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7 Reasons to Avoid Cassette Toilets

7 Reasons to Avoid Cassette Toilets

When looking at Class B camper vans, you’ll notice that many have wet baths with cassette toilets. This saves space while providing necessary amenities. But are cassette toilets that great? We think not. Honestly, we despise them. We’d rather find an alternative to make our camping adventures less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are the reasons we hate cassette toilets!

What Are Cassette Toilets?

A cassette toilet is a permanent toilet with a portable black tank. You’ll have to manually dump this black tank by pulling it out of the cassette toilet. This is different from a standard RV toilet that connects to a permanent black tank. With standard RV toilets, owners go outside and release a valve to empty their black tanks.

However, when you don’t have hook-ups, you must drive to a dump station to empty your tanks. With a cassette toilet, you can remove the portable black tank and drain it in a restroom facility on-site, so you don’t need a dump station.

It also differs from a portable toilet. You can remove a portable toilet from an RV and place it outside or move it from rig to rig. Most cassette toilets permanently mount to an RV, but some can be moved.

Dirty Secrets of Cassette Toilets • RV & CAMPER VAN Realities

How Does a Cassette Toilet Work?

There are three components of a cassette toilet. The toilet secures to the RV but can usually rotate to provide the best positioning in a small space. A handle opens and closes the valve to the holding tank like a toilet flush.

The portable holding tank sits below the toilet. Usually, a door outside the camper van allows access to the tank when you need to empty it. Depending on the setup, you might install a flush button above the toilet. The water flushing into the holding tank comes from the RV’s primary water source. A waste tank indicator lets you know when the portable tank is full.

Cassette toilets aren’t the only RV toilets you need to know about. Check out our Practical Guide to the 6 RV Toilet Types to learn more.

7 Reasons to Avoid Cassette Toilets

Even though cassette toilets have advantages over portable and standard RV toilets, here are seven reasons why we hate them. From the awful smells to the difficulty cleaning them, cassette toilets aren’t our favorite when camping.

1. Cassette Toilets Smell Horrible

RV toilets do a pretty good job of eliminating odors. However, smells can leak out of a cassette toilet. This can happen when seals crack or begin to fail, but it can also occur at any time. Unlike standard RV toilets, you open the valve and leave it open while using the toilet instead of only when you flush. This lets all the smell from inside the cassette float into your bathroom. It’s disgusting.

RV cassette toilet
Cassette toilets smell worse than other RV toilets.

If you don’t use a lot of water to flush, which you usually don’t to conserve tank space, the odor is very concentrated and potent. Once you open the bathroom door, the smell comes out, too. So if one person is taking a nap while the other uses the bathroom, they may have a rude awakening.

2. Tanks Are Very Small

Cassette toilet tanks are tiny because they must be portable. As a result, you have to empty them all the time. When you’re boondocking in the middle of nowhere, this isn’t convenient. Many people get a second tank so they can swap them out. But then you’re stuck with a full tank until you find a place to dump it! For solo travelers, this may not be a significant deal, but a cassette toilet is not ideal for multiple people who quickly fill up the holding tank.

Most cassette toilets have around a 5-gallon capacity. With two people, this may last upwards of 3-4 days before you have to dump again, depending on how often you’re able to use other facilities.

3. Dumping is Very Unpleasant

Emptying a traditional RV black tank at a campsite or dump station with a sewer hose is gross. You’re watching bodily waste empty into the sewer line, and you’re probably getting a pretty good whiff of the unpleasant odors.

But when you’re dumping the portable tank of a cassette toilet, you’re much closer to the process. Your hands are on the tank, the waste could splash as it empties, and the smell is almost unbearable. The dumping process is very unsanitary.

dumping cassette toilet tank
Cassette toilets have small holding tanks, so they must be dumped more frequently.

4. Cleaning a Cassette Toilet Is Disgusting

If you wait too long to clean a cassette toilet, things can get smelly and nasty. We recommend that you rinse after every dump, close and shake the tank, and empty it again before putting the tank back in. But who wants to do this every time? When you do, you must find the closest water supply. Usually, this is potable water, so there’s a risk of waste touching a potable water source. Always sanitize these water connections because you never know where they’ve been.

Deep cleaning is also an unpleasant process and usually occurs at a public dump area or home. You can’t safely clean out a cassette toilet without sanitation concerns if you park anywhere else. It’s time-consuming and not very pleasant.

