Is The RV Cassette Toilet Really Gross Or Practical? The Surprising Answers
By Kelly Beasley
Many new RVers have questions about cassette toilets when they first start RVing.
It's a type of RV toilet that is often misunderstood and confused with a portable toilet.
But let's be clear:
The two types are very different animals. Soon, you'll understand why.
Here we cover what a cassette toilet is, how to use one, why they exist, how they are beneficial over a regular RV toilet, and how they are worse.
We've used every type of RV toilet there is in our 16 years of combined experience, so we're going to teach you all you've ever wanted to know about cassette toilets (oh, yay, lol!).
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What Is A Cassette Toilet?
So, what exactly is an RV cassette toilet?
A cassette toilet (or cartridge toilet) is a built-in toilet in an RV.
The toilet never moves, and it's connected to the RVs water pipes.
It differs because it is not connected to a traditional black tank as most recreational vehicles have.
Instead, it has its own little PORTABLE black tank.
The tank comes out through a door on the outside wall of the RV.
It's a smaller removable tank, and that's why they call it a cassette toilet.
You can take it out just like you can take a cassette out of a cassette player (hence, the name).
There are benefits and drawbacks to this type of toilet system, and we're going to cover all of them here.
How Does It Work?
The cassette toilet works just like traditional RV toilets.
The toilet resides permanently in the bathroom.
You go in, sit down, and do your business.
The toilet is connected to your water supply, so when you're done, press the handle (either with a flush button electric flush or a manual valve) to flush your urine and solids.
The valve opens, and the water rinses the bowl.
The valve closes, keeping odors at bay.
You might close the lid before you flush to keep splatter at bay.
The waste drops down into the cassette tank, and it's stored there until you get somewhere to dump the contents.
Different From A Portable Toilet
The main difference between a cassette toilet system and a portable camping toilet is that the cassette comes with the RV and is affixed to it.
It's not portable. There's no throwing it into your car for your next tent camping trip. It is a permanent part of the camper.
Even if you converted a van into an RV, you wouldn't buy a cassette toilet unless you build it into your van with an exterior opening to pull out the cassette.
Portable toilets are small and can be used anywhere.
A cassette resides permanently inside an RV bathroom.
Still, some people call portable toilets cassette toilets. Technically, that's incorrect.
Cassette Toilet vs. Regular RV Toilet
We aren't talking about a composting toilet or a bucket toilet when we say regular RV toilet.
We're talking about 'the usual' connected toilet that dumps the waste into the camper's built-in waste holding tank.
This tank typically holds many more gallons than a cassette toilet.
The cassette has its own portable RV dump tank that can easily be removed and dumped in many more places.
Full disclosure- with a cassette, you're going to get much more up close and personal with your, ahem, 'stuff.'
The regular toilet with its black tank must use an RV dump station or another dump hole.
Pros Of A Cassette Toilet
Cons Of A Cassette Toilet
Cassette Toilet Holding Tank Size
Cassette toilets in campers have a smaller capacity than a regular black tank.
One big reason for this is it must be small enough for a regular person to lift when full.
Generally, camper cassette toilets hold from 4 to 5 gallons.
Regular black tanks usually hold anywhere between 15 gallons to 45+ gallons.
Therefore, expect to dump your cassette tank wastewater every 2-5 days, depending on usage.
Where Can You Dump A Cassette Toilet?
The most common place RVers dump their cassette toilet while on the road is in public restrooms.
It can go right into the toilet bowl, and it won't overflow.
One could dump it into a portable bathroom, but it's best to try not to contribute to filling it so fast.
Anywhere you can dump a recreational vehicle with a conventional toilet setup (campgrounds, dump stations) you can certainly dump your camper cassette toilet.
How Do You Dump A Cassette Toilet?
The dumping process is pretty straightforward. Unlock the exterior door that holds the portable cassette toilet waste tank.
Remove the tank.
