Toilets in Motorhomes
One thing that new motorhome owners often ask about is the different types of toilets that can be found in motorhomes and how to take care of them. Below is a simple guide to cover the basics and tell you what you need to think about when choosing a new one.
Types of Toilets
Most motorhomes are fitted with toilets, however, you may well want to replace or upgrade this, especially if you’re buying a used motorhome. You might just want to have an emergency back-up. Firstly, you’ll need to consider which type of toilet is right for your motorhome and the types of trips you go on in it.
Cassette toilet: This is the most common type of toilet found in motorhomes in the UK and looks very much like a normal toilet. This is a fixed toilet inside the motorhome which has a removable box; the cassette, where all the waste is stored. The cassette is accessed from the outside of the vehicle and should be carried to a disposal point to be emptied.
Some cassette toilets have a built-in water tank to use for the flushing function, or if not then the flushing water comes from the onboard water tank in your motorhome.
The benefit of this type of toilet is that it’s easy to dispose of waste, however, you might want to carry a spare cassette if you’ll be using the toilet frequently.
Porta-Potti: This type of toilet usually comprises two parts; the bowl which sometimes has a tank for flushing water and the bottom part that carries the waste and can be removed to empty at a disposal point. The waste disposal process is much the same as a cassette toilet.
These toilets come in a range of sophistication, from the very rudimentary bucket-with-a-seat style, right through to the mini-toilets that can flush. They’re not very luxurious but this type of toilet is portable and a great option for a back up if you have an issue with the electricity or water supply to your bathroom. They can also be handy if you have a smaller campervan or you want to take it on camping trips with a tent.
Composting toilets: If you want to go for the most environmentally-friendly option, composting toilets are a great choice. They don’t use any chemicals and very little water and are good for trips where you might not be near a disposal point for a while.
Most composting toilets will have two tanks, one smaller tank for urine and a different tank for solids which contains a natural composting material. When you’ve used the toilet, you throw a little more of the composting material down to help the waste break down and to prevent any nasty smells.
These toilets are remarkably smell-free, with the predominant smell being the composting material which is an earthy smell and not unpleasant. These toilets don’t need to be plumbed into your motorhome and don’t need to be emptied as often as a cassette toilet would. You’ll just need to remember to rotate the compost chamber every now and then to make sure enough air circulates.
The downsides of these toilets are that they can be quite expensive and they take up a bit more space. If you go for a model that has a ventilation fan, you will also need to use some electricity.
Marine toilet: These are fixed toilets connected to a waste tank in the motorhome where the flushing water typically comes from the onboard water tank. Due to the waste tank being fixed, only ground level disposal points can be used where a valve should be opened to allow the contents to drain out. Usually these toilets have the largest capacity and are found more often in larger scale European motorhomes and American motorhomes.
The holding tanks are kept clean by adding roughly 10 litres of water into the tank after it has been emptied, this should be done every so often in order to keep the tank reasonably clean.
Chemicals vs SOG Toilet Kit?
Chemicals are used in most motorhome toilet systems, mainly to mask the smell. Formaldehyde based chemicals are frowned upon due to the large-scale damage made to the environment. In some places such as Germany, these sorts of chemicals are banned. However, ‘green’ alternatives can be found.
An SOG Toilet Kit is a system that can be used without any chemicals. It is a ventilation based system available for cassette toilets. A small fan pulls the air through the toilet as the flap is opened, the air is then carried outside by a flexible tube, usually found on the cassette door. This is a very effective way of eliminating odours without the use of any chemicals.
How to choose which type of toilet is right for you
There are a wide range of toilets ranging vastly in price so you’ll want to think carefully about which type is right for you before investing. There are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- How often are you likely to use it? Some motorhome owners don’t use the toilet on board their vehicle at all, preferring to use the facilities at campsites. However, you might be travelling a little further off the beaten track where this won’t be practical.
- How much space do you have available? You might be quite limited on space or you might have a large bathroom big enough to accommodate any of the toilets listed above. If you have a small bathroom or no dedicated bathroom space, you are likely to be limited to a porta-potti-style toilet. Whereas larger motorhomes give you more options.
- How much do you want to spend? You want to go for the option that will represent the best value for your money. You don’t need to go for the highest end option if you’re only looking for a back-up. Equally, if you’re likely to be using it all the time or going on trips where public facilities aren’t easily accessible, it’s worth spending some money on a good piece of equipment.
- How will it be fitted? Some of the options above don’t require plumbing in, however, some do. If you don’t have the technical know-how and will need to get an expert in, make sure you consider this when coming up with your budget.
- How is it emptied and cleaned? Is there a removable waste compartment or will you need to drive your motorhome straight to a disposal point? Which chemicals are required to clean in properly or break down the waste?
- If something went wrong, how easy would it be to fix? Again, you’ll want to think about the type of trips you’ll be taking in your motorhome. If you had a problem with your toilet but you’re staying in well-equipped campsites it might not be a big issue. However, if you’re travelling a little further off the beaten track, it might be another story.
- What is the environmental impact? You’ll want to consider the chemicals that need to be used for cleaning, preventing smells and the breakdown of waste. You might also want to consider the amount of electricity and water the toilet will use too.