How to Empty a Caravan Toilet Cassette

🧻 Where & How to Empty a Caravan Toilet Cassette + Tips & Maintenance

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When I began out as a caravanner, I had no idea how to empty the Caravan Toilet Cassette, but let me tell you, I soon learnt!

It’s amazing how much we take for granted with having the ability to go to the toilet, then simply flush it all away with the push of a button. For caravanners and RVers, the task becomes a little more involved.

Not only do you need to store your own waste and cart it around with you, but then you have to dispose of it yourself as well! When looking at how to empty a caravan toilet cassette, the process is very simple and can be done at any public Dump Station around the country.

Here’s the full guide on how to empty a caravan toilet cassette, plus lots of extra tips and advice to help keep things running smoothly for you in this crappy department.

3 More Caravan Toilet Styles →

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How Do Caravan Toilets Work?

There are two main components to the caravan toilet.

You’ve got the toilet itself, which sits inside your caravan bathroom or ensuite. Then you’ve got a flap, which opens up to the removable cassette below and is accessible from a hatch outside of your van.

Thetford Caravan Cassette Toilet
Thetford Cassette Toilet

Here’s how to use a cassette toilet:

STEP 1

Open the flap inside the toilet (handle located around the front or side of the toilet), then open the toilet lid.

NOTE: Some people prefer to keep the flap closed (with a dash of water on top) while they’re using the toilet, then open it up afterwards. But, I’ve found that makes too much unnecessary mess. I want the contents down in that cassette as soon as I can!

STEP 2

Do your business. And yes, it’s perfectly fine to poop in the caravan toilet. It all gets mixed up and emptied out the same. If you’ve got a toilet and you need to go, then use it.

STEP 3

Flush the toilet with the little ‘flush’ button. Little flushes can be more effective (and use less water) than a big, long flush.

STEP 4

Once the water and contents have gone down into the cassette tank, close the toilet lid.

STEP 5

Don’t forget to close the flap in the toilet. Take it from me, you don’t want to close that flap unless the toilet lid is down… otherwise you risk getting a nice splash in the face!

Flushing Tanks

Some toilets have a separate flushing tank that needs to be filled via the hatch outside the caravan. The light there will indicate when it’s full.

Alternatively, many of the toilets are plumbed into the main caravan water tanks, so as long as your tanks have water, you can flush the loo.

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How to Empty a Caravan Toilet Cassette

It might be a crappy job, but one that needs to be done if you’re using an onboard ensuite. Here’s how to empty a caravan toilet cassette.

Step-by-step Instructions

Step 1 – Open the toilet access hatch

Open up the door on the exterior of your caravan, which gives you access to the toilet cassette.

Caravan Toilet Cassette Hactch

Step 2 – Lift the lock & remove

Lift the orange lock and slide the cassette out of the hatch.

Emptying the caravan toilet cassette

Step 3 – Agitate the cassette

If you haven’t been on the move, it helps to agitate the cassette a bit to help break down the contents as you’re making your way to the Dump Point.

Step 4 – Open the spout

Twist around the outlet spout and remove the cap.

Emptying caravan toilet cassette

Step 5 – Release the pressure

Hold the cassette horizontally with one hand using the handle. With your other hand, push the orange button in to allow air into the cassette, which releases the pressure (and helps the contents flow out).

Step 6 – Empty the cassette

Tip the cassette up to empty out the contents. You might need to give it a good shake if there are still some solids and toilet paper that haven’t broken down.

How to empty thetford caravan toilet cassette

Step 7 – Rinse cassette

Use the hose provided at the dump point to add a litre or two of water into the cassette (through the spout). Swish the water around in the cassette to give it a good rinse. Repeat this a few times until you feel it’s clean enough. It helps to add a squirt of detergent into one of the rinses for a deeper clean.

Step 8 – Add chemicals

Once rinsed, you can then add your toilet chemicals to the cassette.

Put the cap back on the spout and fold the spout away. Slot the cassette back into it’s hatch and make sure the orange lock has clipped back in. Close the hatch door and lock it with your key.


VIDEO: Emptying the Cassette

Check out the video below where I walk you through the step-by-step process of emptying a caravan toilet cassette.

