Just about every motorhome will have a toilet. Most modern motorhomes have quite a large space dedicated to the toilet and shower area.
Motorhomes do indeed have toilets. In Europe, most of the toilets are chemical toilets that have a removable cassette to store the waste. The cassette can be emptied at a proper disposal point.
The toilet in a motorhome is not like the toilet in your home. There is nowhere for the waste to flush away to so there are ingenious solutions for this problem.
Before we purchased our motorhome the thought of having a toilet you have to empty manually was disgusting. I was actually considering getting rid of the toilet and using the space for another purpose. But having lived with the toilet and the facilities it offers I realise that I couldn’t be more wrong.
A motorhome toilet is a fantastic luxury and once you get used to it. I would much rather have one with all the chores of emptying and cleaning than not have one.
All of the toilets in a motorhome will have an instruction book and how to look after your toilet. It is important to read this before you start firing bleach or other harsh chemicals around.
Read it and understand how the toilet in your van works. If you do that you will save yourself from a whole lot of potentially messy disasters.
Table of Contents
What is a Chemical Toilet?
A chemical toilet is a toilet that uses chemicals to break down the waste and keep the smells under control.
Chemical toilets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them, the more expensive ones, even have a ceramic bowl. Most are made from plastic and will have a rudimentary flush that will be powered by the leisure battery.
You do your business in the bowl and there is a trap door that will let it fall through to a collecting tank. Once the tank is full you have to empty the tank at a disposal point.
Ours is an old Thetford Porta-Potti. These seem to be quite common and even though it is 27 years old it still works very well and the seals all seem to be in good condition. Seal kits and spares can still be purchased which is great.
What is a Cassette Toilet?
A cassette toilet is a chemical toilet with a cassette to hold the waste. The cassette is basically a removable holding tank. The cassette is usually removed from a locked locker on the outside of the motorhome.
This is a great idea and allows the whole process of emptying the toilet cassette to be a hygienic process and you don’t have to carry the holding tank through the motorhome when it needs to be emptied.
Are Chemical Toilets Clean?
A chemical toilet is as clean as you want it to be. Just be aware that you are living in a confined space so you really want to keep the toilet clean. Ignore that and you will have problems.
The flush usually clears the bowl but sometimes you may have to give the bowl a wipe as you would have to do in your home toilet. Keep it clean after every use and you will have no problems.
Don’t use harsh chemicals, follow the toilet manufacturers recommendations.
When emptying, you will find its a very clean process. If you keep the cassette locker clean and clean it whenever the cassette is removed you will have no problems.
Always clean out the tank with fresh water after you empty it.
Do Chemical Toilets Smell?
A chemical toilet can, like all toilets, smell. All you have to do is keep it clean, see above. If you keep the toilet clean they are smell free.
Now that we have used this toilet for a while I have been pleasantly surprised at how good they are. When in a campsite we have a policy of number 1s only, no number 2s. This seems to keep the smells down to a minimum and means it won’t have to be emptied as often.
What Chemicals Do I Use in the Chemical Toilet?
There are a few chemicals to choose from. The ones we have come across are;
Aqua Kem Blue – This goes into the cassette and is what breaks down the waste and keeps the smell under control.
Aqua Kem Green – This works like the blue but is more environmentally friendly and is safe to put the waste into a septic tank.
Aqua Kem PInk – This is for the flush if you have a flush tank or you can spray around the bowl and then flush.
These are the most used chemicals for toilets. They tend to be effective for about 3-5 days.
We have found if you have to hold your tank longer than 3 days you may have to add a bit more chemical to keep the smells down, especially when the weather is very warm.
Some people put biological washing powder into their cassette and seem to have good results. I have not tried this personally so can’t comment. Might be worth a try though.
Can I Use Normal Toilet Tissue in a Chemical Toilet?
Yes, you can but there are special papers that break down faster and more easily in the chemical environment in the tank.
If you get through a lot of toilet paper the special paper is probably best to use. The last thing you want is to plug the exit hole in your tank when you are emptying. You will have to unplug that with something.
The extra for the special toilet paper may be well worth paying. You can check the price here.
We have been using the paper designed for the toilet and it does break down very quickly and I have had no problems with big lumps of paper. Long may it continue.
Where Can I Empty a Chemical Toilet?
