Follow These 2 Guidelines To Safely Use Almost ANY Cleaner For Your RV Toilet!
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
By Kelly Beasley
If you thought a recreational vehicle toilet was just like a home toilet, yes, they look similar.
But when it comes to picking the right RV toilet cleaner, things are a little more complicated.
There are a couple of mild precautions you could take to prevent a couple of minor problems that might happen.
Granted, I didn't take any precautions with my plastic RV toilet, and all has been fine.
I've had the same (original) travel trailer for 8 years now, but I did replace my plastic toilet with a porcelain toilet about 3 years ago.
Here are the factors that might cause you to do things a bit different when cleaning:
- The wrong cleaner MIGHT degrade your septic system seals.
- Harsh chemicals like bleach could EVENTUALLY harm your black tank.
- You might kill the good bacteria in your black tank if you use chemicals.
These three issues MIGHT pose a problem when using certain types of RV toilet cleaners and even certain scrub brushes.
So let's clear up what types of cleaners are safe for you to use and what precautions you might take when cleaning.
We will also share our favorite cleaners to use and what we use.
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Can You Use A Regular Household Toilet Bowl Cleaner In An RV Toilet?
Yes, you can use most regular toilet cleaners for your RV toilet.
That said, there's a bit of controversy around whether using a chemical-based cleaner will negate the good that your waste tank treatment does (IF you use a tank treatment).
So some might disagree with us.
Do Chemicals Really Affect The Microbiome?
We don't think putting a tiny bit of chemical cleaner in a bowl will ACTUALLY kill off all the good bacteria, as most of the internet baselessly claims.
Even so, let's say it does kill good bacteria.
There's only an issue with killing it if you're using a tank treatment to kill odors. (If you're using treatment to break things down, well, ok. You could also just tear up your TP before you use it.)
Neither one of us uses any tank treatments and we have no odor issues... UNLESS the temperatures are over about 85-90 degrees. (Then we might throw a treatment into our tanks.)
So overall, if you want to play it super safe, just avoid anything that has harsh chemicals in it.
If you don't use a tank treatment, there's no reason at all you can't use any type of cleaner you want to to clean the toilet in your rig.
There are a few other (weak) reasons to avoid harsh chemicals:
- The harsh chemicals MIGHT also wear away at your toilet flap seal that keeps water in the bowl + odors out.
- Chemicals could possibly wear away at the holding tank or the seals that keep liquids from leaking out to the dump outlet (but you're not using much of it so this is very debatable).
Why don't we think using a chemical cleaner to clean your bowl will kill off good bacteria?
TankTechsRX's founder Don Zimmermann says you'd need to pour about A GALLON or so of a chemical cleaner into your tank to negate or kill the effects of the good microbes created when using his product, TankTechsRX. (Read our TankTechsRX review.)
Who uses a gallon to clean? No normal person does. That's nuts and is super wasteful.
He says to use whatever bowl cleaner you want to when using TankTechsRX (see video below).
That said, we don't know if this is true of ALL RV tank treatments.
But we can guess...
That said if you KNOW what you are using is not chemical-based and only has natural ingredients in it, it's fine to use.
If there's one rule of thumb, just avoid using anything with high concentrations of bleach.
Bleach (if you use enough of it) might erode gaskets and seals and can even eventually damage your black tank if you use enough of it.
It also depends on when you use it. If you use it on an empty tank, the bleach directly hits the tank itself and the seals leading out to the dump outlet.
If you use it when your tank is full, it's probably going to do zero harm to the tank and septic seals as the bleach concentration will be diluted by the contents of the tank
It's the toilet's ball seal it might contact and begin to degrade, so there's that.
Two Guidelines To Using Any Cleaner In Your Toilet Bowl:
- Use product sparingly and wipe away, don't flush.
- Don't use products with bleach or chlorine or petroleum-based products.
It's that simple!
You can use any cleaner you want to as long as you follow those two guidelines. You won't have to worry about damaging seals or disturbing the microbiome in your tank.
That said, we think the guidelines are not necessary at all. Here's why:
How Is an RV Toilet Bowl Different from a Home Toilet?
Here's a little RV toilet 101 for you.
The most significant way an RV toilet works differently is that it doesn't have a built-in p-trap.
It also doesn't have a water holding tank in the back.
Instead, water comes directly from your water tank or water inlet supply to flush on demand when you press the hand or foot pedal.
The toilet hole that the waste goes down has a flap or flapper that keeps the toilet hole closed when not in use.
It stays closed until you press the foot or hand pedal down enough to open it, dropping or sucking the contents of the bowl down into the black tank.