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Where to Empty Caravan Toilets in Australia

Dump Points

Caravan toilet cassettes must be emptied into designated Dump Points, which can be found all over Australia. Most (but not all) towns will offer a free Dump Point for travellers, especially with caravan and camper ensuites becoming increasingly popular.

Most Caravan Parks are fitted with a Dump Point as well, so if you’re staying in that type of accomodation, you’ll know that you can easily empty your cassette or black tank (which stores toilet waste instead of having a removable cassette).

Here’s the full guide on using a dump point for the first time, if you’re new to the game.

Dump Points Near Me Map

We have a fully interactive Google map with over 900 public dump points around Australia, all of which can also be found on the various camping apps.

Click below to use the Dump Points Near Me map.

Dump Points Near Me MAP →

Camping Apps

The most convenient way to source out Dump Points as you are travelling, particularly if you don’t have internet reception is with a camping app (e.g. WikiCamps). Be sure to download your maps for offline use before leaving civilisation.

You can easily locate dump points by looking for the red ‘caravan and arrow’ symbol (pictured below).

Dump Point Wikicamps
WikiCamps ‘Dump Point’ symbol
How to Use the WikiCamps App (Full Guide) →

DONT’s:

  • DON’T ever use the tap or hose at a Dump Point for filling up your caravan water tanks (or any other drinking water containers) – you don’t want to know what those things have touched!
  • DON’T empty your cassette into a storm water drain or onto the ground
  • DON’T empty your cassette into a public toilet, drop toilet or composting toilet

Get your hands on one of these Camp Guides below with thousands of campgrounds across Australia and all of the additional travel information you’ll need, including Dump Point locations.

HEMA Where to Camp Guide

Hema Camps Guide
(includes Dump Points) →

Camps 11

Camps 11
(includes Dump Points) →


Can you Empty a Caravan Toilet at Home?

Yes, you can absolutely empty your caravan toilet cassette at home. The contents are no different to what usually gets flushed down your toilet, with the addition of a little Napisan or toilet chemical.

The only downside is that it can be smelly work! So, make sure you spray when you’re done, open a window and keep the door closed for a while to filter it out.

Another sucky thing about emptying your caravan cassette into the toilet at home is that it can get a bit splashy, so you may have to disinfect afterwards if that’s the case.

Emptying into Septic Systems

Something to remember with septic systems however is that the bacteria in septic tanks are crucial in the functioning of breaking down the waste. Some toilet chemicals that aren’t ‘septic safe’ or ‘green’ may upset your septic system.

Some people have reported that it’s been fine but empty your cassette into a septic system at your own risk.

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Caravan Toilet Maintenance

How to Clean Your Caravan Toilet

You can clean your caravan toilet just as you would a regular toilet at home. Spray the outside and seat with a disinfectant or all-purpose cleaner, then wipe with a damp cloth. Squirt some toilet cleaner into the bowl an gently scrub with a toilet brush. Flush it all down into the cassette.

TIP: For a deep clean of the cassette, fill it with a cup of white vinegar and top with water. Leave for a few hours or overnight, then empty out.

8 Tips for Cleaning the RV Toilet →
Camp Eco Dunny Spray
Camp Eco Dunny Spray →

What Chemicals to use in a Toilet Cassette

Okay, so this is the most controversial topic of all when it comes to caravan toilets. Which chemicals should you put into the toilet cassette?

To be completely frank, we only ever used the cheap homebrand Napisan in our toilet and not only did it work well, we never had any issues with not being able to dump it in the regular spots.

While some claim that Napisan upsets the systems, the evidence shows that it contains the same active ingredient as what you’ll find in commercial cassette chemicals. Napisan-type products in Australia all state on the labelling that they’re safe to use in septic systems.

Sodium percarbonate is the active ingredient, which is a mixture of sodium carbonate (washing soda) with hydrogen peroxide (antimicrobial agent naturally occurring in the human body).

The purpose of hydrogen peroxide is to oxidise the smelly compounds and nitrogen-containing compounds like skatole, which is found in human waste.

You can read Napisan and look-alikes are safe for septic tanks for a more technical view.

