Caravan toilets


Usually, using the toilet isn’t something that’s given all that much thought. In a caravan, however, toilets are one of the first things that you’ll need to sort out, especially if you’re often on the move or visiting caravan sites where the toilet facilities might be non-existent or far from the pitch. Thankfully, choosing a caravan toilet doesn’t have to be overly complicated with the following guide. Not only will you be able to tell apart your conventional cassette toilet from a vacuum toilet and chemical toilets from non-chemical toilets, here you can also learn how to to empty and prepare your caravan toilet effectively.

A signpost for toilet facilities (Sung Jin Cho / Unsplash)

How do caravan toilets work?

Most caravan toilets have a cassette design that has a handy gauge indicator to let you know when it’s time to empty your toilet. Access to the system is typically through a hatch or flap on the side of your caravan. The design requires you to be proactive and regularly top up the toilet fluid and fresh water tank, as well as taking out the cassette when you need to dispose of the waste. The main benefit of a cassette tank is that they do not let out any bad odours.

Chemical fluids

Different chemical fluids can be used to help eliminate bad odours, break down the contents of your caravan toilet or clean your toilet at regular intervals. 

Blue chemical fluids: Blue toilet chemical fluids typically contain formaldehyde, which is used to break down waste and remove strong odours. It is added to the toilet through the emptying point and you will need to wear gloves to add the fluid, since it is toxic to human skin. 

The downside of using blue chemical fluids, aside from the fact that they are less environmentally friendly, is that they lower the lifespan of your caravan toilet by gradually breaking down the rubber lip seal. 

Green chemical fluids: Green toilet chemical fluids do not contain formaldehyde. Often labelled as organic or environmentally-friendly, these are a greener alternative to blue chemical fluids and encouraged by some campsites.

It’s common for some caravan sites to ban guests from using blue fluids containing Formaldehyde. That’s because they use biological septic tanks and when blue chemical fluids are added, they break down the natural bacteria that break down the waste. Instead, you must use green biodegradable chemical fluids.

Technically, green chemical fluids aren’t as effective as blue chemical fluids at breaking down the waste in your caravan toilet. However, they are more environmentally friendly and they make sure that you don’t get in a sticky situation if your caravan site bans blue fluids.

Pink chemical fluids: Pink chemical fluids are added to flush toilets that have a tank as a way of masking bad odours. They’re not suitable for use in a cassette caravan toilet. 

Cassette chemical toilet cleaner: Toilet cleaner chemicals are helpful as a way to clean your toilet cassette every six months to a year. They eliminate grease and clean the float valve, keeping your toilet in good working order.

Non-chemical caravan toilets

Non-chemical caravan toilets work differently to chemical toilets and reduce the impact of chemicals on the environment. While they’re effective, most caravanners prefer to use chemical toilets because they are both affordable and more effective at removing odours. 

Non-chemical cassette toilets: Non-chemical conventional cassette toilets work from an SOG system. Essentially, an extraction fan pushes more oxygen in and out of the cassette, leading to more efficient breakdown of the toilet waste. Any odours or gases that are released are passed through an active carbon filter, which neutralises the gases and pushes odourless air out through your caravan’s vents.

Vacuum toilets: Common in large caravan models, a vacuum toilet is a variety of cassette toilet that stores energy, which is released when you push down the flush. The energy sucks waste out of the bowl and quickly moves it through a vacuum and into the waste tank. When you’re ready to dispose of waste, the cassette is removable. These toilets also use a filter that needs replacing after one to three years of use.

Portable flushing toilet: Miniature-sized flushing toilets are also available for caravans. The difference to a conventional flushing toilet is that they don’t need to be hooked up to the mains or a sewage system, and use fresh water and wastewater connections instead. The two connections are kept separate. Toilet waste is delivered to the waste tank, which usually has a simple method to open and empty the tank and a light that will let you know when it needs to be emptied.

How to prepare your caravan toilet

Before you start using your chemical caravan toilet, you need to prepare it for use. When you purchase chemicals, they’ll come with detailed instructions about the exact dilution needed for use in a caravan toilet. To add these to your caravan toilet, simply take the following steps:

1. Open the access flap and remove your toilet’s cassette. 

Take the cassette out by locating and unlocking the access hatch on the outside of your caravan, lifting the lock on the cassette and sliding it out. 

