Monday, December 4, 2023


Know Your RV: 7 tips for a happy RV toilet

For many new to the RV lifestyle, the RV toilet is a mysterious dweller in a tiny closet. But if you plan on spending any time with your RV, you’ll soon need to get intimately acquainted. Here are important tips to get along with what can be a good friend on the road.

RV toilet1. Yes, you can poop in it

Some really wonder if it’s safe to do “Number Two” in their RV toilet, fearing something awful might happen. Fear not. If you treat your toilet with respect and follow these tips, nothing terrible will happen.

2. But DON’T put the wrong things in it

RV toiletHuman waste, toilet paper, water, and the correct holding tank treatments are the ONLY things that should go “down the hatch.” The tank that holds your “black water” waste is very sensitive and, if mistreated, can clog up with disastrous results. Don’t try putting facial tissue, wipes, paper towels, or feminine supplies in your toilet. Ditto that for food (other than what you’ve already digested).

3. Before YOU deposit, add water

Keeping a small amount of water in the toilet bowl will help seal off smells from coming back up from the holding tank. Normally, each time you flush the toilet the process will leave a small amount of water in the bowl. But water can evaporate, and if there’s a slight leak in the toilet bowl seal, it will disappear.

RV toilet

How do you put water in? MOST RV toilets have a foot pedal to flush. If you don’t see one, then look at the back of the toilet. You may spot a slide lever—it does the same job as the foot pedal. Push the foot pedal PART WAY to the floor—or the slide lever part way to the opposite side—and water will flow into the bowl. Push the foot pedal ALL THE WAY DOWN—or the lever all the way opposite of its starting point—and the bowl valve will open, flushing all the contents into the holding tank.

Need to use the toilet? Some RVers will add a couple of inches of water to the bowl if they’ll be pooping. This helps keep the bowl from getting Klingons. More on this in Tip 6.

4. Limit the amount of toilet paper

RV toiletThe more you put down your RV toilet drain, the faster your tank will fill up. Too much toilet paper can also contribute to clogging. Be conservative with ripping off the roll. Some RVers don’t even put toilet paper down the drain. Instead, after use, they stash it in a plastic bag, or a sealed tight trash can with a lid. The used TP is eventually disposed of in a proper dump.

By the way, you don’t need to buy expensive “RV toilet paper.” Most TP will dissolve in your tank, provided you don’t dump too much in the tank and you flush with plenty of water. That comes up in the next TP tip!

5. Use the right amount of water to flush

RV toiletThis depends on your camping circumstances. If you’re hooked up to a “city water” supply, meaning you’re not depending on water from your fresh water holding tank, more is better. The more water you put down the toilet, the less likely it is you’ll deal with tank clogs, or tank smells. The rule of thumb here: After you’ve used the toilet, add water to the count of 10, then empty the bowl with a full-to-the-floor pedal drop.

If you’re “boondocking” and need to conserve water (and black water tank space), then less is better. After you’ve used the toilet, simply step on the pedal to the floor and empty the tank. Quickly get your foot back up off the pedal to stop excess water from flowing into the holding tank.

DO YOU USE special (high priced) RV toilet paper in your RV or less expensive brands available at supermarkets? Find out in this recent survey.

6. Keep it clean

RV toiletNobody likes a dirty RV toilet. There are a couple of ways to deal with the problem. Your RV toilet may be equipped with a hose and nozzle that looks like something you’d find on the back of a kitchen sink. That’s a toilet bowl rinser. Use it to deal with those nasty Klingons. Don’t have a bowl rinser? Then invest in the humble toilet bowl brush. A quick zip around the bowl can leave it nice for the next person.

Some RVers subscribe to the “sign of the cross” method. You don’t need to subscribe to any particular religious faith for this one. Before you use the toilet, pull off two lengths of toilet paper about 8” or so. Lay the first down in the toilet bowl one direction, and the second on top of it, cross-ways. The sacrificed TP helps by carrying solid wastes down into the tank when you flush. Again, you might want to keep in mind just how much total toilet paper you’re “depositing” in your tank.

7. Be careful with holding tank treatments

It’s a deep subject, and one we’ll deal with in detail in a future edition. Briefly, holding tank treatments are supposed to help break down the wastes in your black water tank, and help prevent odors. Many treatments can be harmful to waste water treatment systems and even the environment.