Caravan Toilet Chemical
Caravan Toilet Sachets
Caravan Toilet Chemicals (eBay) →

How much chemical do you need?

I go with the ratio of 1 tablespoon of Napisan powder per cup of water. Mix, then pour into the cassette.

For commercial caravan chemicals, follow the directions on the pack. If you’re using tablets/ sachets, then just pop one into the cassette after each empty.

Cost & availability of caravan toilet chemicals:

TOILET CHEMICALAVG COSTWHERE TO BUY
Store Brand Laundry Soaker Powder$2.50/ kgSupermarkets
Napisan Laundry Soaker Powder$9.20/ kgSupermarkets
Commercial Caravan Toilet Liquids$15 – $20/ LitreCaravan RV Camping →
Commercial Caravan Toilet Tablets/ Sachets$23/ 15-packCaravan RV Camping →

Do Caravan Toilets Smell?

Technically, if your caravan toilet is cleaned, emptied and maintained properly, your caravan toilet shouldn’t smell. But regular RV and camper users will know that that’s just not the truth. Those toilets can definitely get a bit whiffy at times!

The main cause for a smelly caravan toilet is a build-up of methane gas, which is released from the dried out waste and can be made much worse in hot conditions. Let’s just say that wetter is better in this area.

TIPS FOR REDUCING CARAVAN TOILET SMELLS
Close the flapSuper obvious, but make sure the flap is 100% closed and that the toilet lid is closed.
Use plenty of liquidSince it’s the drying out that creates the smelly methane gas, make sure the waste & paper is staying wet enough. It also helps everything break down easier.
Clean it regularlyA clean toilet is going to be less smelly than a dirty one. It helps to give the toilet a quick once-over every other day.
Use less toilet paperToilet paper fills up the cassette a lot quicker and needs more water to remain wet and break down. Use less of it, or dispose of it in a plastic bag that gets thrown out daily.
Agitate when stationaryTake out the cassette and give it a good shake once a day when you’re parked up for a while. Agitating will help to break down the contents when you’re not driving.
VentilationKeep the bathroom ventilated – windows and hatches open, door closed.
Empty regularlyObviously it’s the contents of the toilet, which is making the smell. So, the more often you can empty the cassette, the less smells you will have to contend with.
11 Tips for a Smelly Caravan Toilet →

Oil the Caravan Toilet Cassette Seal

Be aware that the rubber seal on the caravan toilet cassette cartridge can dry out over time. If the seal perishes it will end up leaking, which is not a very nice scenario.

Oil Seal on Caravan Toilet Cassette

Re-lubricating the seal is really easy and nothing a bit of olive oil or silicone lubricant can’t fix.

First up, remove the slide cover, then grab a damp rag and clean around the cassette seal. An all-purpose cleaner or disinfectant can also be used. Dispose of the rag.

Then you can either spray the seal with olive oil, or you can put a dash of olive oil or silicone lubricant onto an old rag, rub it over the entire seal, then dispose of the rag.

Replace the cover and you’re done.

You can see how the cassette ends up with calcium build-up over time, so it’ll need a good scrub and wipe over every few months or so to keep it nice and clean.

Caravan Storage Checklist

Caravan Storage Checklist

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  • 100 pre-filled tasks to complete
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Caravan Toilet Tips & Tricks

Which toilet paper to use in a caravan toilet

You can most definitely use normal toilet paper in your caravan toilet. In fact, the cheaper, the better!

That super, soft Kleenex tissue will only fill up your cassette twice as quick and make emptying it much harder. It’s just too robust to break down as quickly and easily as you need it to.

The $3.60 homebrand toilet rolls are perfect.

I mean, you can go spend $13 on a 6-pack of Thetford toilet paper if you want, but the general consensus in caravanning circles is that it’s not worth spending the money.

Toilet Paper

Can you poop in a caravan toilet?

Yes, you can absolutely poo in a caravan toilet! Some people are dead against using their caravan toilets for number twos because they don’t want to dirty it up.

Let me tell you, that toilet is going to get dirty anyways, even if you only use it for wees. Regardless of what’s been done in there, you still clean it the same way (I hope), so what difference does it make?

