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A Practical Guide to the 6 RV Toilet Types

A Practical Guide to the 6 RV Toilet Types

Let’s be real here. There are so many types of RV toilets it can make your head spin! Why are there so many kinds? And which one is best? 

This article is a practical guide to each type of RV toilet and how they work, so you can make the best choice for your RVing lifestyle.

Why Are There So Many Kinds of RV Toilets? 

There are six different types to fit various rigs and personal preferences. Some RVers might want to avoid dealing with waste at all. For others, the ability to be self-contained and camp off-grid for extended periods influences their choices. 

rv toilet types

These latrines all differ regarding cleaning methods, waste storage, RV bathroom size, and an RVers lifestyle. Let’s explain further:

Cleaning Methods

Each toilet style deals with waste differently, so cleaning and emptying methods are different, too. With some facilities, the waste goes into a tank, and with others, the waste turns into something entirely unrecognizable. Your cleaning comfort level will be a factor in which option works best for you.

Holding Tanks

People might opt for one toilet over another to expand their holding tank capacities. This allows RVers to camp without water and sewer hookups for longer periods. It also makes the duration between the dreaded chore of visiting a dump station a bit longer.

There are typically three types of holding tanks in an RV: freshwater, grey water, and black water. 

Your RV kitchen, shower, and many RV water closets use fresh water. Since some privies use water, this depletes your freshwater tank. The grey water tank captures wastewater from your sinks and shower. This is often the tank that fills first when camping without sewer hookups. Finally, the black water tank captures the wastewater from the toilet bowl. 

By choosing a particular throne, you can save more water, increase tank capacities, or eliminate the need to dump a black tank.

Bye Bye Black Tank! - Installing an Airhead Composting Toilet and removing our RV's black Tank

RV Bathroom Size

RV bathrooms are often small and weirdly laid out. The size and shape of your RV bathroom will influence what style of toilet you can have.

Lifestyle

The most important factor when choosing what type of RV toilet you want is your lifestyle. Things to consider when selecting a type are how often you want to boondock versus stay at full hookup RV parks. 

The 6 RV Toilet Types

Now that you know what you should consider, let’s break down the 6 RV toilet types. 

Standard Gravity-Fed RV Toilet

The standard gravity-fed RV toilet is what comes in almost all large RVs. It has a small profile and is plumbed directly into your RV’s black tank. The black tank is positioned directly below to allow gravity to do the work through very simple plumbing. 

This is the most common type of RV toilet. Gravity-fed models are hooked up to your fresh water supply and work similarly to what you’d find at home by supplying water to flush waste. They’re operated with a foot pedal or button to trigger a ball flush valve opening.

Since they use water, they help deplete your freshwater supply. This water also contributes to the filling of your black water tank. 

RV Cassette Toilets

Cassette toilets come in some smaller RVs and camper vans. They’re also a popular choice with DIY van builders.

Cassettes are an all-in-one model with two tanks – usually stacked on top of one another – and a seat. The top tank is for freshwater, and the bottom tank is to store the waste. The waste tank is called the cassette.

When flushed, your RV water pump sends water to the cassette along with the waste. The waste tanks can hold anywhere from 2.5 gallons to 5.5 gallons, so you’ll need to empty the black tanks frequently. You empty the cassette by removing it from the RV and dumping it at any RV dump station.

cassette rv toilet waste tank removal
A Cassette RV Toilet

RV Macerator Toilets

An RV macerator toilet looks similar to a standard gravity-fed option. It also connects directly to your black tank, but macerators handle waste much differently. 

Macerators grind up waste and paper, similar to how a garbage disposal grinds up food. They also have an electric pump, so it doesn’t need to be directly above your black tank. 

The major benefit here is the pumping ability, meaning it doesn’t need to be directly over the black tank. The grinding power also helps prevent clogs.  

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are popular with boondockers who love to be off the grid. They’re waterless and separating, meaning they separate liquids and solids. Therefore, they eliminate raw sewage and everything that comes with it. 

