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How to Clean an RV Toilet

April 13, 2024

Most RVs come with a gravity flush toilet. Some larger vehicles even come with two types of bathrooms – wet and dry.

Compared to household toilets, however, they do require more care and maintenance.

For one thing, the waste doesn’t go into a sewer system. Rather, it goes into a holding tank underneath the vehicle until it can be properly emptied at a designed dumping site.

In other words, it’s more prone to developing odors. Not only that but it can also lead to leaks if the RV toilet seal hardens or dries out.

That’s why it’s so important to maintain your RV toilet – and that means cleaning it regularly.

What’s the best way to clean an RV toilet? What type of toilet bowl products should you use? For the answers, be sure to keep reading. We’ll be going over all the answers in detail below.

How Often Should You Clean the RV Toilet?

Ideally, you want to clean the toilet once every other day. That will prevent the development of clogs, odors, and other costly issues.

The number of people you have on your rig will also determine the frequency. For example, you may want to clean the RV toilet bowl more often if you have a large group of people in the vehicle.

How Often Should You Empty the RV Toilet?

how often should you empty rv toiletEmptying the RV toilet is just as important as cleaning the fixture. The last thing that you want is for the black tank to be completely full – that can lead to backups and overflow issues.

Generally speaking, you want to empty the holding tank for the toilet at least once a week.

The exact timing will depend on various factors such as the size of your black tank (larger tanks will be able to hold more waste, meaning that you can go for longer without emptying), the number of occupants in your RV, and the frequency of use.

Different Types of RV Toilets

There’s more than one type of RV toilet, each of which has its pros and cons.

Gravity Flush Toilets

Most RVs have gravity-flush toilets. Many people prefer this type as it’s the most similar to a household toilet.

It’s connected to your RV’s water supply and also flushes with the press of a foot pedal.

Unlike the toilet you have at home, however, it doesn’t have a tank of water at the back. Rather, it relies on gravity (thus the name) to ‘flush’ your waste down the hole, which is connected to your black holding tank.

Despite not having a water tank, they do rinse the toilet bowl with water every time you flush and press the pedal. Compared to a residential toilet, however, it uses a lot less water to prevent you from draining your water supply.

To ’empty’ a gravity flush toilet, you must drive the RV to a designated dumping station before connecting the sewer hose to the waste tank and opening the line.

Incinerator Toilets

incinerator toiletIncinerator toilets are a bit different in that they are literally designed to incinerate your waste. Instead of flushing when you’re finished, there’s a button that you press that will heat the toilet bowl to 1200F.

That will effectively burn all of the waste into ash.

One benefit of these toilets is that you don’t have to get overly hands-on about dealing with the waste. Keep in mind, however, that they do tend to be more expensive than other types of RV toilets. They also need special toilet bowl liners, which you have to buy separately.

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets are ‘dry’ in that they do not use any water – both to flush or rinse the toilet bowl.

Rather, they are directly attached to a black water holding tank.

Solid waste is also separated from liquid waste. The former goes into a bottle that can be emptied at a public toilet while the latter is mixed with a composting medium such as peat moss or coconut coir, which allows the solid waste to compost over time.

The solid waste and composting medium can then be disposed of in a dumpster or used as fertilizer.

Because of this, they’re much better for the environment. They do not create any biohazardous sewage, nor do they require the use of water.

And because they don’t require water, it means you can also go dry camping longer.

Macerator Toilets

Macerating toilets are essentially gravity flush toilets with an added feature. Unlike the latter, which simply pushes the waste down into the holding tank, it is also capable of grinding up toilet paper and solid waste.

If anything, it’s similar to your kitchen’s garbage disposal. It’s capable of pulverizing waste so that you won’t have to worry about blockages and clogs.

The only thing about these toilets is that they do require more electricity and water.

Cassette Toilets

Cassette toilets are attached to a portable holding tank aka ‘cassette’, which can be removed from the RV and emptied at a designated dumping station or public toilet.

