Caravan Toilet Talk

We all need to use one, so let’s maturely look at the ins and outs of the humble caravan toilet. Hold your laughter…

Caravan toilet

Whether you use your caravan toilet for ones, twos or a combination of both, toilet mishaps are bound to happen as you find your groove with caravan life.


For our family of five, our 19L caravan toilet cassette capacity generally lasts two to three days of proper toilet usage (yes, that means both functions!) before it’s full and requires emptying. It might last longer obviously if we decide to use outside amenities or the boys are able to ‘go bush’ for number ones.

Caravan toilet
Yep, it’s that time again…

With our full-time residence being our caravan, let’s just say we’ve had more than our fair share of interesting toilet experiences.


In previous years, we’ve had portable toilets as none of our older campers or vans had toilets inside. So on moving into our current van, managing the cassette was one of those things that had to be learned through trial and error.

By ‘error’ I mean learning that the green ‘quick release button’ on the cassette should not be pressed before the cassette is held in the proper vertical emptying position, unless you want its entire contents to spill over your legs and feet!

Or learning that accidentally leaving the flap closed when doing your business means the next person who goes to use the toilet and opens the flap will cop a little spray as the pressure releases.

Caravan toilet
Keep the outside hatch open when emptying the cassette so that a tell-tale stream of light warns others not to use the toilet!

Another thing we learned was that if you shake the cassette too vigorously when rinsing it out, you risk breaking the float inside, which is responsible for telling the toilet when to light-up the ‘halfway’ and ‘full’ alert lights near the flusher. Hmmm… any guesses what happened afterwards? Yep, thank goodness for the built in overflow tube; otherwise, things could have gotten really messy!

We’ve also learned that you can’t allow yourself to get distracted in the middle of your ‘emptying duties’. You’re asking for certain kinds of trouble if you don’t return the cassette promptly, or forget to ensure the outside hatch is open which would allow a stream of light to remind people inside the van that the toilet is still not ready for use.  Ah… yep, this one has happened to us too!

Caravan toilet
In the interests of good taste, we blurred the ‘accident’, which occurred when someone used the toilet with cassette missing!

The one of us who doesn’t quite have the stomach to deal with other people’s bodily functions was mortified as he dry-retched his way through cleaning out a lovely surprise left in the hatch!


As far as cleaning your caravan toilet bowl and keeping it fresh, there are a number of products on the market that can help. We’ve found the products from Thetford to be fantastic.

From waste-holding tank additives to caravan toilet bowl sprays to help get a smoother flush and control odours, we’ve found they are great at helping keep the loo squeaky clean and breaking down the cassette’s contents (which makes emptying it so much easier… and more pleasant if your auditory senses are sensitive to the gulping and sloshing that can occur with ‘thicker’ contents…. Eww!).


Believe it or not, not everyone knows how to properly empty their caravan or motorhome toilet cassette. We have met people on more than one occasion who had hired vans and spent way longer than necessary at the dump point, given they were trying to release all the contents through the larger (and less sanitary) middle hole under the slide valve!   

Caravan toilet
A bit of courtesy at the dump point goes a long way.

One such family, armed with those heavy-duty, pink, kitchen rubber gloves and a handful of pull-tie rubbish bags had honestly been through an entire roll of paper towel and countless baby wipes as they wrestled with the horrifying mess that continued to seep out, as one person held back the slide valve while another twisted and flipped the middle hole as they attempted to line it up with the hole in the designated dump point.

Now, I’m not suggesting you empty random people’s cassettes, but if you happen to come by people who are clearly struggling, be nice and offer advice or assistance in some way if you can. You may just be the reason their camping lives become more enjoyable.

We also feel it’s worth mentioning that a few extra minutes spent tidying the dump point will go a long way towards the experience the person after you has, as well as showing your appreciation to the councils that provide these facilities to travellers.

These few minutes should be spent making sure you hose the area quite thoroughly to prevent any smells, surprises or stained pieces of loo paper being left behind.

It’s also important to turn the rinsing tap off properly, and to triple check any caps are placed back where they should be before closing the lid.


Whether you’re a full-timer in your caravan or not, it’s important to keep an eye on the cleanliness of the caravan toilet cassette. Some of our maintenance tips are as follows:

Caravan toilet
Periodically apply a silicone lubricant to the cassette’s rubber seals.
  • Remove all rubber seals and clean and lubricate with a silicone lubricant every few months (depending on usage);
  • Baby wipes and an old toothbrush/scourer are great to clean off calcium build-up on the top of the flap;
  • Be sure to check in the track where the slide valve moves in and out. A silicone lubricant can help it glide as it can get hard to open (particularly if little bits of loo paper get stuck in there);
  • Use a multipurpose spray or a homemade cleaner (ours is made of white vinegar, dishwashing liquid and eucalyptus oil, and kept in a spray bottle) to clean the outside of the cassette whenever needed; and

Give the holding tank a freshen up by filling with white vinegar and leaving overnight.