For that reason, many RVers only use bacterial/enzyme treatments. NEVER use “home brew” treatments like bleach, which can damage holding tank valves and kill off beneficial holding tank bacteria.

Other stories by Russ and Tiña De Maris


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Neal Davis (@guest_250674)
3 months ago

Thank you, Russ and Tina!

Don N (@guest_247713)
4 months ago

If you Know your next stop will have needed hookups wait to then to dump your tanks. this will allow the solids to brake down by the movement of your RV. Also, id you know of a dump site on your way, again wait ant use it for the same reason for the solids to brake down. If you are staying a longer time, take a different approach. Plan ahead.

pursuits (@guest_188660)
1 year ago

I keep a spray bottle with water and a very little bit of Fabuloso by the toilet. After each flush, I spray the inside of the bowl; I like using the mark of the X in the bowl to keep it cleaner. We also find that we use less paper (for #2) by dampening it a little first: cheap butt wipes. I keep a separate small spray bottle for that, as I do at home.

John (@guest_188639)
1 year ago

Just got back from a 3 week road trip to Albuquerque, visited a lot of sites each way. One thing that I am seeing more and more, becoming a bit of a pet peeve for me, is campsites where the sewer connection does NOT have a threaded top that you can screw in your hose adapter, so you can securely connect your sewer hose and not have to hold it every time you want to dump. IMHO, these campgrounds are asking for people to just dump it out onto the ground. With what we are having to pay for sites, they can afford to put a proper connection point on their sewer drains. Would love to see RVTRAVEL do a story on this problem.

Last edited 1 year ago by John
Tom (@guest_250662)
3 months ago
Reply to  John

RVers should carry a rubber sewer hose adapter, cost is under $10 and allows a threaded sewer hose to connect tightly to non threaded sewer inlet.

Bagman (@guest_188522)
1 year ago

Always make sure there’s an inch or 2 of water in the black tank when you leave home or after dumping. That’ll help eliminate the dreaded Pyramid of Poop and Paper from forming. It tends to spread your waste out instead of sticking to the bottom and rising as it accumulates.

Larry Lee (@guest_188485)
1 year ago

Have used Costco Kirkland brand TP in our RV for 8 years without problems. However, I must add that we have Techma toilets which have a built in macerator which helps alot to avoid clogs and backups.

Roger Marble (@guest_188444)
1 year ago

I found a spray bottle that has a nice solid stream, not a wide spray pattern. I can use that to “attack” any “Klingons” that are trying to take up residence in the bowl. This along with a quick tap of the pedal to get the surface of the bowel wet before I #2 it has served me well. I also one time put 1.5 Qt of water in the bowl to learn how much is used with a normal toilet “flush”

Buddrick (@guest_188428)
1 year ago

Tips for a happy toilet? Composting toilet! The end.

Drew (@guest_188443)
1 year ago
Reply to  Buddrick

Maybe for you. I’d guess about 98% of us don’t agree. Those systems have their headaches as well.

George (@guest_188392)
1 year ago

Scott Single Ply is the best. No multi-ply or Quilted stuff. Two squares per pass, three if…well you know. : )

And yes, Water is your black tanks best friend.

Safe Travels

Gary (@guest_188474)
1 year ago
Reply to  George

First sentence is just your opinion and is not factual. We use Charmin Ultra and have never had a problem, and I use way more that 2 squares. Lol.

Larry Lee (@guest_188484)
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary

Interesting how the world changes even within one lifetime. When I attended 8th grade English, we were taught that anything a person wrote was automatically understood to be their opinion UNLESS they stated it to be a fact. Now, it seems, no one is allowed to say or write anything without following it up with IMO (In My Opinion). At 70 years of age I find my English teachers’ instructions were most useful both then and (perhaps especially) now.

Dr. Mike (@guest_188518)
1 year ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

Same here Larry
I wrote a lot of research papers prepping for my dissertation and everything was my opinion unless backed up with peer-reviewed references.

Tom (@guest_188370)
1 year ago

An often mentioned internet fable: “Keeping a small amount of water in the toilet bowl will help seal off smells from coming back up from the holding tank. Normally, each time you flush the toilet the process will leave a small amount of water in the bowl.”

If the seal will hold water above it, the vapors will also stay below it, whether there is water in the bowl or not. Keeping water in the bowl will help to keep the seals from drying out, but is not required to keep odors out of the living space. Conditioning the seals (several companies make seal treatment products) will also lengthen the life of the seals, both in the toilet and in the tank.

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