Since they’re portable, you don’t need to drive the entire vehicle to a dump station to empty the waste; you can just bring the cassette over.

This makes them easier to clean than regular RV toilets.

And because they’re emptied more frequently, they’re also less prone to developing odors.

Differences Between RV Toilet Bowls and Household Toilets

differences between rv toilet bowl and household toiletRV toilets are different from household toilets. The former is connected to a holding tank while the latter is connected to the sewer system.

This means you have to clean the RV toilet bowl differently than a regular toilet – and with different products.

The physical actions of cleaning an RV toilet, however, are no different from that of cleaning a regular household toilet. You’ll still need to use a toilet brush and a toilet cleaner.

Choosing the Right Toilet Bowl Cleaner For Your RV

There are two main types of toilet cleaners – those that are chemical-free and those that are chemical-based.

Chemical-Based Toilet Cleaners

Chemical-based toilet cleaners are commonly found in stores. They often contain bleach or chlorine and are highly effective at killing germs. However, they’re not the best option for RV toilets as they will also kill the beneficial bacteria in the black tank once they’re flushed down the toilet.

That will halt the breakdown of waste, which will cause unpleasant odors to develop.

Chemical-Free Toilet Cleaners

Chemical-free toilet cleaners are the best option for RVs. Not only will they not damage the toilet bowl but they will also boost the beneficial bacteria in your black tank.

So every time you clean your toilet, you’ll also be boosting the breakdown process inside the black holding tank.

What Type of Toilet Brush Should You Use?

RV toilet bowls, especially those made of plastic, are susceptible to damage if you use the wrong cleaning tools. For example, it can easily get scratched up if you use something abrasive.

It’s not just a matter of aesthetics either as bacteria and waste particles can become trapped in the tiny grooves. And since the scratches aren’t fixable, the only solution would be to replace the toilet.

To prevent that, we highly recommend using a soft-bristled toilet brush.

Silicone toilet brushes are also a good option; they’re highly effective at cleaning the toilet bowl yet they’re soft enough not to cause any damage.

Avoid using stuff bristled brushes and those with scouring pads as they can cause irreversible damage to the plastic – or even porcelain toilet bowls.

How to Clean the Toilet Bowl With an RV Toilet Cleaner

how to clean toilet bowl with rv toilet cleanerPut on a pair of rubber gloves – that way, you won’t be exposing yourself to the bacteria and debris in the toilet bowl. If you want to be extra safe, wear a pair of disposable gloves.

Start by emptying the toilet bowl. Using a soft-bristled or silicone brush, scrub the inside of the bowl. Flush it a few times to get rid of any remaining waste.

Add your RV Toilet Cleaner to the toilet bowl, according to the toilet cleaner product instructions, and flush again. You may need to do a bit more scrubbing afterward.

Next, use a mild cleaner and a microfiber cloth to clean the exterior of the toilet – that includes the base, seat, and lid. Make sure to remove any discolorations or stains.

Turn your attention to the toilet tank once the exterior is clean. Using a toilet brush and a mild cleaner, gently scrub the inside walls of the tank.

If necessary, you can also clean the water lines as they can become clogged over time with mineral deposits. To do that, we recommend using a small brush or pipe cleaner.

Sanitizing the RV Toilet

For extra cleanliness, you can disinfect the toilet with an RV-friendly disinfectant. Simply follow the instructions on the product.

Never sanitize your RV toilet with bleach as it will kill off the beneficial bacteria inside the black water holding tank. Not only that but the chemical can also damage the tank itself, especially if it’s undiluted.

Deodorizing Your RV Toilet

deodorizing your rv toiletUsing RV toilet cleaners regularly should help prevent odors. In some cases, however, it may still smell. For example, this can happen if there isn’t enough water in your holding tank.

To fix the problem temporarily, you can use an RV toilet deodorizer.

There are also digester treatments that you can use that will neutralize odors by digesting and liquefying solid waste.