The flaps top function is to keep a small amount of water in the toilet, preventing odors from entering the RV.
Porcelain Or Plastic Bowl?
Traditional RV toilets are made from one of two materials:
If you have a porcelain toilet, there's no difference in how you clean it compared to a home toilet. (Except for MAYBE being careful not to damage your ball seal.)
If you have the cheaper plastic toilet, you could run into the possibility of your scrub brush scratching it up.
That said, I had a plastic toilet for years and never noticed it getting scratches.
But the internet says "it will," so do as you want.
If you have a plastic toilet, avoid obvious scratchers, like Comet Cleanser.
Can Regular Household Cleaning Chemicals Be Bad for Your RV Toilet?
So here again- if you want to play it safe, use chemical cleaners in the bowl sparingly.
There are plenty of other options to use that are safe cleaning products for RV toilet cleaning.
Anything eco-friendly should be sufficient.
How To Safely Clean Your RV Toilet With Chemical Based Cleaners
The only issue with using chemicals is they MIGHT kill the good bacteria in your tank.
So if you're using a tank treatment for odors, chemicals MIGHT kill the odor-killing bacteria.
How much you would need to use for the microbes to all die is unclear. But we think you'd have to use A LOT of harsh chemicals.
The other thing you can do is use whatever you want, but don't pour it liberally into the bowl.
Instead, spray a little onto a paper towel and wipe. Then you're not flushing any product at all.
Your toilet shouldn't need much. It gets rinsed after every flush.
How To Avoid Brown Streaks
To avoid brown streaks, fill your toilet bowl up with water before going #2.
This keeps the, ahem, stool from resting on the sides of the bowl and possibly (ick) sticking.
The Nastiest Part Of The Toilet?
The dirtiest part of the toilet is likely the underside of the seat and the rim. They never get rinsed.
However, the toilet bowl does.
Urine has an uncanny way of getting under the seat and on the rim of the toilet.
Nothing you spray or wipe on those parts even has to go down the bowl and into the tank.
So with that, sponge it down with whatever cleaner your heart desires!
Should You Clean An RV Toilet Bowl Differently Than A Home Toilet?
The answer to this depends on which type of material from which yours is made.
There's nothing much different about cleaning an RV toilet if it's porcelain.
Use a regular toilet brush, use an RV toilet cleaner, OR use very little of whatever you want and scrub around the bowl.
However, if you have a plastic bowl, you may want to only use a sponge or rag to do the cleaning.
Or find a cleaning wand with a soft end.
Some people think using a stiff bristle brush will scratch a plastic bowl.
I never felt this was an issue the entire 3.5 years or so I used a plastic toilet.
I used a regular old toilet brush, and it worked fine. I never noticed 'scratches.'
But if you want to play it safe, don't use a brush.
You might try using a Magic Eraser or bleach (don't pour any into the bowl, wipe directly on) for stains such as rust or really stubborn hard water stains.
Why Is Bleach 'Bad' For An RV Toilet?
Bleach is harmful for an RV toilet because it might eventually eat away at the septic seals and even the black tank itself.
The key word being 'might.'
It's just safest not to use any bleach unless using it to wipe down the bowl surface or the seat itself.
That said, we think you'd have to use a TON of bleach for it to affect your seals or tank itself.
And of course, bleach MIGHT disrupt the enzymes and beneficial bacteria in your black tank if you use a black water tank treatment.
Similarly, stay away from products containing chlorine.
Though if you barely use any product at all, it's debatable whether any damage will happen whatsoever.
How To Lubricate Your RV Toilet Seal
Every RV toilet (we're talking about traditional RV toilets, not composting toilets) has a ball seal in the bottom of the bowl.
Left long enough, especially sitting dry, this seal will eventually dry out and crack.
Once it has done either, it cannot perform its vital function of keeping a little water in the bowl and thus, odors out.
To avoid this happening, you can lubricate and condition the seal. There are products out there made for this.
Two Methods Of Lubricating
I used a spray silicone lubricant on mine when I had a leak, and it stopped leaking.
I'm surprised that now, four months later, it is still holding.
Do not use a petroleum-based product. It will eat away the seal.
So at the very least, it's given me 4+ months of extended use without having to buy a new seal or a product made for that, such as Thetford's below.
Thetford Toilet Seal and Conditioner
Thetford makes a toilet lubricant that might fix a leak.
It's much easier to use as you pour it in the bowl and wait 8 hours.
With the silicone spray, you must get your gloves on and open the flapper to get it around the seal.
