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Dry Flush Toilets: Better Than Composting?

The term “dry flush toilet” can refer to any toilet that does not use water to flush – like a composting toilet or incinerator toilet. You can even make your own dry flush toilet by simply using a bag or plastic liner on the inside of your toilet instead of using the plumbing functionality. However, a “dry flush toilet” generally refers more to a portable, container-based design. Specifically, the Laveo by Dry-Flush.

Find out how these intriguing toilets work and our take on whether its better than a composting toilet.

How Exactly Does a Dry Flush Toilet Work?

Instead of flushing, it collects waste in a bag-like liner that you can remove and throw away when full. These toilets are fully self-contained and don’t require plumbing, venting, or even electricity. 

Dry-Flush Promotion Video

When you use a dry flush toilet, all waste drops into a double-layered liner. After that, you press a small button on the back of the toilet to engage the flushing mechanism. The liner then pulls the waste down into an airtight compartment and seals it off in a twisting motion, leaving a fresh liner in the bowl. 

Dry flush toilets are 12-volt battery-operated and come with a 7-foot charging cable. AC adapters and solar chargers are also available. What’s more, you can flush the toilet up to 300 times on a single charge. That’s pretty impressive if you ask us!

Do Dry Flush Toilets Smell?

This depends on what kind of dry flush toilet you’re using. If you’re using a DIY dry flush toilet, the answer is likely yes. Fortunately, these setups are typically for short-term use and you dispose of the waste pretty quickly, if not after each use.

If using one of the official Dry Flush toilets, then not really. One of the best features of these toilets is the zero-odor technology. There’s no need to cut holes in your RV for vents or use air fresheners to mask the smell. Each disposable liner cartridge fully encapsulates waste into a double-lined bag that’s odor-free. 

Dry flush toilet cartridge
Go water-free with a dry flush toilet!

The double-lined bag also means you don’t have to worry about leaks, spills, or using heavy chemicals to clean the bowl. There are no odors or messes to worry about before, during, or after removing the cartridge.

How Often Do You Have to Empty a Dry Flush Toilet?

Thanks to the dry flush’s unique liner system, “dumping” an RV toilet has never been more pleasant! A red line will appear on the liner approximately two flushes before the cartridge needs to be changed.

When the liner runs out, typically around 17 flushes, remove it and toss it in the trash. The sealed bag is also opaque, so you’ll never see the waste.

Pros of Dry Flush Toilets

No RV toilet is perfect. While there are many different options available, dry flush toilets are one of the better options for convenient camping. Check out some of the benefits to using a dry flush toilet:

More Affordable

Dry flush toilets are generally cheaper compared to other waterless models. Currently, they sell for $895 while their composting and incinerator counterparts can sell for well over $1,000. 

Pro Tip: Learn more about how incinerator toilets actually work to get rid of your waste.

Uses No Water

For many RVers, saving water is their first consideration, and we can’t blame them! As avid boondockers, we know the dance of water conservation well. The good news is, the dry flush toilet uses no water. Unlike gravity-fed and cassette toilets, dry flush units do not utilize fresh water or black water holding tanks

Portable

Dry flush models are portable, so you can move them with little effort and place them anywhere inside (or outside!) your RV. The toilet weighs only 27 lbs, which most RVers find beneficial for overall rig weight.

You can also get a Dry Flush Portable Privacy Shelter so you can use your toilet in the wilderness.
Source: dry-flush.com

You can also easily remove it for other purposes. For instance, if you’re leaving your RV behind to spend a weekend tent camping without facilities, you can bring your dry flush with you. No more roughing it!

Self-Contained

Everything about this toilet is self-contained. Because the unit is waterless and battery-powered, you don’t need water or power sources (except for the occasional charge). And again, the liner cartridge ensures all waste is out of sight and out of mind until ready for removal. 

Easy Emptying

If you’ve ever taken out the trash (who hasn’t!), then the process of emptying your dry flush toilet will be familiar. Just lift the seat up, remove the waste bag, and toss it into a trash can. Then, insert a new liner cartridge, and you’re done. It’s that easy! 

To be clear, tossing waste in this manner is legal, just as throwing away diapers is legal. According to Laveo, the primary dry flush toilet manufacturer, “Standard regulations require that waste be contained in plastic bags.” (Dumping black tanks on the ground or in a trash can, however, is not legal.)

Cons of Dry Flush Toilets

Of course, there are a few things that may not make a dry flush toilet right for you. Consider these cons before you buy:

Typically Less than 20 Uses Per Cartridge

Here’s a fun fact for you: The average person goes to the bathroom 4-7 times per day. Unfortunately, this fact is not so fun when you’re using a dry flush latrine. Why? Again, users only get about 17 flushes* per cartridge. 

*You can definitely stretch this if you’re diligent. One of our readers shared that he can up to 68 uses by using the “Pee Powder” to turn the liquid into a gel, which allows you to pee 3 times before flushing. Utilizing public restrooms whenever possible also stretches the time between emptying.