The solids go into a bin of composting medium, typically peat moss, coco coir, or sawdust. There’s usually a crank handle connected to an agitator in the solids chamber to mix the material after each use.

air head composting toilet

A holding tank on the front then receives the liquid. The liquid holding tanks are one to two gallons and need to be emptied every one to three days, depending on use. You can empty the liquids into an outhouse. Or, if you’re in the wilderness and it’s not against the rules, you can spread the liquids around mature vegetation and trees in out-of-the-way areas. 

The solids need to be emptied every two to four weeks, depending on use. You can dispose of solids in a regular garbage bag and take them to the trash. Alternatively, depending on local rules, you can bury your solids. 

There’s virtually no odor with composting toilets. Since they don’t use water or fill a black tank, they extend freshwater tanks and eliminate the need to dump a black tank. Many RVers take the opportunity to combine the unused black tank with their grey tank for even longer durations between dumping.

We have an Air Head Composting Toilet in our RV. Check out our review here: Complete Review of the Air Head Composting Toilet

Incinerator Toilets

Incinerating RV toilets are electric, waterless, and literally incinerate bodily waste into nothing but a few tablespoons of ash. They’re RV safe, eco-friendly, and don’t have an ick-factor for those who can’t handle waste. 

After depositing waste in the bowl, you’ll press a button to drop it into an incinerating chamber. The incinerator cycles a heater and blower that operates at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate all waste. The process takes 45-60 minutes, but you can still use the bathroom during this process. 

incinerator toilet
Source: cinderellaeco.com

These models are on the higher end of the price range and require venting exhaust through the roof. 

Dry Flush RV Toilets

A dry flush RV toilet is electric, waterless, and works similarly to a Diaper Genie. 

The dry flush toilet has a unique metallic liner, or cartridge, for liquid and solid waste. Each time you “flush,” a mechanism twists the bag tightly, effectively sealing each deposit. The bottom of the commode has a storage section for each twisted section. 

Each cartridge lasts for approximately 17 flushes, and the toilet has an indicator when only two flushes remain. Once the cartridge is full, you can dispose of the entire cartridge with your regular garbage. Note that cartridges can be on the pricey side to continually replace.

You’ll never see or smell waste with the dry flush, not even when emptying. Like the composting option, the dry-flush can extend freshwater tanks and eliminate the need to dump black water.

Which RV Toilet is Right for You?

To sum up, the best toilet for you is going to be one that fits your lifestyle, your RV size, and your budget.  If you’re an RVer who loves staying in full hook-up RV parks, perhaps a standard gravity-fed commode is best for you. However, if you are eco-conscious, love boondocking, or hate dumping your black tank, an incinerator or composting model may be best for you. 

We recommend doing further research on the RV toilet styles that interest you most before making your final decision. 

Which RV toilet do you currently have and are you considering upgrading to one of the toilets above? Let us know in the comments!

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David

Thursday 11th of February 2021

You missed toilet #7: a residential one. Oh, it’s definitely not for everyone, and for those that boondock a lot, it’s not a viable option because it uses so much water. It works for us, though, as we are almost always in a full hookup park. My wife (and her nose) tell me it’s the best improvement I’ve ever done to our Mobile Suites. Different strokes for different folks! ?

Lisa

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Thank you for mentioning the incinerator option. We are quite interested in that type and would appreciate any comments from someone who actually has an incinerator toilet. Thank you!

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 11th of February 2021

You're welcome, Lisa. You may also want to check out the article we wrote recently about incinerator toilets: https://mortonsonthemove.com/what-is-an-incinerator-toilet/

Jeff Reck

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Incinerator toilets can also be fueled with LP instead of electricity. This can be an important distinction for boondockers.

Mortons on the Move

Thursday 11th of February 2021

Yes, an important distinction indeed! :) We talked a little more about the electric vs propane option in our incinerator toilet article, which you can find here: https://mortonsonthemove.com/what-is-an-incinerator-toilet/

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