2. Unscrew the cap on the cassette outlet.

Unscrew the cap on the cassette’s spout. 

3. Measure out the correct amount of chemical fluid.

Following the instructions on the packaging of your chosen chemical fluid, use the measuring device provided with the chemical to measure the correct amount of fluid and get it to the right dilution by adding water from a tap or bottle. You should wear gloves to prevent any of the chemicals touching your skin.

4. Pour the chemical fluid into the cassette using the spout.

Add the chemical fluid solution to the cassette by pouring it carefully into the open spout. 

5. Screw the cap back on.

Close the cassette by screwing the cap back onto the spout. 

6. Put the cassette into the hatch.

Replace the cassette by re-opening the hatch on your caravan, sliding the cassette into place and ensuring that it is locked shut.

How to empty a caravan toilet

Since there’s waste involved, emptying a caravan toilet can sound like a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time doing it. However, the following steps will make emptying a cassette toilet as fuss-free and straightforward as possible. The more you empty your toilet, the more the process will seem like second nature.

1. Open the access flap.

To access the toilet’s cassette, you need to locate the access flap or hatch on the outside of your caravan. Open the flap fully. 

2. Undo the lock and slide out the cassette.

The cassettes are usually locked into place by a lock on the front of the cassette. To unlock the cassette, lift the lock upwards and carefully slide out the cassette.

3. Gently agitate the contents.

To break up the waste and make it easier to empty, gently agitate the cassette. In other words, gently shake the contents from side to side to make them more portable.

4. Carry the cassette to the waste point.

You might want to agitate the contents while you’re on the move. If not, simply carry the cassette to the caravan site’s waste point. 

5. Open the outlet by twisting and removing the cap.

The cassette will have a spout that sticks out to the side, covered by a removable cap. Unscrew the cap and remove it to open the cassette.

6. Let out any pressure by pushing the cassette button.

Before emptying the cassette, keep the cassette horizontal and press the cassette button to let air into the cassette and expel the pressure inside. This will make it easier to empty the waste.

7. Empty the cassette.

To empty the cassette, tip it into the waste point. If the cassette doesn’t empty easily, you may need to continue to shake it a little more to dislodge the contents.

8. Rinse out the cassette using the hose provided and detergent.

The waste point on your caravan should provide a hose for you to clean your cassette. Empty one or two litres of water into the pump, add a teaspoon of washing-up detergent and rinse it clean by gently moving the cassette from side to side until the bubbles have gone. There should be a section on the waste disposal point that will dispose of the dirty water. 

9. Add any toilet chemicals to the cassette. 

If you have a chemical toilet, add any of the required chemicals to the cassette. 

10. Replace the cap.

Replace the cap onto the spout, ensuring that it is fully screwed on to prevent any unwanted leakages. 

11. Re-insert the cassette into the hatch and lock shut.

Once the cassette is closed, re-insert the cassette into the hatch. If the lock doesn’t click into place automatically, make sure that it is secure. Then, shut the hatch over the cassette and secure it using the lock and key.


Can you poop in a caravan toilet?

Yes. However, if your caravan toilet doesn’t have a vacuum flush, you should line the sides of the toilet bowl with toilet paper first. Toilet paper and faeces do make emptying a cassette toilet slightly more difficult, and you will likely have to empty the cassette more often.

Can you empty a caravan toilet at home?

Yes. Caravan toilets can be emptied in your regular toilet at home. However, your caravan toilet should ideally be emptied before you travel, so if your caravan site has an available disposal area, we’d recommend using that.

How does a caravan toilet work?

Most caravan toilets use a cassette system, where waste is sucked into a removable cassette that can be emptied at regular intervals. Often, chemicals are added to the cassette to remove odours and assist with breaking down the toilet waste.

Do caravan toilets smell?

While caravan toilets are more prone to smelling than conventional toilets at home, toilet chemicals should eliminate most bad odours. You should follow the usual steps you would take at home to stop your toilet from smelling too, such as opening windows and properly ventilating the room.


While you’re dealing with the nitty-gritty parts of your caravan, check out our guide to caravan wastewater too.

Browse our full guide to caravanning