Last Updated 5 July 2024

20 Questions (we'd prefer not to ask) about Camping Toilets

by Jacob Rose

20 Questions (we'd prefer not to ask) about Camping Toilets

Article Contents

"Home is where you park it," they say in the vanlife community, and indeed, a key part of that home is your toilet. Having a reliable and comfortable toilet can make all the difference when living the van life. Whether it's a portable toilet or a regular built-in one, toilets are essential to campers' lives. They offer convenience privacy and prevent those middle-of-the-night dashes to public campground restrooms.

There are various types of toilets for conversion vans - from basic bucket-style emergency toilets to more sophisticated motorhome toilets with plumbing and tanks. Each type has its pros and cons depending on your needs and preferences.

Properly maintaining your van life toilet can save you from potential troubles. It involves simple cleaning to ensure hygiene and occasional repairs or replacements as needed. Remember, when dispersed camping or setting up at a campground, leave no trace behind!


Do You Really Need a Toilet in a Campervan?You'll never find a bathroom like this in a humble van!

Toilet or no toilet in your campervan, that's the big deal. It boils down to convenience, privacy, travel flexibility and cost implications.


The Convenience Factor

Having an onboard toilet is like carrying your comfort zone with you. Imagine waking up at 3 AM with nature calling loudly. With an onboard toilet, you won't have to stumble around a dark campground looking for the restroom. Instead, it's right there in your campervan.

  • No more queuing for public facilities
  • Accessible anytime, day or night
  • A lifesaver during bad weather

Privacy and Comfort Considerations

Your own toilet means guaranteed privacy and hygiene. Remember that public toilets can be hit-or-miss. Plus, who likes waiting their turn while doing the pee-pee dance?

  • Your own space, your own rules
  • No sharing with strangers
  • Hygiene levels are under your control

Travel Flexibility and Spontaneity

With an onboard toilet, you're not tied down by the location of public facilities. You can stop wherever and whenever you want without worrying about finding a restroom nearby.


How Often Do You Need to Empty Campervan Toilet?


Frequency Based on Usage and Tank Size

The frequency of emptying your campervan toilet depends on how much you're using it, and the size of your tank. For instance, a family of four might need to empty their tank every couple of days.

  • A smaller tank will need more frequent emptying.
  • More usage means more frequent trips to the dump station.

It's all about balance. If you've got a big family but a small tank, buddy, you will make some pit stops!


Signs Your Tank Needs EmptyingTabeskly Camping Toilet Portable, Folding Portable Toilet

How do you know when it's time for the dreaded task? Well, your campervan will give you some signs.

  • A funky smell is usually the first giveaway.
  • If your toilet starts burping (yeah, toilets can burp), it's screaming, 'empty me!'
  • Read the manual - many designs have gauges or indicators to clue you in, often based on a float on top of the level of liquid inside the tank,

Ignoring these signs? That's like ignoring your fuel light and wondering why you're stranded on the motorway!


Consequences of Not Emptying The Tank Regularly

Not emptying that tank regularly can lead to some unpleasant consequences.

  • Bad odours are just the start.
  • It can cause damage to your plumbing system.
  • Worst case scenario: an overflow. Yikes!

Where Can I Empty My Campervan Toilet?

Have you ever wondered about the best spots to empty your campervan toilet? Let's unravel some options and legal considerations.


Dump Stations at Campsites

First stop, campsites. These places usually have designated motorhome dump stations.

Here's why they're a solid choice:

  • They're designed for this exact purpose.
  • Most are equipped with proper sanitation facilities.
  • You can often find water sources nearby for cleaning purposes.

But remember, always check if there are any fees involved!


Public Sanitation Facilities

Next up, public sanitation facilities. Some road gas stations or rest areas might offer waste disposal services.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Not all public facilities allow waste disposal.
  • Ensure you ask for permission before using these services.

Looking for new ideas for your campervan?

Check out our full "A-List" of of award-winning products


Portable Waste Tanks

What if you're out in the wild, far from civilization? That's where portable waste tanks come into play.

These tanks offer a lot of flexibility:

  • They allow for remote disposal options.
  • You can carry them around easily.
  • They're perfect when traditional disposal sites aren't available.

Just make sure you dispose of your waste appropriately later!


Can I Empty Motorhome Toilet at Home?OTraki Foldable Camping Toilet, Portable Travel Toilet

You've got your campervan and are ready to hit the road. But one thing has been bugging you: can you empty your motorhome toilet at home? Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of this.


Legality and Environmental Impact

Emptying a motorhome toilet at home isn't illegal per se, but it does come with some strings attached. You have to consider the environmental impact, my friend. You don't want to be that guy who messes up his backyard or contaminates groundwater.