Some of them have wheels and a long extendable handle so you can roll it like a suitcase.
Take it to the dump hole, open the dump cap on the tank, turn the spout, so it's easiest to dump, and dump away!
Best to rinse it a few times afterward before replacing the cap.
Take it back to your campervan and lock it back into position.
Boom, you're done!
If you use chemicals to keep odors down, pour water in and add your preferred chemicals.
Can You Poo In A Cassette Toilet?
This one is a personal opinion. Some choose not to poo in their campervan toilet.
Why? Because it creates sewage.
If you only pee into it, you can suffer from urine smell, but that's arguably better than sewage smell.
On top of that, not going #2 saves space in the tank.
So the answer is yes, you can poo into your cassette toilet.
You might choose not to. (Some go in public restrooms or dig a cathole and bury it in the wilderness.
Not putting toilet paper into the tank also saves a lot of space.
Instead, throw that solid waste into the trash.
Additionally, if you are boondocking and want to stay out longer than your tank lasts, you can always dump your pee on public land.
You cannot if it's sewage.
How Often Must You Empty It?
The answer to this depends on many variables.
- How large is the tank?
- How much water do you use to flush?
- Do you put your toilet paper in it, etc?
- How many people use it?
- Do you poo into it?
On average, dumping happens every 2-5 days.
Cassette Toilet Prices
Well, we sure hope you do not need to replace your cassette toilet.
It's not like you can pull out your old one and throw in a new one so easily as they are designed into the camper by the factory and replacing it with a different model may cause some fit issues.
But it is possible.
Generally, they run between $600 - $1000.
Remember, these are not portable toilets.
You'll have to figure out what make and model your RV came with and replace that specific RV cartridge toilet with one with the same dimensions (or the same one).
A different one/a new purchase likely won't fit in the space.
Thetford cassette toilet systems and Dometic toilets rule here, being the most common brands you find in small motorhomes and in a camper van.
Side note: the best cassette toilets come with a tank level indicator.
Cassette toilets are typically installed in smaller vans and RVs that don't sleep many people.
This type of toilet can save room (no huge black tank).
It's also easier to find places to dump when you park outside of a campground.
A cassette toilet is NOT a portable toilet. It's installed permanently inside the camper.
The only part that does move is the cassette tank.
If you have this type of toilet, you can easily replace the seat or the waste tank.
But replacing the entire toilet itself with another brand or model will be another story.
The cassette toilet has its pros and cons, but doesn't everything?
If you are tired of the dump station lines, stinky sewer hoses, and dump fees, maybe an RV with a cassette toilet is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Cassette Toilets Stink?
A cassette toilet can be stinky. So can a regular RV toilet. You can use chemicals to help keep the wastewater tank odors at bay.
Are Cassette Toilets Any Good?
Cassette toilets have their perks. The biggest is not needing a dump station to dump the contents.
All you need is the nearest toilet, and you're free to drain your little black water tank (cassette) into it.
There is no waiting in line at a dump, no stinky sewer hose with which to deal.
Which RVs Have Cassette Toilets?
You find cassette toilets in smaller RVs and vans.
The manufacturer saves space this way and figures not many people will be using it, so it works.
How Do Cassette Toilets Work?
These toilets work just like any other RV toilet.
The big difference is how you dump the liquids.
The cassette toilet has a 'cassette' tank that is removable and portable.
It's much smaller than the typical black tank in an RV, but it must be to be light enough to carry.
Where Do You Dump Your Cassette Toilet?
The beauty of a cassette toilet is being able to dump it into any toilet.
Sure, you can also dump it into a dump station hole or a campground dump, but if none is nearby, all you need is a public restroom.
How Often Do You Clean A Cassette Toilet?
One should clean the cassette toilet tank after every dump.
This involves rinsing it out multiple times and then using a cleaner of some sort.
Fill the tank with a bit of water, add your cleanser, shake it up a bit, rinse and repeat a few times.
This will keep odors at bay.
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.