On just about every campsite there will be a toilet waste disposal point. These are usually extra large toilets, some steel, some ceramic that you pour your waste down and flush. There will be access to water for cleaning out your tank. They are very easy to use and all you have to do is just clean up after yourself when you are done.
All the disposal points we have used have been very clean.
The disposal points on the campsites are connected to the waste supply which will join up with the waste from toilets and other waste the campsites may have. A campsite may have a septic tank that would be sensitive to certain chemicals so they would have to take care what chemicals would be poured into their waste systems.
The reason you can’t put your black waste down a toilet in a campsite is for hygiene reasons. Almost always you get splashing or your aim might be a bit off.
Splashing and spills are much easier to clean up at a waste disposal point than in the communal bathroom. It makes good hygienic sense and stops the campsite visitors poisoning each other.
This is why it is important to be meticulous about cleanliness when emptying your black waste toilet cassette.
Never empty your toilet waste into the grey waste disposal or into a drain and keep away from any drinking water. Never put it into a stream or river.
If you are stuck you can put the waste down your toilet. Make sure you flush and clean up any spills or splashes.
Use your common sense, don’t take shortcuts and clean up after yourself.
Is Emptying a Chemical Toilet Messy?
I will not lie, emptying your toilet is not a pleasant job. But, the thought of it is way worse than the actual reality of doing it. The job of emptying the toilet cassette was not high up on my bucket list.
The good news is, emptying the cassette is a painless experience. I was even surprised at how little the waste actually smelled.
So far all the toilet disposal areas have been well looked after by everyone who has used them so they are clean and not the smell laden hell holes I had imagined they would be.
The worst part is carrying the cassette to the disposal area. Our cassette has a swivel spout that you point into the disposal toilet and away you go. Easy.
How to Clean a Chemical Toilet?
It’s easy enough to clean the chemical toilet. We just use very mild surface cleaners but stay away from bleach as this will affect the rubbers used to seal the cassette and will possibly affect the plastics of the toilet over time.
Occasionally the rubbers in the toilet should be oiled. Our handbook recommends olive oil to keep the rubbers in good shape.
Clean water is best for the tank, we just rinse it out a few times and have had no problems.
Generally, they are very easy to clean just be aware they are delicate.
How Much Can The Toilet Cassette Hold?
This is difficult to quantify, everyone will be different. If you drink gallons it won’t last very long before needing to be emptied.
To give you an idea our cassette is quite large and will hold about 20 litres. You don’t really want any larger than this when its full it will weigh about 22kg which is more than enough to carry.
We are two adults and one child of 10 years.
If we are on a campsite the toilet will last about 3 nights without needing to be emptied but it will be quite full. Considering that on a campsite, we only use it t for peeing in three days doesn’t seem that long to me. If we are off-site it will be about 2 nights before needing emptying.
If you can use public loos or go if you are in a cafe or eating out then it will last longer but under full load, it won’t take long to fill it.
Obviously different families will be different but this gives you an idea.
How to empty a Chemical Toilet
Each toilet may have slight differences so make sure you have read the instructions for your particular make and type. This is how we empty our chemical toilet.
- Make sure the door (blade) is closed into the cassette and there is no liquid sitting on the door.
- Open the access hatch to the cassette locker
- Push down the retaining flap and gently pull the cassette handle at the same time.
- Pull the cassette all the way out.
- Take the cassette to the disposal point.
- Extend the disposal spout (turn 90 degrees).
- Remove the spout cap, spout should be at the highest point.
- Carefully put the spout into to the waste disposal point
- Tip the cassette so the waste comes out of the spout and into the waste disposal.
- Press the air valve to allow the waste to come out smoothly and quickly.
- Empty the contents completely
- Once empty put the lid back on the spout. Put water in the cassette door
- Close the door and give the cassette a good shake (make sure lids are on and holes are closed)
- Empty out the cassette again
- Repeat until the cassette is clean
- Put on the lid and tuck the spout back in
- Slide the cassette back into the motorhome until it locks into position
- Close the locker door
- Wash disposal area of any spills or splashes
- Wash your hands
A chemical toilet may not be the best part of camping in a motorhome but it is a luxury worth learning how to use properly and responsibly.
Just one other thing – Never, I repeat, NEVER let the cassette get so full that it overflows. You will so regret it for such a long time.