Types of Toilets for Caravans

4 Common Types of Toilets for Caravans

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When you purchase an ensuite caravan (particularly second-hand), it will already come installed with a toilet. However, smaller caravans and campers often don’t have room for an ensuite, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a toilet onboard.

The main types of toilets for caravans in Australia include the Cassette Toilet, the Gravity Toilet (with black tank), the Compost Toilet and the Portable Camping Toilet.

If you’re getting a brand new caravan built, or want to swap out your existing caravan toilet but don’t know which style to choose, here’s everything you need to know about the various options.

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Types of Toilets for Caravans

Toilet, Laundry Bag
Most caravan toilet lids can spin around for better use of space

Cassette Toilet

The most commonly-used style of toilets for caravans, motorhomes and RVs in Australia is the cassette toilet.

A cassette toilet is essentially a toilet that has a flap, which can be opened and closed, giving access to a small receptacle below where the waste is stored.

Using a cassette toilet is pretty simple. You just need to open the flap (with the handle on the front of the toilet) before use. Then push the “flush” button to get the contents down into the cassette before closing the flap back up.

The storage compartment is a removable cartridge called a “cassette.” The toilet itself is built into the caravan ensuite as a permanent fixture, which is connected to the caravan’s water system, enabling easy flushing.

Thetford Toilet Cassette
Caravan Toilet Cassettes (eBay) →

The benefit of having a small, portable cassette is that you’re able to easily remove it for emptying and cleaning. It also gives the added option of having multiple cassettes for waste storage if you want to go camping off-grid for a longer period of time.

Spare cassettes can be stored in the back of the car or in the caravan storage boot, then swapped out with the full one as needed.

Once you get to a dump point, their portability makes it easy to empty each cassette individually, freeing back up all of your toilet waste space for the next camp.

You can find spare toilet cassettes on eBay. Be sure to search for whichever model of toilet has been installed in your van.

Cassette Toilet Capacity

Unfortunately, with the convenience of being able to pull out a cassette and roll it over to the dump point comes a smaller capacity.

Our Thetford toilet cassette had a capacity of 19 litres, which is an average-sized cassette. You won’t find a cassette that can store much more than 22 litres.

Given the smaller capacity, that’s why some caravanners decide to carry a spare cassette with them, just in case.

🚽 Cassette Toilet CapacityAbout 20 litres

How to Empty a Toilet Cassette

Emptying caravan toilet cassette

How to Empty the Cassette:

  1. Take the cassette out of the storage hatch
  2. Agitate the contents to make emptying easier
  3. Pull up the handle and roll it over to the Dump Point
  4. Twist around the outlet spout and remove the cap
  5. Push the little round button on the cassette to release the pressure
  6. Empty the contents out of the spout and into the Dump Point drain
  7. Use the hose provided at the Dump Point to rinse out the cassette a few times
  8. Add your toilet chemical
  9. Put the cap back on the spout and twist it closed
  10. Fold down the handle
  11. Slide the cassette back into the hatch and lock it into place
Full Guide to Emptying a Cassette →

Gravity Flush Toilet

The next type of caravan toilet is similar to the first, however, instead of the waste being stored in a small removable cassette, it’s stored in what’s called a ‘Black Tank’ or ‘Black Water Tank.’

Underneath the caravan, the black water tank can look similar to one of the caravan’s freshwater tanks, however, the black tank is dedicated to holding only toilet waste.

Caravan Black Tank (waste)
Black Water Tank

Black Tank Capacity

Having a black tank instead of a cassette will give you a much larger amount of waste capacity.

With a cassette, you won’t get much over 20 litres, whereas if you have a black tank, you can have from 60L to over 100L of waste storage onboard.

🚽 Black Tank Capacity60+ litres

It’s important to look at how much spare payload allowance you have if you’re going to be towing around an extra 60 – 100 kg in black water waste.

Two towing weights to consider when working out payload:

  • GCM (Gross Combined Mass) – the weight of the car + caravan
  • GTM (Gross Trailer Mass) – the weight of the caravan fully-loaded while hitched to the car

If you need to understand more about your towing weights, here are all of the caravan weights explained, plus how to work out yours.

We’ve also got a handy Payload Calculator available below to help work out your available capacity for a full black water tank along with full fresh water tanks and general luggage.

Payload Calculator →

How to Empty a Black Tank

Emptying a black tank must still be done at a public dump point, however, the process is a bit different to emptying a cassette.

While each black tank system may be slightly different, below are the general steps to give you an idea.

How to Empty Caravan or RV Black Water Tank
Source: Outdoorsy

How to empty a caravan black tank:

  1. Attach your RV sewer hose to the black tank outlet (underneath the caravan)
  2. Put the other end of the hose into the Dump Point drain
  3. Find the black tank gate valve & open it
  4. Wait until the black tank is completely empty
  5. Close the black tank gate valve
  6. If you also have a grey water tank (shower & kitchen waste water), then open that valve while the hose is hooked up
  7. Wait until the grey tank is completely empty (this will help to clean the sewerage out of the hose as well)
  8. Close the grey tank gate valve
  9. Attach a garden hose (NOT the drinking water hose) to the tank rinse inlet
  10. Open the black tank valve
  11. Attach the garden hose to the Dump Point tap and turn it on to rinse the black tank
  12. Close the black tank valve
  13. Repeat with the grey tank (if applicable)
  14. Remove the sewer hose from underneath the caravan (but leave the other end in the Dump Point) and rinse it out
Nearest Dump Point Finder →

Compost Toilet

Next on the list of toilets for caravans is the compost toilet, which is growing in popularity. While compost toilets aren’t a new invention, the adaptation for caravans and RVs is fairly recent.