Take ACTIVE Holding Tank Digester Treatment, for example, it contains enzymes and living bacteria that will not only help deodorize but will also prevent clogs and back-ups.

It’s easy to use too. All you have to do is pour the treatment liquid into the toilet bowl and flush it by holding the pedal for 10 to 15 seconds.

Just make sure to empty and flush the black tank with 2 gallons of water beforehand.

Also, you’ll want to pour some water into the toilet bowl before you start so that it’s half-full.

Depending on how often you use the RV toilet, you may need to repeat the treatment 1-2 times per week for optimal results.

Tips on Keeping Your RV Toilets Clean

There are several things that you can do that’ll help you maintain a clean RV toilet:

Only Use RV-Compatible Toilet Paper

Only use RV-friendly toilet paper. It’s different from regular toilet paper in that it’s specially designed to disintegrate more quickly, which helps reduce the risk of clogs.

More specifically, it’ll reduce the risk of your sewer hose getting clogged when you’re emptying your tank at a designed dumping site.

Not only that but because it breaks down quickly, it won’t block the holding tank sensors that tell you when the tank is full.

Be Mindful of What You Flush Down the Toilet

Aside from toilet paper, several other things should never be flushed down an RV toilet.

This includes paper towels, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, non-RV specific tank treatments – basically anything that isn’t RV-compatible toilet paper.

Remember, the last thing that you want to deal with while camping is a malfunctioning toilet.

Cleaning Your RV Toilet – FAQs

What’s the best way to clean a plastic RV toilet?

Put on a pair of gloves and empty the toilet bowl.

Next, scrub the inside with a soft-bristled or silicone toilet brush – that will prevent the plastic toilet bowl from being damaged.

Once the inside of the toilet bowl is free of any remaining waste, add your RV toilet cleaner, according to the product instructions.

Don’t forget to wipe the exterior of the toilet as well.

How often should you clean your RV toilet?

Assuming that you’re in the RV full-time, it’s best to clean the toilet at least once a week. It’s also recommended that you clean the toilet with a designated cleaner after every trip.

Can I clean my RV toilet with regular toilet bowl cleaning products?

can i clean rv toilet with regular toilet bowl cleaning productsNo, you should never clean your RV toilet with a regular toilet cleaner. They contain various chemicals that can easily damage your RV’s plumbing system.

For one thing, they will kill off the beneficial bacteria inside your black water holding tank, which will affect the waste breakdown process.

What you want to use instead is a chemical-free toilet bowl cleaner – one that’s designated for RV toilets.

hey will not only keep your RV toilet clean but will also boost the bacterial colonies in your black water tank.

How can I remove stains from my RV toilet bowl?

The best way to remove stubborn stains is by using a specialized RV toilet stain remover product.

Follow the instructions on the label and avoid using abrasive tools as you don’t want to damage the toilet bowl.

Can I clean my RV toilet with bleach?

No, you should never clean your RV toilet with bleach. It’s too harsh and can cause damage to your black holding tank. Only use designated RV toilet cleaners.

How can I prevent my RV toilet from smelling?

how to prevent rv toilet from smellingYou can prevent odors by cleaning your RV toilet regularly. It’s also a good idea to rinse the toilet bowl after each use (many RV toilets come with a hand sprayer that allows you to remove messes).

Proper ventilation in the bathroom will also prevent smells from lingering. RV-compatible toilet deodorizers are another option.

Are gloves necessary when cleaning the RV toilet bowl?

Yes, you should always wear gloves when you’re cleaning the RV toilet bowl. After all, you never know what kind of germs or debris you’ll come into contact with.

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Marcus Washington

Marcus Washington is a well-rounded expert in RVs and campers. With a wealth of experience, Marcus shares his expertise through his valuable guides, helping enthusiasts and newcomers alike navigate the world of mobile living. His advice covers everything from maintenance to maximizing space, ensuring every road trip is smooth and enjoyable. You can trust Marcus to guide you in your RV and camper adventures.

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