When you've got to go while you're on the move, you want a decent motorhome toilet.
But which loo offers you the most convenience? Read on for the low-down on RV toilets – and remember to protect your purchase with specialist motorhome insurance.
What are the main types of motorhome toilet?
When you're planning your dream motorhome holiday or once-in-a-lifetime European trip, you probably don't spend too long dwelling on the less savoury aspects of RV life.
However, without a good toilet on board, you could be spending less time admiring the world's wonders and more time searching for public facilities than you’d hoped.
Getting a decent loo installed before you set off is almost as vital as buying insurance for a motorhome, though sadly not as easy to accomplish!
Unlike smaller campervans, motorhomes are usually fitted with toilets. But if you wish to replace, upgrade, install a second, or simply have an emergency back-up, there’s a range of possibilities.
What are the different types of motorhome toilet?
The most common type of toilet found in a motorhome, flush toilets are the loos for you if you miss your home comforts when you're on your travels.
They look pretty similar to the one in your bathroom at home, but there's a crucial difference which may flummox you at first: there's no handle for flushing.
Instead, you flush by pressing on a foot pedal. The bowl will fill quickly with water and swiftly transport all waste out of sight into the waste holding tank directly below.
The other, bigger difference is behind the scenes: namely, that's there's nothing there.
Whereas your home toilet has a cistern at the back, your gravity-flush loo needs to be connected to an outside water source or your motorhome’s water holding tank.
These loos are cheap, don't use much water, don’t need electricity hook-up, and don’t require frequent emptying. They’re easy to find if you need to replace yours.
They do require a water supply and can be smelly, as there’s not a lot between that waste holding tank and the living area of your motorhome. Closing the toilet lid will keep most smells confined to where they belong, unless there’s actually a leak in the connections or the tank has got damaged.
But the biggest drawback for most people is that you'll have to empty out your waste or "black tank" – more of that later!
Vacuum or macerator flush toilets
If you're feeling flush enough to install loo number two in your motorhome, one of these could fit the bill. Unlike gravity toilets, they don't need to be installed directly above a waste tank, reducing the likelihood of smells.
The macerating flush uses motor-powered blades to turn waste into slurry, while the vacuum flush sucks the contents out of the bowl and may also then pass the waste through a macerator. Both toilets then pump the waste into the black tank.
One key advantage over gravity flush toilets is that the effluent in the waste tank is more fluid, making it easier to empty. Toilet paper gets pulverised, too, thus avoiding blockages in the waste tank.
They can be a little noisy, need a supply of electricity, and also involve emptying the black tank.
But a flush toilet will keep you sitting pretty on your travels, wherever you go. Motorhome insurance will keep you covered for journeys throughout Europe, too.
If you're looking for the natural way to answer the call of nature, take a look at composting toilets.
They use little water and no chemicals, making them the greener way to go. These are a great option if you don't have a ready water supply and are travelling out of easy reach of waste disposal stations.
Many models divert urine away from solid waste into a small tank or bottle. Solids go to a different tank, which is primed with natural materials such as coconut fibre.
When you use a composting toilet, you simply throw another handful of composting material down afterwards to break the waste down and prevent smells rising up.
They're basically odourless – the only smell is a pleasant earthy one – and don't need to be cleaned out so often. They use virtually no water, and don't need to be plumbed in. You will need to remember to rotate the compost chamber frequently to aerate it.
However, you'll be spending considerably more than a penny on buying one as they tend to be more expensive than other types. Make sure you get cover through motorhome insurance cover.
They also take up more space, and many models also need electricity to run a ventilation fan. Go solar to stay sustainable.
RV cassette toilets
Your RV may well come ready equipped with a simple cassette toilet. If not, you can buy one and get it fitted without too much trouble.
They look like normal toilets, act like normal toilets – but that “cassette” is where your waste is stored. When it’s full, you just remove it and empty it down a regular public toilet.
Some models need to be plumbed into your RV water tank for flushing, while others have their own mini tanks. Either way, you’ll need chemicals to keep them hygienic, break down the waste and prevent odours.
The pros? Easy waste disposal and installation compared with waste tank models.
The cons? You’ll be emptying that cassette out pretty frequently, so it’s always a good idea to carry a spare. Plus, the chemicals used to break down waste and keep the unit hygienic tend to have a strong odour, masked with perfume. At least these days you can buy more environmentally friendly versions – some campsites insist on this.
Portable camping toilets
For those of you with no airs and graces when it comes to your ‘throne’, camping toilets are a simple yet viable option.
At the top of the (admittedly not very luxurious) range are mini-commodes that you can place in a corner of your van. It's best to bolt them down – particularly if you tend to take corners sharply while driving!
Waste-wise, they operate in the same way as cassette toilets, and may even have rudimentary flushes.