  • Generally, it is perfectly legal to empty a motorhome or campervan toilet at home.
  • Potentially check local regulations: Different places have different rules about waste disposal from a motorhome.
  • Consider your sewage system: Not all systems can handle the waste from a campervan toilet, especially if it is very dense with paper or other "material".

Necessary Equipment for Safe Home Disposal

If you're thinking DIY is your way out, then gear up! Here are some things you'll need:

  • A portable waste tank: This will collect the waste when you empty the toilet.
  • Protective gloves and goggles: Safety first, always!
  • Hose and water source: For cleaning purposes post-disposal.

Do Camper Van Toilets Smell?


Factors Contributing to Unpleasant Odors

The reality is, campervan toilets can smell. But why? Most of the time, it's due to poor maintenance or incorrect usage. For instance, not emptying your toilet cassette regularly or using the wrong type of toilet paper can cause a stink.


Where Can I Empty My Cassette Toilet?


Suitable Locations for Cassette Toilets

Have you ever been on a road trip and wondered, "Where can I empty this thing?" Well, you're not alone. There are specific places for dumping your cassette toilet waste, known as dump stations.

These are usually found at campgrounds, truck stops or service stations. Look for signs saying 'dump station' or 'sanitary disposal station'. They're built to handle waste from campervan toilets.


What Chemicals Do I Need for My Motorhome Toilet?

Let's delve into the world of campervan toilet chemicals. These are key players in waste breakdown and odour control, with different types suitable for various toilet systems.


Role of Chemicals in Waste Breakdown and Odour Control

Campervan toilets aren't like your home loo. They need extra help to break down waste and keep things smelling fresh. That's where these chemicals come into play.

  • Waste Breakdown: The chemicals speed up the decomposition process. This makes it easier when you're emptying your cassette toilet.
  • Odour Control: Nobody wants their van to smell like a public restroom, right? The chemicals combat unpleasant smells, keeping your living space fresh.

Types of Suitable Chemicals for Different Toilet Systems

Not all campervan toilets are created equal. Depending on your system, you'll need different chemicals:

  • Portable Toilets: Use a blue or green chemical in the waste tank and rinse the additive in the flush water.
  • Cassette Toilets: You can use blue or green chemicals, but remember that only green is acceptable at some disposal points.
  • Composting Toilets: No chemicals are needed here!

Can I Empty a Toilet Cassette in a Public Toilet?

Navigating the world of campervan toilets can be tricky. Here, we'll address important questions about emptying your toilet cassette in public facilities.


Legal Restrictions on Public Disposal

So, you're rolling down the motorway and nature calls. You do your business, but then what? Is it legal to dump your waste in a public toilet?

In many places, it's not. Laws vary by location, but many municipalities have strict regulations against dumping motorhome or camper waste into public sewage systems.

  • Some areas consider it illegal due to potential damage
  • Others may impose fines if caught

Always check local laws before deciding where to empty your cassette.


Hygiene Concerns and Etiquette

Even if it's legal, is it right? Think about hygiene and etiquette.

Emptying a toilet cassette in a public restroom can create an unsanitary environment for others. It's not just about the stink – there are serious health concerns too.

  • Bacteria from human waste can spread diseases
  • Cleanliness is essential for everyone's safety

Remember: treat public spaces with respect!


Potential Damage to Public Sewage Systems

Public sewage systems aren't designed to handle certain chemicals used in camper toilets. Dumping these wastes can cause significant damage.


What do you do with toilet waste when camping?


Leave-no-trace principles applied to human waste

The leave-no-trace principle is pretty simple: pack it in and out. It's all about minimizing our impact on the environment.

  • You might think that poop is natural and will decompose, but human waste can actually harm local ecosystems.
  • Nobody wants to stumble upon someone else's business while enjoying a hike!

So, how does this work in practice?


Portable toilets vs digging "catholes"DARTMOOR Lightweight Portable Toilet, 10L/20L Flushable Camping Toilet

You've got two main options: portable toilets or digging catholes.

Portable toilets are super handy for campervan trips. They're easy to use and contain everything until you can dispose of the waste properly. Just remember:

  • Don't empty them into public toilets or regular trash cans.
  • Use special disposal sites at campgrounds.

On the other hand, if you're camping without facilities nearby, catholes are your best bet. Here's how you deal with the rest:

  1. Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from any water source.
  2. Do your business.
  3. Cover it up with dirt.

Where do you dump urine from a composting toilet?

Composting toilets, like the bucket toilet, are popular for campervan dwellers. But dealing with waste, especially liquid waste, can be a bit tricky. Let's dig into this.