A couple of great benefits of a compost toilet is that no water is needed, plus the emptying is easier and much less frequent.

As there’s no need for building in a holding tank, adding a compost toilet to your caravan is really easy, provided you have somewhere to put it.

Nature's Head Compost Toilet
Nature’s Head Compost Toilet

Compost Toilet Capacity

While the liquid canister doesn’t have a huge capacity, given that it doesn’t include number twos or toilet paper, you’ll be surprised how long that space can last.

Since you can simply pull out the liquid canister and walk out into the bush to empty it around a tree if need be, you can last a fair amount of time between dump point visits.

To save space in the solids canister, don’t throw your toilet paper into the mix. Keep a lidded bucket (lined with a plastic bag) beside the bin for toilet paper.

🚽 Compost Toilet Capacity• Liquid Canister: 5 – 10 litres
• Solids Canister: Various

How to Empty a Compost Toilet

Essentially, the toilet separates the solid waste from the liquid waste.

The liquid waste canister does need to be emptied every few days (or whenever it becomes full). To empty the liquid canister, just pull it out and tip the contents into a regular flush toilet or at a dump point.

The solid waste and toilet paper go into a receptacle with a natural peat product (e.g. coconut fibre), which will then turn into compost. To encourage the composting process, the only thing you’ll need to do is twist the handle on the side of the toilet a few times to agitate the mixture.

Compost Toilet Peat Moss
Compost Toilet Peat (eBay) →

A pro with the solids tank is that it only needs to be emptied once every fortnight or so, which is way less than every few days with a cassette.

Given that the solids’ contents are now compost, you can empty them around the garden at home or into a dump point if necessary. Then just add some more peat for a fresh batch of composting.

Full Guide to RV Compost Toilets →

Portable Toilet

Portable toilets (or Porta Pottis) are the best toilets for caravans that are either small or don’t have an onboard ensuite.

You can store a portable toilet in a cupboard (or the back of the car) and pull it out when needed, or it can have its own cubicle in the caravan.

A portable toilet has its own small water tank for flushing and a small waste holding tank underneath.

Portable Caravan Camping Toilet
Portable Toilet (eBay) →

Portable Toilet Capacity

Portable toilets come in a variety of different capacities, depending on how much storage space you’ve got and how long you’ll need to go between empties.

🚽 Portable Toilet Capacities• 10 litres
• 12 litres
• 20 litres

How to Empty a Portable Toilet

Emptying a portable toilet is as easy as removing the bottom waste tank, which can be similar to a cassette and emptying it into a dump point.

How to empty a Porta Potti:

  1. Remove the holding tank from underneath the toilet
  2. Untwist the spout
  3. Unscrew the cap
  4. Push the pressure release valve while emptying contents into a Dump Point
  5. Rinse out the holding tank with water
  6. Add toilet chemical
  7. Screw the cap back on & twist the spout away
  8. Slide back into the toilet compartment
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Caravan Toilet Paper & Chemicals

Once you’ve got your chosen caravan toilet, the next questions are usually around which toilet paper and chemicals are best to use.

Let’s break it down.

What Toilet Paper to Use in a Caravan Toilet

Toilet Roll Holder
A wall-mounted toilet brush holder doubles as a toilet roll holder

There is the option to spend $15 on a 6-pack of tailor-made RV Toilet Paper, at places like BCF and Caravan RV Camping. The products are marketed to be highly dissolvable (yet, still super soft), making it easier to break down in the caravan toilet.

However, if you don’t want to spend so much on dunny paper, you can technically use any toilet paper you like in your caravan loo.

The option I always went for was the home brand 2-ply toilet paper from the supermarket, which to be honest, is a third of the price and also high-dissolvable due to its paper-thin qualities.

Space Saving Tip!

Avoid having toilet paper take up so much of the precious cassette or holding tank space by disposing of it in a lidded bucket (lined with a plastic bag), which sits next to the toilet. Tie the bag off and replace it every day or two for hygiene reasons.

Which Chemicals to Use in a Caravan Toilet

There is one main active ingredient required in toilets for caravans and that is sodium percarbonate. It’s basically a mixture of sodium carbonate (washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide (an antimicrobial agent that naturally occurs in the human body).

The role of hydrogen peroxide is particularly important as it oxidises the smelly compounds and nitrogen-containing compounds that are found in human waste like skatole.

To ensure that you’ve got this essential ingredient in your caravan toilet, you can either use Napisan or one of the traditional RV toilet chemicals.

Personally, I always found the store brand versions of Napisan to be effective, cheap and readily available all around Australia.

Some people prefer to use the proper toilet chemicals, however it really doesn’t matter which one you go for, as long as you add an effective chemical into the waste tank after every empty.

Caravan Maintenance & Service Log

Caravan Maintenance & Service Log

Log and track all of your caravan maintenance and servicing requirements.

  • 7-page Planner (digital & printable)
  • Caravan Service History Log
  • TICK OFF checklists
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  • ADD in extra tasks
  • RECORD maintenance & service dates
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