Things to consider with pooping in the caravan toilet:

  • Extra smell in the van. If you’ve got an exhaust fan in the bathroom, turn it on. Keep the door closed and use some spray afterwards. Keep the other windows open in the van to clear out any smells quickly.
  • If the cassette hasn’t been agitated enough to help break down the poo, it can clog up the spout when emptying. Lots of shaking required!
  • Poos and paper will fill up the cassette much quicker if done on the regular.

I reckon if you’ve got a toilet onboard and you need to go, then go!


How can you make the cassette space last longer?

When you’re free camping or off grid for a few days or more, you’ll want that toilet cassette to last as long as possible. For four of us, we could get about three days out of the cassette by being smart with the space.

Tips to help the caravan cassette last longer:

  • Males pee outside (and females can as well if there is a nice, private tree or bush to go behind)
  • Use public restrooms and campground toilets as much as possible
  • Agitate the cassette once a day to help break up the contents and level it out
  • Instead of flushing every time, you can use a spray bottle to give the bowl a quick clean
  • Instead of flushing toilet paper into the cassette, put it into a plastic bag that gets disposed of daily (can put the bag into a bucket with a lid in the bathroom)

Do you need to carry a spare caravan toilet cassette?

There is no requirement to carry a spare caravan toilet cassette, but some people do choose to. It’s common for families who are travelling for extended periods of time to carry a spare cassette so that they have the ability to camp off grid for longer.

It really depends on your camping style and how many people are using the toilet.

Remember that you have to have somewhere to store that full cassette for a few days until you can get to the dump point.


How do you know when the cassette is full?

Generally there will be an indicator light on the toilet somewhere near the flush button. It’s not uncommon for the float in the cassette to get stuck, which means that indicator light won’t work. However, don’t stress, it’s pretty easy to open the flap and have a look in the cassette to see how full it is. You’ll know!

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18 thoughts on “🧻 Where & How to Empty a Caravan Toilet Cassette + Tips & Maintenance”

  1. Kaylene Cutmore

    I’m having real trouble unlocking porta loo bottom waste from the top section so we can empty..getting desperate …I don’t want to discard as very new. HELP

    1. That’s super frustrating! What type of portaloo have you got? Is it the cassette style like in the article? If so, the handle will need to be clicked ‘up’ so that the cassette can be pulled out.

  2. Just wondering how you store the cassette when the van is parked up at home? Do you leave it empty or with a cleaner in it or just prepped to go for next time?

    1. I just give it a really good clean out, then leave it ready to go in the van for next time. So, I add the cup or two of water, mixed with a spoonful of napisan and leave that in the cassette.

  3. I bought one of those Shewee type products. It’s like a detachable penis lol .. a urination device for ladies and you can pee inside your van or tent into a container so it’s nice and private. I don’t use it usually but some times it’s handy.

  4. Anytime we’ve traveled in an RV with a toilet we never use it because of the cleaning process lol We are usually tent campers and are looking into stepping into the RV world as the fur babies get older and can’t come on as many adventures.

  5. I guess this is an important thing to learn, and a job that you’re likely not fighting over to do! You likely have to take your travel itinerary into consideration so that you can ensure you are able to find the dumping zones to avoid any flooding issues.

    1. Haha nope, no one’s fighting over this job, that’s for sure. We’ve never had any flooding issues, as you’ve always got to be onto it, when it comes to emptying the cassette.

  6. I agree: it has to be done and carefully! The last thing you need is a splash back when emptying the cassette or to flood your shoes (I know folk who have managed this). The cassette system you describe here is exactly what we use in the UK, but when we have been in an RV in the US we have a black tank (in addition to the grey tank) and all the waste goes in there to be drained into a sewer via a detachable hose. Is this system available in Australia?

    1. Oh my god, flooding your shoes with that – how awful! We also have a black tank system, which is fitted into some vans, but the cassette seems to be more common.

  7. I am sure that there is a lot to learn when you first start out with a caravan. And things like learning to empty the toilet is an important one to learn early. It was interesting to read that most towns in Australia provide a free Dump Point. Easier if you are not staying in parks!

    1. There is so much to learn about caravans! Things you haven’t even thought of until you find yourself in the situation. Yes, dump points are common, thank goodness. Makes travelling off grid much easier around the country.

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