11 Types of RV Toilets – Which is the Best?
What are the Best RV Toilets?
There are more types of RV toilets than most people actually know, and even those who know can’t just decide on the best ones to buy for for their RVs.
RV toilers are susceptible to a lot of problems. It is therefore exceedingly important to make sure that you buy a toilet that will serve you well, with minimal issues.
The last thing you want to do is spend most of your time on the road fixing your RV toilet instead of enjoying the scenery. Knowing what toilet type to choose can help avert most of these problems.
There are 11 types of RV toilets. RV toilets are grouped into different categories depending on the following factors:
- How they work
- Their material
- Shape of their bowl
- Toilet seat height
- Type of Installation
Let us now look at each type of RV toilet in details:
1. Gravity Flush RV Toilets
A gravity flush RV toilets works the same way as a residential toilet just that it does not have a tank. Gravity flush toilet systems have 3 main components. These are the toilet bowl, fresh water tank and the holding tank also known as a black tank.
After using the toilet, you flush it using a foot pedal located on the front or side of the bowl. During the flushing process, water flows from the fresh water tank to the bowl and finally to the black tank.
These toilets use less water compared to residential gravity flush toilets. On average, they use less than 0.3 gallons per flush.
A valve at the bottom of the bowl prevents grey water/sewage from flowing back to the bowl as well as contain bad odors inside the tank. Any time you have bad odors in your RV this valve is normally the culprit.
There are 2 ways to use the foot pedal. If you just want to add a little amount of water in the bowl you gently press it. Adding a little amount of water in the bowl helps to prevent poop from sticking on the bowl. Press fully on the pedal to flush the toilet.
Some toilets come with a hand sprayer which is connected to the water supply line to help you clean the bowl. This is especially important if the toilet does not have a 360 degrees bowl rinsing feature. It also saves water.
The 2 main manufacturers of gravity flush toilets are Dometic and Thetford. If you are planning to install a gravity flush toilet in your RV I would advise you to choose a toilet from one of these 2 manufacturers.
2. Macerating RV Toilets
A macerating RV toilet works just the same way as a residential macerating/upflush toilet. It contains a unit at the back of the toilet with fast-rotating blades that grind and mix the waste into a slurry before entering the black tank.
The main advantage of macerating RV toilets is that they are very easy on the black tank. Most RV toilet clogs are caused by toilet paper especially those that don’t disintegrate easily. Since the toilet paper and human waste mixture are grinded into a slurry, toilet clogs are thus significantly reduced.
Dumping waste from a black tank on a macerating toilet is also very easy. As opposed to other toilets where the waste is a mixture of liquids and solids, the waste here is very fluid and hence flows out easily, without accumulation.
One of the disadvantages of macerating RV toilets is that they have so many moving parts, unlike other RV toilets. If one part breaks up then fixing the toilet can be very hard and also expensive.
Another thing to remember is that Macerating toilets are dependent on electricity in order to function. They need an electrical connection to rotate the macerator blades. As a result, these toilet are very noisy especially when used at night.
It is very important that you don’t flush anything that is not supposed to be flushed when using a macerating toilet. This can lead to clogs and/or very expensive repairs.
If you would be interested in a macerating toilet for your RV check out the Five Oceans Marine Electric Toilet. It can be installed in RVs as well as boats.
Macerating RV toilets are more expensive compared to other RV toilets. If you are not ready to part with lots of cash then explore other types of toilets.
3. Composting RV Toilets
Composting toilets are non-flush/dry toilets that convert human waste into dry compost which can later be used as a garden fertilizer.
There are 2 types of composting toilets. These are permanent and portable composting toilets. What you want to install in your RV is a portable composting toilet as they are very compact and also easy to dump waste.
Composting toilets are designed in such a way that they can separate solid and liquid waste. Liquid waste (urine) accumulates faster and should preferably be emptied daily. Solid waste (poop and toilet paper) should be left in the solids bin longer to give it time to decompose.
A carbon-based medium like peat moss, sawdust or coconut coir is added to the solids bin to help in the decomposition process as well as take care of unpleasant odors. Some composting toilets come with an agitator to help you mix the waste with the peat moss after every use.
To prevent bad odors from coming from your composting toilet, you should try as much as possible to ensure that liquids (and especially urine) don’t go inside the solids bin.
To further expel bad odor from the toilet, a decent composting toilet comes with a fan which other than odor elimination helps to keep the bin’s contents dry, fastening the decomposition process.
The main reason most people shy away from installing composting toilets in their RV is because they are afraid of bad odors. A good composting toilet should however never smell.