5. If They Don’t Seal Right, They Will Leak

Not only do you have to deal with the awful smell of a broken seal, but you also have to address the contents draining onto the RV floor. Cassette toilets are very prone to sealing issues. The valve flap between the cassette and the toilet bowl can adhere. If the cassette tank doesn’t fit properly, you can also damage the seal. Trust us when we say the consequences aren’t ideal!

Fortunately, RV toilet seals are easy to replace. Learn how here: What Are the Parts of an RV Toilet & How to Replace Them?

cassette toilet holding tank
Cassette toilets have removable waste tanks.

6. They’re Not the Best Seat in the House

Cassette toilets are some of the most uncomfortable seats we’ve experienced as the toilets are usually tiny. Plus, the bathroom is often small, too. It can be challenging to move around, clean up, and do your business in such an uncomfortable location.

7. Cassette Toilets STINK

This deserves repeating. Every time we’ve walked into a bathroom with one, we say, “I hate cassette toilets.” From the moment you enter the bathroom until well after you’ve left, you experience the stink. This does not lend itself to an enjoyable weekend of adventures.

Cassette toilets make us want to use other restroom facilities as much as possible, which can be more inconvenient on our travel days. The using process stinks, the dumping process stinks, and even when not in use they can stink. In our opinion, there are far better toilet alternatives out there and we don’t understand why more people don’t use them.

Pro Tip: When you gotta go, you gotta go. But what do you do if your RV doesn’t have a porcelain throne? Find out Does Your Camper Really Need a Toilet?

The Better Toilet Alternative: Composting Toilets

We would choose a composting toilet over a cassette toilet any day. Composting toilets do a superb job of containing and eliminating smells. Instead of the waste in the tank below, composting toilets use the natural composting process to control odors. Anaerobic bacteria, in the presence of oxygen, break down the waste into compost.

Additionally, composting toilet designs feature a vent tube and fan to pull odors directly out of the bowl and push them to the outside of your RV. That means that bad smells rarely make their way out of the toilet and into your bathroom or living space.

Plus, composting toilets are straightforward to dump and can be done much less frequently. Since solid waste goes into a different compartment than liquids, you only have to pour the liquids into a restroom facility. Most composting toilets even let you plumb the liquids into your gray tank. You don’t have to worry about the splashing or unpleasant odors of solid waste like with a cassette. Emptying the compost part of the unit is quick, easy, and doesn’t happen very often.

Still not convinced a composting toilet would be better than other RV toilet types? Read this: What’s So Great About RV Composting Toilets?

Whats so great about RV composting Toilets? | What You Should Consider Before You Buy

Avoid Cassette Toilets When Answering Nature’s Call

If possible, it’s best to replace your cassette toilet with a composting toilet. It may take time to adjust to your new toilet since you have to send the liquid and waste to two locations, but you’ll figure it out. You’ll be glad you did! There will be no awful odors or gross messes. Don’t ruin your weekend camping trip because of a toilet leak or running to the restroom facility to dump it every evening.

Have you ever used a cassette toilet? Do you agree with us? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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Victoria W

Saturday 20th of May 2023

Appreciate your perspective, but I don't agree. We have a cassette commode and have used one for 3 years. We mostly use ours for pee- only a couple times for poo(when it was too cold to go to camping facilities & boondocking) we don't have the smell unless used for poo. Also, we considered composting toilet but I use a portable bidet ( for ehem the "h" issue down under) and from what I understand we can't use this with composting toilet since too much liquid in the compost area. We found the options for emptying the cassette more flexible than a black water tank. To each his own, I say!


Friday 10th of February 2023

I don't know about these weird exterior access toilets but... good, self-contained cassette toilets (like a thetford) used properly (as instructed) do not stink. At all. And there is simply no better solution for winter camping. They can be dumped in any toilet, pit or flush anywhere. And if you're diverting black waste water into your gray tank well... that is a very questionable ecological decision.


Saturday 10th of June 2023

@p.smitty, do you have a suggestion on what to put in your thetford. I have a brand new one and am using properly and it stinks bad. So hoping for some drop-in product advice?


Tuesday 15th of November 2022

Agree 100% Cassette toilets are the grossest way to poop ever thought. Of. Had rather poop in a waste basket than a cassette toilet. When I see folks bragging about a cassette toilet in a RV I know they are clueless.

Victoria W

Saturday 20th of May 2023

@Gary, have you noticed that some big rig campers, when there is not sewer hook up, use a cassette to divert their black tank to? They drag behind the TV to the dump station. What is difference?