I'd try a silicon spray if you have some first. If that doesn't work, go with the Thetford.
If that doesn't work, you need to replace your seal.
What Are The Best Toilet Bowl Cleaning Products for RV Toilets?
So we now know you can use anything you want to use to clean your RV bathroom toilet if you use it sparsely and don't flush it or much of it.
You don't need a special RV toilet cleaner.
Also, if you don't use a holding tank treatment and dump it into a septic system, you can use anything you want besides bleach.
That said, if you want to play it safe by using a bowl cleaner made specifically for RVs, here are our favorites.
Chemical-Free Toilet Bowl Cleaners
Here is our favorite chemical-free toilet cleaner.
Unique's RV Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Unique RV Toilet Cleaner has an excellent formula, and it's a safe cleaner for all RV toilet bowls.
On top of that, the product claims to lubricate seals and remove tough bowl stains.
They also claim it boosts odor elimination and waste digestion in your tank.
Non-RV Cleaners We Use For Toilet
Mrs. Meyers All-Purpose Cleaner
Why get a product that only does one thing?
In RVs, storage is limited, and we like using one product for multiple purposes.
Mrs. Meyers can be used anywhere and on anything. Including toilet bowls.
LA's Totally Awesome Cleaner
I use this exclusively in my RV (for all cleaning) and for home cleaning. It's unbelievably good at its job.
It even removes black streaks on the outside of a rig!
I spray a little into the bowl and then wipe out or scrub with my toilet brush.
It's good to clean anything and everything in your RV and house.
What is the "Crud" That Forms At/Under The Water Line?
You might have a film forming in your toilet where the little bit of water resides that won't budge.
This is what is called struvite.
Struvite is a mineral deposit and won't come off with a cleaner.
It's easiest and fastest to scrape this stuff off with a stiff object.
In the past, I used a flathead screwdriver on mine to gently chip it off, and it worked very well.
You can use anything you want that works.
Just be careful that what you use doesn't scratch up the bowl.
What Does Camp Addict Use To Clean Their Toilets?
Find out if we use dedicated toilet bowl cleaners or something else for our RV toilet bowl cleanings:
I only use one cleaner as my RV toilet cleaner.
It's an all-purpose cleaner my mom recommended (thanks, mom!) called "LA's Totally Awesome."
It cleaned anything and everything with EASE. It even easily removes black streaks on the outside of the RV!
I have the spray bottle. I spray a little into the bowl and use my toilet brush to scrub it if it gets dirty.
I also use it to clean the seat and lid.
As I said, I use it to clean EVERYTHING without issue.
My walls, floors, sinks, counters, inside and outside of the toilet, you name it.
Marshall says he never used any cleaner in his porcelain bowl. Just water and a brush as his RV toilet cleaner.
For his seat and to clean the outside, rim, etc., he used the stuff he cleaned everything else with, which was Mrs. Meyers all-purpose cleaner.
No dedicated bowl cleaner is necessary!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use Vinegar To Clean My RV Toilet?
Yes, you can use vinegar to clean your RV toilet.
Just be aware that pouring vinegar down into the toilet might disrupt the good bacteria and microbes in the tank that keep odors at bay.
You can still use vinegar, just spray lightly into the bowl and wipe out or rinse.
What Can I Use To Clean My RV Toilet?
An RV toilet is very similar to a home toilet, including what you use to clean it. The only points to consider are these:
1. Stay away from bleach for many reasons.
2. If your toilet is plastic, be careful not to use something very abrasive.
3. If you are using an RV holding tank treatment, go with all-natural cleaners or natural cleaners made for RV toilets.
Can You Use Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner In An RV?
Yes, you can use Lysol toilet bowl cleaner in an RV.
Be aware that if you are using a tank treatment for odors, if you use enough of this product or any chemical-based cleaner, it may kill off the good bacteria, preventing them from doing their job.
Is TankTechsRX Also A Bowl Cleaner?
No TanktechsRX is not a bowl cleaner.
Though it's a great black tank cleaner, it is not designed to clean your toilet bowl.
There are many many cleaners marketed for cleaning an RV toilet.
Is an RV toilet-specific cleaner necessary? Not in our opinion. We never used one.
But if you use a tank odor-control treatment, using a chemical based cleaner MIGHT kill off some or all of the microbes.
Then again, it might not.
The biggest takeaway about what to use to clean the RV toilet is not using bleach.
Other than that, the best RV toilet bowl cleaner for you is whatever product you like.
If it's full of chemicals, use it sparingly, and it'll be fine.
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.