Comprehending the Separate Collection System

The unique thing about composting toilets is their separate collection system. The toilet seat is placed on top of a gallon bucket (your solid waste compartment), while another container catches your liquid waste.

This separation is pivotal because it prevents smells and aids in the faster decomposition of solid waste.


Spotting Suitable Locations for Dumping Liquid Waste

So where does one dump the urine collected? It's not as complicated as you may think.

Most public restrooms have flush toilets that can handle liquid waste disposal. You pour the contents into the bowl and flush away. Remember to rinse out your container afterwards!

Alternatively, if you're camping in more remote areas, you could also safely dispose of your urine in soil or vegetation away from water sources. Nature will take care of the rest.


Understanding Emptying Frequency: Urine Vs Solid Waste

Typically, you'll find that the urine container fills up way faster than the solid waste compartment.


Do You Put Toilet Paper in Motorhome Toilet?


Impact on Tank Capacity and Potential Clogs

Here's the deal, folks. When you're out camping, space is like gold dust. Every inch counts. So, chucking toilet paper into your campervan toilet might seem like a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.

You see, too much of that stuff can quickly clog up your tank. And trust me, dealing with a blocked campervan toilet is about as fun as stepping on a Lego barefooted.


Can I Put Bleach in My Camper Toilet?

Bleach, a common household item, often pops up when talking about cleaning. But is it safe for your camper toilet?


The Harm from Bleach

Bleach is a powerful cleaner, no doubt. But it's not always the best choice for every surface. Specifically, using bleach in your camper toilet can harm the seals and valves. These parts are usually made of rubber or plastic, which can degrade with exposure to harsh chemicals like bleach. It's like how soda can eat away at your teeth over time - not something you want happening to your toilet!


Bacteria and Odours

Sure, bleach is great at killing bacteria and eliminating odours. It's why we use it on our white laundry! But remember that campervan toilets aren't just porcelain bowls - they're complex systems with moving parts.


Safer Alternatives

So what should you use instead? There are plenty of safer alternatives out there:

  • Specialized motorhome toilet cleaners: These are designed specifically for campervan toilets and won't harm the seals or valves.
  • Vinegar and baking soda: A natural solution effective against bacteria and odours.
  • Enzyme-based cleaners: These break down waste naturally without damaging your system.

Do You Bury Toilet Paper When Camping?


Environmental Impact of Buried vs Packed-Out TP

Have you ever thought about the impact of your camping habits on Mother Nature? Burying toilet paper (TP) can harm the environment, especially if you're not doing it right. Conversely, packing out TP might seem gross, but it's a way better option for preserving our public lands.

Here's why:

  • Burying TP: If you bury your TP improperly or too shallowly, it could resurface due to rain or wind. This not only looks nasty but also poses a health risk and degrades the area's natural beauty.
  • Packing out TP: On the flip side, packing out your used TP in bags leaves no trace on the environment. It ain't fun to carry around, but hey, we gotta do what we gotta do for Mother Earth!

Depth Requirements for Burying TP Safely

If you choose to go with burying your TP (and I mean really have to), there are some rules to follow according to Leave No Trace guidelines.

First off, dig a hole about 6-8 inches deep. This ain't just any ordinary hole - it needs to be away from water sources and trails. Use a camping shovel or even a sturdy stick if you forgot yours at home.


What Chemical Do You Put in a Camping Toilet?YOUNGDO Military Folding Camping Shovel


Specific Chemicals for Portable Camping Toilets

Have you ever wondered what keeps your campervan toilet from stinking up the place? It's all thanks to specific chemicals. These aren't your everyday household cleaners, mind you. They're specially designed for portable camping toilets.

Some popular choices include Thetford Aqua-Kem and Camco TST. They come in different forms - liquid, granules, or tablets.


Role of These Chemicals in Waste Breakdown and Odour Control

Here's the deal: these chemicals are like superheroes for your toilet. They have two important jobs: waste breakdown and odour control.

Firstly, they break down waste into smaller particles. Think of it as a Pac-Man game where the chemical is Pac-Man, gobbling up all those nasty waste particles.

Secondly, they control odours by killing bacteria that cause the stink. So you can breathe easily without holding your nose every time you use the loo.


Environmental Impact Considerations

Now let's talk about Mother Earth because she matters, too! Not all toilet chemicals are eco-friendly. Some contain formaldehyde, which is bad news for the environment.

But don't fret!


Where Can I Dump Black Water UK?


Designated Disposal Sites Across the UK

There's no shortage of places in the UK where you can empty your campervan's black water tank. You've got caravan parks, camping sites, and even petrol stations with dedicated facilities.

  • Some popular disposal sites include Camping and Caravanning Club Sites, Motorhome Stopover Sites, and Certified Locations (CLs).
  • Check out websites like or for a comprehensive list of locations near you.