The main disadvantage of composting toilets is that they are not designed to cater for a large group of people. They work well for couples and small families so if you are a large group perhaps you should consider black tank RV toilets
Another thing is that a good composting toilet will cost way more than ordinary gravity flush RV toilets. They are however very efficient since they do not need any any water in order to function.
If a composting toilet is something you would want to have in your RV, I would not hesitate from recommending the Nature’s Head composting toilet. It is in my opinion the best composting toilet in the market today.
4. Cassette Toilets
A cassette toilet is a type of gravity flush RV toilet but with a detachable holding tank. Cassette toilets are more popular in Europe but you can still find some in the North America.
With a cassette toilet, the RV is installed with an exterior door which makes it easy to remove the black tank for dumping. Some cassette toilet’s holding tanks have an extendable handle and wheels to make it easy to carry the waste for dumping.
The main advantage of cassette toilets over ordinary gravity flush RV toilets is that they can be emptied in any public flush toilet just like porta potties. With a permanent black tank RV toilet you will need a dedicated RV dumping station.
Another thing I like about cassette toilets is that they are made in such a way that the bowl can pivot around. Folks with longs legs can therefore choose an angle which favors them since RV bathrooms can sometimes be very tiny.
Cassette toilets also come with a black tank level indicator which is mounted on the wall adjacent to the flush button. You therefore know precisely when you need to dump the waste.
One disadvantage of cassette toilets over regular gravity flush RV toilets is that they need to be emptied regularly. This is because cassette toilets have a significantly smaller black tank than regular gravity flush RV toilets.
Although cassette toilet’s black tanks are fitted with handles and wheels, you still need to lift them during dumping. This may not be the best option for people who lack the physical strength to lift heavy loads.
Thetford makes some of the best cassette toilets. To see the different models they have on offer please read more from their website here.
5. Portable RV toilets
Portable RV toilets which are also known as portable camping toilets are toilets which can easily be carried from one point to another. They can either be sophisticated flush-type toilets or as simple as 5-gallon bucket toilets.
Portable RV toilets will need a hold-down kit to install them on the floor of the RV bathroom. This prevents them from flying off and spilling all the waste during transportation. You should however remember to include the kit since it is sold separate from the toilet.
Flush-type portable toilets are my favorite portable toilets. They have 3 main parts which comprises the toilet bowl, fresh water tank and waste water tank or known as a holding tank.
The holding tank is detachable and is normally joined to the other part of the toilet using side latches. A sliding valve separates the bowl and the holding tank, preventing leakages as well as containing odors.
To use this toilet, you will need to pull out the valve and as soon as you are done using the toilet push it back after flushing. A blue chemical is normally added in the holding tank to help with waste break down and odor prevention.
To dump waste from a portable toilet simply unlatch the holding tank and carry it to any flush toilet. The holding tanks have a pour-out spout at the top that help you dump the waste without it splashing back at you.
In case you want to have dry portable toilet in your RV you will only need to invest in compostable plastic bags and poo powder apart from the actual toilet. You can alternatively use ordinary garbage bags and kitty litter especially with a bucket toilet.
Portable toilets will need to be emptied regularly since they have a smaller holding tank (about 5 gallons or less.) Another disadvantage of portable RV toilets is that they are not effective for use by large groups.
For anyone interested in a portable RV toilets then the Thetford Porta Potti is a particularly good one. It is comfortable, sleek and works very well.
6. Porcelain RV Toilets
Porcelain RV toilets as the name suggests are RV toilets that are made of porcelain. Gravity flush toilets have traditionally been made of plastic so porcelain toilets are the modern ones.
Dometic RV toilets are all made of porcelain while Thetford RV toilets are mostly made of plastic. A porcelain RV toilets is the closest you can have to a residential toilet in an RV.
The main advantage of porcelain toilets is that they are really easy to clean. Naturally porcelain is so smooth, which inhibits the adherence of dirt making cleaning such toilets a bliss.
Porcelain toilets are also very solid and retain their shape for longer. Unlike some plastic toilets, porcelain toilets do not fade or peel off hence retain their natural glow.
The only disadvantage of porcelain gravity flush RV toilets is that they are more expensive than plastic RV toilets. If you can get the extra cash then I would highly suggest you buy a porcelain toilet over a plastic one.
7. Plastic RV Toilet
Plastic RV toilets are gravity flush RV toilets that are made of plastic. They are cheaper than porcelain RV toilets but some tend to fade off or peel away easily.
All plastic RV toilets are not made equal. Some are well made than others. Thetford makes the best plastic RV toilets. Their most popular model is the Thetford Aqua Magic V.
Apart from gravity flush toilets, all other RV toilets are made of plastic. Plastic is a cheaper material and is also lightweight which makes it even more perfect for portable toilets. It also does not break easily unlike porcelain.
