camping toilet

Camping Toilet in a Campervan: How They Work

Have you rented a motorhome with a camping toilet, portable or built-in? Here is a complete guide to their maintenance: how and where to empty them and which chemical products to use.

Often, the camping toilet option for motorhomes is intimidating to those who have never tried one. The good news is that operating a camping toilet is less complicated than you might think. All you need is a complete guide to camping toilets: How do they work? How do you use them properly? Where do you empty them? What’s the best way to maintain them? 

What’s the most worrisome thing about a campervan trip? For many, the answer is lack of a washroom. Public toilets are not always as well maintained as one would hope, this becomes especially important if you are travelling with a family with young kids. Camping toilets for campervans are specially designed to minimize odours and require only a few simple cleaning operations. Just follow the right maintenance rules and you’ll be ready to head out on any road trip

How does the camping toilet in a campervan work?

camping toilet

A camping toilet consists essentially of two tanks. One is a receptacle and the other is for clean water. Both are maintained in a hygienic state through the use of special chemicals that allow the decomposition of waste fluids and limit the presence of bad odours.

Also keep in mind that there are two types of camping toilets: portable chemical toilets and those with built-in systems. The main distinction between the two is the flushing system, which we’ll explain in more detail below.

Cleaning and maintenance: how to take care of your camping toilet

To clean your toilet, do not use household products. It is best to use special detergents that won’t damage the seals and other components of the camping toilet.

As for chemicals, there are two main types. Dissolving agents are mandatory and intended for the lower tank (in the portable part) or for the drain (in the integrated). In this case, the proportions are about 120 ml of product for 3 litres of water. You can also use another product in the upper container, which is the clean water tank for emptying. This is not mandatory, but it helps to keep the toilet hygienic and free of bacteria and bad odours.

Camping toilets: how to use them

Using it is the easy part. Before using it, open the flush valve. This is usually a lever at the bottom of the toilet. Then flush the toilet with the flush button when you’re done. It is best to keep the lid closed to avoid excessive dispersion of the chemicals it contains.

What about toilet paper? Camping toilet paper, made of thinner cellulose that is easier to dissolve in the chemical detergent, must be used in camping toilets. When using normal toilet paper, there is a risk that the undissolved residue will clog the drain when emptying and should be avoided.

Emptying a camping toilet

camping toilet

Built-in camping toilets

Let’s start by emptying the built-in toilet of your motorhome. In correspondence with your camping toilet, you will find a small window on the outside of the motorhome that contains the waste tank. Many tanks are equipped with a mini-trolley or wheels for transport to the disposal area. When you reach the discharge point, place the tank in an upright position. Turn the sleeve up, unscrew the cap and then tilt the tank to allow the waste to exit. The tank usually has a vent button, which you can press when pouring liquids to help the debris flow out.

You may also find hoses at these disposal sites to rinse the inside of the tank and clean it better. Finally, before returning the tank to its location, fill it with a little water and the appropriate disruptive chemicals (whether in liquid or solid tablet form). They have the dual function of dissolving organic waste and sanitizing the tank, thus protecting it from bad odours.

Portable camping toilets

Portable camping toilets work on the same principle: they collect debris in a small tank, dissolved and purified by special chemicals.

To empty them:

– Remove the drain tank from the lower fill tank (usually by a lever).

– Point the sleeve upward while holding the tank vertically.

– Remove the cap, then point the hose downward, emptying the contents into the disposal area. Even in portable camping toilets, you’ll find the button to eliminate the contents and make flushing easier.

– Once emptied, rinse with water and then close the cap of the sleeve, remembering to insert more disintegrating product before using it again.

How often should I empty the tank of my camping toilet?

Camping toilets in motorhomes are usually equipped with an indicator that warns you when the tank is full and needs to be emptied. Keep in mind that you will need to keep it clean, regardless of how full it is, by emptying it about every 3 days.

This should be done more frequently in the summer. High temperatures are ideal conditions for the growth of bacteria and, consequently, bad odours. 

Where should camping toilets be emptied in a motorhome?

This point is crucial. The contents of a chemical tank are not only “smelly”, but the bacteria produced by the pipes and the chemicals they contain are also extremely harmful to the environment. Therefore, avoid dumping your waste on the ground or in a place that may seem “harmless” to do so.

The only appropriate place to dump the contents of a camping toilet is at special dumping stations found in developed camping areas. Take advantage of them whenever you come across one, so you don’t risk an emergency situation and the temptation to dump it anywhere in the wild. Of course, if you own a motor home, you can also empty the tank directly into the drain in your bathroom at home. Again, do not use any other pipes that are not connected to a sewage treatment plant and empty the tank a little at a time if it is full.

Once you understand how camping toilets work in an RV,  you won’t be able to resist the temptation of a road trip. The presence of chemicals protects your tank from the development of bacteria and bad odours. Emptying is also quite intuitive and less “dirty” than one might imagine. In any case, nothing will make you regret the Turkish-style toilets or the endless queues for public services!

Speaking of products, for Indie Campers camping toilets, we suggest using Aqua Kem Blue for the lower tank or Aqua Kem Pink for the tank with clean water.

So hit the road with a camping toilet that will make your campervan feel even more like home! For more tips on maintaining a motorhome, check out this blog!

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About the Author

Anna and Cora
Anna Bujas

Anna has traveled to over 35 countries and is always looking for the next adventure for her and her dog.