At the bottom of the range, you have what are known as "bucket and chuck it" porta-potties. The name tells you everything you need to know: they're simply a large bucket with a snap-on toilet seat and really not a lot else!
Portable toilets are a handy option for smaller vehicles and can also be used in tents or even outdoors. They're a great back-up option in case the water or electricity supply to your main loo fails.
As they have no motor, they're very quiet. They don't need electricity, making them better for the environment and easy to use just about anywhere.
However, they fill up quickly, so you'll either need to carry a spare cassette or empty them frequently, which can be a worry as you strike off into the unknown.
Remember to reduce your holiday concerns by buying insurance for your motorhome before you set off.
Important things to ask before choosing toilets
Buying your new motorhome toilet can represent a major financial outlay. Here are our top 10 tips for questions to ask your motorhome toilet dealer.
- How easy is it to empty? Don’t be fooled into thinking that emptying a “black tank” is a quick job.
- Will it smell? Does the toilet or waste tank produce a smell? What about the chemicals needed to clean it or break down waste?
- What is its energy usage? Does it need to be connected to an electricity supply? If so, how much energy does it use?
- How easy is it to use? This is particularly important if you are elderly, disabled or have young children.
- How much space does it take up? Will it fit in your motorhome, or will it be such a tight squeeze that it becomes impossible to use or empty?
- How much does it cost? And how long will it last – does the price represent value for money?
- Does it need specialist installation? Or is it a simple DIY job?
- What's the environmental impact? Think chemicals, energy use, water use, and how long the product will last.
- How easy is it to replace the unit or its components? Remember that you might be far from home when repairs are needed.
- How likely is it to go wrong? You’ve already made a big investment in the motorhome, which needs to be covered with motorhome insurance, so you don’t want to be replacing the loos every few months, too.
Where can you buy them?
Any outdoors shop will sell you a range of portable camping toilets, from the basic to the more deluxe.
For a more permanent solution, you’re best off heading to a motorhome dealer, who can advise you on models and recommend installers.
For those of you who like to travel in style, why not explore the latest in leisure vehicle luxury at a Motorhome and Campervan show? You’re bound to see some toilets there that take your fancy!
Remember: don’t flush your cash down the pan – protect your purchase with a motorhome insurance policy.
How to empty a motorhome toilet
There’s no getting around this – emptying a waste holding tank is an unpleasant task. In fact, it’s the main reason why people sometimes choose cassettes over tanks.
First, you’ll need to find a dump station, for example at a campsite. Position your motorhome as close to it as possible.
Put on disposable gloves to protect you from any accidents.
Next, get out your sewer hose and attach one end to the dump station. Then check that the valves to your black water tank (and your grey water tank, if you have one) are both closed.
Now unscrew the cap to your black water tank. It may drip a little, so you’ll be glad of those gloves! Attach the hose adapter and check it’s secure.
You can now open the black water tank valve. You’ll hear the waste rushing through the pipe.
Once it’s emptied, you can connect a garden hose to the rinse valve if you have one to flush through the last of the waste. Let it run for a few minutes.
If you don’t have a dedicated rinse system, you can simply flush your toilet a couple of times.
Close the valves, then disconnect the hoses and rinse them through.
You’ll need to add some fresh water and chemicals to your holding tank before using your toilet again. Then you’re done!
Cassette toilets are far simpler. The cassette is often accessed through a hatch on the driver’s side. Disconnect the cassette, then find a designated waste disposal point, if you're staying at a campsite these can be found easily and should incur no additional cost to the nightly fee. Even if you're not staying at the campsite, they will often allow you to use it for a small fee.
Waste from compost toilets can also be disposed of easily enough. Urine can be tipped down a public toilet or out in the wilds, while solids can be bagged and placed in general waste.
Ideally, though, you’ll place it in a compost bin. If you’re just heading off for a short trip, you could even bring it back home for eventual use on your own flower beds – an environmentally friendly, if unorthodox, alternative to holiday souvenirs!
Top tips for cleaning
Take care when cleaning the loo, as harsh chemicals can damage your toilet.
Make sure you buy cleaners intended for your type of loo. You can also purchase special toilet tissue that breaks up easily to avoid clogging your cassette or tank.
Following these steps will help you avoid disasters on your travels. Get motorhome insurance to keep you covered, too!
Get a quote for motorhome insurance today
To make your trip as relaxing as possible, you need to know you’re covered by specialist motorhome insurance.
Motorhome Protect offers cover for travels around the UK and Europe, no matter how high your mileage.
With cover of up to £150,000 for vehicles and up to £3,000 for camping personal effects, you can focus on enjoying your travels and making the most of your vacation.
With introductory No Claims Bonus allowed Motorhome Protect suits a range of budgets.
Get a quote today.