, you can safely use proven bio-friendly toilet chemicals to treat sewage for city sewage treatment plants. But if you travel extensively, be 100% certain the chemicals are bio-friendly. If not you can ruin costly septic systems.