Dry flush toilet
Keep in mind, you will need to regularly buy liner cartridges for your dry flush toilet.

For a single user, this would mean emptying and replacing the liner cartridge every two to three days. For two or more people, the toilet would need emptying every one to two days. While it’s easy to empty and certainly preferable to dumping a black tank, some people may find it burdensome to change the cartridges so often. 

Cartridges Are Not Compostable

Another drawback to owning a dry flush toilet is the environmental impact. Sadly, the cartridges are not compostable. With every flush, you’re adding more plastic to the landfills. 

Laveo is working on developing a biodegradable liner. But, as of this writing, plastic liners are your only option.

Cartridges Expensive to Replace

The last and perhaps most problematic feature of the dry flush toilet is the cartridge price. A refill pack containing 3 cartridges costs $67.75 on their website. With multiple users, you could easily spend over $100 on liners every week!

Dry flush toilet logo
Boondockers will find having a dry flush toilet to be quite beneficial.

If you started full-time RVing to save on monthly expenses, this toilet might not be for you, simply because the cartridges will deplete your RV budget in no time. On the other hand, weekend campers or single users might find the convenience outweighs the expense.

Pro Tip: Want to go water-free, but don’t know if a dry flush toilet is right for you? Check out these 7 Best Composting Toilets On The Market that may be a better option for your rig.

Are Dry Flush Toilets Worth It?

As we just mentioned, dry flush units may be worth it for some but not all RVers. The weight and portability alone make this toilet a standout. Not to mention, people love the ease of use and lack of stinky toilet odors. 

On the other hand, the overall cost tends to be a hindrance. Yes, the dry flush is cheaper upfront, but you’ll quickly eat through those savings when purchasing cartridge refills.

Ultimately, you have to decide what’s most important to you. RVers hoping to eliminate the “foul factor” of other toilet types will certainly appreciate this toilet. However, frugal or environmentally conscious folk might pass on this model. 

All around, the dry flush toilet is an interesting advance in waterless toilet technology. Whether you decide this toilet is right for your rig or not, it’s always nice to know you have the option.

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Craig P

Tuesday 27th of February 2024

Great article guys. We love our Laveo. We didn’t want to deal with dump stations, black tanks, chemical, hoses or any of that. We opted for the Laveo toilet in our new Sprinter van custom build. You can get a lot more than 17 flushes from a cartridge. If just using it to pee at night for instance on a recent ski trip, if you use the ” Pee Powder ” to turn the liquid into a gel ( and then it also doesn’t smell at all ), you can easily pee 3 times before having to flush it. So in theory you could get as many as 68 uses per cartridge. If boondocking I’m going to go out and pee on a tree. If traveling you’re going to use the facilities at gas stations, restaurants, ski areas, etc. So we really only figure we will use a toilet in a van occasionally anyway ( any type of toilet ). For us its perfect as it requires next to no maintenance and simplified our van build. Plus not using any water helps in a B van off grid for sure! Keep up the great articles and writing!

Tom and Caitlin Morton

Thursday 14th of March 2024

Thanks for your sharing your experience! That is very helpful to know.

Terry Nelson

Tuesday 20th of February 2024

Hi guys! We have gone to the basics…..commode liners….cheaper and work great.

Tom and Caitlin Morton

Thursday 14th of March 2024

That would be cheaper and simpler for sure!

Craig P

Monday 19th of February 2024

Great article guys. We opted for the Laveo toilet in our new Sprinter van custom build. You can get a lot more than 17 flushes from a cartridge. If just using it to pee at night for instance on a recent ski trip, if you use the " Pee Powder " to turn the liquid into a gel ( and then it also doesn't smell at all ), you can easily pee 3 times before having to flush it. So in theory you could get as many as 68 uses per cartridge. If boondocking I'm going to go out and pee on a tree. If traveling you're going to use the facilities at gas stations, restaurants, ski areas, etc. So we really only figure we will use a toilet in a van occasionally anyway ( any type of toilet ). For use its perfect as it requires next to no maintenance and simplified or van build. Plus not using any water helps in a B van off grid for sure! Keep up the great articles and writing!

Tom and Caitlin Morton

Thursday 14th of March 2024

Thanks for your feedback! Great to hear more real world experience.

Penny Leisch

Friday 15th of September 2023

When comparing cost, remember you also buy chemicals for the tanks, and some dump stations charge a fee. Of course, that drive to find a dump station in some areas costs gas too. I don't like adding plastic to the environment, but I travel alone a lot and have physical limitations. These would work perfectly to minimize the challenges of dealing with hoses, tanks, and so on.

Craig P

Monday 19th of February 2024

@Penny Leisch, we didn't want to deal with dump stations, black tanks, chemical, hoses or any of that. If you are alive you're going to add some sort of waste into the environment. Even just staying home. One can always try and minimize plastic use elsewhere in your life to try and offset the cartridges.

planet steward

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

More single use plastic? Great.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 13th of October 2021

You have a point there.