Caravan at night


How Do Caravan Toilets Work? A Guide To Waste Disposal In Your RV

Are you thinking of getting a caravan with a toilet but wondering how it works? Are you concerned about the potential waste disposal issues that come along with using one of these toilets?

Or are you just wondering how your toilet integrates into the water system in your caravan?

Well, don’t worry, we have got you covered. In this guide, we will talk about the different types of caravan toilets and how they work.

Your toilet: One of the most important parts of your caravan

One of the questions that may pop into your mind when considering a caravan toilet is - do I actually need it or not? Well, there are quite a few benefits to installing a toilet in your caravan.

Here are some of the main ones:


Caravan toilets allow you to take care of business at any time and any place. You don’t have to search for a public bathroom or rest stop if you are on the road or out and about.

This is great for families with kids. Is it just me or is there always someone who needs to go to the toilet right after we pull away from a stop?

No Public Bathroom Issues

Many people don’t like using public bathrooms due to hygiene reasons. Also, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people have become more cautious about anything public, including toilets.

If this is important for you, then a caravan toilet is a must-have as it essentially removes any need to use public bathrooms.

No Privacy Problems

If you’re on the road out in the bush, you may not find public bathrooms readily. You may have to stop by the side of the road and find a secluded space.

This causes privacy problems if you feel uncomfortable doing your business openly. A toilet in your RV can eliminate this problem!


What are the different types of caravan toilets?

Over time, manufacturers have come up with a variety of caravan toilets that all fare differently on criteria such as ease of use, portability, price and style of operation.

The five most common caravan toilet types are:

  • Gravity flush
  • Cassette
  • Macerator toilets
  • Portable toilets
  • Composting toilets

How do they work? Which one is right for me?

When choosing a caravan toilet, consider the following questions:

  • How many people will use the toilet?
  • How much space do you have?
  • What is your budget?
  • Where do you plan to take your RV?
  • Do you want an eco-friendly alternative?

This will help guide you in the decision making process.

Let’s take a look at the different caravan toilet options and which one is suitable for you. We’ll discuss their operating mechanism, plus the pros and cons to each of them.

Gravity Flush

As the name suggests, a gravity flush toilet works on the simple principle of gravity. It consists of three parts - toilet bowl, foot pedal flush, and holding tank. You also need to connect the toilet to a pressurized water source here.

Caravan Gravity Flush Toilet

These parts work together in the following steps:

  • When you press the foot pedal flush, a flap in the toilet opens.
  • The contents pass through the flap under the force of gravity.
  • After passing through the flap, the contents travel until they reach the holding tank or black tank which is situated under your RV.
  • Once you release your press on the foot pedal, the RV’s water tank pumps more water into the toilet bowl.

A gravity flush is a traditional toilet used in many caravans today. It’s easy to use, widely available and not too expensive.

However, you will need to empty the holding tank contents regularly at a dump point, otherwise you run the risk of foul odours and clogs.

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Available in various sizes and types
  • Fast flushing mechanism
  • Holding tank requires regular disposal
  • Clogging and foul odour issues
  • The holding tank has to be exactly below the toilet bowl which may cause space constraints


The cassette toilet is very similar to your regular home toilet. The force of the water flushing into the bowl sends the contents down into the holding tank.

Camper Cassette Toilet

You have to remove the holding tank and empty it at a dump station at regular intervals. You can also access the holding tank using the external hatch present on your RV.

These toilets are great for families.

While the toilet itself is fixed in place and cannot be moved, the location of the holding or waste tank is more flexible.

  • Great waste holding capacity
  • Easy to dump due to the accessibility of the holding tank
  • Easy to clean
  • Holding tank gets very heavy
  • Non-portable
  • Requires regular emptying to avoid foul odour or clogs

Macerator Toilets

Macerator toilets are an advanced version of gravity flush toilets. These toilets consist of a toilet bowl, flush, holding tank, and motor-powered blades. The mechanism works like this:

  • As you flush the contents, the waste passes through a series of motor-powered blades.
  • These blades break down the contents into smaller pieces and then into a slurry. The slurry is then pumped to the holding tank or the black tank.
  • You can clean the toilet by emptying the holding tank’s slurry at a waste disposal site.

Macerator toilets are the most advanced caravan toilets as they convert the contents into a slurry for waste disposal.

As they use a pump for the waste, the toilet can be placed wherever you like, instead of directly over the holding tank. This prevents any space issues.

  • No space constraints
  • Fewer chances of foul odour
  • More hygienic option
  • Expensive and high maintenance
  • Slow waste disposal process
  • Complicated dumping process involved
  • Requires more water

Composting Toilets

Composting toilets don’t use any water. Instead, they have two separate tanks for liquid waste and solid waste. Let’s see how they work:

  • When you press the flush button, a trapdoor present in the toilet bowl opens.
  • The trapdoor leads to two tanks - solid waste and liquid waste. The contents pass on to these respective tanks.
  • Certain composting materials such as peat moss are present in the solid waste tank. These aid bacteria in the tank, which break down your waste under aerobic respiration.

When the tanks are full, you can empty them accordingly. You will need to empty the solid and liquid tanks separately.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly toilet or one that doesn’t use water, then go for composting tanks. These caravan toilets are useful if you are going deep into the bush and won’t have regular access to water or dumping stations.

As composting toilets have less piping, there are fewer chances of clogging.

  • No water requirements
  • Eco-friendly option due to no chemical usage and water conservation
  • Less clogging
  • Little odour due to the presence of a fan that supplies oxygen, eliminating odour
  • Easy disposal
  • Expensive
  • Requires electricity for the fan
  • Smaller holding tank so not ideal for big groups

Portable Toilets

Portable toilets have a toilet bowl, flush, water tank, and small holding tank all in one convenient, portable unit.

RV Portable Toilet

When you flush these, the attached water tank releases some water, pushing the waste down into the attached holding tank. When this holding tank fills up (it will fill up much quicker than other toilet types), you simply remove it from the toilet and empty it.

If you want to experience the caravan journey in its raw form, you can opt for portable toilets.

You may also consider them if you don’t want any complicated processes or setups. These toilets are also relatively affordable with fewer maintenance requirements.

  • Easy installation
  • Fewer water requirements
  • Affordable
  • Don’t take up much space
  • Portable
  • Regular dumping required
  • Unsuitable for more than two people
  • Requires regular cleaning to prevent clogs and foul odour

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few different types of caravan toilets out there, each with a specific operating method. Depending on the type, they evacuate the waste into a holding tank using gravity, water, or even motor blades.

When picking one, you’ll want to consider a few factors such as the space availability, number of people, budget, etc. Don't forget that you'll need to regularly add toilet chemicals to keep them clean!

In this guide, we have covered almost everything that you’d want to know. However, if you still have any questions, please let us know in the comments!

This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.

This article may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

Note that while every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this page, there may sometimes be errors. Check all specifications with the manufacturer before purchasing any product.


While Louis does most of his trips near his home in south-east Queensland, he has been camping as far afield as South America and Africa. He loves researching, testing and experimenting with camping gear whenever possible.

  • Good straight forward advice and reviews: Am buying a van for son to live in: can gravity toilets be temporarily plumbed into a septic type ( worm farm ) sewage, via an inspection cap.?

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