Legal Requirements for Waste Disposal

Now, let's talk about the law. In the UK, it's illegal to dump black water just anywhere.

  • It must be disposed of at a designated site.
  • Failing to adhere to these regulations can result in hefty fines. So play it safe!

Fees and Permits Required

Typically, if you're staying at a campsite or caravan park, use of their disposal facilities is included in your pitch fee. But this isn't always the case.

  • Some places might charge an additional fee.
  • Others may require a permit for non-guests wanting to use their facilities.
  • Always check ahead to avoid any surprises!

What is a Cassette Toilet in a Motorhome?


Basic Design and Operation of Cassette Toilets

Cassette toilets, also known as portable cassette toilets, are simple gadgets. They're like your home toilet but compact and transportable. The cassette part is essentially a removable waste tank.

Want new vanlife guides and the best hidden spots in the UK?

We publish 2 new posts a week, so follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date

Here's how it works: You do your business, flush it down with a manual or electric pump, and the waste goes into the sealed-off cassette. When it's full, you take out the cassette from an external access door on your campervan, empty it at a suitable dump point, clean it up, and pop it back in. Easy peasy!


What is a Porta Potti in a Campervan?The classic Thetford 92820 Porta Potti 365

Have you ever wondered what that little box in the corner of your campervan is? That's your porta potti, mate! And trust me, it's more than just a pee jar.


Unraveling the Mystery of Porta Potties

The porta potti, or portable toilet, isn't as complex as you might think. It's essentially a two-part system - an upper section for fresh water, a flushing mechanism, and a lower section serving as the waste tank. This compact design is simple yet functional.


The Perks of Having a Porta Potti

So why opt for this over built-in options? Well, there are plenty of reasons:

  • Space-saving: The porta potty takes up less room than traditional built-in toilets.
  • Portability: You can remove it from the van when not needed or for cleaning.
  • Cost-effective: They're generally cheaper than built-in models.

Keeping Your Porta Potti Spick and Span

Cleaning and maintaining your porta potty isn't rocket science either. Here's how:

  1. Empty the waste tank at designated dump stations.
  2. Rinse it with water and add some chemical cleaner.
  3. Flush through both sections to ensure they're clean.

Composting Toilet: The Eco-Friendly Campervan Solution


How Does a Composting Toilet Work?

A composting toilet in a campervan is like a mini ecosystem. It uses the natural process of decomposition to break down waste into compost. Picture this: you do your business in a container filled with coconut coir or peat moss. Then, you give it a bit of stir and close the lid. Simple, right?


Pros of Using a Composting Toilet

The advantages are quite something!

  • Water Conservation: These toilets don't require water to flush, saving you gallons on your trips.
  • Fewer Emptying Trips: With proper management, the solids container only needs emptying every few weeks.

These perks make it an excellent option for long-term travellers or those who prefer off-grid sites.


Cons of Using a Composting Toilet

However, there are some challenges you should bear in mind:

  • Compost Management: You'll need to monitor things like temperature and moisture levels to ensure efficient composting.
  • Potential Smells: If not managed properly, these toilets can produce unpleasant odours.

All in all, managing the compost process requires some effort and vigilance.


Is This Type of Toilet Suitable for You?


Wrapping Up Your Campervan Toilet Queries

So, you've dived deep into the world of campervan toilets. It's a lot to take in. From understanding the need for a toilet in your campervan to figuring out how and where to empty it, we've covered all bases. You even know what chemicals are safe and how to manage waste while camping. Now, that's what I call being prepared!

But hey, don't stop here! Keep exploring and learning because knowledge is power, especially on the road. Need more tips or advice about your campervan? Feel free to reach out - we're always ready to help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable.


Q. Are composting toilets worth it in a campervan?

A. Composting toilets can be an excellent choice for those who prefer eco-friendly options. They reduce water usage and turn waste into compost that can be safely disposed of.


Q: How often should I clean my cassette toilet?

A. It's recommended to clean your cassette toilet after every emptying process. This helps maintain hygiene and prevents any unpleasant smells.


Q: Can I use regular toilet paper in my motorhome toilet?

A. You can technically use regular toilet paper, but camping toilet paper is better as it breaks down faster and prevents clogging.


Q: Is bleach safe for camper toilets?

A. Bleach should not be used as it can damage the seals and moving parts of the toilet system.


Q: What is the smallest type of toilet available for "emergencies" in my campervan?

A. Folding compostable toilets take up the least space and are the least complex option.

Image of Jacob Rose
Jacob Rose

Traveller, writer and travel-writer. Often accused of insufficient planning and poor impulse control, but happier for it!

More posts by Jacob Rose

Leave a Comment