The main disadvantage of plastic RV toilets is that they are not as easy to clean. It is very easy for dirt and human waste to stick on their surface than a porcelain toilet. You therefore spend more time cleaning them and also use more water than you would with a porcelain toilet.
8. Elongated RV Toilets
Elongated RV toilets just like elongated regular toilets are toilets with an oval-shaped bowl, which as their name suggests are longer than standard toilets.
The main advantage of elongated toilets is that they offer more surface area for the use to sit on compared to standard toilets. As a result, elongated toilets are way more comfortable than standard toilets.
They are also the best RV toilets for a heavy person. This is because they offer wider and better distribution of weight. Elongated toilets have a longer length than round toilets by about 2 inches.
These toilets are especially more helpful to men than women. This is primarily due to the front anatomy of men. Trying to “fit everything” inside a round toilet bowl can be really uncomfortable and hence the need to buy an elongated toilet.
The disadvantage of installing an elongated RV toilet is that they take more bathroom space than round/standard toilets. If space is not a big concern for you I would advise that you really consider an elongated toilet.
9. Round RV Toilets
Round RV toilets are toilets with an almost circular bowl. Most old RVs have round toilets unless a replacement has happened recently. A lot people find these toilets to be very small and uncomfortable to use.
People with tiny RV bathrooms should however consider installing a round toilet since it is more compact than an elongated one hence take lesser space.
Round toilets are also the most preferred toilets by kids. Unlike adults who need a bigger surface area to sit on, kids are more comfortable using a round toilet given their size. Some kids actually say that they feel like they are falling inside the bowl when using an elongated toilet.
In summary, round toilets are a good option if you have a tiny space or if it is meant to be used by kids. If that is not the case for you then you are better off installing an elongated toilet.
10. Low Profile RV Toilets
Low profile RV toilets are toilets with a seat height of about 14 inches. The seat height is the distance from the floor to the top of the toilet seat with the lid up.
These toilets are the best option for short people and children. While using a toilet, you should make sure that your feet are solid on the floor and not dangling.
Low profile RV toilets are however not a great option for tall folks since they have to bend their knees a great deal. Sitting and standing from the toilet also becomes very difficult. Such people should install a high profile RV toilet.
11. High Profile RV Toilets
A high profile RV toilet is one with a seat height of about 18 inches. It is the equivalent of comfort height/ADA-compliant regular toilet.
High profile RV toilets are the best toilets for the elderly, tall and those with limited mobility. They are very easy to sit and stand from hence you don’t need to bend your knees too much.
My ideal RV toilet would be high profile and elongated. This way you are guaranteed of sitting at a height of not less than 17 inches and also have a big surface area to sit on for maximum comfort.
Can Your Put a Regular Toilet in an RV?
There are 2 questions that I often get asked in relation to RV toilets. These are:
- Can I put a regular toilet in an RV?
- Can I get an RV toilet with a tank?
Most people who ask these questions do not have an understanding as to how RV toilets work. The answer to both of these questions is a NO.
In standard toilets, a tank is normally installed on top of the bowl to provide ready water to flush the toilet. When you order a gravity flush RV toilet, you only receive a toilet bowl. Why is this the case?
A residential toilet tank has so many parts which contributes to how it works. This works well since the toilet once installed becomes a permanent fixture.
An RV on the other hand is designed to always be on the move. Having a toilet tank on an RV toilet therefore becomes a very bad idea since the water in the tank and the different parts will be in constant motion causing spillage and breakages.
Another thing to remember is that RV toilets only use a fraction of the water used by regular toilets. Modern low flow toilets use 1.28 or 1.6 gallons of water per flush which is way more than what RV toilets use.
RVs have a fresh water tank with a limited capacity and you do not want to use all your water to flush a toilet. Regular toilets are therefore very inefficient to install in an RV.
What is the Best RV Toilet?
The best RV toilet is function of so many factors. What works best for someone else will not necessarily be the best option for you. You should consider the following factors if you want to end up buying a good toilet for your RV:
- Type of material
- Comfort levels
- Flushing power
- Quality parts
- Brand reliability
- Ease of cleaning
- Toilet bowl shape
- Ease of installation
- Toilet seat height
- Toilet dimensions
If I were to pick a toilet for my RV I would choose one made of porcelain, high profile and with an elongated bowl.
I wrote a detailed article reviewing 5 of the best RV toilets in the market. If you would like to read it check it out here.
Unlike what most people think, there are quite a number of different types of RV toilets. You do not have to limit yourself to gravity flush toilets. Composting and portable toilets are becoming a popular choice for most RVers since they are easy and cheaper to install.