RV Toilets

RV toilets have a role in RV life out of proportion to their size. They are needed for only a few minutes a day. They must work as advertised. In particular, you need to choose the associated chemicals carefully. This article covers all the average RV buyer needs to know.

Public Toilets

The best type of toilet while using an RV is someone else’s. Use caravan park amenities and public toilets wherever possible. These may not, however, have the standards of hygiene that you would expect at home. Keep a pack of hygienic wipes handy as many public toilets lack soap. You should also have a few rolls of your preferred toilet paper.

The National Public Toilet directory map (also available as an app) is worth having on your smart-phone – see https://toiletmap.gov.au/ for details.

If you don’t have an RV toilet, you may regret that one day. Moreover, by not being ‘self contained’ you may be restricted in where you can stay.

RV Toilet Options

RV toilets are available in many types, shapes and sizes. In days gone by, lids with buckets sufficed, and variations of these are still in use today. DIY enthusiasts have something of a field day in this area. It is surprising what people make with pool noodles, water pipes, plastic chairs and milk crates. Google ‘thunderboxes’ or ‘bumper dumpers’ to get a sense of human ingenuity in this area.

To the relief of many, RV toilets that mimic the comfort and convenience of domestic ones are now standard. There are two basic types – built-in and portable: both operate similarly. Built-in toilets tend to be slightly larger and heavier (with ceramic bowls) than portable ones (typically made of plastic). Portable toilets are slightly smaller and lower.

How RV Toilets Works

The modern RV cassette toilet has two chambers, An upper chamber holds water for flushing, and a lower chamber holds liquid and solid toilet waste. Each is filled separately with water, with the lower chamber also containing chemicals to break down the waste and destroy harmful bacteria. Flushing is carried out electrically in the case of built-in toilets and with a hand pump for portable toilets.

Two-chamber RV toilet – removable via an external hatch.

An all-important sliding ‘blade’ separates the two chambers of portable toilets. This blade has a hole surrounded by a rubber seal. The blade is usually pulled forwards during use. These toilets work well, but you need to renew the rubber seal regularly, or if damaged.

The black water chamber or ‘cassette’ is removable for emptying at a dump point. Built-in RV toilets have an external hatch which provides access to this cassette. Most cassettes have wheels to make transport to the dump point easier.

For information on what type of chemicals breakdown waste in RV toilets, read our articles on safe toilet chemicals and by Emeritus Professor Jenkins.

Using Cassette Toilets

When using RV cassette toilets, here are a few suggestions:

  • Even if little used, always empty the cassette before travel.
  • A medium-sized portable toilet emptied often is more comfortable to carry, empty and store than a large one emptied infrequently.
  • Never empty cassettes into toilet bowls – they cannot handle sudden and large volumes of waste and become blocked.
  • Use gloves when emptying cassettes at dump points or wash your hands immediately afterwards.
  • Rinse the dump point after use and leave it as you would wish to find it.
  • Do not use domestic toilet chemicals to clean RV toilets – domestic chemicals can damage an RV toilet’s rubber seals.

Portable toilets are usually slightly lower than ideal, supporting one on a dedicated caravan step or DIY wooden base makes them less uncomfortable.

Standing a portable toilet on a step can make it easier to use

Chemical Cassette Alternatives

Some RV toilets have a similar vacuum system on aircraft. They are, however, bulky so suitable mainly fo the larger RVs.

Another toilet, the ‘Cinderella’, burns the waste there and then. The only residue is ash. These are costly but effective – click here for details.

A Cinderella Toilet. Pic courtesy Cinderellaeco.com.au

In case of a toilet emergency

According to the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia:

If ‘caught short’ where no toilet exists, do ‘whatever’ at least 100 metres from campsites or watercourses, buying waste by at least 15 cm (the length of an average hand). Mix with soil to speed decomposition. Do not bury sanitary items or disposable nappies.”